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


  • Kelvin Ng said on April 30, 2009

    If you do come to Hong Kong, do drop me a line. I will be happy to show you round.

  • Ron Dawson said on April 30, 2009

    Meg, “That Thing You Do” was great. Loved the movie and the song.

  • Matt said on April 30, 2009

    I know that movie too, you’re not alone Meg! :0)

    You guys make a hilarious critique team. Can’t wait for more!

  • Angela said on April 30, 2009 LMAO!

  • Mike Lichtenwalner said on April 30, 2009

    I’m glad I’m not the only person that hates selective coloring.

  • Michael said on April 30, 2009

    Hey Zack,good job this week on the critique. I agree with you. If you love what you do and you can get paid to do it than get paid….oh and Elbowboobies! That there is some funny stuff. Good job and I like having Meg along it makes the whole time better. I like how you two play off each other. We learn and have a good time. Thanks

  • nick said on April 30, 2009

    Good job with the critique!!

    PS: I laughed along with you two the whole time! :)

  • Jayce said on April 30, 2009

    I love you quote on picking only a couple genres of photography and bust your ass on just those. Thanks, you have in spired me! and hope the baby comes soon

  • lanne said on April 30, 2009

    oh Zack you are such a photography whore you would sell your own elbowboobies. Umm? Sorry – I thought the focus was photographers (professional working photographers charging money for their work) .. getting critiqued. It IS about the money in this instance. Way to go Zack (and the ever delightful Meg) you guys rock and I thank you for keeping it real, honest and informative.

  • Ursala said on April 30, 2009

    In fear that I’m doing it wrong, I will not leave my site! LOL, Zack I just wanted to thank you for doing this for us all, I know it can’t last forever, but I’m enjoying it while it does. I plan on leaving my site in the future, I’m gonna go fix some stuff first. HA!

  • Craig Ferguson said on April 30, 2009

    I enjoyed this one. Not as harsh as I thought you might have been. And the invitation for Taiwan that I mentioned on Facebook is open – we have plenty of elbow boobies here.

  • David Burke said on April 30, 2009

    Elbowboobies,Elbowboobies,Elbowboobies,Elbowboobies,Elbowboobies,Elbowboobies LOL!!!

  • Les Doerfler said on April 30, 2009

    What is the mon-ey that you speak of, Zack T. Kirk?

    Ok one serious question. Selective color…is there anyone using this technique that either of you think is doing it well? Is it all crap?

    I’ll admit I’m kind of a sucker for that and desaturated colors, but I see the cheese in the mouse trap.

    Anyway…congrats on a new catchphrase, Elbow Boobies, that will be the buzz of the red carpet for sho’.

    You guys are great.

  • Anirban Chatterjee said on April 30, 2009

    I was expecting a bit harsh critiques but guess u r too good a person to be harsh to anybody :)
    thanks a ton for pouring out ur experience….it helps a ton for newbies like me

  • Paulo Dourado said on April 30, 2009

    If anyone has a link to the high fashion tilt youtube guy PLEASE share

  • Kenneth Ruggiano said on April 30, 2009

    Keep them coming! I am building a new website and tonight’s episode gave me pause to what I am including.


  • Robin Stone said on April 30, 2009

    Excellent show tonight. I have one of those $3,000.00 camera’s and it needs to get off it’s ass and make me some money.

  • Stacy Hughes said on April 30, 2009

    Watched episode 10…enjoyed every minute of it. Laughed a lot. Just one question…do you give people a head’s up that you’re doing their site on an episode?

    Thanks for taking the time, both of you, for making these. I can’t wait to hear the baby coos. :)

  • Tasra Dawson said on April 30, 2009

    Ron (my hubby) kept coming in the room while I was watching the critique and trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I had headphones on laughing out loud or smiling at the laptop. Then, I started getting a little loopy because I think I listened to you two goofballs for too long! Thanks for an entertaining evening of critique.

  • Rick Wenner said on April 30, 2009

    Zack & Meg…where were you two when I was in art class critiques?! I wish that they were all this entertaining.

    This is by far THE critique for inspiration to become a pro photographer. I am working my ass off trying to make it a full time gig. What you said at the end of this episode has just added more fuel to the fire. Thank you.

  • Rick Wenner said on April 30, 2009

    P.S. When are the OneLights? :)

  • John Wayne said on April 30, 2009

    Great critique.

    I love the harder critiques.
    I feel like I learn a bit more with every critique I watch.

    You and Meg are also hilarious. My girlfriend and I crack up every time we watch these.

    I’m hoping I get critiqued some time and that maybe my portfolio site will be done by then.

    Thanks for rockin it!

  • Rhonda said on April 30, 2009

    1: Thanks SO much for doing these!
    2: I LOVE “That Thing You Do.”
    3: Amen about the selective coloring and maternity hand-heart. Enough already! Can we add in shirtless husband giving the baby belly the Care Bear Stare?
    4: Elbow boobies IS fun to say.
    5: Y’all are awesome; hope your baby arrives soon. :)

  • zack said on April 30, 2009

    @ Paulo Dourado – If anyone has a link to the high fashion tilt youtube guy PLEASE share


  • Les Doerfler said on April 30, 2009

    @zack…”however you don’t need a pole like this if you are just shooting at home. You can actually just stand and hold the camera”. Fantastic!

  • Bryce Driesenga said on April 30, 2009

    Haha, hilarious episode, though definitely some helpful info for the photographers you talked about.

    I completely agree with you on the selective color. After some searching this is one of the best examples I could find, but I still see it is definitely unnecessary, and the photo would be nicer without it. ( — just Google searched)

  • Amanda said on April 30, 2009

    Amen to the damn tilting… It’s giving me a migraine.

    I’m guilty of the heart on the belly though. It’s actually the first shot on my website. Bad me, I know. It was my first ever maternity shoot and I still love it. I’m going to try and let it go.

    Great critique guys. Very helpful and funny as always. I am doing my first free wedding soon. YIKES!

  • zack said on April 30, 2009

    @Les – “Selective color…is there anyone using this technique that either of you think is doing it well?”

    It was used with great effect in Schindler’s List. The first round of the “Live Strong” campaign did a pretty good job using selective color.

    It has never been used well since. :p


  • Julia said on April 30, 2009

    Oh that poor model! She looks like she’d rather be anywhere but there.

    Why does he keep talking about flesh?? and why does he tell you to ask permission before touching, but he never does?

    Well, great critique… I’m off to B&H to see if I can find some studio flesh!

  • Amanda said on April 30, 2009

    @Julia “I’m off to B&H to see if I can find some studio flesh!”

    Awesome! I wonder if they have used flesh? I just bought a used light stand but I forgot to get flesh.

  • Kaeti said on April 30, 2009

    Loving your critiques. I’m learning a lot, and you guys definitely make it…palatable!

  • cat said on April 30, 2009

    Thanks! another great episode…EYE think EYE can speak 4 everyone and say we <3 U guys 2 (sorry Meg, I couldn’t resist 😉

  • lanne said on April 30, 2009

    My second comment.. only because the Utube video was a classic (he is freaky)- but the one near it was just as scary. Meg this one is for you – because the song is Milkshake vs Ghostbusters. WHY would anyone do that? I think that should be the anthem for combining genres of photography.

  • craig ramsay said on May 1, 2009

    u gotta come out here to HK elbow boobie capital of the world 8)

  • Wasabi Peas said on May 1, 2009

    Zach, Meg: thanks SO much for spending some of your recent late nights with us for the critique process. I’ve been looking forward to this one since the tweets about it today.

    Looking forward to finding out if you are doing a SEA/PDX OneLight workshop. So, you know, I can get some workshop photos for my portfolio. 😉

  • Ben said on May 1, 2009

    Zack & Meg –
    this is my favorite episode so far.
    I absolutely loved it…thanks for your work. You’re truely inspiring.
    greetings from Hamburg, Germany,

    P.S.: I love your sense of humour.

  • Frank T said on May 1, 2009

    I learn more and more every time I watch your critiques. BOTH of you have so much to offer and you give and give – thank you!

    Elbowboobies. Methinks this will have to make the next edition of Webster’s.

    Selective color: I though it was just me that hated it.

    I’m anxiously awaiting the OneLight schedule. :)

  • Christina Montemurro said on May 1, 2009

    Right there with you on selective color = Not Ever. @Bryce – I would say no on the shot you linked.

    I think you both did a great job at being harsher this time, but still respectful and always constructive.

    Zack, you seem to repeat Meg a bit.

    I absolutely appreciate that you’re approaching these critiques from a business perspective and focusing on what will appeal to clients. That’s the target audience here and those that find it objectionable should find a different podcast!

    Regarding narrowing your focus to a single type of photography – do you think it’s beneficial to spend some time trying out different genres to get a sense of what most appeals to you, in the same way that doctors in medical school have to go through all the specialties before they choose one? (With the caveat that a photographer would not want to have a website full of the photos from this exploration process.)

    Finally… can you show any examples of shoots you’ve done of photographers?

  • James said on May 1, 2009

    Dude! I was going to subscribe to the podcast (love it, by the way), but then I notice iTunes was downloading a 948Mb file! Holy Crap. I don’t know about you, but I have enough problems finding space to store my photos. Could you maybe upload a smaller version that won’t eat my iPod for lunch?

  • Jaxun said on May 1, 2009

    All of the information has been beneficial to me but now seems to start focusing on site layout and what images don’t go for what audiences. I’d like to see/hear more photography critique. I know the website is key in marketing your business but that’s not teaching anyone how to be a better photographer. The whole first critique on this episode was about the guy’s website and hardly about his images. What did he do wrong with his lighting? What posing could he have done better? I do like knowing what images can stay and which one’s need to go. That has helped me a lot with deciding that there is a ton of stuff on my site that can be trashed… I’ve started but I’m not finished. Anyway, I really appreciate these critiques and it’s what we all need but I’m searching to be a better photographer, not a web designer.

  • Paul said on May 1, 2009

    Great job Zack and Meg.

    I think there is so much more to learn from a critical review of folks making mistakes than there is from just hearing how somebody is doing everything right.

    I’m planning time this weekend to get that picture of me and a camera off my website! Yikes.

  • Sarah said on May 1, 2009

    *laugh* what, you’re not into scripture and football combined? I just can’t imagine why….
    love this idea of critique, very helpful and entertaining, you guys are hilarious!

  • Jon Uhler said on May 1, 2009


    Thanks for taking to time to do this. I learned a lot from what you had to say.

    Maybe, if you are still doing this a year from now, in a year you should revisit a couple sites and see if we have improved…;)


  • zack said on May 1, 2009

    @Jaxun – I think we spend more time on the photography than the design in this episode. At the end of the day though…

    Your presentation is JUST as important as photography. It really is. And it is the number one thing we all struggle with once the camera is done clicking.


  • Daniel said on May 1, 2009

    Hey Zack,

    Some of us are still using Cokin P filters! Granted most are hand-holding the large P-sized gelatin neutral density graduated filters in front of our lenses, but they’re still a mainstay of most landscape photographers!

    Great episode, blunt critique is useful, otherwise people will tend to ignore the negative critique and just listen to the good things you say about their work.

    I don’t shoot fashion, portraits, sports or almost any of the fields covered by your critique episodes; I like to stick to what I know which is landscapes. But I hear a lot of what you are saying. For example, subject repetition, which many landscape photographers will do if they either live near a picturesque spot, or happen to catch a great sunset they’ll shoot the hell out of it and get the same problems in their portfolio.

    Keep up the good work, I enjoy the banter as much as I enjoy the honest critique.


  • Eileen said on May 1, 2009

    Oh this was hilarious. Thank you.

    I was honestly expecting to see some really HORRIBLE “photographers” on this episode. I think we all know the kind I’m talking about. But, I was surprised! All three who you critiqued obviously have a TON of potential and will be truly awesome with just a few adjustments and lots of weeding.

    I loved Meg’s comparison of music and photography. I’m the photographer and my husband is the musician in our family, so we talk about that a lot.

    Thanks again! Can’t wait to see more. Very informative. Highly entertaining.


  • Sree said on May 1, 2009

    I love the critiques and am okay with more ruthless. For my own learning experience. Of course I haven’t put up my own site yet for critique! 😉

  • Thomas Lester said on May 1, 2009

    Hahaha! I was dying at 56 minutes.

  • Mark said on May 1, 2009

    Hi Zack,
    I haven’t had a chance to watch the latest episode, but I was wondering the following:
    I subscribed in itunes and I’m in the process of downloading everything, and noticed that your videos are pretty honkin’ huge!
    Is there some way you can reduce the file size/quality for the itunes download? If not, no biggie.
    Thanks for all of your hard work. I love these critiques!

  • Cory Ann Ellis said on May 1, 2009

    You were correct it is Ralph Waldo Emerson.

    “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • Briar said on May 1, 2009

    Love Love Love your critiques! I have learned so much and can’t wait till the next. THANK YOU for taking the time to do this Zack and Meg.

  • mannedspace said on May 1, 2009

    Some folks require tough love. You’all nailed it with a lot of class especially at 3 a.m. Cheers.

  • Calvin Hill said on May 1, 2009

    This is great!! Not only am I learning but I having a great time. Thanks to both of you.


  • Heather said on May 1, 2009

    The heart over the belly I can never, ever, ever do. I learned ASL in high school and sign with my children and that heart is about 1/4″ from being the ASL sign for “VAGINA”.

    I think I said this once before on your blog in response to critique, but I’m saying it again. It’s gross.

  • Michael S. said on May 1, 2009

    I am loving these guys. You are a couple of photo-cyborgs; as far as I can tell, no one in the Arias household sleeps much.

    What really comes through, when you simply forget about the words and just “feel” the relationship: the sense that you two are a genuine partnership of equals.

    Thank you, THANK YOU, for dropping the hammer on camera tilt and selective coloring. Those hoary tricks are like coyotes, or Osama Bin Laden: not to be trifled with, or treated civilly, but to be destroyed on sight without mercy.

    And further props for trying to emphasize to people that spelling, grammar, and punctuation mean something. Their absence conveys carelessness which cannot but help spill over onto the work.

  • Steve said on May 1, 2009

    Zack and Meg:

    Great critique as always. My copy of the One Light DVD arrived last night so I’m typing fast – want to get back to your fantastic DVD!

    With respect and humility, I offer a critique of the critique:

    # 10 May have been the best episode yet.
    #9 might have been the worst.
    The most important difference between the two episodes was your reaction to the material. In episode 10 you gave us lessons ranging from “don’t cut off the feet” to “don’t be all things to all people” to “avoid selective coloring.” There were many more lessons and they were all pearls of wisdom. I love the asides and the interaction between you and Meg. At 37 minutes, 29 seconds, you may have gotten just a bit long winded with Andre’s site.

    Episode 9 you loved the work and liked the sites of both photographers. To me episode 9 was “watch Zack flip through some websites and listen to him gush.” You did work a few pearls into #9 (heads in a clean place) and that saved the entire episode from crashing.

    I mentioned the interaction between you and Meg. That interaction provides that extra something that really makes your critiques pop… it’s like catchlight! I would offer that you might consider taking a moment and thinking about your roles. Who’s color, who’s play-by-play? Who’s leading and who’s following? Who is Laurel and who’s Hardy? You’ve taught us that a photographer’s web gallery that doesn’t have a clear theme (corporate headshot followed by a sailboat) is distracting. I respectfully submit that two critiquers (is that a word) who don’t have clear roles might get distracting too (you’re not there yet but you’re heading that way). I love your shows! They are amazing and you are truly generous with your time and talent. I hope my comments come across as I intend them too – as advice on how you can put more some polish on a beautiful diamond!
    Cheers – Steve

  • zack said on May 1, 2009

    Great feedback Steve. Thanks for taking the time to write that out.


  • Scott said on May 1, 2009

    Great episode again Zack, personally I don’t think you need to develop roles, just go with the flow as you do, it works very well, keeps us giggling along with you as well as learning the core stuff. Great work again you two:)

    p.s We need you in the uk asap for a workshop, bring a rain coat:)

  • Kim said on May 1, 2009

    Enjoyed it and laughed all the way through. My wife and I argue (in a loving way) about word definitions all the time. I actually had here come and listen at one point.

    There are some wonderful tips here. ie. focus yourself, kiss (keep it simple stupid), “if you dont have it, dont show it,” etc. They are appreciated.

  • Darryl said on May 2, 2009


    Zack and Meg though creatives seem to critique -grade- portfolios as if they are English teachers.

    That’s why I understand what they are saying…otherwise it seems like they are just really though people to satisfy.

    It has been many years since taking college English, but it is because of the honest opinions of my college professors that critiqued my papers that made me become a better writer.

    I think that Zack and Meg are doing the same thing… I have learned so much watching these critiques… it’s almost like a MBA course of fine arts ….’how to make a living doing the photography you say you want to do.’

    If I remember correctly the best grades I ever earned was when I kept it simple.

  • Casey said on May 2, 2009

    Dear photographer, Photoshop is a wonderful tool for photographers and graphic designers. The type tool was meant for designers. Please don’t touch it. Your photographs will love you for it. And designers will cringe less.

  • Pedro said on May 2, 2009

    I have a question for you:

    I have noticed that you spent some time talking about the list of expertises (does this word exist at all? ok, fields) that a specific photographer shows in his website. Was it Jon? He had a list of some 9. But then, turns out that he is only showing a few shots in each field. So you suggest he should offer himself for free for a specific area and period of time…

    I undestand that there can be a bit of a “catch-22” in this, cause you might want to be hired in a field where you have no experience. So the only way to do so is to include that “expertise” in your list, do some work for free or for yourself, and do some marketing about it. But still that experience is close to zero, so, to be honest with yourself and your potential clients, you should not be listing it as “expertise”.

    I hope I am clear enough (or maybe “not too much confusing”)

    And here’s my question:

    What if a work is listed under its own title, in a specific web-site? A few examples: “Glass of Wine” instead of “Product Photography” cause so far you have only had the chance, or you are only happy with one session, “Hotel des Arts” insted of “Architecture Photography”, or “Jimmy D” instead of “Portraits”…? And you can have as many as you like while you’re building up the site, under no general title, but by themselves. I believe this can not only enrich your site (I don’t always agree with certain classifications), but it also gives you the chance to group photos under names like “loneliness”, “knowing is forgetting the names of the things one knows”… you name it!

    You can call it “projection of own depressions” in freudian terms… The reason why I am asking this is because that’s the way I decided to classify the photos in my own site. And your word on episode#10 made me doubt.

    Would you be happier with that? What about potential clients? Would IYO someone think “if this guy/lady has been capable of taking such photo of a glass of wine, he/she’s the one to shoot my… whatever product”? Or would you rather consider this only apropriate for Fine Art photography?

    ended up being more than just one question. Sorry about that.

    thank you so much.


  • Tim O said on May 2, 2009

    SO cool… Such a neat way to critique a site… You and Meg rock.. Well, Meg’s AWESOME – and you’re damn cool…

  • zack said on May 2, 2009

    @Pedro – The very short answer to your question is this. You aren’t trying to build a career overnight. It takes years. The long answer will come in the next few critiques.

    @Casey – Hahahahahahahahahahaha! Well played!


  • lynn daly said on May 3, 2009

    What’s great about your critiques is that each photographer took the time to email you and ask to be critiqued. They either really believe they have arrived or they deeply desire to grow and “become”. I’m building a new site and can’t thank you enough for your insight. INVALUABLE.
    btw… I totally puked on the “tilt-a-whirl” in ’91.

  • Steve Gray said on May 4, 2009

    Zack, Your selective color hit the nail on the head. Love it!

    (leaving for gallery to hide all of my selective color schlock that I felt obliged to offer folks)

    And your suggestion to focus our efforts and refine ourselves in one or two area (not “be all things to all people”) has really hit home with me, and has nudged me in directions I’m now happy to go.

    Thank you so much for your excellent commentary!


  • Graham said on May 4, 2009

    Hi Zack, that was a great set of critiques I really enjoyed them. I think the road less travelled is a Robert Frost poem and if you ever make it to the UK drop me a line, I live near Newcastle and would happily buy you a pint.

  • rags said on May 4, 2009

    Hi Zack, I tried to search for the podcast of this critique on itunes but I was not successful. Would it be possible for you to put up an active link on your site which would send us directly to the itunes podcast? You and Meg are doing an outstanding job.

  • Jeff Kennedy said on May 4, 2009

    Good stuff Zack. While we may not agree on some minor things like tilts and vignettes and the like (which I see as subjective artistic choices) you have shown me I need to focus more and trim the fat on my site. Just in time for my redesign too! Thanks.

  • Matt S. said on May 6, 2009

    First, welcome back online.

    Second, This was a tremendous episode. It is like christmas when I see a (1) in my Rss feed for your site. I can’t even just watch it. I have to be where I can completely immerse myself in it.

    I have learned so much from this series and feel compelled to help photographers I know in the same way you help me.

    My sole critique of the episode: I appreciate Meg’s contribution much more when she hasn’t seen the photos before so we get a “clean” reaction to them. In this episode it’s obvious that she’s seen them before and discussed them with you (as this wasn’t your first take) because she sometimes parrots your “pro photographer” suggestions before you get to say them. I like her layperson reactions better. I know that sometimes your reactions will overlap with hers simply because you guys have had photography conversations before, but sometimes it’s obvious that she’s pointing out something you’ve discussed previously.

    That said, her contribution to these videos is indispensable and I dread the days that her responsibilities with the little one will take her away from us at times.

    +1 for Spiritualized & Iron & Wine references. If you ever throw in a Tribe Called Quest or Regina Spektor I think my head would explode.

  • Juha Ylitalo said on May 6, 2009

    While I agree with you Zack that it makes to sense to specialize into some segment, it is possible to marginalize yourself into too small sector.
    As an example, photographing people doing taiji is fun and interesting, but how much there is market for photographer who specializes into taiji. The fact that most images are “timeless” in a sense that design on taiji practioners clothes and other gear has remained same for decades.
    In my hometown, we have 500k-1M people and something like six taiji “schools”. That simply won’t provide you enough work to cover your investments into gear, much less for the food on table.
    With Martial Arts as photographing niche, you might be getting somewhere, since you would be covering Japanese as well as Chinese martial arts, but you are quickly drifting away from taiji.
    In this particular example, I think that better scope would be to tie taiji with portraits and rest of people photography, because photographing taiji doesn’t usually involve high speed photography, lot of stuff could be covered as posed shots and so on.
    Other options would be to leave taiji as a hobby and put your professional focus onto something entirely different.

  • Daniel said on May 6, 2009

    Hi guys,

    love the critiques from day one , but… they’re getting longer and longer, though fun, they are kinda full of small talk. It feels like you were talking about selective color for 10 mins at least. And I would like if you could kinda go thru pics a bit faster, as you speak about certain problems, you get stuck for too long at the same pic.

    Love Megan’s input tho…

    stay well,
    greeting from almost sunny Croatia

  • Brian said on May 6, 2009

    First of all, Elbowboobies…

    Ok, got that out of my system.

    Zack, I love the fact that you’re putting critiques on iTunes, but I’ve tried to put this one on my iPod and it won’t let me, what gives?


  • Claire Lewis said on May 6, 2009

    Hey Zack,

    Just wanted to tell you I think the photo critique series is fabulous…and hugely entertaining! It’s really great that you two take the time to do this.


  • Steve said on May 6, 2009

    @Matt S (comment #72). Very good insight!
    Steve Warren

  • Chanell said on May 6, 2009

    I’m totally following you. Everywhere.

    Facebook. Twitter. Flickr.

    Haha, thank you again for your critiques! They are AMAZING. I cannot wait to see if I can attend one of your up and coming workshops in ATL.

    Ahhh. So super excited to be introduced to your work and to your website. :) I learn tons every time I visit.


    p.s. I’m sure that you hear this all of the time, but you and your wife are absolutely hilarious.

  • Tommy said on May 7, 2009

    Thank you so much for these critiques. Please do not stop doing them. They really inspire me to be a better photographer. I can now see a lot of things in my own work that need improving. You have opened my eyes. Can you please do them more often? I have your page open all the time looking for the tidbits you are so gracious to give us.

  • Jonathan Steele said on May 8, 2009

    You know you’ve made it Zach when you search on google and your the only site that is found. Congrats.

  • zack said on May 8, 2009

    @Claire – I’m almost done with your book! Didn’t get to read it on the Dubai trip.

    @Tommy – We will keep doing as we have time to!

    @Jonathan – That’s funny!


  • Jim Mucklin said on May 8, 2009

    Zack,I almost wet myself, just what the doctor ordered.
    What type of viewer are you using to display the images on your site?It’s really clean.
    When I get the new site done, I’ll send you a link.

  • Chris F said on May 9, 2009

    Beavis and Butt-Head Redux

  • Randall Douglas said on May 9, 2009

    I disagree with those who imply the reviews weren’t brutal enough.

    I was attracted to your site by an exceptional video where you turned your incisive critique on yourself, which made you seem humble. As critiques, I think you can be more diplomatic and say pretty much the same thing(e.g., less time spent laughing together at the work).

    Don’t get me wrong, there was stuff to learn here. That’s why I kept going with it, but it was painful for me to watch..just as viewer — much more so, if I felt I might be beyond creative and then have my work slammed on a popular site (but ‘elbow boobies’ was funny). The reviews were brutal enough to wonder what would happen if a similar review was aimed at my own online portfolio (or

    Btw, I also made some decisions about honoring client requests to do stuff I don’t like.

  • hi kooky said on May 10, 2009


    I’m a stay-at-home mom with fine arts/photo background. LOVE listening to the critiques. Hilarious and helpful.

    I was fascinated by the heart-hands-on-the-pregnant-bellies discussion, and must weigh in. Have I seen it a hundred times? Yes. Do I think it’s sappy? Yes. Would I have done it? Most likely. I’m a sap when it comes to my kids. But I also think the pose is fantastic for women who have stretch marks and want to cover up a little. With a sweet heart. Perhaps that’s part of the motivation. Just a thought.

    Also, loved the Transform video. Linked to it here. (Hope you don’t mind…)


  • Levi Gardner said on May 10, 2009

    Excellent critique guys, very informative and sensible. Taught me some great stuff.

  • Randall Douglas said on May 11, 2009

    I basically implied that you guys were too brutal as critiques the other day. I think a good critique is the one that both encourages and instructs.

    To get a better idea, I went back and looked at some earlier critiques. I liked the style of pretty much all the earlier critiques much better than this one. (Granted, the work of those reviewed earlier was more polished than those reviewed in #10.)

    In the other critiques, you were able to ‘tell it like is’, while maintaining a positive, encouraging vibe. Bravo.

  • Mark (Toronto) said on May 12, 2009

    I find myself agreeing with the minority of posters so far. Number 10 goes beyond criticism and verges on mocking. Instead of going back through the video in order to note the comments I found must over the line, I’d like to offer a little bit of what I hope is constructive criticism.

    Prepare before delivering your critique. I realize that this might be too much of a time commitment. If this is the case, you might wish to give up the critiques in this form in order to avoid becoming a parody of what you ‘transform’ video stands for. If you prepare ahead of time, you might be able to temper that mocking tone that is all too easy to fall back into for everyone of us that relies on humor (I’m just as guilty as you are) to get through the day.


    Ps, Please indulge my Derridian rant focusing on one point I just can’t let go: putting the jazz musician in front of graffiti only works as an interesting contrast because of the prevalence of photographers putting the ‘urban’ artist in the same milieu. I think that it is an error in the process to assume that there is a different level of creativity in putting the opposite in place of the common. That being said, given the prevalence of graffiti and ‘urban’ artists, neither, shot straight up, is really all that impressive creatively.

  • melissa said on May 12, 2009

    Hey guys!
    Love the critiques my only minor thing I have to mention is that they drag a bit at times. Especially when we are staring at the same (sometimes awful) photo as you wax on about a certain topic or engage in small talk.

    If you clicked through the work as you talked or limited your reaction to things like “hearts on bellies” or “selective coloring” it might help.

    I assume that most of the viewers have been watching the other critiques and have heard some of the materiel regarding those subjects in the earlier episodes.

    Also I was expecting the gloves to come off in this episode a bit more but I thought you were very nice…maybe even too nice.

    Ultimately though, these rock and I really appreciate you both taking the time to help those of us looking to become better at what we do.
    Your generosity with these videos is a blessing!

  • matthew lyons said on May 14, 2009

    Zack and Meg…

    Nice work. I enjoyed the critiques. While I can see the side of those concerned that the delivery may, at times, verge on sidebar comments, I thoroughly enjoyed looking and listening as you worked your way through different sites/galleries. I’m working on finishing off my site, and I hope to have the opportunity to make your critique roster. I’ll email a link when it’s ready, and hope for the best.


  • Andrew said on May 18, 2009

    Hi Z and M,

    First off, thank you so much for these amazingly insightful critiques. As a buddibng photographer without easy access to intelligent analysis of photography, these are so very helpful.

    Thanks also for the iTunes feed.

    One problem… each critique is about 900MB. That’s almost about a terabyte for all 10.

    If you could spare some time to re-compress them that would make my 90 min commute 142% more awesome.


  • Dana said on May 18, 2009

    Thanks so much for another great learning experience…plus I added words to my growing photography vocabulary…Elbow Boobies…who knew!? :)

  • meg said on May 18, 2009

    thanks for the podcast! yes, it was big, but there’s no way I could have loaded and watched a show this long otherwise (high speed satellite internet is actually not that high speed, but on a small island it’s pretty miraculous to get internet at all really). Can’t wait for the next one starring the new Arias.

    nb UK? Hong Kong? why not Fiji?! (it’s very interesting, warm, and kid friendly)…

  • zack said on May 20, 2009

    @Andrew – I’ve tried making these smaller but it starts to degrade the quality a lot. I’ll try to bring them down more but an hour of video is still pretty large. At least they aren’t native! The native files are 6 or 7 gigs in size at times.


    PS – BTW, It would take about 1,000 of these to equal a terabyte! :)

  • Rudolf said on May 22, 2009

    thanks a lot for offering the advice. One small thing though, maybe I’m wrong or just too busy, but an hour just seemed forever and it took ages to download. I love the fact that you’re offering up this time to do something that we really can benefit from, but maybe you’re offering too much? Once again, thanks so much, but maybe something a bit more to the point would go down better (and you wouldn’t be up until 3am ;)) Once again, I can’t thank you enough for offering the advice you do in these shows.

  • Matt Rowell said on May 26, 2009

    Very informative! I think I am definitely guilty of trying to be “everything to everyone” in my own photography, and my website reflects that. This has inspired me to simplify. If only I had the time… *sigh*

  • Dana said on June 4, 2009

    I love your critiques! Can’t wait for the next one. I know I’m not to the point of selling my work yet, but your advice is helping improve greatly. Thanks! While I am not ready to be the person whos work is getting destroyed, I don’t think you are too hard. It’s enough to challenge, in fact I think you could be more critical. I like that you are always kind hearted. You’re doing a great service for us. thanks

  • pattn said on June 9, 2009

    Just had to laugh a lot about you guys, it’s always so funny to listen to you. “Honkong!” f.e. May tilting is a new era of photographic elements? 😛

  • Chris Ward said on June 15, 2009

    Thanks for offering these critiques Zack. I have have been learning a lot. I tried to summerize what has be said so far up to #10. here. I am working on incorporating much of what you have said as I try to revamp my portfolio and web site.

  • Becky said on June 16, 2009

    It’s a good episode in general. But you can definitely shorten or clip out your comments about the selective coloring, heart on the belly, randomness of the portfolio, etc.

    You only had to point out that the person isn’t great at writing and there are too many random photos in the portfolio 1~3 times for us to get it. But you went on and on and on, which was ironic because it resembled the subject’s portfolio: redundant, repetitive and unnecessary.

    With that said, I learned a lot about your critiques on individual photos. Thanks!

  • Scott said on June 27, 2009

    I just stumbled across your blog tonight, and had to comment on your critique… Loved it! Can’t wait for the next installment. 😀

  • steph said on July 20, 2009

    I just recently discovered your work/website/critiques when a link to critique #10 was posted on a forum I visit, and I was instantly hooked. Just wondering how long before another critique episode comes out?

  • Scott said on July 23, 2009

    Is there gonna be a next installment? Anyone would think you guys had just had a baby, or something!?! 😀

  • David said on September 15, 2009

    first of all, love the critiques, Zack. thank you so much for doing these. they’re informative and entertaining!

    a question I have on some of the “everyone does those shots”. If, for example, lots of potential clients like the hand/heart/belly maternity shot, wouldn’t you want to show one of those on your site so the client says “oh, cool. i love that shot, and i want it, and i like the way it was done by this person.” i’d say it does more good than harm (the “omg every maternity photographer has that shot on there, i want someone different.”)

    i understand the show your best work and show the stuff you want to shoot, but doesn’t the extreme version of that apply more towards editorial versus something like maternity, wedding, or other applications that have “standard” shots? i’m not saying have a site with all the standard shots; for sure, have 95% of your shots show what makes you different, but having none of those shots seems a bit extreme.

  • Emily Murdock said on October 18, 2009

    “Photography calls many and chooses few.”

    What a profound statement.

    Thank you for your vision! Since watching these critiques, I’ve taken down my online galleries and I’m re-working them with your advice in mind. Please keep these critiques coming!

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  • John Holt said on January 16, 2010

    I can not thank you enough for posting that youtube video…

    On a side note, I am going to need your address so I can send you the dry cleaning bill. I simply am placing the blame on you for making me piss my pants laughing.


  • Jenny said on February 20, 2010

    @Beyond Creative: Please, you have to stop photoshoping your photos. I’m sorry to be harsh at you, but you are doing a very sloppy job. Just focus on your photography skills.

  • akos said on July 17, 2010

    high fashion tilt guy is awesome.
    he is clearly molesting the model judging by her facial expression.. 😀

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