Lee Varis 2014

Lee Varis ,the owner and founder of Varis PhotoMedia, has been a photo-illustrator working in Hollywood for most of his 40+ year career. He started working with computer imaging over 20 years ago, after being introduced to the Quantel Paintbox system, and currently works with digital photography in conjunction with computer graphics to create images for use in advertising, commercial graphics and multimedia. His work has been featured on movie posters, video box covers, CD covers, and numerous brochures, catalogs and magazine articles. Lee´s creative imaging has been featured in National Geographic and Fortune magazines as well as numerous trade publications including: Photo-Electronic Imaging, Studio Photography, PC Photo, Rangefinder Magazine, Photo District News and Mac Art & Design. Lee has also been involved with consulting and training activities for numerous corporate clients. He conducted a series of imaging seminars for Apple Computers that took him around the country to most of the major metropolitan areas and is currently active in seminar programs with PPA, APA, ASMP, ICP, CPW, and LACP. He maintains close relationships with numerous hardware and software companies and is involved in beta testing programs.

Lee’s latest book is “Mastering Exposure and the Zone System for Digital Photographers” a complete guide to both the technical and creative aspects of exposure in digital photography. This guide uses a combination of discussion, examples, and hands-on exercises that lead the reader through a progression of skills development covering the full range of photographic lighting situations. Topics covered include basic metering, outdoor and indoor available light photography, studio lighting, night, and low-light conditions, as well as advanced topics like high-key and low-key lighting, multiple light sources and HDR. In conclusion, the author shows how to use the Zone System, developed by Ansel Adams for film, with today’s digital cameras to achieve stunning results with exceptional tonal range and clarity.

Perhaps his best known book is “Skin : The Complete Guide to Digitally Lighting, Photographing, and Retouching Faces and Bodies” with Sybex (now in a 2nd edition). This is a professional level how-to guide to all aspects of digital photography of people. The work offers intermediate and advanced Photoshop techniques as well as digital-specific photo techniques for digital photographers looking for the next level in expertise.

Lee wrote “Digital Photography for Creative Professionals” with Rockport Publishers in 2003. This is an examination of professional applications of digital photography for commercial graphic artists and art directors concentrating on workflow issues and creative solutions for graphics workgroups.

He has also written articles for Design Graphics, PEI, PC Photo, Rangefinder and Digital Photo Pro.

As a fine artist, Lee has been working on a series of images based on the Tarot. Current progress on this project is on display at:


 Lee has developed a unique approach to photography that takes advantage of certain idiosyncracies of digital capture technology to create impossible lighting effects as part of his personal style. This intimate knowledge of digital image technology affects the pre-production process as well. Photo shoots are designed to take advantage of new creative possibilities as well as the time and cost savings that digital imaging provides. Images are often re-combined with digital painting and effects or with additional photo elements to create digital images that transcend the original source materials. After production, images can be delivered via the internet as digital files or output in any manner for use in various print, multimedia or display applications. Asset management is another service that can be provided; all digital files can be cataloged and stored for later retrieval using an approach customized for the clients needs.

Lee’s strong background in conventional photography gives him a unique ability to develop digital imagery that has a more organic feel rather than the flat plastic look of much of today’s digital artwork. With his ability to see a project from concept, through photography, digital enhancement and final delivery in a variety of mediums, Lee feels he can serve the advertising community in a truly unique way. The future of imaging, and specifically photography, is clearly digital. Lee has a firm command of both traditional and digital techniques, giving him a clear advantage over the computer technician who is not equipped to make creative judgements and the conventional artist who lacks the tools necessary to realize the digital future.




For more info e-mail varis@varis.com •Varis PhotoMedia• voice: 323-209-5376




10 thoughts on “About

  1. Ben Green

    Lee, I know I’m missing something simple in your “Mastering Exposure” book. How is it I can move from a metered zone V to a zone IX by opening up just two stops? Are not the steps between zones one E.V.?

    1. LeeVaris Post author

      It depends on how Adobe represents a “flat” zero-slider level adjustment for your camera default rendering. They made some changes to the ACR engine after the book was published as well… Basically, the RAW data is not like film with a built-in d-log-e curve, so rendering defaults now generally apply some sort of curve to simulate the curve we got used to with film. In the software version used in the book, applying “zero” slider settings gave you a linear response to the rendering, and that differs quite a bit from the current ACR/Lightroom defaults. Again, RAW data is not like film, so the number of EV steps does not necessarily match up with the way film responds. The other thing to notice is that the traditional “zones” are not as meaningful, except as a visualization tool—actual tone rendering is way more flexible today, with very simple adjustments in Lightroom or Photoshop, so we don’t have to be concerned so much with “placing” zones using exposure. The main concern is to avoid clipping important highlights or shadows—so that is what the new “Zone Test” achieves.

  2. Ben Green

    Thank you. My, my, how things move along these days. Looks like I’ll be retiring the little zone sticker I got years ago from Fred Picker’s Zone VI workshop to attach to my spot meter.

    1. LeeVaris Post author

      LOL… I remember Fred Picker! Yes, things are a bit different these days… the discipline needed for the control of film tonal rendering is disappearing in this age of the histogram! Understanding zone distribution, and the concept of testing for true E.I. is still valuable, but fewer and fewer people care about this, when they can just look on the back of the camera, and see something “close enough!”

  3. melcina

    hello lee
    My name is melcina, on august i took photoshop 11 at ICP nyc.
    I have missed couple of tips on the chapter about “replacement of an item for another” having 2 images of the same shot. Here I would like to replace one good face for another not so good (same person same position)
    I have accomplished the replacement or position of the face, but I am missing how to make edges smoother ( and at what level) to blend into the new position, consequently when and how to render the background and make it more suitable to match the new replacement item
    I have tried to find an email to write to you but no success. I hope this way i may be able to get an answer as in youtube i was not able to find this specific situation..

    1. LeeVaris Post author

      Are you talking about my Skin Book, or the online course “The Fundamentals of Photo Illustration” – my email is varis@varis.com by the way! I don’t know what “chapter” you are referring to or what is the source of this project. I don’t know what you mean by “render the background and make it more suitable to match the new replacement item” —please email me directly.

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  5. JD

    Hey Lee!
    A few questions on the GFX Cambo Actus system – In your opinion, does this system work as well as say a Wista 4×5 camera in all aspects and better it by any chance? I was thinking about converting a Wista with a Fuji GFX adapter and work my landscapes that way – But this Cambo system seems lighter and move precise on focus issues than a Wista in the field.

    For serious landscape photography should I stick with the Cambo Actus system? I know the Cambo has an XL version for the GFX now – you know anything about that?


    1. LeeVaris Post author

      Adapting a 4×5 camera to the GFX is not quite the same thing as using the Cambo Actus! The Wista is setup to work with a much greater lens-to-film plane distance than you can successfully manage with the GFX, even with a bag bellows you will probably have trouble focussing at infinity with the Wista/GFX combo. The XL version has geared focus on the rear camera plate as well as on the lens board, which would definitely be nicer!

  6. Dan Barba

    Hello Lee,
    I really like your high-end tutorials and teaching demeanor in YouTube. Thanks for sharing.
    One thing, your tutorial called New Mask Features in PS 2015.5 is all clear to me down to the point where you explain how to recuperate wisps of hair (toward the end). I’ve tried to recreate this part and I do exactly what you have done, but I see no improvement in the hair wisps. I’ve done this about 6 times in all, following you on the YT screen next to my PS screen. So, I’m sure I’m not missing anything.
    What I am requesting you to do, if you would be so kind, is to please make a new tutorial focusing just on that part. I’ve got all the other stuff down, but this just eludes me.
    Please, can you indulge us?
    Thanks in advance, Dan


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