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Lee Varis ( is a photo-illustrator working in Hollywood and is the owner and founder of Varis PhotoMedia. He has been involved in commercial photography for over 40 years, working with computer imaging for over 20 years. 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. Lee is the author of Mastering Exposure and the Zone System for Digital Photographers, a complete guide to both the technical and creative aspects of exposure in digital photography, as well as Skin: The Complete Guide to Digitally Lighting, Photographing, and Retouching Faces and Bodies, a professional level how-to guide to all aspects of digital photography of people. With his ability to see a project from concept, through photography, digital enhancement and final delivery in a variety of mediums, Lee has the real world experience to guide the new photographer to develop their technical and creative skills. An accomplished educator, Lee has conducted a series of nation-wide imaging seminars for Apple Computer and is currently active in seminar programs with PPA and APA.


LACP Interviews Lee Varis

LACP asks Lee Varis ten questions about his background, career in and beliefs about photography.

Los Angeles Center of Photography: What kind of photographer are you?

Lee Varis: I consider myself an image maker – most of the time I don’t stop with the capture of the image, and I spend as much time in post as I do behind the lens. I love all genres as I spent most of my career as a general commercial photographer, but I am particularly fond of fine art photo-Illustration, still life, and landscape photography.

LACP: How long have you been shooting?

LV: Over 45 years, seriously since I was 15 years old!

LACP: Where did you get your training?

LV: I started in high school, but mostly I like to say I learned at the school of hard knocks. I was a commercial assistant photographer for many years before I ventured out on my own! Most of my career was spent shooting for movie posters, where I developed my abilities to solve difficult technical problems.

LACP: When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?

LV: After my first job as an assistant. I was 23.

LACP: Did you ever come close to giving up?

LV: Not really, though I did take a job as the digital manager of two different photo labs for a while.

LACP: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?

LV: Only the security of a 9-to-5 job with bi-weekly paychecks and benefits.

LACP: What have you gained by being a photographer?

LV: The freedom to enjoy the most amazing creative profession.

LACP: What classes do you teach at LACP?

LV: Photoshop, photo-illustration, creative lighting techniques, fine art still life, Lightroom, image enhancement workflow, portrait retouching, Hollywood style glamour lighting

LACP: What do you love most about teaching?

LV: I love seeing the lightbulb go off – it is extremely gratifying to share my extensive experience with old-school photography and living through the transition to digital capture. I have a range of experience that cannot be replicated by the younger photographers who have only known digital. I had the great fortune to have learned the new photo-technology and art, as it was being developed and this gives me a depth of knowledge that is very valuable to the emerging photographer.

LACP: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?

LV: Stay passionate about photography – go out and look at great photography in museums, books, magazines, and online! However, if you want to have a real career, learn business as well!!!!