Archive for 'Editorial Photography':

Blackberry Smoke :: First Scans Coming Back

April 12, 2011 | Editorial Photography

My first scans are coming in from my recent shoot with Blackberry Smoke. Kodak Portra 400 NC in an RZ67.

Scans? Yes. Film? Yes. RZ? No. Too heavy (although it remains one of the best cameras ever made.)

I’m moving to Hasselblad.

More on this? Yes. Later. :)

Cheers :: Zack

Imperfect Work :: Blowing It On Purpose

Question… Does it have to be perfect? Can the best image for the job sometimes be blown technically but executed perfectly for the job at hand?

Wrong exposure.

Wrong focus.

Wrong shutter speed.

Wrong light.

Wrong composition.

Just right photograph.

As technically strong as I try to be I’m always drawn to the work of others and myself that blows “technical perfection” out the window in lieu of “emotion” “movement” etc. Thoughts? Each photo above is technically wrong. They should be dumped yet they are in the first edit of my new portfolio.

I wouldn’t want to buy an “imperfect” house. Why do I like “imperfect” photography? Thoughts?

Cheers, Zack

PS – More on the business coming up. Just needed a break from all that. :)

London :: Kevin Mark Trail Shoot in Camden Town

September 13, 2010 | Editorial Photography

Anytime I’m traveling to a new place I am always on the look out to shoot some portraits. I put a call out on Twitter last week for musicians in London who might be looking for some new shots and fellow photographer, Romain Kedochim, came through with a great connection to artist Kevin Mark Trail. Kevin is currently working on his second release. You’ve heard him if you’re into The Streets. He’s performed and recorded with them on tracks such as Let’s Push Things Forward. Also, a big thank you goes to Sylvester Nicholson for helping out on the shoot and finding this awesome location to work with.

And for the sake of consistency… Here is the opening shot in B&W.

And now for something completely different… I’m working on another “stranger portraits” project while I’m here. Here is one from today.

Cheers, Zack

Oi! London!

Oi! Man, are we ever having a jolly good time in London right now! I love this city. Why have I never been here before?

This is Carl Spring. He was attending today’s OneLight. He’s an amazingly good dude.

Cheers, Zack

Dubai Gallery :: The First Edit

August 7, 2010 | Editorial Photography

I want to thank all of you for the feedback on the Dubai photos from the last post I made. I wanted to share with you the entire first edit of images for this portfolio.

All feedback and criticism is always welcome around here. Some of y’all had some great feedback on the first post. If any of you want to take a stab at editing this portfolio go for it! Grab the images from the gallery, arrange them however you see fit, spit them back on the web, and send me a link!

Editing your work is half of your job as a photographer. It’s the one thing in this industry that I feel I can not teach. I can sit with someone individually and speak to it but I can’t just make a blog post about it. I know of no academic resource about editing your work… not that I’ve seen them all. I’ve read many articles on the subject but none have stood out as definitive volumes of knowledge on learning how to edit your work. I think the only teacher is experience and feedback from peers. I hope to have a selection of these images printed and ready for critique when I’m at PhotoShop World in Vegas in a few weeks. I’m going to corner McNally while I’m there. He’ll tell me like it is. If you want to get inside the head of an editor make sure you are reading A Photo Editor on a daily basis.

I’m not trying to develop a “travel story” in the traditional sense of the genre. This is more personal in nature as I’m shooting the city as an outsider looking in. These are images or representations that I am drawn to. I’m trying to congeal a visual set of 20 images or less from this set. As I pour over these images I see holes in the Dubai portfolio already. There are certain architecture shots missing. I’ll be back there in March of next year and my plan is to really have this book solidified. I think I need to get this first gallery down to 12 or 15 and then bring in the new work when I go back. Since this is personal work I think of it as an assignment that might have the creative direction of, “Go to Dubai and shoot the city as you see it.” Amazing story line isn’t it? :)

I’ve done some post production to some of the images. Some are still just RAW files. You’ll find some duplicates here and there through the gallery as well as a few clunker/personal images that are just in that folder for my own reason. Like the one of Joe McNally outside of Ravi’s. Finally, there are a few images in this gallery that are there just for the graphic designer I’m working with to have some extra visual collateral to work with as he designs the new books. I aint no designer. I’m barely a photographer. :)

If any of you are a working photo editor who feels you know how to speak to editing please leave me a note here. I’d like to speak with you about a project for photographers that I want to do. I just need the right editor who can communicate about the subject.

You can find the first edit gallery of 300+ images here.

Cheers, Zack

Working On My Portfolio :: Book 1 of 4 :: Dubai

As Lightroom churns through some images I’m working in PhotoMechanic on a few new portfolios for web and print. The one capturing my attention right now is the selection of images from my two trips to Dubai.

I’m still trying to figure out why I love Dubai so much. There’s something about that place and something about the people that has really caught hold of me and I can’t let go of it. I’m sure if I were to go there around this time of year it would change my ideas about the place.

More images and thoughts after the jump ::


Buckhead Bottle Bar for The Atlantan Magazine :: + Lighting Diagrams

The great thing about shooting more editorial work is getting to shoot more editorial work. The problem with shooting more editorial work is there are times I have to sit on the images for 30, 60, 90, or more days before I can share them.

This is an assignment I shot for The Atlantan. The subjects are Atlanta Hawks center Zaza Pachulia and ATL restaurant veteran A.D. Allushi. They just opened a new restaurant/bar in Atlanta called the Buckhead Bottle Bar. I shot this assignment while construction was still going on inside their new restaurant & bar. I had one little corner to work in that wasn’t covered in dust and was “nearly” completed. The rest of the place was in a state of chaos as they were trying to bring it all together for an opening a week away. There were a few issues on the shoot. There was only one working power outlet we could use and the lights in the onyx table top were not installed yet. Below is a portrait of the two of them and the table I’m talking about.

Here is where being comfortable with your lights comes in very handy. The lighting and design of this place is as much of the story as the menu is. It was important to show this table lit up so Dan and I spent about 20 minutes testing out several options for lighting the table with flashes. We ended up gaff taping three hot shoe flashes underneath the table and put them on a really low power. These were older Nikon SB flashes that have built in optical slaves in them. We set them to slave so they would fire when the main light fired.

I had everyone take a look at the photos to make sure it wasn’t straying too far visually from what the tables would look like once the lights were installed. We made some changes to the direction of the small flashes until it matched what it would look like once the tables were complete. Again, knowing how to use your lights is crucial to being a working photographer. Everyone was worried what these portraits would look like without light coming through the table. When you can solve that kind of problem you are the hero of the day. Especially when you can do it in camera. If you can impress your client like this then they trust you. If they trust you… they call you again. All that’s left is making the deadline. :)

I’m currently finishing up the OneLight companion book that’s going out to all of this year’s OneLight alum. It’s going to have images like this along with lighting diagrams and the thought process behind the shot. For the sake of this blog post I’m including the lighting diagrams and camera settings for the two shots here. The diptych above is what I call the grid spot with soft chaser sort of look. The two flashes used for this type of light are on the same axis. You put the umbrella or softbox or octa up and then fly a grid spotted flash right in the center of it pointing in the same direction as the soft light source. You’re looking to get the soft light to be 3 or so stops under the gridded light. It’s the same thing I did when shooting the Fences for the creativeLIVE studio class.

Click on the images below to see them larger.

This shoot is a good example of why having some big lights and some small lights are good way to go when you have to walk into unknown situations on a regular basis. A few Alien Bees and a few old hotshoe flashes will take care of just about anything that comes your way.

As for the Bottle Bar? Come this fall when I’m not traveling as much, I’m going to be hanging out there. It’s a very cool place. You need to check it out if you’re in the ATL. The bottles behind the bar are cool. I wish they were done when I was shooting this so I can show you how cool they are.

Cheers, Zack

South 70 :: Press, Promo, CD Packaging Shoot

August 4, 2010 | Editorial Photography

Just completed the post production for the shoot I did with South 70 last week. We were only kicked out of one location. Not too bad. You’ll notice guitars showing up in this shoot. I typically avoid including instruments in my press and promo work because it can become cliché very quickly but there are times I break that rule. It has to just “work” and I feel with this shoot it worked. They’re a little bit country and a little bit rock-n-roll and I need that guitar in a few shots to bridge the gap visually. Not only that, when the guitar was on set it was being played. When the guitar was being played everyone started to sing. When everyone started to sing everyone forgot about the camera. When everyone forgot about the camera something genuine would happen… like the image above. As a photographer you sometimes just need to create the environment, set the light, and then wait for a moment to happen.

Aaaaaaaaaand… then you go back to directing things.

Thanks to the crew!

Cheers, Zack

How Do You Know When You’ve "Made It"? ::

That guy above is hip hop legend 8 Ball. I had the opportunity to photograph him about three years ago. We shot in the studio and then headed out on location in his completely tricked out Hummer. * Ball came up in Memphis with MJG. You may not have heard of 8 Ball. If you like any sort of hip hop coming from the south then you most definitely have heard his influence. Everyone from T.I. to Luda to Andre 3000 all talk about how they were influenced by 8 Ball and MGJ early on in their career.

I was, of all things, folding socks this morning thinking about anything but folding socks. There are some who look at me and say, “Wow. Zack has made it.” From my view point I will say I’ve “made it” when I don’t have to fold socks ever again in my life. That got me thinking about 8 Ball and I thought I would share this interesting personal story…

As I was steaming Ball’s 6XL shirts for this shoot I was asking him about his career. I asked one question and he told me something that has stuck with me ever since.

I asked… “When did you know your career was to the point that this was now your job? Like, you made it.”

Ball stopped rolling his “smoke” and sat back and told me about growing up as a kid in a poor neighborhood in Memphis. He lived with his mom and grandmother in a shotgun shack. He slept in the den. One of his daily chores was going around the house and collecting the mouse traps in the house, take them outside, and get rid of the dead mice. Then he had to reset those traps and put them back around the house. He told me that he knew he had “made it” when he could throw away the whole mouse trap and reset a new one. He was making enough money in hip hop that he could just buy a new bag of traps every week instead of using the old ones.

8 Ball bought his mom a house. He’s doing well. He’s influenced an army of rappers. He knows he made it when he didn’t have to use a used mouse trap.

It doesn’t take a whole lot to make it does it? He made it but still had to set those traps. He still had a long way to go before he could just buy his mom a new house. It’s such a great story. For those of you who just discount hip hop as “crap” you ought to listen beyond the ho’s and rims and hear the stories of people who came out of nothing and into something. There are a lot of stories of redemption that come out of hip hop. Not exactly your Sunday school stories of redemption but redemption all the same. Go watch Hustle & Flow. It’s one of my top three favorite movies of all time. It’s about a small time pimp coming up in hip hop in Memphis. 8 Ball, of course, is on the soundtrack.

Here’s another one…

Cheers, Zack

Listener :: Finding Inspiration Outside The Craft

I get asked a lot about where I get my inspiration. That’s a hard question to answer because there are so many things and people in my life that inspire me. Let me tell you a story about a white guy from Arkansas that raps.

More after the jump ::.

Last night Meg and I were able to get a babysitter and go see our friend Dan Smith play a show. His project is called “Listener“.



Dan has a schtick. A persona. A presence on stage. He does this “thing” that is amazing. Dan does “talk music” and it is his own thing. Love him or hate him, when Dan takes the stage people get off their phones, stop chatting, and watch. His stage persona is mesmerizing. It never bleeds into background music. His music isn’t ever going to make the top ten on the billboard charts and I think that’s just all right for him. He’s not following. He’s not replicating. He’s not trying to find what is popular and pursue that.

I met Dan about six years ago when he was more of a hip hop artist than folksy/indie/something/talk music artist. I was introduced to him through this cat in Nashville named KC Jones. KC said to me, “You gotta hear the Listener. He’s a white dude from Arkansas that raps.” That introduction was enough to pique my interest. :)

The first song I heard was Train Song (mp3 download).  ”It’s my habits that make my fingers weak…” Listen closely to the story. Pretty amazing.

Decadence (mp3 download) is one of my favorite tracks from his more hip hop centric era. It also features Manchild who has a flow like no other. Yes, I do have permission to link to these files.



It’s been interesting to watch him change. To watch him find who he is. To start at one place and end up somewhere else and to see he’s not “there” yet. Dan has always been Dan, yet with each new part of his project he is becoming more true to his core. He’s walking through the shit of life and stripping off the non essentials and building back from there. It’s really an amazing process to watch from the outside.

I need to sit down with him sometime and see what it’s like from his perspective because I know for a fact it will be much different than my perspective. Maybe I’m wrong about how I see Dan. Maybe Dan is wrong about how he sees himself. Sometimes people on the outside see the real you. The “you” you can’t see. And sometimes people from the outside have the wrong idea about who you are. Hmmmm. This reminds me of something Meg is working on but that’s not for this post. (Dan, next time you’re back in Atlanta let’s talk it out)

If you listen to his older music you can hear the framework of his newer work. Meaning, you can look back and see the progression but you never see it when you are moving forward. The same thing goes for photography. It’s called personal style and it takes years to develop and you can’t really see your style until you have some years under your belt and can look back.



Dan is a huge source of inspiration for me. That inspiration doesn’t change how I look through my viewfinder but it changes how I look through the eye in my brain if that makes any sense at all… Which it doesn’t. I went to public school so trying to flowchart how inspiration works for me is a bit difficult. My brain eyes connect to my face eyes which connect to my viewfinder so maybe he does inspire how I see the world. How “inspiration” like this works for me is the music gets in my head. I listen to the stories in the lyrics. I connect the dots from the songs to the dots of my own life and those thoughts sort of lead me down a path of more thoughts that eventually lead to actions with my camera and with my business. Inspiration for me isn’t seeing one person do something and then I go do something similar to that. I think that’s more like plagiarism than inspiration.



Dan’s magic really comes through his show. He’s brave. He’s full on. He doesn’t hold back. He doesn’t care what he looks like. He just lets the f#ck go and pours it all out. I’ve seen him perform to a packed venue and to 8 people in a living room and he brings everything he has to the stage with every performance.

You can find his new album here. Be sure to give “Wooden Heart” a listen. Buy a copy and support an artist. Don’t you want someone to give you some support in your endeavors? Pay it forward.

You can stream his new album. Sorry iPhone/iPad users. These are flash embeds.

This is his last album. It’s called “Return To Struggleville” and it’s about a traveling knife salesman and it’s brilliant.

His songs are stories. They are pulled out of his head and out of his experience. He’s living his story. Are you? Are you aware that you’re walking out your story? Are you keeping your eyes far out ahead and busting your ass to get there or are you sitting around on said ass looking backwards? How’s that working for you? I saw a great quote on Twitter yesterday…

“Don’t ask God to guide your footsteps if you aren’t willing to move your feet.”

Dan’s played more than 800 shows and he has 800 more to go. He’s doing it. He’s sharing his life. He’s changing. Growing. He’s moving his feet. Stripping it down to the essentials. He’s inspiring thousands. He’s just a white dude from Arkansas that raps and he is a really important character in my own story. Fun trivia – His 800th show was at a Mexican Restaurant. 800th show.

Where are you getting your inspiration from outside the photography world?


Are you moving your feet or sittin’ on your ass? I’d rather have sores on my feet than on my ass. There’s a t-shirt.

Cheers, Zack

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