Photoshop Interview: David Ziser

Photoshop Interviews

David ZiserThis month we welcome wedding photographer, lighting expert, trainer, blogger, and all-around great guy, David Ziser of Digital ProTalk. I first got in touch with David back when he was a newbie blogger in the summer of 2007 and he’s now logged well over 1650 posts in the midst of his regular schedule of shooting weddings, running his successful master class for photographers, traveling around the country to run photography workshops, and writing a new book.

I was lucky enough to sit down with David over the phone about a week ago to talk a little bit about where he comes from and where he’s headed.

Jason D. Moore Photography: First off, thank you for taking the time to sit down with me today. Tell me a little bit about your background and how did you get into photography?

David Ziser: I never really went to school for photography. My dad always told me to get a “real” job, while he was alive. My background is actually in physics and engineering. I’ve got a degree in physics and I’ve got another degree in engineering. And I was actually trying to attempt a triple major back in my college days so I’m like 2 classes short of a computer science degree.

I worked my way through college as a photographer so I’ve actually been shooting weddings for 45 years.

I graduated college in 1971 and worked as an engineer for a couple of years. My friends started to get married and asked me to do their weddings ‘cause they knew that I’d been doing it since I was 15 years old. So it was actually in October of 1978, 31 years ago, when I opened my studio doors for business  and I’ve been doing it ever since. And, as a matter of fact, I started winning different awards by around 1979-1980 and was asked to start lecturing by Art Leather, the album company, around 1982/83. Lisle Ramsey got word about what I was up to and put me on the international circuit around 1984 so I had already lectured in New Zealand only 5-6 years into my career and then again in Australia. And the rest is history.

I’m a guy who carefully avoided public speaking my entire high school and college career and now it’s about half of what I do for a living.

JDMP: How did you get started with Photoshop?

DZ: I’m not like some of these guys who jumped in with version two, I didn’t jump on board until around version 5.

I shot my first digital wedding at the end of 2000. I was an expert, I could just about use the dodge and burn tool and maybe the rubber stamp tool and that was about it! If I didn’t need it I never really tried it. Finally with Photoshop 7 I started getting more involved with it because by then we were into the whole digital swing of things.

Now I feel like I’m pretty good at it. I wouldn’t call myself a Julieanne Kost or a Scott Kelby or any of those guys but I know my way around a Layer Mask or two.

We probably do 80% of our image adjustments and enhancements in Lightroom and just go to Photoshop for the heavy lifting, do skin retouching and taking out big exit signs or something like that.

JDMP: How do you see the relationship between these tools and the execution of the artist’s vision?

DZ: The camera is a tool and the software is a tool. For Ansel Adams the developer and the developing time and exposure, those were his tools to get what he wanted, and burning and dodging and so forth. And aren’t we doing that with the software now? What’s cool with the software these days is our vision can change. I think the software can even modify your first impressions of what you wanted image to be.

Look at the painters from the traditional painters to the modern art painters. We can adjust any pixel the way we want it, and they adjusted any pigment on their canvas the way they wanted it. Who cares if it’s pixels or pigments we still have the control and the latitude and the creativity that we can bring to it with our knowledge of how our tools work, whether it be brushes and pigments and inks, on the painter’s side, or pixels in Photoshop and Lightroom on the digital photographer’s side.

Some photographers say, get it right in the camera, you don’t need Photoshop. My rule is, if it takes you longer to get it right in the camera than it does in Lightroom or Photoshop, than go to Lightroom or Photoshop. Take the darn picture and fix it in two minutes in Photoshop or Lightroom.

JDMP: What about those who think you need to have the latest and greatest camera?

DZ: I had this slide in my PowerPoint about a year ago, when Nikon was running the ads with Ashton Kutcher, and the question was, “Do you think the camera lets you take a better picture?” And it was something like 40% thought most of the time, and like 30% thought all the time. It was a goofy number like 79% of the people thought that the camera would help you take a better picture. I would agree to that, to some extent, that you can get the exposure down and everything else but A good picture is more than just a properly exposed photograph.

JDMP: How did you first get into blogging?

DZ: I’m a two-finger typist, by the way, so when I blog, I really invest myself into this thing!

Scott Kelby and I had been emailing while he was doing his Lightroom 1 tour and asked me how to tweak the lighting before he went up on stage. By the time I got to email him back I said, “Well why don’t you come up to help me with a wedding?” The timing worked out and it was July 27, 2007. We finished the wedding at about 1, we went back to my home and we sat up talking until about 3/3:30 in the morning about blogging because I was curious about trying it and what he said to me was, “You’ve got to feed the monster every day or it dies. And that was where we left it.” My wife and I took a trip to Paris and I started blogging the trip. It was called “David and LaDawn on the Road” and that was my first blog.

We came back and I started Digital ProTalk in mid-August. #1 I find the blog to be creative for me. It gets me thinking about what I do: photography and teaching. It’s leveraged how I teach because I put something on there every day. And another thing, and I’m not sure if others will say the same thing, I find it to be relaxing and rewarding when I wake up at 6 or 6:30.

I’ve done 1650 posts to date, and counting.

JDMP: You have a new tour just getting started. Tell me a little bit about your Digital WakeUp Call Tour

DZ: I’m a photographer who has studied classical lighting and posing and this and that and everything else and I wasn’t seeing that a lot in many wedding photographs. So we went out in ’06 and we talked about composition and good lighting and also some software things and some business building things.

Everyone was telling me to do it again and ‘09 was the year to do it. So for the last 6 months we’ve been putting together the content of the tour and designing the presentation and we started right after Photoshop World.

It’s 4 hours long and we’re talking about lighting, lightning and even more lighting – how to get the best use out of your on-camera flash and how to use off-camera flash to really make your images sing. There’s way too much software and way too little time to learn it all so what I talk about are “Software Magic Bullets” – things that make your workflow really streamlined. And the last part of the program is about business building and what any photographer can do, from seasoned professionals to part-time photographers to emerging professional photographers, to build their business.

The tour has caught fire! We’re giving away ¼ million dollars in giveaways over the course of the tour. It’s generated a tone of interest and people are loving it. I’m really excited about it!

JDMP: What else do you have going on?

DZ: I’ve got my first book coming out this summer and I teach my Digital Master Class, a week-long class where photographers come in here for about 50 hours a week. I think we’re the best value class going.  It’s photography for 2 days, software for about a day or so and then, of course, business building at a price that doesn’t break the bank.

JDMP: Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with me! It’s been a real pleasure!

DZ: Thanks for your support and for linking over, and I really appreciate it! We’ll have to guest blog for each other sometime.


Towner Jones Photography, LLCPhotoshop Interviews is brought to you in part by Towner Jones Photography, LLC. Check out all of the great things Rob is doing over there!

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