Archive for 'Shop Talk':

Canon Switch Update :: All is Well

December 8, 2011 | • Gear & Gadgets Shop Talk


I recently wrote in length about my switch from Nikon to Canon. I thought I’d update you on a few things since making that switch.

#1 – Lately I find myself predominantly shooting with the 35mm f 2.0 and 85mm 1.8. You could weld one of those on each body and I’d be set for life I think. Except that 35mm f2. When I made the full switch I kept the “decent” Canon 35mm f2 and bought the crockstar 24mm 1.4 lens. I now wish I would have switched that decision. I’m just not shooting that 24 nearly as much as I thought I would. I’ll be replacing that 35 at some point. It doesn’t have to happen tomorrow because the f2 is still an amazing lens but I’ve tried the 1.4 and I know that would get welded to a camera body to never be removed. Live and learn right?

#2 – I really miss the in-camera multiple exposure feature in Nikons. I didn’t think I would but once you don’t have it you want it. Multiple exposure images are easy enough to do in post production but it takes the fun out of it. When doing it in-camera you either get it or you don’t and there’s lots of room for really interesting mistakes and WTF moments to happen that you just don’t get when doing it in post. Oh well. I don’t shoot it that often but I do wish I had it. The image above is a “triple exposure” done in post. I try to not tweak things too much. I want the chips to fall where they may as though I did it in-camera.

#3 – I thought I would shoot the 135mm f2 more than I do. I’m surprised I go to that cheap little 85mm 1.8 so often but that 135mm f2 lens is one of the finest lenses I’ve ever owned. For me I like to have a healthy amount of space to use that thing. Many of my assignments lately have had me in pretty tight quarters so it hasn’t been put to use that much but there is zero regret in getting that lens. Oh. Emm. Gee.

#4 – I do miss the D3 body but I’m still happy with my switch. Aside from that lens decision I would reverse I’m pleased with my switch. I most love having one complete system instead of two half assed systems. If I were to add anything to this kit it would be the 14mm f2.8 lens. That is a beast of a lens but I’m good without it.

And… I’m done with 35mm DSLR buying for a long time to come. Bring on the five dee mark three point two sub paragraph nine whatever. I’m good.



PS – Yes… I’m on my annual social media hiatus. I find I need to unplug from most things as we head into the darkness of winter. It’s my time to figure out what in the hell I’m doing with myself. That’s hard to do with all the noise. I’ll be blogging and despite it falling in the social media genre, I’m still on :) Hope you are all doing well!

Workshop News :: 2012 Events

November 7, 2011 | • Workshop

I always thought I would retire into teaching after a long photography career. Little did I know that I would end up teaching in my early 30’s. I’ve been teaching the OneLight workshop for about five years now. I love my workshop, and I love teaching it, but it is time for me to give it a bit of a break. The OneLight has literally taken me around the world. I had no idea how successful it would be when I started it in Tampa, FL with a flip chart and some B&H print outs.

It is time, though, to give it a break or to give myself a break from it. I’m not sure which one needs the break more. I have three more dates to go this year and they are all next week in Texas.

While I am retiring the OneLight in its current form, I do have some set teaching dates for next year.

March 5th – 10 :: Gulf Photo Plus in Dubai – I’ll be teaching a mixture of classes from Photo 101 basics, to the OneLight, to an advanced location portrait class. Gulf Photo Plus is one of the most amazing weeks of photography education that I know about in an amazing and surreal location.

June 17th – 23rd :: Focus On Nature in Iceland – It’s a real honor that the good folks at Focus On Nature have asked me to teach a week long class for them in Iceland. Nature Schmature… we’ll be working on portraits the whole time, but with Iceland as the backdrop. This is going to be a pretty interesting workshop in that a small group of us will be together for seven days through lectures, critiques, shooting, and roaming around the country together. Natural light, small flashes, and bigger strobes will all come into play. From the streets of Reykjavik to the unreal landscapes Iceland is known for, this is going to be an amazing week of shooting.

At $6,950 you have every right to choke on that bagel you’re eating right now but… this is one of those deals where you are taken care of from the moment you walk out of the airport to the day you are flying home again. All of the accommodations, food, and interior travel are taken care of. You just have to pay for alcohol and Bjork CD’s while you’re there.

August 25th – 31st – Rocky Mountain School of Photography – I’ve been invited back to Montana to teach another week long lighting class. The class is based in Missoula and it’s a week of learning to use light during the day and learning which beer you like at the Rhino at night. :) I love RMSP and the people there. It’s really a great place. Check out all of their offerings. That school is a jewel in our industry.

O Canada! – All right Canada. We “think” we found our way to legally enter the country and teach the OneLight. We have more requests to come to Canada than anywhere else. Your border is also the biggest pain in the ass to cross with bags of pro gear in tow. I’m on a list and can’t enter the country with professional camera gear unless I have all the proper paper work in order. I’m no National Geographic photographer but Canada is by far the biggest pain in the ass of a country to enter with a camera. That just makes me want to come up there all the more. Damn the list! As soon as we have all the paperwork in order I’ll announce dates.

That’s about it for teaching next year. I’m sure a few things will pop up here and there but I really, really, really need to take a break from traveling for the next year and just be home as much as I can. Sign up on the mailing list to be the first to know about anything going on with my teaching schedule outside of the dates listed above. You won’t be spammed. I don’t have that much to say. :)



Editing Your Portfolio

I’m currently in the process of updating and printing a new portfolio and I thought I would take a moment half day to talk about the process.

My dear friend, Marc, has said of editing, “It’s like lining up your children and deciding which ones you’re going to shoot.” That quote isn’t going to end up on the front of a greeting card anytime soon but it does get to the heart of the matter. Andy Lee rephrased it to, “…deciding which ones you love more.” Either way, the process can suck but it is a process you need to go through on a regular basis. At least twice a year. Minimum.

I know many of you are wondering why I’m working on a print portfolio. What about web sites, PDFs, iPhones, thumb drives, laptops, etc, etc? Are printed portfolios still relevant? In my opinion they are. That opinion also is held by many in the editorial and advertising world. I know of two leading Ad agencies that won’t meet with you if you walk in with only an electronic portfolio. They want to see your book. The printed output of your work. Anything can look good on an iPad. Can it print? Can it run larger? The devil, and the jobs, are in the details. Wedding photographers know this all too well. Do you want to deliver a disk of zeros and ones or would you rather deliver a beautifully printed album? What is going to live in plain sight? A thumb drive or a book? Which one will be cherished? Which one has lasting value? Which one makes you more excited to deliver? Which one is instant? The book. That’s which one.

A printed book is a thing to take pride in. There’s something tangible about it that holding an iPad doesn’t compare to. Note that I’m a big believer in electronic forms of showing your work. I walk into every meeting with a print book AND an iPad. The book is the best representation I have of the work I do. The iPad holds expanded galleries of work that support the book and hold other galleries of work that don’t find their way into the main book. Things like personal projects, travel photography, video, etc. Eventually I want to have a series of print books that show a range of the work I do.

I’ve lived as a photographer for some time without a book. I wanted a book but didn’t have the time, money, discipline, etc to get it done. Going from having no book to having a book you’re ready to show is a pretty large mountain to climb. Choosing the physical book and making the prints are the easier parts. It’s editing the book that will make you cry and leave you feeling completely inadequate as a photographer. You’ll pray for your strengths while constantly focusing on your weakness through the process but I can’t stress enough how invaluable the process is. For me it’s more about the process of building a book than actually having a physical book to show. Let’s talk through the physical process.

The full discussion can be found after the jump…


My Interview on TWiT Photo :: Video

August 17, 2011 | • Discussion Shop Talk

I recently had the pleasure of being a guest on the TWiT Photo podcast with hosts Catherine Hall and Leo Laporte. I suppose with a name like TWiT I was the obvious choice to be a guest. I’m hoping to get to California at some point to see their brand new studio. Check out their weekly podcast here. Also, I’ll be part of a panel discussing photo sharing on the web. That will be live today. I’m sure it will be recorded for future viewing.


Catherine is hosting a webcast tomorrow (Thurs. 8/18) at 3pm EST. I’ll be joining the panel discussing copyright and sharing photography on the web. The panel is full of some amazing folks like photographers and bloggers Trey Ratcliff, Frederick Van, and Nicole Young. We’ll also be joined by Mike Linksvayer (VP of creative Commons), Christa Laser (specialist in copyright law), and Brian Rose who is the photos community manager over at Google+. I’m sure we’ll be discussing, among other things, the hotly debated G+ TOS that have divided opinions from many in the photography industry. It’s going to be good to hear from a manager of the community there.

You can watch the live broadcast here today (Thursday 8/18) –




Headline :: I Switched To Canon. World Still Turns.

August 14, 2011 | • Gear & Gadgets Shop Talk

I made a “what’s in my bag” post in 2009 about my mixed kit of Nikon and Canon gear. I’ve recently sold my Nikon gear and have gone 100% Canon to the surprise of many including myself. I’ve fielded lots of questions on Twitter about it, many I have not gotten to, so I’m making this blog post to cover your questions and to take the time to talk about why I am doing all of this. In this post I’ll talk about my past kits, my current kit, why I made the switch, the gear on my wish list, and why none of this matters all that much. Be warned, this is fairly wordy. :)


Fuji x100 :: Review

July 4, 2011 | • Gear & Gadgets Shop Talk


Let me get this out of the way… The Fuji x100 is the greatest digital camera ever made and may just be the greatest camera I have ever owned. You’ll have a hard damn time convincing me otherwise. I can state with confidence that this is my favorite camera I have ever owned. Period. End of story. Done. Best. Camera. EVAR. OMG. Etc. Note that I am not sponsored by Fuji, I have no relationship with Fuji, and I paid for this camera with my own money. I have nothing to gain in services, advertising, affiliations, or monetary value by writing this review.

I’ll break this down after the jump …


de_VICE :: Streets of NYC with the Fuji X100

In case you haven’t read my 1,000 something tweets about how much I love the new Fuji x100, then I need to let you know that I love the Fuji x100. I’m working on a full review of the thing right now. It will NOT be a pixel peeping, button counting, megapixel masturbation fest of flowers and cats. It will be more of a review about how it fits in the life of a working photographer and how to work around the number of “quirks” the thing has.

I’m in New York this week getting my book looked at and stuff. It’s a fantastic process and I’m meeting some fantastic people. The brand is done. The site is 98% complete. I’m having some issues with the portfolio PDF download. Working on it.

Here are a few more from the streets of NYC. It’s a little series I’m calling #de_VICE. We are tethered to our devices to the point they may be a vice. I know I struggle with it. Once you are in the iWorld it’s amazing how unaware you become of your surroundings. Like, some guy taking your picture of you doing whatever it is you are doing there on your device.

More images to come with the review. It’s an awesome camera and a total pain in the a** at the same time. I absolutely love it.


Hit Me With Your Questions Now :: creativeLIVE This Weekend

Alright folks, we are just a few days away from the next creativeLIVE three day class. It starts this Friday and it is called “The Foundations of a Working Photographer.”

I’ve been teaching workshops for about four years now and I’ve met hundreds and hundreds of photographers. I would venture to say that most photographers entering the industry today are self taught. You read blogs, watch DVDs, go to workshops, attend conferences, read books, and do a lot of trial and error. We all do that. We are all learning and growing and trying to move forward but from my experience working with a lot of emerging photographers these days I see a number of holes in a lot of people’s foundations. There are a number of missing ingredients and this weekend’s class is designed to identify those weak areas in the industry and fill them in with knowledge and practical advice.

The goal you should have for yourself is to be able to walk into an environment, size up your subject, your shooting conditions, and your camera bag and formulate a plan quickly, efficiently, and with a smile on your face. Before you ever open your camera bag you should already know which lens you are going to need. You should have an idea of where your subject needs to be, what your background will be, and what you are going to have to do to the light. It’s like the matrix. You have to see the code.

This Friday we start with the basics of cameras and lenses and knowing your subject. Can you run your camera blindfolded? Do you know it? I mean KNOW it? I mean KNOW KNOW KNOW  your camera. When you walk in a room do you know which lens you need and why you need it? When you are ready for a new lens do you know EXACTLY which lens you have to purchase next and EXACTLY why  you need and do you know EXACTLY what it will do and what it won’t do for you? Are you nailing your exposures? Do you know how far your in camera meter is off? Can you identify 18% grey quickly? Do you know that aperture is only a SMALL part that determines depth of field? It isn’t the only thing that determines that and sometimes it’s the LEAST significant part of the depth of field equation.

Do you know your subject? Do you know how to best light them and best photograph them? Do you know how to keep them happy while you are freaking out in your brain about the shoot? When it all goes to hell can you keep them engaged, keep the shoot going, and make it the best experience they’ve had in front of a camera? That’s all on Friday.

Saturday starts of with light. Available light, flash, strobe, mixing the two, etc, etc. Get rid of the plastic cocktail cup on your flash and grow as a photographer. It’s all about light. It always has been and always will be. We are going to be shooting a lot on Saturday. Working with light, working with our gear, working with our subjects, and taking lots and lots of technical questions via the creativeLIVE chat room, twitter, etc. I’m going to end the day with my take on Jeremy Cowart’s 90 minute portfolio. I’ll have a few subjects to work with and I’m going to try to create as many different looks and photos with whatever I have to work with in whatever environment I have to shoot in. We’ll be taking breaks from shooting to talk about the creative process, getting rid of fear, and moving forward when you don’t have it all figured out.

Sunday will be a recap on the technical and then it’s on to business and balance. If you are trying to do this for a living or would like to then  you need to know how to position yourself in your market, how to price for your services, how to research the industry around you, and how to find a way to stand out from the crowd. If you begin to find success with any of this you may just find your personal life going down in flames. Photography will take everything from you if you let it. Sunday we will be ending the day with my love, Meghan, and I having a transparent conversation about work and life and family and the issues we face trying to keep it all together with a business and four kids aged 12 and under.

There are going to be times I get on a soapbox. There will be times I say things that aren’t a lot of fun to hear. This isn’t going to be all double rainbows and fluffy kittens. This is a hard damn job and there are some people who just aren’t cut out for it. Photography calls many but chooses few. I know what it’s like to find success in this field but it wasn’t until I was an utter failure in everything. I sucked as a photographer. I sucked as a business person. I sucked as a family man. I’ve seen the mess that this can become and it sucks. I’m going to do all I can to help you avoid some of this and hopefully increase your odds at being one of those who are called and chosen. I promise to leave you on Sunday with plenty to be thinking about and plenty to be working on. I’m going to also free you up from some of the stress you may be feeling about some things. Like, forget about branding. It really doesn’t matter for you right now. Go get a cheap blog and don’t spend a dime on a logo. Huh? Really? Yep. Go rock $50 portrait sessions like it’s nobody’s business… because it’s nobody’s business. :) You’ll see.

It’s going to be like flying a kite in a hurricane and it’s going to be a blast!

Do you have any initial questions right now? Things you really, really, really want to see covered? Drop them in the comments below. We will also be taking questions Friday, Saturday, and Sunday via the chat room and twitter. It’s free to watch all weekend and they will be rebroadcasting over night for those of you on other parts of the globe.

Get all the details and times here.


PS – I might get into my new personal project that I’m working on. A few of the images are above. If you know what project I’m speaking of don’t mention it in the comments. :)

Chandler Effing Arizona

I’m in Chandler, Arizona today teaching a workshop. This is one of our shots from today. All you need is a dumpster.

Yesterday I spent about three hours walking the streets around here shooting 2 rolls of film. Well, I shot nearly two rolls. I shot 22 images and finished the other 2 images today. I’m working on a mini portfolio currently called “Chandler F*cking Arizona.” It’s inspired by a t-shirt that my previous studio manager, Erik Dixon, would wear. It looked a bit like this but with better typography. I have no idea really why I want to call this mini portfolio by this name. It’s kind of against my style yet it’s just something I feel like doing. Who knows. I’m sure I’ll play it safe when I’m actually putting it together. (I really hope I don’t)

So yeah, more walking around with film. Why film? Here’s the deal…

Film costs money and film takes time. So when I’m out shooting with film I’m asking myself a series of questions.

1 – Is it a good picture?

2 – Is it worth the money?

3 – Is it worth waiting for it from the lab?

4 – Is it worth giving up this frame of film for a shot that I might find later that I’d rather have than this one I’m about to shoot?

5 – Will it be worth cleaning the scanner, loading it in the carrier, and making a scan?

6 – Will it be worth spotting in Photoshop?

7 – Will it be worth posting or printing?

8 – Is it a good picture?

If I answer “no” on any one of these questions then it’s not worth shooting in the first place. It’s not worth the money. It’s not worth the time. It’s not worth giving up that frame for a frame I might get later. It’s not worth sitting at the scanner and dorking with all that. It’s not worth waiting for. It ain’t worth shooting in the first place.

How much do you think I concentrate more on each photo? A lot. When you shoot digital who cares? Just go ahead and shoot it and if you don’t like it later then no big deal. So you shoot and shoot and shoot and don’t really stop and think about the process. You also don’t feel really invested in it. At least, for me, right now in my life, I don’t feel invested in digital. I’m just in that phase where I’m adding limits to my work and simplifying. I need to grow. I need to move forward with my craft, my vision, and my work. DSLRs bore the shit out of me right now.

Boy, I’m getting a potty mouth. Probably due to shooting film. :)

Not only that, but I want better quality. Back in the days of film 35mm was for run-n-gun photography and newspapers. Medium format was the ruler of the pro field. Of course large format has even better quality but MF was the format that could give great quality and still be portable. 4×5 and up isn’t all that portable and you sure wouldn’t shoot a wedding with one. Or would you? If any wedding photographer out there would attempt it, it would probably be John Michael Cooper. :)

It used to be a $5,000 or so investment gap to move from 35mm to medium format. In the days of digital that canyon to cross from 35mm format DSLRs to MF cameras and backs has been $30,000 or more until recently. MF manufactures are getting the prices down. You can get into a system for about $10,000 and that is really amazing. Just as amazing as when the Nikon D1 came out and an unbelievably low $5,000. $400 Rebels shoot circles around the D1 these days. I’ll move these Hasselblads to digital as soon as I can but I got into the classic 500 series so that I can switch from digital to film with a click of a release button. The back I’m looking at is $14,000. That’s a heck of an investment but a few years ago it would have been $30,000 or more. Prices are coming down. Pentax and Mamiya both have systems starting at $10k and I know one of you (@MikeSeb) is rocking that Pentax. You need to do a review on your blog!

If you ever shoot digital MF and nail the shot then DSLRs will seem like toys. DSLRs have their place in my bag. They always will but I shoot portraits for a living. I’m not running and gunning through events so much these days. I don’t need to spray and pray anything right now. I sit my subject in place and do my thing. I can work slower and be more deliberate with what I shoot. That’s what I need.

The image above? Digital. Just shot that a few hours ago. The film I shot yesterday? I won’t see it for at least a week. At least. Then I have to scan it and I won’t have time for that for another two weeks. And then I’m going to want to print it. Really print it. Myself. In a darkroom. Damn it. Stupid film.

Cheers, Zack


12/09/11 – UPDATE – I was looking at the Hasselblad CFV 39 back for the V series cameras. It sucks. I’m not spending a dime on that stupid back. Sometimes it works! Sometimes it doesn’t. All for the low low price of $14,000. Yeah, no thanks. I am however moving to a Phase One it looks like. I’ll know in a week or two and update this entry and make a new one about it.

Anatomy of a Shootout :: GPP 2011 with Joey L

I can never speak highly enough about Gulf Photo Plus in Dubai. It is a week long photography education event filled with some of the greatest teachers I’ve met. It’s small. It’s intimate. It’s in Dubai. It’s a pain to get there from here (US) but it’s so worth it. I’ve had the honor of teaching there for the past three years and I swear, at some point, I hope I can just go and attend as a student.

We had another shootout to end the week this year and it was a showdown between myself and photographer extraordinaire Joey L. I had no idea what the subject would be but I had an idea for a shot when I was walking into the auditorium. I had Dan pre-stage some gear in the back that would be ready when I called for it but I forgot all about that when Hakam walked on stage. I’ve never seen Tanoura dancing and I was in shock. He was so smiley and intense. The voice of Borat was ringing in my ears. Suddenly the whole plan I had was thrown out the window and I had to come up with something else.

To see what this post is all about you can watch a video of the event here…

My first thought was “slow shutter speed = motion blur”. I was going to go there first but then I thought that would be expected. Joey was the first to shoot and that was the route he went so I was glad I changed my mind. Eventually it is where Heisler went as well. I was down the hall in a separate room while he was shooting so when I walked in the door I had no idea who the subject was or what Joey had shot.

Always the one who is thinking about logistics I figured this guy was lured into doing this with the promise of some free photos so I damn well better get a portrait of him. If we both went for “art” shots he would never have gotten anything he would be happy with most likely.

I figured I would somehow work a portrait + detail shot into a diptych and call it a day. Thanks to the language barrier, my stress level, the fact I just walked in from teaching a location shooting class, the time limit, following Joey, and world effing class photographer, Gregory Heisler, busting my chop every step of the way, I ditched the diptych idea because I wasn’t really getting the portrait part of him that I wanted and I was already losing a lot of time. My mind was melting down pretty quickly on this one.

Then I thought that maybe I would get a “performance portrait.”

When I got the  shot above I felt that at least I had gotten enough for him but I still needed my shot.

When I had Hakam start dancing I still had no clue where I was going to go with this. I was running out of time and had to do something. I had talked so much smack to Joey leading up to it I had to find something interesting so my mind went to “detail shot”. As he started dancing and I put a lens on him I saw his hands and I saw a horizontal frame and I focused in on that. I went vertical a few times but those images looked pretty boring. As that dress, or whatever it is, started to fly out I really saw a horizontal image and worked that till I got it. Finding his timing was the hardest part. Spraying and praying was not going to get the job done. It rarely does.

While I was editing I like this image…

I just about went with that one as my shot but I also liked seeing both hands in this one…

I like the hands and his neck so I picked that. Being Heisler was now stealing the show with his shot and I was having to deal with editing on Joey’s POS Macbook Air, I had a few extra minutes to get online, find a Polaroid frame in a google image search and present my shot on the screen in a Polaroid frame as a dig to Joey’s performance the year before as can be seen in this video…

Greg ended the evening really well. I loved his shot the most. Actually, I was looking over his shoulder while he was editing and there were a few other frames I liked even more.

The moral of the story is this…

A) You have to be ready to drop an idea and find a new one. Then drop that one too.

B) The real winner of these shootouts is always the audience even though I’m clearly the winner in any such event. ;p

C) Gregory Heisler is the man.

D) Joey L can eat sand. :)

E) Forgo buying that 85mm 1.2, buy a used 85mm 1.8 instead, and spend the money to go to Dubai next year and hang out for a week at an amazing conference. Seriously. That’s what I would do.

Cheers, Zack

My Next creativeLIVE Class :: Things You Need To Know

I’m really excited about the next creativeLIVE weekend I’ll be teaching. I’ll be teaching April 29th, 30th, and May 1st. If you aren’t familiar with creativeLIVE the deal goes down like this. You can tune in and watch it live… for free! If you like it and want to see it again, you can buy the download. If you think it’s crap then you never have to pay a dime for it. Broke and can’t afford anything, then take the weekend off and grab a notebook.

The first class I taught was all about studio lighting. This class is going to be based more around a theme than one specific aspect of shooting. It’s built off of a talk I give called “Stuff you need to know to be a photographer”. That’s a one hour talk that I’m turning into a three day class. It’s almost a top 10 things you need to know kind of class but it won’t suck like most top 10 photography lists do.

So many of you have requested a class about business. Many requested natural light. Plenty of you want strobe + ambient. All of you want more “client interaction” and posing guidelines. Each of these could be a weekend class but I only have one weekend this year I can do a CL event so I’m going to open a fire hydrant on you and get a number of things covered. The creativeLIVE crew is already telling me to plan on staying within X hours of teaching each day and, well, they should know better than that. If you aren’t going to purchase the download then you better pull up a comfy chair to the computer cause it’s gonna be on like Donkey Kong that weekend.

I’m going to start with the basics and move into intermediate and advanced concepts and techniques.

Here is a rough outline of how the weekend is going to go down… (Note that live shooting will be a large part of each day)

Friday ::

#1 – Know Your Camera

  • Aperture / Shutter Speed / ISO
  • Camera skills
  • Considerations when purchasing new cameras

#2 – Know Your Glass

  • Lens selection is one of the most important things you do as a photographer
  • Aperture isn’t the only thing that effects depth of field
  • Perspective expansion & compression

#3 – Know Your Subject

  • Subject interaction and direction
  • Knowing the needs of your subjects
  • Contributing your own vision to a project

Saturday ::

#4 – Know Your Light

  • Available light, continuous light, small strobes, big strobes
  • Creating moods

#5 – Know Your Limits

  • Working within the limits of the gear you own
  • Pushing the limits of your gear

#6 – Creativity

  • Most people can see. Few have vision
  • Making the most out of a little
  • Simple exercises to expand your creativity

#7 – Vision & Style

  • Your photography and your business both require it

– Zack’s take on Jeremy Cowart’s 90 minute portfolio

Sunday ::

#8 – Courage

  • Fear of gear, clients, business, marketing, other’s opinions will kill you
  • Live critique

#9 – Business & Marketing

  • How I did it wrong
  • How I’m learning to do it correctly
  • Pricing
  • Branding sucks. Don’t worry about it right now.
  • Stop being shy

#10 – Service & Balance

  • A transparent Q&A session with Zack and his wife Meghan on how photography, business, and family are both a blessing and a curse.

NOTE :: As of the initial posting of this information, creativeLIVE does not have this listed on their site yet. I’m working on getting my stuff to them and they are working on getting that stuff on their site so please sit tight and give them a day or so to get all the crap they are waiting for from me on to their site. You’ll then be able to sign up in advance for the free weekend and I’m sure they’ll have some sort of pre-sale on the download.

I think Meg needs to finish off Sunday evening with playing a few songs for all of us and we’ll all sit back, listen to her music, and have a beer. What do you think?

So that’s the basic run down of the weekend. Some of the order/titles/etc may change around depending on the logistics making this happen. Want to be part of the live studio audience? There are very few spots (like 4 to 6) so follow the directions in the video above and send your video our way.

Have questions? Want to see something covered that you don’t see in the list above? Hit me in the comments.



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

Microstock :: SIM Cards in Cameras & Big Foam Fingers

November 23, 2010 | • Discussion Shop Talk

Ahhhh. The ubiquitous image. What is it saying? Peace? Thoughtfulness? No. It is saying frustration. Or is it peaceful frustration while being thoughtful? Girl. Hair. Flipping. Black clothes. Chain. Dreds. I don’t know. #whatev.

So, to continue on with the talks about the photo business we’ve been having around here let’s talk about stock photography.

Previous discussions :: “Oversaturated market you say?” and “Cheap photographers only kill themselves, not the industry.”

As per usual, this post is going to sort of banter on in one direction for awhile. I’ll bring it back home near the end. There’s lots of words and stuff in this one. Snooze. Fest. More after the jump.


OneLight Field Guide Launch ::

The OneLight Field Guide is finally out! It only took 11 months and that many redesigns but it was worth it. Looking at the state of the guide now compared to where it started I’m glad that it’s late. It’s better than the first few editions.

The guide showcases more than 50 images ranging from bands to models to brides. Mostly bands and models. For the first half of the guide I explain the gear and the settings used to create the image. For the second half I showcase images using the same gear and approximate settings. You’ll find tips and tricks throughout the guide that go beyond the scope of apertures, shutter speeds, and modifiers. I walk you through single light sources and then introduce you to multiple lights and how to deal with that. It’s made for folks who would like to keep a cookbook of scenarios on hand while out shooting.

Everything is straightforward and easy to grasp. It is made to complement the OneLight DVD and/or workshop so it isn’t supposed to be a step by step by step guide on how to use flash. That’s covered at length in the DVD and workshop. If you are comfortable with the basic principles of off camera lighting, but you have not been to a OneLight workshop or have not seen the OneLight DVD, then you will still enjoy this guide.

I developed this guide for people who came to the 2010 OneLight workshops. Enough folks heard about it and asked if I would release it for sale. I went back and forth on that for awhile and was not going to do it because I felt the cost of doing so wasn’t worth it. Then I started reworking it through MagCloud and I was able to get the cost of the guide under $30. If you were a participant at a OneLight this year then you should have gotten an email from Meg already. If you did not, check the email address that you signed up for the workshop with or check your spam filter. You have to reply to her through that email address to get this shipped to you at no charge. For those that have replied, your order has been placed and will be shipped to the address you provided.

I know what many of you are going to ask… Why in print? Why not a PDF download for $5 or something? I’ve gone back and forth about that a number of times and I will most likely revisit my thoughts on this at some point… but for now… it is in print and print only.

We shoot with digital cameras. We look at our images on a computer. We read blogs. We look at more digital photos than we can count. For this project, and the next, I wanted it to be in print. Something you can hold on to that doesn’t also check email. To be very honest with you, it would be MUCH easier to just release this as a PDF. It would also be more profitable to sell. It costs me more and makes me less to make it available in print but it has more value in print so I’m going with that right now.

Plus… This is a dry run for a new project that has been kicking around in my head for over a year. I’ve been wanting to launch a photography magazine for awhile now and this is the “first issue” of that magazine. Now, the magazine in my head looks completely different than this field guide. The field guide is just a taste. A scratch on the surface of what I’m planning. DEDPXL is the name and it will be a semi-annual to quarterly magazine launching in January. It will be print on demand like this guide and it will be an organic publication that starts with people I know who have a lot to offer.

It will be independent as f#*%. Meaning, we will not be accepting advertising or sponsorships for this magazine. You can not buy advertising space. You just can’t. There won’t be gear reviews so don’t send your stuff. It will be a showcase of emerging work, insights into the running of a business and the photo industry as a whole, how to’s on the technical, and a sounding board for a number of voices in the industry… both positive and negative. Business & Craft.

I will not be taking submissions for articles right now. It is a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” kind of a thing and my list is already full for 2 or 3 issues. (Not that I’ve gotten in touch with all of you on that list.) There will be a call for certain things here and there. You’ll see. I think it’s going to be pretty awesome and there isn’t anything quite like it on the shelves today.

Lastly, I’m not doing this as a new business venture. It’s a personal project. I can’t wait to get it off the ground. Since I can’t find a hobby, I’m going to start a photography magazine. :)

Until then, have a look at the OneLight Field Guide. I hope you enjoy it. It is available on MagCloud for $28 + shipping.

Cheers, Zack

Top 10 Ways To Become A Professional Photographer ::

November 4, 2010 | • Discussion

Or… Why does this photographer have to be so cynical?

I’m having “one of those days”. I’m stressed. I have more on my plate than I know what to do with. End of year means taxes and accounting which means I’m ready to find that short pier to take a long walk on. I saw a “Top 10 ways to become a pro photographer” link on Twitter this morning. Those are becoming more and more popular these days. And, IMHO, they are becoming more lame. Things like “Order business cards!” or “Put your images on a website!”. Another fun one is “Play with different lighting!” and those are followed by three or four vauge sentences that have zero value to them. More noise. Less signal.

Being a professional photographer can never be summed up in any sort of “top 10” list. I could make a top 10 list of why an 85mm 1.8 lens is a good lens. I could also make a top 10 list as to why an 85mm 1.8 lens is not a good lens. There are 20 list items right there and it only scratches the surface of a single lens. If you have to add “put images on a web site” as a top 10 list of things to do then who in the hell is your target audience? Infants? And I’m not talking metaphorical infants. Order business cards? Note to bloggers… if you have to state the bare bones minimum obvious… don’t bother.

Why am I so stressed out today? Because being a professional photographer, or rather, being a small business owner is a hard effing job. Last night Meg and I were sitting at our dining room table. The kids were in bed. The kitchen was a wreck. Laundry is coming out of our ears. The dog needs a bath. She has a migraine. I have muscle spasms in my back and we were in a pretty heated discussion about taxes, accounting, bank statements, expenses, budgets, and the like. We were two team members of the same team having it out in our own locker room. She was stressed. I was stressed. Running a business and being a photographer is amazing but it takes a toll on you at times.

Last night I sat down at the dining room table and announced that I’m ready to throw in the towel. I want my job back at Kinko’s. I want to go to work, drone on for someone else, and come home and turn it off. I want someone else to worry about taxes. I want to look forward to always having two days off a week. I want to go back to being anonymous and useless and overlooked. That’s how I felt at Kinko’s and last night it was the greenest grass I’ve seen on the other side of the fence in a long time. This is coming off the heels of hosting Joe Effing McNally in my studio just the night before. One of my heros was in MY studio and the very next day I’m ready to take a match to the whole damn thing and walk away. Note that I don’t want to throw it in because I’m comparing myself to others. It’s just hard sometimes to be a husband and father, run a business, and engage with people. Sometimes, no matter how many good things are going on, sometimes… you just want to give up.

ETA – I am in no way going to do this of course. By God’s good grace I’ll be doing this till I die.

So this morning when I see this insane, stupid, “captain obvious”, top 10 things to be a professional photographer list I wanted to scream at the internet web site page I was reading. It might as well have been a top 10 list on how to fly a 1980’s era Soviet fighter plane that goes like this…

#10 – Climb into the cockpit. #9 – Familiarize yourself with all the dials and stuff. #8 – Learn about how jet engines work and why they are used on air-eee-o-planes. #7 – Go forward real fast and when you’re at that good speed make the plane go up in the air. …

Do you see how absolutely useless this list is to someone who would actually want to fly an 80’s era Soviet fighter plane? So a “how to be a professional photographer” list that includes things like “make a portfolio” or “try different lighting and stuff” is an exercise in being useless. It’s an exercise in making more noise than signal.

So in my typical “escape reality and do something fun instead of something important” I thought I would come up with a quick top 10 list to becoming a pro photographer. Let’s see if we can make so much noise it actually becomes a signal.

#10 – Breathe! – I can’t tell you how important it is to constantly breathe when you are professional photographer. Not only does it help you make great photos but if you can keep breathing long enough after a photoshoot then you’ll be able to collect the check from the client. Try different kinds of breathing too! In through the nose and out the mouth. Or in and out of the mouth. Talk to your customers about how you like it in and out of the mouth.

#9 – Try out a digital camera! – Boy howdy! Digital cameras are becoming all the rage in 2010! For only a few hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars you can take photos that don’t need film!  Digital photography allows you to take pictures and see them as soon as they are downloaded on a computer! It’s almost instant!  The Russians have now developed computer tools to work on your digital photographs! Check out this internet web site with all the details! If you buy a digital camera make sure you get a good one like a Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, or iPhone.

#8 – Everytime you see a tree… take a photo of it! – Have you ever thought about how important trees are in the world? They help us achieve number 10 on this list! Everyone loves trees and if you have a lot of pictures of trees everyone will love you. When showing your photos of trees to people talk about how you were thinking about the innocence of that tree at the moment of capture. Or point out the transcendental qualities of light and form as the moon beams of uranus waft through the branches. People will think you’re quite the artist.

#7 – Make a portfolio! – Take two or three hundred of your best photographs and make a portfolio! You need this to show to people how good of a photographer you are! I like to make mine out of half inch galvanized steel because it’s really impressive and useful for many other things in life!

#6 – Take pictures of kids! – Parents love their kids and they love photos of their kids! If you don’t have kids then go to your local park and take lots of photos of children. Try shooting from different angles like from inside the bushes, behind trees, or from your parked car for really “exciting opportunities.” You’ll soon meet all of the parents of the kids you are taking photos of as well as lots of local law enforcement officers who, lots of times, have kids too! If they come up to you with baseball bats in hand be sure to have your portfolio from #7 with you. That steel cover is going to be useful to protect yourself. Drop a few of your business cards as you run away. Always market yourself!

#5 – Move to New York City! – Lots and lots of photographers are in New York City. Lots of people who love photography are in New York City. It only makes perfect sense to grab your camera bag and move there to open as big of a photo studio as you can find! Fill that studio with things like backgrounds, lighting, and tripods of different sizes and colors and you’ll be on your way to the bank! I’m not sure what you’ll be doing once you get to the bank but it might involve a ski mask and a paper bag with a note attached to it. Ask the teller if they have kids.

#4 – Join the social media revolution! – With internet web sites like myspace and friendster becoming so popular these days you’ll need to be on there to meet people. You’ll also find many opportunities to win free stuff for all of the online surveys these internet web sites have to offer! Add lots of spinning cameras that make noises to your internet web site pages because you want people to notice you and nothing is better than animated gifs of cameras. Also try out Xanga. Check out another awesome version of my blog to see what I’m talking about!

#3 – Make your own lenses! – Did you know that professional lenses can cost up to $189? As you are getting started you might need to save some money and one way to do that is to make your own lenses. The most important thing to remember is the convex lens curves outward; a biconvex lens curves outward on both sides, and a plano-convex lens is flat on one side and outwardly curved on the other. There are also concave lenes, biconcave, and plano-concave lenses. The elements are not necessarily symmetrical and can curve more on one side than the other. Thickening the middle of the lens relative to its edges causes light rays to converge or focus. Lenses with thick edges and thin middles make light rays disperse.

#2 – Wear socks! On your feet! – I’ve met a lot of professional photographers in my life and one thing that they all have in common is almost all of them, with few exceptions, wear socks… on their feet. I notice this because I’m a photographer and I’m supposed to notice the details in life and find beauty in those details. The next time you meet a professional photographer ask them to take their pants off and see if they are wearing socks. You’ll be shocked at how they react to your noticing details like this and they will know that you are a lot like themselves. You will now have friends in “the industry”! Talk about the moon beams from uranus with your new friends.

#1 – Try to get people to comment on your blog by asking them what the #1 way to become a professional photographer is….

Cheers, Zack

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