Dubai Gallery :: The First Edit

August 7, 2010 | Editorial Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers, Zack


  • brec__ said on August 7, 2010

    hey Zack,
    you sound like you’re having the distance you need to edit your work. Is it really that you edit down from 300+ images or do you edit down from 80 5-star images. You must have you favs, no?

  • zack said on August 7, 2010

    @brec – I do have favorites. They are scattered and somewhat watered down when thrown in with 300 other images but that’s how I edit. I think I culled these 300 out of about 1,500 images. If there is anything I even remotely like about an image I’ll go ahead and grab it and throw it in a “first edit” folder. Then I’ll take that folder and but it about 50 to 75%. I keep getting it down until I’m around twice my target. So if my target is 20 images I want to get the third edit down to 30 to 40. This is the edit that I start to show others for final feedback. Once I get that to my target I take a look at all of the other images in the first edit just to make sure I didn’t leave anything else out or have something that those who have given me feedback asked for. Once it is finalized I step away from it, get the order correct, and step away from it. It’s usually here that I hate all of it. :)


  • Jason Groupp said on August 7, 2010


    These are fun! I love your ability to walk up to strangers, and take portraits, I’ve personally never had the guts. You do it well, and I always enjoy your take on street portraits. Maybe one day you can give me a push….

    Hope you’re well! Looking forward to seeing you in October! 😉

  • zack said on August 7, 2010

    @Jason – You live in the city of strangers! We’ll have to do our own personal photo walk in October. I’ll push you into the deep end. Maybe we can make it a challenge!


  • brec__ said on August 7, 2010

    haha, I know that feeling. It’s actually pretty interesting to hear.

    Especially with this kind of photos. I struggle with that or at least with adding those to my portfolio – half tourist, half amazed, half on assignment. I tend to shoot more and than take one step back and again start shooting in my style the best I can and then I fall back and am ‘just a tourist’.

  • Paul Pride said on August 7, 2010

    I have been meaning to ask this for a while but how do you process your black and whites? They are awesome and just what I love to look at. I hate the self-edit process myself, it took me 3 months to cut down the photos from my last holiday! I love the idea of that challenge, I need the impetus to get more confidence and approach people. It’ll help with the old GOYA too!

  • Guillem Lopez said on August 7, 2010

    what type of lighting were you carrying with you while walking the streets?

    Thanks again Zack for sharing all the info…

  • Debbi said on August 7, 2010

    Zack, what program do you use for your black and white conversions?
    I saw you use the “poor man’s b&w” on CreativeLive. Do you always use that method?

  • Jake said on August 7, 2010

    Love it. Almost didn’t click the link to view the photos but curiosity got me and I’m glad. Based on your description above I work similar in whittling down to selects only using the star system in Lightroom. It’s always hard to pull the pics that aren’t that good but have personal meaning/value.

    The best part of you sharing this is how raw it is. I control what I show very closely (heck- it’s my brand right?) When I wasn’t as careful some ugly stuff got out there and still shows up in google searches.

    The reality is we all shoot some ho-hum stuff, and it’s a confidence booster to see where another working photog is after a first cut. Looking very forward to how this moves along!

  • John Lewis said on August 7, 2010

    153 Lady in red is just stunning, love the way you have framed her using the door frame

  • Nasir said on August 7, 2010


    The images you post on this blog always look so crisp and sharp. Please would you share your workflow and sharpening steps when you resize down from the RAW file to the jpg’s that you post on here.

    Thanks very much.

  • Dave Spady said on August 7, 2010


    I love the fact that you share this on your blog. Normally we’d only see the final edit. This is a great behind the scenes look at what goes into trimming down a shoot to those final images.

    Cheers and thanks,

  • jilske said on August 7, 2010

    Editing someone else’s pictures is easier because you do not have the emotional attachment that they have, and no awareness of the surroundings outside of the frame.

    Having said that though, I don’t know what you felt in Dubai, what the thread of the story is to you. It’s like having 1000 puzzle pieces, but try and find 30 that fit into one puzzle :)

    Anyway, here are the 16 that make sense together. Not that they’re the best, there are others I liked more, but it is about focus and consistency. And I’d like them all in B&W 😉


    Sadly but the pigeons and the Lamborghini must go. Pigeons are everywhere and shot 307 is amazing, but too shiny to fit the rest. Same with others. These 16 go together like a horse and carriage (for me).

    Note I worked off the thumbnails and didn’t download them separately, I went through them twice, was left with 22 after the first round, 16 second as I removed some that didn’t make sense. A shot with the Lambo that nearly made it was 304. But again, I didn’t have the kick you must have had sitting next to that guy 😉

    PS For what it’s worth, I’m not an editor, just an amateur photographer who’s listened to a lot of your critiques :p

  • jilske said on August 7, 2010

    Oh and it’d be good to know what you think when you put those 16 together?
    And what Joe says in Vegas, shouldn’t stay in Vegas 😉

  • Brian Rodgers Jr. said on August 8, 2010

    Absolutely love the black and white shots with the birds! I also dig the black and white image of the guy with the city scape behind him. Has a nice commercial feel. I’m also a huge fan of your rule of thirds composition throughout, and the shots with the abundance of negative space. The shot with the lady in the red dress dancing in the street would be great in black and white. That sky would just pop with an infrared kind of look. Did you use your 50mm 1.8 lens on a lot of these? I’m noticing some pretty low apertures throughout. Keep up the great work man. You have some strong pieces here :) Take care bud

  • Brian Rodgers Jr. said on August 8, 2010

    Who are the guys in the lamborghini? Are they rich? I don’t know anything about the culture in dubai. Just crazy to see that…

  • Carlos Bruno said on August 8, 2010

    Did you hear that? Did you hear that?
    ZACK & JASON together on NYC treets!!! OH GOSH … WHY? WHY? WHY did I move to Chicago and going loose that?
    THIS will be an up-to-date version of TITANS DUEL!
    The techniques … the lighting play … the approach … aaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!!
    Lindsey and Dan … “hate” both of you.
    Actually don’t … but do. Hehehehe …

  • Stefan said on August 8, 2010

    Hi Zack, as you’re putting out a call to working Editors- I’ll happily report for duty. I was honoured to meet and be part of your recent 3 day class in Dubai & will bring what I have to the table on any ideas you might have. Not looked at your full edit yet as I’d like to give it my full attention and time is tight at the mo. Living and working here for 3 years so far, chances are I’ve seen most of the cliche shots this city has to offer- however a few of your select edits have already jumped out at me as being unique & I look forward to digging through your upload.


  • Jason Groupp said on August 8, 2010

    @Zack – I know right? You would think I’d be more comfortable with something like this. Perhaps it’s that NY’er in me who has been trained to lower their head as you walk out the door, and make sure to NOT make eye contact with anyone, and for God’s sake don’t talk to strangers!! LOL That would be very cool, and it’s a date for sure.

    @Carlos I told you not to move to Chicago! :) LOL

  • Paul Hodgson said on August 8, 2010

    Page 13 image 181 – absolutely beautiful image.

  • Leoraul Torres said on August 8, 2010


    My take… The hands that build Dubai

    I had to take an approach with so many photos, but I think my edit will leave anyone comfortable to go to Dubai and feel they already know a few people in that place.

    I would have preferred to have them all in color. It’s easy to fall in … Dubai in Black and White. I think it works leaving them all in color with a little bit of desaturation.

    Anyway, I know that this community-based collaborative way of bringing down your following edits is only a recipe for your creative thoughts on this project and I hope my set helps you one way or the other.


    PS. There are a few great shots that deserve to be printed and hanged, but I’m not sure they will contribute to a story put together.

  • Hank James said on August 8, 2010

    Great Images as usual. What really speaks to me are the Black and White Images.There is something very striking about the B&W that catches my eye. No color to distract me from the subject of the image, if that makes any sense.

  • Hank James said on August 8, 2010

    Dubai, With No Distractions.

  • RobvE said on August 8, 2010

    Zack, always a pleasure to read your posts.

    My selection would include these: 14 58 90 117 127 130 148 152 161 179 181 182 215 227 246 275 279 290 307 313

  • Matthew Carter said on August 9, 2010

    Hey Zack. Hope all is well. Here’s a quick and dirty link to download a pdf of what I believe works strong together in pairs and in this order. Sort of tells a story of a place with lots of juxtaposition. Nice work. Can’t wait to see your final edits. There were other pictures I really loved but couldn’t make them work with this grouping. Let me know your thoughts.

  • Shannon said on August 9, 2010

    Zack, beautiful gallery. Took me quite a while to go through everything and really pick out the ones I was drawn to. I’ve made a quick pdf of 14 thumbnails and my “story” that goes along with it. Of course, what you choose completely depends on the story you decide to tell. Good luck on the paring down and I hope you like my selections!

  • Lynne Bingham said on August 9, 2010

    153 is breath-taking. I love the moment you captured and the framing is perfect.

  • Levi said on August 9, 2010

    Zack, I admire the way you just publish your rough edit out there for the whole world to see. Shows you’re not afraid to accept critique and it’s a great way to learn from your experience. When I have the courage to do something similar I’ll hopefully be a much better photographer.

    Some great images here – as always.

  • Erin said on August 9, 2010

    If I was going to edit these down I would make “sense of place” a top priority.

    I’m really digging the way Matthew C arranged some of the photos in his edit. Made me consider images that I would not have before.

  • Matthew Carter said on August 9, 2010

    it just hit me that i never went back and added two that I wanted to display together.
    I’d take the photo of Burj Khalifa behind the wall and one of the woman just starting to remove her head covering together. Two great things being unveiled sort of idea but playing with women and men’s power in the middle east. make sense?

  • Lauren said on August 9, 2010

    There’s a sense of present culture in your images – where its been and the future of Dubai. I feel these images capture your editorial style and tell that story.
    319, 128

  • Mike Campbell said on August 9, 2010

    I would just like to thank you for sharing your first edits for your portfolio. It’s rare to get a glimpse into another photographers cataloge like this. I can see the process that you are taking in getting some of your shots. It helps me to feel I’m on the right track with my work. On a quick look through them there are around 50 that jump out as favorites of mine that I’d have to look at closer to see if they fit with the vision you have for your book.
    Excellent work as always.

  • Randall Douglas said on August 10, 2010

    It’s neat that you open your edit work to your audience for feedback. That shows courage and is an interesting way to share work and your process.

    Some really strong pics in there…. Not sure what your goal is…but at your high level of work I’d remove anything that you feel is in there mainly because it is connected to a workshop (unless showing the workshop is the main part of your goal) and also remove anything that mostly says, “wow, I’m really in Dubai” (probably, harder than it may sound). Then you’ll have a pretty good crop.

  • Gerhard Egger said on August 10, 2010

    Have just enjoyed flicking through your gallery, some great images as usual – it is a very different place isn’t it, you either love it or hate it. Am just back myself, 3 days with my family, 40 plus degrees heat, managed to shoot a bit of stock, here’s my link;

    Thanks for sharing your stuff

    Kia Ora from NZ

  • Clayton said on August 10, 2010

    I’ll try to help best I can, ok?
    YOu know there are some keepers in here as well as some sh*t that needs cut.( yeah, lik ei have room to talk! LOL) anyway, trying to tell a visual story is a lot like speaking. there are POINTS you want to get across, and hten there is the supporting dialog that reinforces the point.
    Edit like that- don’t think so much at first- just look over your images, pick the “best” composition of each situation- like the “best” building, “best” person, etc….and THEN go back and think…..think WHY you like that particualr shot…
    Next step…..look at the other images that were taken around that “one” shot; do they contribute anything to the story? if not- lose’em….
    if they do…thats where you start letting the images define the story you tell.
    And your “visual Voice” will start to speak- leading you in the most powerful direction to tell it- think abot it like flowing water, if you let it run it’s course, it’ll show you where it needs to go in order to flow!
    and if you come up with an “almost complete” series, but something’s missing? thats when you plan to “look” for certain shots later- a reason to go back! ( and to have a purpose- which leads to even MORE creativity *YAY*)
    And….keep in mind- until you decide, your photos don’t have to tell a story, maybe they only need to be “insights” as to what you found interesting ? then it becomes more about you and what you want to show than what you want to say……
    And THAT is when you can start editing in a WHOLE NOTHER WAY…. for an exhibit!…..
    I Probably didn’t help worth beans…..but….that’s the way I do it!
    BTW- The guy in the car near the last page-the hands look stiff- a sure indication that the subject was not completely at ease..or was nervous and didn’t want to dissapoint..just sayin……*smiles*

  • Scott said on August 10, 2010

    @Zack are you going back to Dubai anytime soon? Do you have a suitcase big enough for me to fit into?

  • Gerette said on August 11, 2010

    Being a woman, I see things differently than you, Zack. (no doubt, right?) But then, every one, especially artists, can look at the same 300 photos — and will bring something different to the thematic idea.
    Here’s my shot at editing. I chose 16 photos out of your group. Hope you like it – I call it “Transitions”.

  • Gerette said on August 12, 2010

    and here’s a link that might actually work..

  • Atiyeh said on September 2, 2010

    Cant wait for you to come back here in Dubai :)

    I linked to your website :) its an honor :)

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