Break OUT!

Print Testing and Breaking Out of Your Normal Box
by Victoria Schmitt

A couple of weeks ago LIGHT hosted a printing class featuring Hal Schmitt which I was able to assist. One of my favorite things as an assistant is being able to help people with their images. With small tricks of the trade in Photoshop or just being able to help someone to think outside of their normal processing workflow will sometimes give people that “ah-ha!” moment to go forward with at home.

Here is how I helped our students once they thought their image was “print ready”.

1. Do one more dust spot check. I like to blow the image up to 100%. Choose the spot healing brush tool (yes, there are 20 ways to everything in Photoshop and this is just one of them) and with the hand tool (hold down the space bar) jiggle the image a little bit as you pan across the image on your screen. Some people like to use page and page down- which is fine, just make sure that you are still “jiggling” the image. It helps those inconsistencies jump out to your eye.

2. Pan out to view the entire image on your screen. Does anything jump out to your eye in a negative way? Is there a light or dark area that fights the direction of your eye when you look at the image? Sometimes I find that I need to print out a test print to really see what the image is doing to the “viewer’s eye”. I’ll sometimes look at the center of the image or the area where you want your focus brought to. If your peripheral vision in the image catches a shape, tonal change or area that pulls your focus away from where you want it then work on that toremove the shape” (usually a stick or object that could other wise just not exist), tone down your bright areas or crop out parts closer to the edge that keep the image from appearing complete.

3. Start with a small test print (8.5x11). This shows blatant areas that need attention, global tonal needs, and it also tests you to make sure your print settings are correct.

4. Print the next size up: I go with 13x19 paper size. This usually starts to show you more missed spots, more chromatic aberration color shifts and gives you a better idea of where they eye wants to move.

Something else you should consider about images that might just not feel right to you is trying the image in black and white. I had a student whose style screamed black and white and she had no idea until we tried it out. Her color versions didn’t have much of a pop or wow factor because my eye was trying to process the texture, movement, shape and color. Sometimes the best thing for your images is to simplify. Maybe you took that photo because you liked the texture, the lines, the movement and the subjectbut you start processing color as well and your brain can get confused and wants to move on. Working on those images can make you frustrated!

This is when I will sometimes give myself shooting or processing assignments to release my brain from the usual workflow and give it something new to concentrate on. Go back to the images you have already shot and decided not to process. Ask yourself “why didn’t I process that image?” and go to town with it! Change the hues, crop it down, try it in vertical and horizontal! Go to Lightroom and make a few virtual copies, create 5-6 different versions and see if there is anything about that image that you like. If those 5-6 new versions don’t do it for you- delete it and save your hard drive space!

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to YOUR work. Experiment to see what you like and see what works and what doesn’t. The next time you go out to shoot, keep those lessons in mind so you know what you’re going to work on later. You will become a more efficient photographer when it matters and more fun when you process.


Part 3 - Camera Setup Checklist

By Hal Schmitt. Embellished by Victoria Schmitt


Select Desired Aperture

Do you want a shallow depth of field to isolate your subject or do you want as much of your scene in focus as possible? Remember the bigger the hole (smaller the number f4.5) the more shallow your depth of field, the small the hole (larger number f22) the more depth of field you will get.

Compose the rough scene

Look into your viewfinder and start to compose your scene. You can scan left right, up and down see what you want included or centered in your frame.

Meter and set exposure

Hopefully at this point your back-button focus is going to be your primary meter and focusing button. Depending on what exposure your aperture is giving you adjust the shutter speed to compensate for your exposure. If you are having a hard time getting a fast enough shutter speed, you will have to either change your ISO or your aperture to get the desired focus and exposure for the scene.



Make sure the primary subject is in focus.


Fine tune composition

If you now have to move your composition so that your subject is not smack dab in the middle, make sure your focus is set and move accordingly.

Fine tune your exposure


(Or just take a photo, picture or snapshot if your lingo does not include a shooting reference)


Review as necessary


Look at the back of your LCD. Make sure you are looking at your histogram!!! You don't want your histogram piled high on either side, but don't worry if there are parts of you scene that have a black point and a white point built-in. If you have a large amount of 1 "gray" tone (Blue sky, red rocks) you may have strange peaks and valleys in your histogram. What you're looking for is a balanced exposure. Do not depend on the picture you see on your LCD and always refer to your histogram. Remember, these are pixels. It's information being captured on a sensor, so rely on the information it gives you and not how pretty the LCD picture is.

Happy Shooting and Fiat Lux!

Part 2 - Camera Setup Checklist

Last week I started with a checklist created by Hal to help you set up your inner camera settings before going out to shoot. Here I have another great checklist to help you start getting your camera working the way you want it to work.

Checklist by Hal, embellished by Victoria


Select Mode

– We recommend Manual- Always. Yes, there are those out there who want the "P", "professional mode" because life happens fast, right? Well, yes, but do want to capture life the way your camera brand wants, or how you want to capture it? Your camera doesn't know that your subject is back-lit and running quickly. But you can make your own adjustments in order to accommodate what you want exposed properly, in focus etc.

AV and TV is nice, but the camera is still making those critical decisions for you. Practice in Manual now so that later on you know how to control your camera quickly. If you have a camera that can create custom functions then you can set those to help you quickly change from your custom portrait settings into action settings as good starting points. But never assume that a camera should or can think for you.

Set White Balance-

 Cloudy? Sunny? Are you using a strobe? Yes, you can kind of "correct" this later in RAW, but there are more than a few reasons to save yourself a step or a few steps before you even take the photo.


- We recommend starting at your lowest ISO that your camera will give you for the cleanest noise-free image possible. If you're in lower light see if you can adjust your aperture (smaller number, bigger hole) to get a fast enough shutter speed to hand-hold your camera. If you're on a tripod then there's are very few reasons to be on a higher ISO. You don't want your stars to be dots of noise from your sensor. 

Metering modes- 

Try to stick with Evaluative metering, or Matrix metering. 


Auto focus- 

Set correct mode for the scene you have. A simple guideline:

If you are photographing a moving object you will want Ai Servo, if you are shooting a non-moving subject/object then put it in "one shot" mode. 

Drive mode- 

You have single, continuous, or timer. Single (one square) is 1 shot per press of the shutter button. Good for portraits or slow moving scenes etc. Continuous mode and Continuous mode "H" for high speed (multi-squares and a multi square with an "H") is awesome for the soccer mom/dad, shooting horses on the beach at the California Photo Festival, or birds etc.

Select Auto Focus point/points:

If there is a moving object you may want to set these point on one of the sides of your focus choices. if the object is running from Left to right, I will set my primary focus point on the far right side of my viewfinder. That way as I follow the object the front of the object is always the point of focus.


Lens modes:

These are for the larger lenses and lenses that have these options. not all lenses have these options available.


Image stabilizer/Vibration reduction- This send out a small vibration to counter the vibration you are giving your lens while holding it.  We recommend you turn it on when hand-holding and turning it off when you're on a tripod.

-Mode 1 or 2 for IS/VR?

Mode 1 is better if you are simply hand-holding your camera. Mode 2 is better if you are panning or moving while you're shooting.

-Focal Distance?

On my 100-400, for instance, it has a choice of either 1.8m to infinity, or 6.5m to infinity. This is setting your minimum focusing distance on your lens.

I hope this helps you during your next adventure or local photo-shoot!

Fiat Lux!

Victoria Schmitt

Here is a sneak peak to next week's list:

Select Aperture (which one and why)
Select your shutter speed
Is your Shutter speed or Aperture more important?
Compose the scene (how and why)
Review as necessary (where, why and what to look for)

...and more...

Part 1 - Camera Setup Checklist

Written by Hal and Embellished by Victoria

I have received a few inquiries about how Hal and I set up our cameras and our gear before we go out on a shoot. Hal, being the thorough instructor that he is, has created checklists for this very thing. We usually hand these checklists to our "Basics of your DSLR" workshop attendees. In this class Hal teaches, in detail, his methods and recommendations for camera set-up as they go through the checklist.   Since you don't have his in-person charm to explain his points, I went through them and added a few embellishments.
So here is his simple check-list (the first of 3 parts) as good starting points for you to set up your camera before going out to shoot. 

In your camera setting menus
1. Set Image Quality
Picture Style for JPEG? All cameras give you “JPEG preview” for your LCD. We recommend the Neutral setting which gives you the closest “look” to your RAW image.
2. "Shoot without card" Option
Turn this Off! That way you don’t realize 100 shots in that none of your images have been recorded because you didn’t put a card in your camera…This has never happened to us, of course.
3. Color Space
Adobe is preferred: Adobe 1998 etc. Give yourself the largest color space possible to start out with. That way you have the choice of minimizing color space later on if needed.
4. Highlight Alert
Enable (remember to check your histogram also!) This is a friendly reminder from your camera that you have over exposed your highlights. It says you are “void” of pixel information where the “blinkies” occur.
5. Auto rotate
On- Save yourself some time in the post process!
6. File numbering
Continuous- If you aren't renaming your files when importing, this will keep from having duplicate numbers- which could create confusion or overwriting your files in your folder.
7. Set Correct Date and Time
Ultimately, you will be using this for your import process, key wording, searching for images. For wedding and event photographers that use a second shooter or camera, this REALLY helps when combining second shooter/camera images into your catalog or “time-sorted” folders.
8. Program back button focus only
AF-On: Opposed to shutter button focusing.
AF-On or the “Back-button” (*) focus is what we recommend to all who use auto-focus.

Great Idea from Lee Varis

Lee Varis will be with LIGHT a few times this year and he has set up a carpool discussion board for those coming from SoCal. 

Check out his link below for info.

Lee's Blog and Carpool

If you have not experienced a Lee Varis workshop it is time.  Check out his two offerings here this summer; Photoshop Fundamentals and The Digital Zone System.  These will be great fun and tremendous learning opportunities.  Take a look at the course description here and you might be surprised by what Lee considers "Fundamentals." 

The Digital Zone System is a modern take on the original Zone System by Ansel Adams and Fred Archer.  If you want to know light, exposure, and your camera this is for you.  Description here.

Off to Toronto this weekend to watch Victoria's Dad and Brother play a major concert event. 


Dad and brother play for Supertramp.

Fiat Lux!

Studio up and Running!

This past week I was able to bring in a local clothing company called Mika Yoga Wear. With help from our assistant, Becky, we were able to create a stand, shoot and deliver work-flow that was efficient and, well, it looked good! Using our new plexi-glass sheet for a small amount of reflection it gave a different feel than just standing on a white background. With 2 sets of the ProFoto D1 packs, a beauty dish, an octa box and two umbrellas to blow out the background.


With a quick edit through Lightroom 3, I was able to sync enough of the images to make cropping and retouching a breeze.

I have to say that yoga girls are a lot of fun to photograph. They show the beautiful form of the female figure.  I was able to shoot tethered so that the designer and yoga instructor, Laura, could look over the images while we shot. Laura, in fact, seemed to have a lot of experience and was able to bend in some awesome poses as well.

The clothes worked well and they have an interesting design to be comfortable, bend and look good. 


I was able to meet Laura and have this great opportunity through our California Photo Festival Website designer, Sebastian of SLO Digital Designs. For those of you who haven't been to the newly designed website, please visit! He did a great job on it!


At the festival you will be able to have the chance to use the studio as well. You can learn the Digital Fine Art Figure with Hal Schmitt. Hopefully we will have a full week workshop in this as well coming this fall or winter!

Hope to see you all here soon!