Based in downtown Washington, D.C., Moshe Zusman has been passionate about photography for the past seven years. Four years ago, he left the world of second shooting and assisting behind to begin the transition to full-time professional photographer. An enthusiast of workshops, seminars and trade shows, Zusman used these resources to gain his formal training. He now teaches workshops of his own at CDIA in Washington, which is a Boston University satellite program.
Every so often we come across a photographer operating in an area of professional work where we’ve come to expect a certain level of competence and typical array of stock poses or compositions only to find they are turning those conventions on their head. Zusman is one such shooter. Largely working as a wedding photographer, his groupings of wedding parties, the posing of couples, and the textural compositions he puts together are tasteful, yet uncommon. Many of his images remind one of well-crafted paintings, rather than informal portraits. His eye for building these shots is uncanny, and his average wedding shot is something many young couples would be fortunate to have one or two of in their albums.
Some of Zusman’s well-crafted larger group shots don’t come easily. “I’ll probably snap a few candids, but when it comes to doing the photos that I was going to do, I will pose each and every one of them,” he says. “It takes about maybe ten minutes; up to ten minutes to pose a group of up to twenty people. I love doing that. Those are the photos my couples end up hanging up on their wall, versus the bouquet and flowers and all that.”
Zusman credits social networking as being pivotal in the success of his photography business. “Right after WPPI three years ago, I came back home and I really implemented a lot of what I heard there. It really worked,” he says. Self-marketing has risen high in his priorities, and he regularly attends many events. He also posts photos online within an hour of when they were taken, fully edited and tagged.
As an instructor, Zusman finds himself still learning from other shooters. “I always look at other photographer’s work and I get inspired. I try not to copy them but I just need to get inspired by ideas and I don’t think anyone here invented the wheel but we definitely make it right,” he explains. He also credits his students as being a source of new ideas, and considers his own style as being fluid and changing regularly.
Moving across genres, Zusman not only shoots weddings, but also corporate and food photography, to name but just two more. “Weddings have always been my passion and always will be,” he declares. “I try to bring the same ideas I do in weddings to keep things edgy. As you know, I’m a big fan of breaking the rules in photography, so I’ll definitely blow up a photo if I have to, if I want to. I sort of bring all that into corporate photography as well to the corporate level.” His corporate work largely comes about by word of mouth referrals.
His main camera body is a Canon EOS 1D Mark IV, and for manual focusing jobs, he sticks with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, which is often employed for architectural shots. He exclusively shoots digitally, and has never shot film.
“I switched to prime lenses about two years ago,” Zusman says, although he still shoots a variety of zooms, citing the 70-200mm as his favorite. All his images are run through Adobe Lightroom. He credits enhancement work in the red and blue color channels as being critical to his saturation levels and overall look.
For off-camera lighting, Zusman relies on three or four Canon 580EX II Speedlites. He fires his lights with PocketWizard MultiMAX units and the FlexTT5 and MiniTT1 combination. “The PocketWizards are helping me control the lighting. I used to try the infrared with the Canon ST-E2 units. They just did not do it. The PocketWizards are really freeing me from having to have other people turn things on and off. I can turn channels on and off. Now with the new FlexTT5, I will be able to really work in TTL mode. I love working with those. They free me as far as range of where I can go with my lights. I never had a problem. PocketWizards are probably the one thing that works perfectly. Better than anything else, and I mean that. From battery life to accuracy and consistency, those are my favorite products in the camera bag.”
In addition to teaching and composing his impressive images, Zusman is working toward opening a photography studio in Washington. If he has any advice for other photographers, it’s not nuts and bolts how-to tips about gear. “I always tell people if you want to be successful before becoming a professional photographer, just become a professional human being,” he says. “I think you need to be a good person, a nice person, and the rest will follow. That’s my mantra.”
Written by Ron Egatz