Archive for '• Critique':

Photography Critique :: Episode 14

March 28, 2011 | • Critique

We are back with another photography critique! It has been far too long since Meg and I have done one of these. We are getting back into it now and we still have to find our stride. If you are new to this blog you can view the past 13 episodes here.

Let’s refresh the rules that we go by here. Also, after the jump there are a few announcements.

1. Don’t take this personally. We aren’t critiquing you as a person, we are critiquing your work. If you take this personally then you have a long road ahead of you in this industry. A long and rocky one.

2. Whatever we say here is exactly what we would say in person. We don’t hide behind the Internets. If we laugh at a photo it’s because something about it is funny. We aren’t making fun of you and we aren’t making fun of the person in the photo. We’re giving you honest feedback as to how strangers view your work. 

3. Anytime I am saying someone could improve on something in particular it also means I could improve on that as well. This is to say, I ain’t perfect either. My work has flaws and I seek critique from photographers I trust as well.

4. I’m critiquing you from a photographer’s perspective. Meghan is critiquing you from a non-photographer perspective. I’m a “peer” and she’s a “client”.

5. If you want to get in on this, email your site, blog, flickr, whatever to We do not do drive-by critiques of randomly found web sites. We also do not give hot links on this blog to those who we critique so that this critique of someone’s work will not find it’s way into google results.

This is also sort of an official launch of the new site despite the fact that it isn’t finished. The galleries are still being worked. The edits are still getting moved around. The about, bio, resources, etc still has to be populated but if I wait to get blog posts going again until it is finished, it won’t ever happen. :) Big thanks to Timothy Young for working with us on the new branding and design and Alex Morrison for working his web ninja skills into making this thing happen.

So, don’t mind the dust. We’re still working around here.

Coming up on the blog are some more critiques, some recent work we’ve been doing, the studio tour, the grip video, the color video, and our new creativeLIVE class outline. I’ll be doing another three day live weekend April 29th – May 1st. That’s two months of teaching! 😉

Cheers, Zack

Is It Photography?

May 17, 2010 | • Critique • Philosophy

I’m going to share a story about shooting crappy pictures then share a recent comment from one of y’all regarding our last critique that’s worthy of taking some time and thinking about what we do.

At the turn of the century I was photographer for The image above is one I shot for them in 2001. It was shot with the then amazing Olympus C-3030. You should have seen the camera we upgraded from. My iPhone takes better pictures.

Ramblings after the jump…


Photography Critique :: Episode 13 (parts 1 & 2)

May 10, 2010 | • Critique

Photography critique returns and this time with a special guest!

Our good friend and fellow photographer, David Jackson, was in town this week for a job. We had he and his studio manager, Trevor, over for dinner along with our studio manager, Dan, and we wrangled them all into a critique.  Good food. Good beer. Photography! That should be our new motto for this.

This episode runs about an hour and twenty-two minutes so I’ve split it into two parts but I’m releasing them together. Scroll down for part two. Yes, I say the same things too many times. Yes we have fun. Yes it was late. It was all the stuff you come to expect from these things. :)

If you are new to our critique series here are some things to know.

• You can subscribe to this show via iTunes using this link.

• These are the rules of critique we go by.

• You can find previous episodes listed here.

• My non photographer wife, Meghan, and I do these because we love it and if we can’t have some fun and laughs with it then that would be boring.

• I ramble on and on and on about things at times while Meg tries to keep me on track. Also note that we hit record, do our thing, and upload. I don’t edit these for content once they are recorded because I simply don’t have the time.

• If you want to get in on some critique just email your web address to critique @ zackarias [dot] com.

And here is part two…

At some point in this critique I make a comment along the lines of, “Yes, it is a photograph but it isn’t ‘photography’.” AS soon as that came out of my mouth I knew it may spark some discussion.

Where is that line drawn? I’m not the expert but my philosophy is this; if you are shooting pictures that are absolutely no different then what is expected by a big box store photo studio is it “photography”? Do you enter this industry simply to live inside of a very narrowly defined box or are you trying to put a personal spin on the craft? There are plenty of times I have to work inside of those narrowly defined rules because that is what is expected or needed for the job. Sometimes my job means I’m a skilled technician of the camera instead of a photographer. Most of what we do is derivative of the work others have done for decades before us but the goal is to push ourselves, our craft, and our vision beyond that. We don’t always succeed but if it was easy who would want to do this? The goal of my comment is to make us all question what we do and what we show as our work.

Feel free to discuss in the comments.

Oh… And apologies to all of you who ride Harley Davidsons while wearing khakis and polo shirts. :)

Cheers, Zack

Photography Critique :: Episode 12

November 4, 2009 | • Critique

Welcome to episode 12 of Photography Critique. We take a look at four sites and I do my best to stay on track, make my point, and move on. Trying to take your critique of our critique to heart as best I can! Still can’t stop gabbing though. Hour and 12 on this one. I’m proud of this one. Hope you enjoy it as well!

Some really interesting discussion has formed around our last episode of Photography Critique.  

I’m glad if we can give some pointers here and there but I think we ruffled some feathers and have started a discussion a bit deeper than how to edit your work.  We’ve had a number of people recently stumble across us so I want to go over our own in-house rules for this critique thing that we do.

#1 – We only critique work that has been submitted to us.  We do not do any drive-by critiques. If you send your site to us you know it will possibly end up on this blog and be the topic of a public discussion. If you want to be added to the list just email me your URL. Send it to critique @

#2 – I DO NOT name names in text or give links to the work we critique. The reason we do this is so “John Doe Photography” can submit his work and know that nothing on my blog will show up in a search engine. I ask that all readers cross posting these critiques respect this as well.  Do not give a link to the person’s work AND a link to this blog. This is to keep possible negative critiques out of the reach from perspective clients researching said John Doe photographer.

#3 – Meg and I do this for the community at large and we have fun with it.  We will not get academic with these critiques. At times we have something serious to say or something technical to share but you are going to get the EXACT same critique on this blog as if you came to our house, sat down at our dining room table, and showed us your work. We would offer you a drink and go through your work exactly as we do on this site. Smart ass comments and all.

#4 – Speaking of smart ass comments… We make them. We hope we are not offending anyone but if we think something looks funny then chances are other people are going to come along and think something similar.  If we add a stupid caption to a photo it is because it’s so easy to do. Remember this… You can’t stand around your work and explain it to people as they see it. Once your site goes out in the world you have zero control over what people are going to think of your work. Meg and I are going to give you an off the cuff honest idea of what may be thought of your work.  Like it or love it or leave it.  If we laugh at one of your pictures it may be due to the fact that it is funny.  The rub happens when your intention was to make a serious photo.  We aren’t so jaded and cynical that we make fun of everything but you may not see it until it’s pointed out. 

#5 – I am looking at your site as though I’m a photo editor, art director, or general public client. Would I hire you? Would I love your work? Would I hate it? Would I laugh at it? Would I think it is original or dated or boring? If so, I’ll tell you. But my goal is to not leave you there. If I feel I can speak to the work and give suggestions to make it better then I most certainly will give you my opinion in how I feel it can be made better.  I will do all I can to point out your strengths as well.  I’m not here just to try and bring people down. I do these things in hopes that it helps.

Meg is looking at your work as Meghan “General Public” Arias.  She’s not trained in photography. She’s not a shooter. She’s not an editor. She likes being the detached third party.  That’s not to say she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.  She’s a smart girl and has some interesting opinions on the work.  I should know, she has opinions about mine all the time!  😉

#6 – I’m going to do my best to not make a critique personal.  I’m looking at your photography. Not you. But at 1am I know I’ll make a joke and step on toes. Please know that we aren’t trying to be jerks. We’re dorks.

#7 – Whatever we say here… we would say it to your face.  We don’t hide behind the Internet.   

#8 – Most days… I have to listen to myself because I sure as hell don’t have it figured out and I’m just as guilty of the flaws I’m so quick to point out to others. Have you seen my sites? They suck right now. Suck. The only thing that lets me sleep through the night is I know they suck right now because I’m too busy shooting to be building a web site. Just note that I suck too.   

Rules for you…

#1 – Don’t take it personal.  You have to divorce yourself from your work to get an honest assessment of it. If you don’t you can’t grow. Your family and friends may absolutely love, love, love your photography. Heck, your clients may be head over heals about that selective colored heart over the belly button with no less than 17 actions thrown on top of it. Fine. People are happy with Wal-Mart portraits too but that doesn’t mean they are good. There are higher goals to reach in this craft and that is the point of view I’m coming from. Let Wal-Mart produce the crap. Individual photographers need to push on to better work.

#2 – Understand we are just one tiny voice in a sea of thousands. Take what we say with a grain of salt because you could show your work to another photographer the same day you show it to us and you will get a whole different take on it.  Gather several TRUSTED voices together and then filter it down through your own brain to find out what needs to happen.

#3 – I can’t stress enough that Meg and I do not take ourselves seriously.  We kindly request you do the same.  

#4 – ALWAYS let us know how we can do this better.  Speak up. Talk about it. We are all growing up in this ever changing industry together.  It’s a pretty damn fun place to be. I’m glad you are here and I’m glad to be a part of it. 

How’d we do on this one?

Cheers, Zack 

Photography Critique :: Episode 11

October 11, 2009 | • Critique

We are back with another episode of Photography Critique! In this episode we cover four sites in 56 minutes. We take a look at the work of a child portrait photographer, two live music photographers, and finally a commercial photographer. I made sure to spend some time talking about the technical aspects of becoming a better photographer as well as the pitfalls of following a photographer you admire just. a. little. too. much. I also wonder what the state of grad schools are these days.

We hope you enjoy! Now that our life is finding some sort of order again after the birth of our son, Hawke, we will be having these episodes back on the blog on a more regular basis. Our goal for now is one a month. If you are just joining us on this blog you can find past episodes of Photography Critique here…

Episodes 1 – 10 of Photography Critique

Also, point your iTunes podcast feed to this link to have them downloaded automatically to your playlist!


Cheers, Zack

Photography Critique :: Episode 10

April 30, 2009 | • Critique

Runtime :: 1:13

This is the first episode of “Step it up or hang it up.” We get a little more directed with critique, we shave off the nice guy act a bit more, and tell it like it is but we strive to do it in love, respect, and keep a good attitude about it all. At the end of the day, none of us are curing cancer. It’s just photography.

This series is now available as a podcast! Just drop the following link into iTunes (iTunes -> Advanced -> Subscribe to podcast) and it will update for you anytime there is a new episode on the blog. Remember to come back here though and join in the discussion.


If you would like to have your site added to the list for a future episode of critique, email a link to your site, blog, or flickr page to critique @ zackarias [dot] com. Notice that my name is spelled with a “k” not an “h”.

So… We could be more Simon and less Paula on these. I think we run a pretty balanced and fair critique without being ruthless. What do you think?

Cheers, Zack and Meg

Photography Critique :: Episode 9

April 21, 2009 | • Critique

We are back with Photography Critique, Episode 9! I had everything ready to do some of these critiques when I was in Dubai. I had the opportunity to have some GREAT guests for this series BUT the Internet sucked and when I did have time to grab one of our distinguished colleagues, the Internet was broken.

For new blog readers, of which there are many (thanks Strobist, Joe, David, and Chase!), this is a series that my wife, Meghan and I do. Folks email their web site in and we stay up far too late at night giving our thoughts about their work and photography in general. I’m a full time photographer and Meg is not. She brings a different point of view to the work. I do not provide links to those getting a critique. This ensures their web site does not get indexed by Google so prospective clients don’t happen upon a possible negative critique of the person they are thinking of hiring. If you want to see their work then watch the video. You’ll figure it out from there. :)

I am still researching hosts for these videos to turn this into a podcast. My plate is filled though so this is not a current priority. If one of you knows a great, quick, and affordable solution to this please email me. Send that email to zack @ zackarias [dot] com and place “Podcast solution” in the subject line.

If you want to have your site put on the list of work to be critiqued then please email the URL and any other information you would like us to know about yourself of questions you may have to :: critique @ zackarias [dot] com. Notice the “k” in the spelling of my name.


Cheers, Zack

PS – Remember how Meg and I gushed over that parking lot image by Michael Sebastian in one of our first critiques? We are the proud owners of a beautiful print of that image. We are currently deciding which piece of art in our house will have to move so we can hang that in its place! Thanks Michael!

While we are at it, we would like to thank y’all who have sent us nice little gifts for our soon, soon, soon to be born son. We cherish your thoughtfulness! I would name names but that list isn’t in front of me and I have a meeting to get to. You know who you are! :)

Photography Critique :: Episode 8

March 27, 2009 | • Critique

We start out this critique by answering some questions from emails and comments here on the blog concerning “general photography” and “niched photography.” One thing I forgot to say during this recording concerning narrowing your vision with photography…

Remember there is a massive influx of photographers coming into the industry right now and many of them are generalists. The more you can narrowly define who you are as a photographer not only helps you grow as a photographer, helps you work your marketing mojo toward the right client, but it helps you stand out from the crowd of folks armed with a digital camera.

Keep these questions rolling! These are some great subjects for us to discuss. If you want to be added to the critique que then send your link to critique @ zacKarias [dot] com.

I’ll check in with you when I get to the other side of the planet! :)

Cheers, Zack

Photography Critique :: Episode 7

March 25, 2009 | • Critique

After taking a break for a week or so I’m glad to bring you episode 7 of Photography Critique. Today we look at the work of Melissa, David, and Josh. These are three photographers who all have a very solid skill set and are needing to find their vision before they really start taking ground in the photo industry.

Meg was not able to make it for this episode. Her due date is coming up quickly and she needs all the rest she can get right now. By the time I was ready to get going on this critique last night she was zonked out on the couch. She has watched the episode and gives her approval of it. She will be back for the next episode!

If you want to get on the list of work to be critiqued just send me a link at critique @ zacKarias [dot] com.

Cheers, Zack

Photography Critique :: Episode 6

March 15, 2009 | • Critique

Here is the second half of last night’s critique. Or should I say this morning’s critique. Yes, we do get a little too chit chatty at 1:30am as Casper noted in the comments of episode 5. We will tighten that up a bit for sure.

For this second half episode we look at two very talented photographers specializing in children photography. Gloria says she is passionate about her craft and she just started her business one month ago. If what we have to look at is a photographer in business for only one month, then she is going to be a force to reckon with in central Illinois.

We wrap it up by looking at the work of Anita. Anita is another talented child / family photographer who feels like she is in a rut right now. I chose her work to critique for this “passion” theme because it seems as though her passion is running low. Anita, Meg found a great quote and we dedicate it to you…

“What saves a man is to take a step. And then another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it.” – Antoine deSaint-Exupéry

I’m going to knock one more episode out by tomorrow and then transition into doing these about once a week or as I can get to them. We have had a blast running through these this week and establishing this series, but I have an intense schedule for the next four weeks so I have to get focused on the shoots on the books and Gulf Photo Plus at the end of the month. I’m hoping to snag some guest photographers at GPP to help me critique some sites while I’m there. We shall see.

Cheers, Zack

Photography Critique :: Episode 5

March 15, 2009 | • Critique

This is the first half of a 46 minute critique we did last night. We looked at four photographer’s work and have loosely based this critique on the word “Passion.” A little more than 10% of the emails that are coming in have the word “passion” in them. Passion is awesome! I love me some passion. We all need to find a passion in our life and for many of us reading this blog, we have found it in photography. But… Passion doesn’t mean a thing without some talent attached to it providing you are wanting to turn that passion into created works of art.

For this episode we look at two young photographers named Jennifer and Norton. They most certainly are passionate. It is the talent part of the equation that they need to work on. In the next episode we look at two child/family portrait photographers. One has just started her business and is very passionate about learning and growing. The other is a dang fine photographer but she is in a rut. So the passion is running a little low. Also, in the next episode we see a good way to put the same person in a gallery twice. I’ve gotten emails about that. Sit tight, I talk about that in the next installment.

I expected Meg would be by my side while doing these but not an active participant in them. Ya’ll love her so she’s staying. I love her being a part of this because we get to spend time together doing something fun that helps people, she brings an interesting and “consumer” based viewpoint to the discussion, and she brings a feminine viewpoint to the discussion. I do not let her see the majority of the work that we are critiquing. I want her reaction to be immediate. I on the other hand, go through all of the images before I hit the record button. Be on the lookout for Erik, our studio manager, to jump in on some of these. Those are going to be insane. :)

Many have asked about putting these on YouTube. I am starting to cross post them there. The reason I use for these is because it allows me to scale the embedded video to the width of my blog. I can only get YouTube clips to embed at their native size or full screen. Nothing in between. You can find the episodes on YouTube here. I have episodes 1 through 3 up right now with more coming. Others have asked about making these into a pod cast for iTunes. I’m trying to figure out how to do that and will update you once I figure it out. If you know of an easy way for me to make this happen, lemme know!

Cheers, Zack

Photography Critique :: Episode 4

March 13, 2009 | • Critique

In episode four we take a look at four photographers. I apologize for the music in this one. I hit the wrong station when I started recording and didn’t realize it until after I finished recording this. I was going to do it again but it really isn’t that bad. Maybe I’ll just ditch background music all together.

For this episode we look at the work of Barney, Justin, Michael, and Jay. Barney and Justin are just getting their feet wet. Michael and Jay are in it up to their necks. Not quite fully submersed but close!

If you have questions about this critique just hit me up in the comments. If you want your work added to the critique list please email a link to your work to critique @ ZackArias [dot] com. (That’s Zack with a “K”)

Cheers, Zack

Photography Critique :: Episode 3

March 12, 2009 | • Critique

Today we have the last half of the critique I started yesterday. Molly and Dave are up to bat. Molly is just getting started and shot her first wedding. Dave is a guy who I have known for about five years. I feel you all will enjoy this one because this is a nice pairing of someone who is just getting started and has a number of things to work on next to someone who is bit more established and is starting to refine their style.

I normally do not post links to the photographers who I am critiquing. I do this to be sensitive to the fact that google sees all, knows all, forgets nothing. If a client googles a photographer I don’t want that client to find a critique, especially if it is a tough critique. Rules can always be broken.

David Freaking Jackson. He is an amazing photographer with a clear vision. Be sure to check out his Simple + Dirty project as well. Dave is that rare kind of photographer who can mix weddings, music, and commercial work under one web site and pull it off. I had a little more fun with Dave’s critique because he and I have known each other for awhile. I was surprised that he sent his site in for critique and I was even more surprised that I found something he has to work on. :)

You can keep sending your sites in for critique if you would like. Send them to critique @ zacKarias [dot] com. There are well over 300 sites for me to look through now. The reason I want to keep these critiques as short as possible is because I want to get to as many as I can. I can’t get to 300 but I like having lots of options so keep sending them in. Kudos to Luke from Episode 2. You already changed your portfolio up and it looks much better.

Are you folks still enjoying this?

Cheers, Zack

Critique :: Episode 02

March 11, 2009 | • Critique

I got a little ambitious last night and thought I could get four sites done but I could not do that in less than 40 minutes so I split the episode. Today we have John and Luke. Tomorrow we will have Molly and Dave. So when you see this episode just sort of end abruptly that is why. Also note that I’m taking your feedback to heart and trying to integrate your critique of my critique into my critique. Wow. Mouth. Full.

ETA – I make a comment in this critique comparing something to Chase Jarvis. What does Chase have to say about the topic mentioned? Read his old blog post here about this topic. Here is an excerpt from it…

We’ve all had it happen, professionals, amateurs, beginning photogs alike. You think you have a great idea…gonna go shoot this cool new concept…then whammo. You see it done by somebody else. You can have more respect for it done well and less for it done poorly, but it’s the idea that counts. And “they” beat you to it.

Know what I say about that stuff? Get used to it.

FWIW, (and if it makes anybody out there feel any better – god knows I need to hear “same here” from some of you…), this happens to me all the time. All my little scribbles and journal notes and lists of ideas, gone poof in an instant.

While we are on the subject of photography and looking at our work I found an interesting video that I suggest you take a look at. Blog reader Kevin Derose sent me his video site for critique. Something a little different than photo critique. I am not going to go into a video critique of the video work that he and his brother do but I do think their site is noteworthy. Especially for the interview with photographer Jerome Liebling. Head over to One Match Films and watch the fifth film titled “Jerome Liebling – Seeing Real Things.” It is a fantastic interview. Nice work Kevin and Jeff.

If you are a working pro photographer or an aspiring pro photographer and you would like to be added to the ever growing list of work to be critiqued then email me your site, flickr page, or blog and I’ll put you on the list. Email it to critique @ zacKarias [dot] com. Notice the “K” in my name. Not an H. :)

Based on initial feedback, I will be making this a regular feature on the blog.

Cheers, Zack

Critique :: Episode 01

March 10, 2009 | • Critique

I really tried to keep each critique to 5 minutes. “Tried” is the key word. This episode is 24 minutes long.

For Episode 01 here I went through the sites of Terrence, Mary Beth, and Nicolas. I’m not linking to their sites nor am I using their full name. I do this so google will not index their names and sites associated with this critique. This is a public critique though so hats off to all of you wanting critique. I hope that we all can learn from seeing the work of other photographers.

I’m going to try to get a few more done this week. For now though, I’m head deep in post production so it is back to work for me.

Let me know what you think of this first episode. Is it helpful? Critique my critique! 

If you would rather watch it on YouTube, you can do so here.

Cheers, Zack 

ETA – If you are a professional photographer or an aspiring pro photographer and you want to get on the ever growing list of work to critique please email your web site, blog, or flickr page to me > critique [@] zackarias [dot] com. Since ya’ll like this, I will be doing this on a regular basis.

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