Archive for 'Shop Talk':

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. :)

Cheap Photographers Only Kill Themselves, Not The Industry.

October 2, 2010 | • Philosophy • Resources

First, thanks for all of your input on the first blog post of this series. As usual, your comments are far more interesting, entertaining, and thought provoking than anything I write here. If you haven’t read through those yet, you should. What’s interesting to note in the comments there is how the tone of comments changes through the 100+ of them. They start off friendly enough and then somewhere in the middle a few feathers begin to get ruffled. That’s fine. That’s welcomed. It’s a very interesting time in our industry right now and it’s good to have passionate discussion about it. The smart photographers will sit with open minds and get a bit introspective and take a look at their own business practices. The stupid photographers will sit from on high and just point fingers OR sit at the bottom and think, “I’m banking an extra $1,000 a month that I don’t claim with my $800 camera!”

Anyway. Check out that photo above. It’s some stop light advertising for a wedding photographer advertising weddings starting at $350. Man… that’s cheap. Is this person part of the problem in our industry? Absolutely not. I admire the hustle. I admire the fact that they are trying. Now –  if you are the type of pro photographer that looks at that and says, “This is everything that is wrong with this damn industry! You can’t be a pro charging $350 for a wedding! What an A-hole!” Yeah, if you’re that photographer let me challenge you.

Think of the brides out there who don’t have a budget but want some photos of their weddings. Maybe there are young couples getting married who don’t have the parents to pay for a big event or they don’t want to start their young family in debt but they would like someone to come take some pictures. Are you saying that if they can’t afford a $3,000+ photographer then they don’t deserve photos? Are you saying that if they can’t afford a Mercedes then they shouldn’t be allowed to drive? Shame on you. Not everyone can afford pro level prices. That doesn’t mean they can’t have some level of photographic services available to them.

Let me tell you a little something about my journey being the cheap photographer after the jump…

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Over Saturated Market You Say? You Can Blame Me.

September 22, 2010 | • Philosophy

Everyone wants to be a photographer these days.

Let me warn you now that this blog post is currently in it’s third state of revisions. It’s a real rambler. If you’re up for it, I’m up for it. More after the jump.

If you hang out on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and the like enough you can “stumble upon” some trends without even trying to. Lately I have seen a number of articles flying around about the over saturation of the photography industry, the unsustainability of the microstock market, and the pros and cons of working for “free”. The “abuse” we photographers receive at the hands of our clients and totally absurd Craig’s List postings of people wanting work for free or photographers giving away the farm for nothing.

Here are a few of the articles that most people are talking about these days.

• Photo business guru John Harrington over at Black Star Rising talking about the 12 excuses for shooting for free. This article is the one that got me thinking about doing this blog post.

• Don Giannatti (Wizwow) has this article on shooting for free, and this article on getting experience. Great reads here.

• David Hobby (Strobist) about working for free. Another must read.

• Rob Haggart (A Photo Editor) about the unsustainability of the micro stock industry. Canary in the coal mine?

Let’s start with the “over saturated” market premise.

I, Zack Arias, am part of the over saturated market. I am one of the many who are filling the waters of this industry. Every job I take is a job off of the table of another photographer. I am a working photographer in large part due to the prevalence of affordable DSLRs, the expense of film and development being removed from my up front overhead, and the Internet.

I’ll be so bold to say that if you have entered this industry in the last ten years then you too are part of the over saturation equation. If you are thinking about becoming a pro photographer, whether part time or full time, then you are over saturating the market as well. I would say the “standard saturation” photographers are the ones who have been in the game, full time, without gaps, for more than ten years.

Let’s break this thing down.

In the days of Kodachrome and dinosaurs there were some pretty set rules of engagement and paths of entrance into the photography industry. You usually started by going to photography school or you started working in a lab. You had to get your feet wet somewhere and school and photo labs were a good place to get started. Once you were ready to move forward you started assisting working photographers. Many times you would have done this for free. I have assisted and interned for free many times and I have met countless photographers who started by schlepping bags and fetching coffee for nothing or next to nothing in pay. It’s what you did. It’s how you got to see how a “real” photographer worked. It was called… get this… “paying your dues.”

These days those paths aren’t so clearly defined. You can go to school via blogs, workshops, YouTube, and DVD’s. You can upload pictures to flickr and suddenly get a message from an art director wanting you to shoot a job. You can be a kid from Canada, travel the world, shoot some bands and end up shooting campaigns for a company you aren’t even old enough to buy their product. You can be inspired by your own wedding photographer, buy a camera, a fast lens, and rise to the top of your zip code within a year. You can go to Wal Mart, buy a cheap DSLR, shoot your friends and family, shoot their friends and families, put a blog together, and start a business. There are so many easy entry points into the market now. There is an abundance of inexpensive cameras, free learning portals, and free advertising routes that allows just about anyone with a camera to get out there and make a little or a lot of money with it.

The worst part about all of this is you don’t even have to be all that good of a photographer to get into the game. That really is the worst part about it all but hang out at enough photography water coolers and you’ll hear stories from “back in the day” about the same damn things. Being a crappy photographer with a profitable business is nothing new. There were just more up front costs to deal with back then. Now it’s just easier to be a crappy sucksessful photographer. Add insult to injury… You can be a fairly mediocre photographer these days and have a workshop teaching others how to be just as mediocre as you are. Meh. Whatever. It is what it is.

Add to all of this the deteriorating morale in the corporate workplace, the need of many to make an extra $100 here and there, unemployment, the recession, blah blah blah, and the fact that a lot of people find it a whole lot cooler to say “I’m a photographer” at social gatherings instead of saying “I’m a systems analyst at a health care company.” Bring this all together into the perfect shit storm of an industry filled to the gills with Joe and Jane Photographers trying to do something cool with their lives AND make some money doing it. I mean, Quicken and Quickbooks didn’t really over saturate the accounting market did it? Maybe I’m wrong.

I’m right here part of it all. I’m part of the over saturated market. You’re part of the over saturated market. Don’t bitch and moan and complain about it because you’re in it with the rest of us.

What do we do with that information? Here we all are. Up to our necks in each other. We watch ten leave because they can’t take the pressure and twenty more take their place. It all gets just a little tighter around here. The last thing in the world you need to do is complain about the situation… unless of course, you’ve been at this for twenty or more years. In that case, my apologies to you. I know you’re feeling the pressure of all of us new kids in the pool but here we are and it’s the only pool in town for us. Complaining about us isn’t making us leave and don’t think for a second that I didn’t just notice the water around me get a lot warmer. :)

Blah blah blah. Metaphor upon metaphor.

So it’s competitive. Guess what? Photography has always been competitive. I don’t know of any other time in this industry when it wasn’t competitive. The nice thing about the industry these days is it seems that most of us are now open to share our experiences with others. Gone are the days of everyone playing with their cards close to their chests. If you are still trying to stay in this industry with that sort of attitude your days are numbered. It’s a real hippy love fest around here these days and we young punk kids ain’t got no time for your old ways of doing things.

Us young punk kids actually really need you to stick around. We need the long established pros to help us out. I know you want us out of your pool but that isn’t happening any time soon. The better you can adapt the better you can survive. Part of adapting is now requiring you to kind of be a life gaurd even though  you’d probably just be as happy to watch us all drown. :)

So. Yeah. Over saturated. Your attitude should shift from “This sucks.” to “So what?”. Big Deal. More at the party dude!

How can I run a business will all these $500 wedding photographers in my town?

That’s the next thing we are going to look at. I’ll let you in on this… I’m all for $500 wedding photographers. For many different and sometimes conflicting reasons. Then we’ll look at the micro stock situation. Is it the canary in the coal mine? Then let’s have a conversation about what it all means at the end of the day and will the industry adjust and what will that look like?

The dog days are over The dog days are done The horses are coming So you better run*

*I actually like to listen to the song above as “The dark days are over” and the horses coming aren’t here for destruction. :)

Cheers, Zack

Sharing :: David E. Jackson :: The Thought Process

September 21, 2010 | • Philosophy • Resources

Friend and colleague, David E Jackson, has recently published this video on his blog about his thought process behind a recent conceptual shoot.

As you are starting on your photographic journey many of your questions will be dealing with cameras and lenses and their settings. What lights were used and with what modifiers. What photoshop actions were used. Etc. Then the day will come when cameras, lenses, lights and all of their settings don’t mean a damn thing to you any more. What you want to know from other photographers is what was the thought process behind a certain photo or series of photos. Dave does a good job breaking that down. Watch the video to hear how he thinks… not which aperture he used.

I’ve been saying for a long time that Dave is “one to watch” and this recent shoot of his only confirms that. Check out his blog for photos and more BTS action for this shoot. Great jorb homestar!

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

Studio Tour Coming Up… Sometime. :)

September 7, 2010 | • creativeLIVE

Just wanted to update you on a few videos and blogs posts we are working on.

I promised a studio tour of our place here in Atlanta and that will be coming up. Currently we have a large job in house and we’re under a pretty tight NDA. In order to do the studio tour we would have to clear the entire space of our client’s merch and that’s just something we can’t pull off right now. We will most likely have some down time in October to get that finished up. Sorry for the delay.

The photo above is our cyc wall. It’s about 12 feet tall, 19.5 feet wide, and has a 3 foot radius. From the cyc wall to the other end of the studio is 64 feet. We’ll show you all that in the video along with grip, carts, workspaces, storage, deals we found on furniture, set pieces, etc, etc.

When we get the studio cleared out again we’ll knock out the color worflow video as well as the grip video. We’ll drop them all at once most likely.

Cheers, Zack

White Seamless Link For Photoshop World ::

September 3, 2010 | • Technique

Thanks to everyone who came to the white seamless session yesterday at Photoshop World. I thought I would give you all a quick link to the tutorial here on the blog so you don’t have to dig through the archives.

>> It starts here. <<

If you have any questions about the technique just drop them in the comments.

Cheers, Zack

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

We All Live In A…

June 30, 2010 | Events Family News • Workshop

We all live in a big a$$ yellow bus. We are on the road with our OneLight Family Tour!

We are currently in Asheville, NC. As soon as we wrap up the OneLight here tonight we drive all night to DC. With the exception of Pittsburgh we are having mixers in each city and we would love for you to come out and catch some live music, win gift cards from B&H, OneLight DVDs, and network within your local photographic community. The mixers are free and open to the public. Here is where we will be…

7/1 :: Washington DC

7/6 :: Cincinnati, OH

7/8 :: Indianapolis, IN

7/11 :: Chicago, IL

7/13 :: Saint Louis, MO

7/15 :: Nashville, TN

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for all of the details as to places and times in these cities. Hope to meet you soon!

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


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