Photography Critique :: Episode 11

October 11, 2009 | • Critique

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

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

Episodes 1 – 10 of Photography Critique

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


Cheers, Zack


  • throughHislens | sean said on October 11, 2009

    Always enjoy your critiques!

    Thanks for taking the time to do them Meg and Zach.

    Excellent drink of choice, but would prefer dr.pepper sans the diet.

  • Jason said on October 11, 2009

    that was def. a awkward turtle moment.

    I could here my daughters voice in the back of my head saying, awwwwkkkkwwwwaaarrrddd

  • Noel Salazar said on October 11, 2009

    Lots of good info in this episode. Question I heard through the grapevine David Jackson will be doing your photos soon or in the near future. Any chance of getting David in on a critique. Big fan of his and your work would be interesting hearing both of your comments at the same time.

  • Nigel Pinto said on October 11, 2009

    Love this episode.
    Zack, I just wanted to make something clear about what you said about using music as your background music. Is it ok to use artist music and then credit them?.

  • Squeeker said on October 11, 2009

    Thanks Zack for the shout out at the end there! =D

  • Colin said on October 11, 2009

    I have to say, Zach, the timing of the picture being shown and the statement “You must love this location” is rather unfortunate. :)

    “Buy her a milkshake!” LOL

  • Colin said on October 11, 2009

    (AHHHHH! Z-A-C-K! I know a Zach, sorry.)

  • Sherri said on October 11, 2009

    @colin: LOL, i was thinking the same thing! thanks for being the one to call him out on it 😉

  • zack said on October 11, 2009

    @Noel – Oooooo. Good idea. Dave Jackson + Beer + Critique. That should be fun!


  • moritz said on October 11, 2009

    “light of god coming down on his fists of rock!” :))) thank you for that and thanks for the new critique in general. I am learning a lot from that for myself.

    One thing I was wondering about: during the critique of Allen Ross Thomas’s site you speak about lighting small, badly lit venues yourself – could you share some experiences about that? Can it be done with one light or two? Where to put them & what to watch out for? That would be great!

  • Ryan said on October 11, 2009

    I was psyched to see another one of these pop up. Thanks Zack.

    @moritz : I’m no pro concert shooter, but I’ve used stands and/or superclamps/justin clamps to put flashes throughout a stage for small venues. I like cross lighting left and right because it keeps the flashes out of the shot straight on and from behind and still shoot at an angle to backlight. Here’s one light superclamped high to the right:

    Here’s a shot showing the 2 light setup in a tiny, pitch black venue(another flash in the back to backlight the crowd would have worked good here):

    Just my $.02. I’m curious what Zack and others have to say.

  • Andrew said on October 11, 2009

    Amazing. The Michael Schultz galleries in question have already been removed – less then 12 hours later!

  • Sara said on October 11, 2009

    Wow! I am still sitting here two hours later agitated, uncomfortable and inspired. Thank you for the critique. No, you did not critique my website, but it felt as if you did. Good stuff.

  • Michael Schulz said on October 11, 2009

    @Andrew: Yes I pulled them because it seems to be too easy to misunderstand stuff. Did I mean to copy Griffith? No. Did I mean to explore something for myself? Yes. Will they be back up at some point? Probably yes.

    Sidenote: My name does not contain a T :)

  • Steve Perks said on October 11, 2009

    I can’t help thinking I would learn more by sitting back with a few bottles of N.B and watching your 11 critiques than I would sweating 4 years at grad school!

  • Jason said on October 11, 2009

    With the Michael Schulz site. Like Zack said, we all derive from other, but that was like straight plagiarism.

    When I was in school I was told to find a photographer and duplicate their style, but I never sold it as my own.. Make sense?

    If I was to come to Michaels site I would have said, wow… This is unique, and awesome.. I HAVE NEVER SEEN IT. What a unique idea!

    I could be way off, but that is how I see it!

  • Michael Schulz said on October 11, 2009

    @Jason: Wow, strong words. So that means that nobody in the world can phtoograph anything any longer? Look at my site. The gallery is back up with an explanation of the work and the intent. Am I not allowed to shoot whatever I want? Did I ever say this is totally new and unique? Was Griffith the first in the world to shoot tire treads on white seamless? I don’t think so. These images are shot in my style of shooting still lifes. If you look at Griffith’s work you’ll see the difference if you understand light. He had a totally different approach than I had. So please forgive me that I look at objects in this world and photograph them the way I see them.

    Let’s all ditch the white seamless altogether. Total plagiarism. Has been done before. A person on white seamless.

    Just my $0.02 on this. As I said before, never did I have the intent (and neither did Salinas) to copy Griffith or steal from him. I had my own motivation.

    Now go ahead an rip it apart 😉

  • Amy Weiland said on October 11, 2009

    Zack, Thanks for another great critique! When I am editing my site, I try to keep in mind what you would say if you were looking at it.

    @Michael: I think one of the bigest issues for me was that your site looks a lot like Griffith’s site in every way… similar logo and style and the same image groupings. I think you need to find your own style and try to present that in your site. If you aren’t there yet, that’s okay. But don’t be surprised when you get flamed a little on a blog after you requested for Zack to critique your site publicly.

    I agree with Zack’s points on Michael’s site, but feel that some of the people who are critiqued get instantly villified by the rest of the viewers all too easily. We don’t know who Michael Schultz is, or where he is in his career. Zack’s point was to all: Don’t show work that you mimicked as your own originality.

    Remember Zack’s “Transformation” video… everyone sucked at some point… everyone has to start somewhere, and often that comes from starting with someone elses’ ideas and taking them in your own direction. Michael is not wrong for shooting these pictures, or showing them… he just needs to give credit where credit is due, and find his own style. Now he knows. Let’s be kind to our fellow photographers.

  • Jason said on October 11, 2009

    @Michael, while I do some what agree with you but, even your site is similar. And then you did the look up part and thats when it sort of crossed that line!

    I am not trying to be harsh I am just trying to be real. I am not trying to lobby against you but maybe debate where the line is drawn.

  • Michael Schulz said on October 11, 2009

    Well everybody who chose Template #3 from Rob Haggarts company now has the same site as Griffith? Where does my site look the same? C’mon. That’s very far fetched. What’s similar? The logo? It’s Futura which says my name. Griffith uses Helvetica.

    The same image groupings? In what way? (just trying to learn here). He shoot’s fashion, I don’t. My main area is active lifestyle and portrait work. Nothing that he does. I shoot on location, he shoots in the studio.

    Critique is great if it helps. If it’s just targeted to pick something apart with no real base then it’s just that.

    Now as for the credit, to who do I have to give credit? Who shot tire treads on white background first? This very small group of people reading this blog for example only knows (now) of Christopher Griffith and maybe some also do know about Salinas. But who did it before them? Do we know?

    Am I surprised to be ripped apart on a blog after submitting my site to critique? No. What I didn’t like though was the critique on the body of one of the models I photographed and the explanation it could only be Photoshop and/or she should eat something. That’s out of line and in no way justified. I’m not running around and telling anybody here to maybe drop a few pounds and do some sport either.

    @Jason: Please go to, check out the sites that are using them. How many sites will you find that you NOW think look the same? Hint: plenty.

  • Steve Perks said on October 11, 2009

    This gets more and more interesting.

    I’ll bet Zack has had his work ripped apart earlier in his career on many occasions and we tend to be jealously protective of our labor of love.

    Hell,I’m getting my stuff ripped apart eleswhere as we speak and wouldn’t even dare show it anywhere near here.

    This is a very public platform which everyone who submits their work for critique will understand.
    The good thing is we also have the platform to respond and correct.

    @Michael, I enjoyed your work and take on board your responses, don’t fall into the trap of giving the impression you are throwing bricks out of your pram buddy!

  • Ken said on October 11, 2009

    This a a pre-emptive “Thank you”! I haven’t watched yet, but I’m really happy you posted this– I learned so much from previous editions.

  • Allen Ross Thomas said on October 11, 2009

    Thank you Zack and Meghan for the critique. Logo check. Watermark check. Expanding beyond largely rock and roll into promo, etc check. Allen registering for Photo 101 (certainly, if I could get in ;-)).

    Some readers have commented on lighting, club lighting, flash augment, etc. I won’t hijack here, but on my website after each entry there are some shooting notes related to the performance. Nearly all my concert shooting is ISO 1600-4000 and I’ve shot as high as 12,800 natively and boosted to 51,200 in post.

    Using flash in club arrangements Zack’s rules apply as they do for Onelight – balancing flash and ambient with some help from the flash in freezing action allowing for much lower shutter speeds if needed or for effect.

    Side note: The Stryper comment was in fact Stryper :-). They will be performing in Atlanta on 10/21 @ Masquerade. I’d like to offer yourself and Meghan a ticket ;-).

  • Allen Ross Thomas said on October 11, 2009

    Edit – correction to website URL.

  • Yazan said on October 11, 2009

    @Michael: My take on ‘inspiration’ is that almost everything has been done. Being able to do something as good as your source of inspiration (or almost as good as them) takes quite a bit of effort!

    It’s a little unfortunate that everyone is taking your ‘look up’ series out of context. Even if it was inspired by Christopher Griffith, your take on it is still different since the subject is different.

    @Zack: It’s a little unfortunate that you and meg are critiquing a model rather than the photo. I don’t see anyone making an issue out of photos of half naked, well built men.

  • Wade said on October 11, 2009

    Thanks for taking the time to give back. I’m seeing why you were mentioned in the comments so frequently for the “Who Do You Have a Photography Crush On?” blog post (


  • david said on October 11, 2009

    i love the critiques. especially ones with eddie izzard lines thrown in. you and meg are a hoot. it’s gotten to a point where i have a zack arias track playing in the back of my head when i’m photo-ing (the collective action inclusive of planning, sketching, shooting, editing, etc). is this technically sound? why is this tilted? etc.

    the main reason for my comment, is that i want to pursue graduate studies in photography (and studio art). and your comment regarding that seems to coincide with my thoughts on the state of things. I was applying last winter, and at some point i just threw my hands up in the air, decided i hated everything i’ve ever done, and severed my attachment with the money i’d spent on transcripts. texas, ohio st, michigan and at least one more are wondering who david eckert is, and why his transcripts are in their office. looking at the work coming out of grad photo programs sort of left me perplexed, as it didn’t match up even remotely with what i shoot, content or style. and it left me perplexed even more because it didn’t even seem particularly “good”. seeing that, on top of way over-scrutinizing my own work, lead to putting things off for another year. but it’s getting toward application season again, and i’m not any less mystified, or any more encouraged to try this year. it would be great if it seemed like there was a standard, or a level to meet…but from what i can tell, on my way out the door with my diploma in hand, all i’ll be able to do is produce cross-processed snapshots of modest mid-20th century houses or single trees in fields.

    at the moment, at the very least, i’m attempting to clean up my old work, and get a consistent look. but i’m not convinced at all.

    it would be nice if it was like getting into music school. music schools have lists. you pick something that fits each requirement, and voilá.

  • zack said on October 11, 2009

    Glad to see some discussion pop up here. I’m currently packing for a week in Texas and I have a huge job starting in the morning here in Atlanta. I have to be into two states at once this week.

    I’ll chime in from the airport if I get a chance! I want to join in on this discussion.


  • Allen Ross Thomas said on October 11, 2009

    @Zack – You and Meghan, Styper show. The pit @ Masquerade. Let’s have some fun. ;-).


  • moritz said on October 11, 2009

    @Ryan and Allen: thanks for sharing the technical information, I hope the Z doesn’t mind this parallel thread in is comments.
    Allen, I only recently realized that I can shoot mutch higher ISO without colours&contrast getting blurry/crappy when shooting raw – so that helped a lot. But good quality light (i.e. directional, not omnipresent) also helps a lot when shooting high ISO – and sometimes the light’s just not there :)
    Ryan, so you basically put two lamps sharp left&right? Makes sense,coming to think of it. In your second picture it looks like you have a hard light and a soft one. Wouldn’t it also work with two hard lights, where one light acts as key and the other as rim or the other way round, depending on the position? the first photo is imho very beautiful – I especially like the little bit of tone that’s showing in the floor under the singer.
    But I am getting carried away and feel like a hijacker, so thanks again and I’ll shut up now :)


  • Wilfredo said on October 12, 2009

    Sooo, let’s talk about website and over all presentation and branding? Seems like everyone has a similar branding and not quite so different presentation. Me, I’m a New Media Designer (with an emphasis on photography).

    Each and every time, I see a critique I can’t help but to wonder who is consulting on their identity and branding part?

    Now, I might be a 3 year undergrad New Media student – but I do have a passion for photography and I only wish I could see more photographers take their passion for photography and see it expressed in their website/logo.

    A good example of great photography and unique branding is Jeremy Cowart.

    Hey Z, how about a special guest episode? Where a design/branding guy comes on and gives his two cents on how to best position or in some cases reposition his/her brand/identity. I’d love to par take.

    Oh, and for Miranda Watson resume, well Z, you hit that right on spot. I’m currently in the process of carefully designing and wording my resume. I took the liberty and downloaded Miranda’s resume and I was dismayed at what I saw. Miranda if you read this comment — if you need some resume inspiration – just let me know and I will help you on this.

    My department director emphasizes daily on the importance of the architecture of your resume. We are constantly reminded that if your resume doesn’t fit the standard – regardless of how awesome you are – most directors will toss it in the trash, based on improper formatting and presentation.



  • Tony R said on October 12, 2009

    What if a salesman buys one of my photos (artwork) to hang in their office? Does that mean they can’t have that photo up while trying to make a sale b/c they didn’t pay me to utilize my copyrighted material during sales presentations? Not sure how this is any different than someone using a song on their site which they PAID FOR when they purchased the CD or MP3? Seems to me the copyright laws would only come into play here if the site owner were turning a profit from the song somehow (such as videographers do by including it with their final product). -Not taking one side or the other here, just trying to present an argument for those people who use music on their sites.

  • Wilfredo said on October 12, 2009

    And as for Mr Shulz..

    man, you are being bombarded by a similar tune. The tune of “Plagiarism”. While I don’t believe that was your intent. I do have to chime in and say this. In the 3 years I’ve been in design school, every assignment asked of us, requires us to find an inspiration — for me when I shoot, my inspiration are few — Zack is one, as his worked was introduced to me by my photography instructor. — anyways, I remember this last Spring, we had a Spring Show @ the Academy of Art University, a student (good friend of mine) submitted a series of images he did of spoons. They were beautiful, he photographed 3 spoons against a very different backdrop. Very, very interesting and fresh. However, not a week would go by, before a anonymous person began to place posters calling him a plagiarizer! Now mind you @ AAU, this kind of offense, if proven, can have you removed from AAU.

    The student was confronted and questioned. He was steadfast in his argument that he had never seen the artwork done by someone else — with identical qualities. Basically some other guy, a few years back, photographed spoons in the exact same way. After a short investigation, he was allowed to display his images and pass it off as his own. It was later decided that he did not plagiarize. He just happened to be a guy with a great idea — coincidentally another photog had a similar idea. So it’s hard for me to cast stones at you and call you a rip off artist, when I’ve seen great ideas — similar ideas — emerge from two different artists. I guess, the question really here is — where you aware of these images prior to your presentation of BLOWN?

    Lastly, Angela. Zack is spot on about using copyrighted music for your website.
    What’s makes things worse is that this is your portfolio. I’m currently working on my portfolio and one comment I hear over and over again, is that if it isn’t yours, you didn’t create it — then it has no place in your portfolio. A portfolio is your manifesto, your message to the world that say’s – this is my work and everything in it is original and most importantly mine. One of the advantages of being a New Media artist is that I have a background in developing music for these kinds of mediums (web). As I continue to work on my identity and brand for my portfolio, my website will come to life and with it all original content and material supplied and developed by me. However, if you don’t have access to audio production tools — then I suggest what Zack say’s, buy a royalty free audio track. Or better, dump the whole music on a webpage thing. Honestly, if I had to consult on your website I’d say this:

    1) dump the music
    2) careful your margins and alignment
    3) for proper tagging and SEO, I suggest you rename the homepage to “ANGELA EATON PHOTOGRAPHY:CHILDREN PHOTOGRAPHY” or something to that effect.
    4)load times! the number one killer to ALL websites is load times. no one wants to wait…honestly, I’ve said this to many people. The best way to reduce load times is two fold – a) revisit your jpg images and see if you can re-optimize them for the web better and b) reduce your dependence on flash

    Well, hope this helps.


  • Heather said on October 12, 2009

    I’m torn on the last one. I agree it was blatant “the same” not just “inspired by”… that said, I don’t really believe that true plagiarism exists within photography: no one can really do it like you do. No one has your models, your brain, your light, your moment, your everything and can replicate it down to the list little atom. It just can’t happen. They can sure try, and some are pretty damn good at it… but really? No.

    The more annoying shit (at least, to me) is when people take all the copy off your site. I’ve had that happen to me not once, not twice but three times this year alone. Totally bizarre. People have also “copied” my photos, but that part doesn’t bug me – I know it’s about inspiration. And no one can be me like I can, so really… it’s not hurting me. And maybe it’ll help them find themselves.
    Inspiration is where most of us got started. So I don’t think what MS did was “horrible, nasty bad”, per se. Though it would be nice to see an “inspired by”, otherwise yeah… the message he’s sending will get lost in translation.
    And there’s the rub.
    It may not be his fault at all, but you have to accept this is the way the world works: we see the same, we think plagiarism. Regardless of intent, or actuality. If you didn’t come first, it’s probably best to point out the obvious even though it pains you, and say, ‘inspired by’ in some form.

    As for the model comments: I both agree and disagree. I can totally get what Meg is saying, because it’s true. Completely true. But the comments also aren’t really appropriate to the “episode” and could easily be a criticism on the model herself, which isn’t fair.
    On an unnamed photo forum I once had someone (and then many someones) hijack a thread to go on about how “Freakish” the un-retouched stretchmarked, naked, pregnant belly was on my site. A favourite photo of mine, even today. It wasn’t the critique that made it weird: it was the critique of the woman herself. :-/
    So, I get both sides of that one, too.

    … wow, that was a soapbox rant.

    Anyway: I still love your stuff. Still not ready to put myself out there. Was on your list, but pulled myself (hope that went through, btw…) because I’m going through so much crap right now I don’t think I could take the fatal blow. But, I’ll keep learning from the others who are brave enough to step up. :)

  • alexander said on October 12, 2009

    great that this is back!! as always, you punsh thing inside my head!!

    thx alot!

  • taurui said on October 12, 2009

    Hey Zack, adding alcohol to your diet pepper pretty much nullifies the effect of the “diet” stuff 😉 as alcohol has lots of calories as well.
    Anyhow, I love your site, your work and am inspired every time by your critique videos. Thank you :)

  • Mattias said on October 12, 2009

    Nice that youve started the critique again!! 😀

    Aqward moment there in the end :S

    But good job^_^

  • pcortacans said on October 12, 2009

    I once visited Japan.
    I inmediately noticed how busy the sky was in terms of wires, cranes and all that stuff. I thought of it a a net or human-created spider-web.

    I was too busy during the first days (with some client) to feel confortable to pick up my camera and shoot.
    When we finally got to Kobe, work was almost over I started taking photos. I selected these three for my portfolio:

    I never heard of photographers Griffith or Schulz before I watched Critique ep-11, last night. Heck, I had never even heard of Zack Arias before I went to Japan!!! (sorry about that! no ofense!) I don’t even live in the same continent as you guys!!! (you can probably tell from my spelling) 😉

    Now my question is: Am I also guilty?



  • Michelle said on October 12, 2009

    I’m definitely not getting into the rants, much 😉

    It’s a moral decision every photographer has to make at one time or another. One word : Empathy.

    I would like to say a great big thank you to both Zack and Meg for taking their time to do these critiques. I agree that the girl looked too thin, but again is a moral and ethical decision by the photographer to hire a model like that.

    The ethics aren’t just personal, in a commercial context they are also wide ranging. Is it ethical to show impressionable youngsters an image of the ideal woman that many can never hope to look like? Yet thousands of girls strive to be ‘that thin’ , starving themselves to death in the process.

    The only reason they do this is for love. Not self love, nope, but the love of the hot guy at school or at work.

    So I ask you all, once again, is it ethical? Do you have empathy?

    I feel sorry for the model, she believes that in order to get work, to make it big, she has to be thin. Most models I know, who are that thin, hate themselves.
    What an awful way to live life.

    Personally I never use models that are a size zero.I won’t shoot women under a size 8 (UK) they look starved and ill and usually are not happy. They can be the best actress in the world in front of the camera but in my opinion, they always show just how depressed they are, it’s something in the eyes.

    Wow, long post and pretty much off topic, but relevant I think.

    Once again, congratulations on your new little ‘un Zack and Meg, and thank you for taking the time to do one of you fantastic critiques.

  • Tracy Tesmer said on October 12, 2009

    This has taken me a couple days and several discussions with fellow photographers to respond to this particular critique. I hope with all my heart I am responding in a constructive manner not only coming from the gut but also coming from the head.

    I know Michael Schulz. I talk to him almost everyday as do many of our fellow Houston photographers. First I will say this, he is not the kind person who would “throw bricks from his pram.” He is a realist. He gives and takes constructive criticism quiet well, and many of his ideas have helped me with honing my own portfolio. He works extremely hard at what he does and is constantly trying to improve his craft. I think that certain points of Zack’s critique were probably spot on, but others were not constructive or informative in any manner. On those points I do understand Michael’s disturbance. It is one of a photographer who was seeking constructive critique but walked away instead with a bad taste in his mouth. This is rather unfortunate.

    Accusing someone of blatant plagerism is a strong accusation and one that the accuser better be prepared for full consequence of that action. I’m not saying yes or no it was plagerized because well even though I know the photographer in question, it’s not my place to say those kinds of things. I did not know the photographer at the time the work was created.

    On the subject of the model is where I have the strongest feeling and this has to do with my own opinions on America’s sudden what we call “fat acceptance.” In an attempt to accept everyone as they are and become more “pc” in our views we have swung the opposite end of the spectrum. In order to be healthy how can one possibly be thin? I’m thin myself, I weigh under 100lbs. I eat like a horse. I have had three children and at one point in my life weighed 175 lbs. The model in question is a mother, she is also a fitness instructor. She eats healthy, she leads a healthy life. And for someone like @Michelle to make such an assumptive statement about the model she knows nothing about is extremely unprofessional and catty. I myself use a model quite often who is a size 0, she and I have symbiotic relationship that produces wonderful work that others are inspired by and want to see. Our work together and the reason I chose her has nothing to do with her size. And those who know her know she can down a cheeseburger faster than any hungry 12 year old boy I know. So here it goes…if you or any other female has a problem with their body image due to a magazine cover, it’s a copout. That person’s problems with self image has nothing to do with the magazine cover, the psychosis involved with that goes deeper than just a constant exposure to thin models in magazines. There is something else wrong inside, something wrong with parenting and values passed down. The magazine cover has nothing to do with it. @Michelle I am modeling for the One Light Workshop in Houston tomorrow, I weigh under 100lbs…does this mean that they should not use me because I look “starved and ill and usually are not happy.” I am very happy, as a matter of fact so happy I downed a large coke, a big fat juicy spicy chicken sandwich with all the bun I could handle and a large fry last night at 1 am. Think before you speak or write.

    My suggestion? Parents take the magazines away from your daughters, get them outside to play and experience the world, make them exercise and then let their bodies grow the way they are meant to, whether it be thin or not. Then give them the magazines, cause by this time you will have taught them that a magazine is just a magazine, it’s not an ideal..because then you will have done your job as a parent. You will have shown them that people come in all shapes and sizes, even the skinny ones and we are all different and being thin doesn’t make you unhappy and being fat (yes I said fat, it’s time we used that word instead of tossing around these pc terms to make ourselves feel better) is not a way of life; it leads to heart disease. Being your size the healthy size you are meant to be is a way of life, is a healthy attitude.

    I have to say, Zack, I have always respected the work that you have tried to do, and what you have given the photography community HOWEVER my respect was perhaps knocked down a notch when I had to sit and listen to the snarky commentary on this particular critique. It was not helpful in any way to the critique. It was not productive.

    Personally, I think Michael made his first mistake by even submitting his work for critique, and I would have stopped him and advised against it had he told me before he did it. I don’t believe in these kinds of critiques. I believe in sitting down face to face with someone in your field and bantering back and forth, exchanging ideas and commentary. As an artist you should never submit your work to another artist for critique in a public forum. It makes you look like you feel that person is better than you are. It shows lack of confidence in your work. It hands the reigns and controls of your art over to another person. Your confidence will lead your work where it needs to go, it will lead you to where you need to go, it will shine in your work and others will see this and become fans. As artists we walk a very fragile line I know all too well. Even to become and artist we are the type of personality that says “look at me, I do something special.” That’s just a fact. So instead of sitting at home in front of your computer submitting your work to a critique only to come up empty handed because maybe the critique wasn’t handle the way it was supposed to be, get your butt up off that chair and go out and shoot the world. Create imagery that makes you happy, that inspires others, that puts a smile on the face of your subject.

  • sunith said on October 12, 2009

    Seemed like decades since the last critique. It was enlightening and entertaining as usual :) Don’t want to bother myself with the controversial topics mentioned. I rather spend more time on my website and make use of your valuable advice in pruning the junk away. Don’t drink while giving critiques, especially when booze isn’t readily accessible for the viewers… just kidding 😀

  • Rob Davis said on October 12, 2009

    So glad your critiques are back. Thank you.

  • Michael Schulz said on October 12, 2009

    @Heather: I just had a conversation with Christopher Griffith about it and we both agreed that I did not copy his work as it is different. If the only thing you see are tire treads on white seamless then you haven’t really looked.

  • matt s. said on October 12, 2009

    Meghan covering Radiohead: Want!

  • Jason said on October 12, 2009

    @Micheal, that is humble of Mr. Griffith, but I have to say its almost to obvious.

    You seem totally defensive, but maybe you should take it more constructively.

  • Michael Schulz said on October 12, 2009

    @Jason: I’ve been called plagiarist here on this very blog in the comments and between the lines in the comments from both Zack and Meg. The creator of the work I am accused to have plagiarized and I both agree that there are differences in the work but people here continue to rag on. But as Christopher said, people will think whatever they wish.

    The part of the critique that really was out of line was the comment about the model. It’s not her fault if other people are too lazy to have a healthy lifestyle and then make BS comments about her body.

  • moritz said on October 12, 2009

    I am beginning to wonder why I was afraid of hijacking the thread. Anybody else interested in discussing lighting of concerts in badly lit clubs?;)

  • zack said on October 12, 2009

    @Michael and @ Tracy – Working on a blog post about this now because I think it deserves it.

    As far as the model remarks…

    #1 – My main issue is her head looks larger than her waist. A simple turn of her hips may have changed that. The point is this… There is an image of a person that looks like it has been overly photoshoped. A stranger hitting your site sees the image and can quickly think “Whoa, too much liquify filter on that one.”

    It can go the other way. I’ve shot 100 pound indie rockers and if I’m not careful with angles and lighting I can make them look 200 pounds. You really get in trouble when you make a 200 pound subject look like they are 300 pounds.

    And if you take a 100 pound model you can get the to look 50 pounds. Watch your angles. If the shot LOOKS photoshopped even though it was not photoshopped you have to make an edit decision. THAT is what I want to point out.

    As far as fat vs thin and body issues and all that… You gotta understand that Meg and I are smart asses and we like to sit back, look at work, and “let our hair down.” so to speak. Sometimes we go to far and we offend. To that, we are sorry. We don’t want to offend anyone but we are also going to say whatever it is that comes to mind first. That won’t change. If you understand that we’re dorks and to not take us too seriously, then you will understand us a lot better.

    More to come.


  • Allen Ross Thomas said on October 12, 2009

    @ All –

    1994 wants my logo back (funny!) and constructive

    MC Baggy Pants (funny!) and constructive

    Anyone remember (funny!) and constructive

    Noting a skinny model should bulk it up a bit (funny!) and constructive. I personally am turned off by skeletal models to the point I ignore the product….but we all have different tastes.

    I think the majority here appreciate entertaining academia … I do.


  • Rick Wenner said on October 12, 2009

    I’ve been sitting back reading the comments go back and forth about Michael’s portfolio and can’t help but wonder…

    Isn’t this supposed to be constructive criticism? Aren’t we submitting our portfolios to Zack with the understanding that our work will be criticized, judged, applauded, and whatever else in hopes of improving what we do? You can’t go into a critique session with high levels on sensitivity. If you do, you might as well put the camera down now.

    Looking forward to future critiques (hopefully mine will get in there).


  • Gary Eddleston said on October 12, 2009

    Hi Zach,
    Firstly Thank you for posting your video, although photography is stills, the video’s are much better the learn from then just simply – Here’s a shot and here’s some text as to why I think its crap. No Emotion can be felt in text, where-as sound and vision is much more passionate.

    I’m by no means a good photographer nor a professional in the photography world but simply a hobbyist wanting to place my 2 pence into the last hour of my life spent on this web page.

    I completely agree with 99% of the comments and lets face it your the Pro!
    I feel the “it’s already been done” comments are valid, but at the same time invalid.
    I find that you will always shoot something similar to something somebody else has done before.
    Some of the cliché shots actually work and have become “oh no, not another” because of how well they sell and the audience like them.
    As for the first Critique video I have seen, I felt this beneficial to watch. ou really show what a Pro looks for within an image and gives us an idea of what the pro thinks when looking at their own shots.

    Kind regards

  • Michael Schulz said on October 12, 2009

    @Zack: I’ll see you tonight so we can chat.

  • Rachel said on October 12, 2009

    I have to say I am really glad to see a little honesty going around. I am just getting started on this wonderful journey and I know I will never be “there”. @Zack, As you put so well in your previous video (on SK’s blog) we are constantly seeking to change and improve. REAL constructive criticism is super important. Some of it is opinion as this is, afterall, an art. I love that you have taken the time to put out your opinion. The artists can take it or leave it but either way I hope that both the reviewer and reviewee have grown from the experience.

    Can’t wait til next time and @Meg, don’t worry about the belly, it’ll either go or it won’t and either way you are you and Zack still loves ya!

  • Michael Sharman said on October 12, 2009

    Interesting discussions are coming out of not only the critique but also the comments raised.

    For me as a non-professional (but enthusiastic) photographer, I really loved the early critiques and got a lot out of them but lately the tone seems to have changed.

    I imagine everyone who submits their work for critique here actually wants criticism. That’s the point, that’s how you learn. Show your work to someone you respect and admire and ask them to point out faults in technique, composition, inspiration, anything.

    But it seems that the tone has moved from giving good critism to almost being annoyed that people have showed their work with “mistakes” and taking a derogatory stance towards them, almost beating them down instead of simply pointing out where they may improve.

    To all those bashing Michael, is it your opinion or are you blindly following the voiced opinions of others? How many photography sites have a similar look and feel, I’d say most.

    Anyway, I still really enjoy the critiques and thank Zack and Meg for their time in doing this. Lord knows they’re probably SO busy (especially with a new born) so taking the time for this is amazing stuff.

    I’d just say let’s get back to the point, giving constructive feedback to those brave enough to share their work.

  • Stephen said on October 12, 2009

    I guess it’s sort of a gray area. I mean, how many people find techniques that are pretty cool looking, then learn them and implement them. I mean, pretty much any portrait artist is copying something they saw someone else do. It’s not plagiarism, just learning new skills and applying.

    The difference in the last critique is that it is just too close. And if M. Schulz really had never seen the other work, then fine. We can’t say anything. I mean, the idea itself isn’t that crazy. I mean, I’m currently concepting an idea for shooting exploding bottles of cough syrup on a green screen and then adding (in post production) a black and white sunset. It’s a work in progress…… not really.

    Only the parties involved know. and that’s fine. we should all take cue from the critique and look at our own work under that lens… is it too close to something I’ve seen? If so, maybe I should stretch myself a bit further and try to do something new with it… for instance. taking the blown tires and doing a portrait series where the treads are used as hair pieces for balding men.

    and now I go to sleep.

  • Stephen said on October 12, 2009

    PS – I say “I Mean” WAAAAY too much.

  • Ben said on October 13, 2009

    Thanks Zack & Meg for another great episode!
    You made a great point regarding the use of copyrighted music on websites. It really had to be mentioned. So many photographers are worried that somebody steals their images. At the same time they use music on their websites without permission.
    Regarding all of your critique episodes:
    I LOVE that you always try to teach to stand out….to push photographers to find their own voice.
    cheers from Hamburg, Germany,

  • David said on October 13, 2009

    Quite interesting commentary and dialogue.

    I have copied a ton of Zack’s techniques…it’s how I’ve gotten better. Replicating someone’s work is how you learn how they did it. Only then do you have the tools to be original.

    I think Michael got a bad rap but he walked into by accepting the critique. Minus giving credit to Griff I don’t think what he did was so wrong. He simply should have shot MONSTER truck tires and then he would have been fine ; )

    Zack has a ton of knowledge in regards to photography. And even I don’t agree with what he says at times. Who cares? He has complete right to say whatever he wants. You can create a blog and say whatever you want too!!!!!

    And cheers to the Dr. P

  • Graeme. said on October 13, 2009

    Glad to see these back!! Very enjoyable. Very Helpful.

  • Darrell Harris said on October 13, 2009

    better than anything that was on TV – thanks for keeping me glued to my computer! Good stuff guys.

  • JL said on October 14, 2009

    Thanks Zack for your comments and critiques.Congratulations for you blog. JL Bravo from Spain. Regards

  • andy stenz said on October 14, 2009

    love these so much. i’m learning a ton from them and laughing my head off. LOVED the eddie izzard line!

  • Jason Grubb said on October 14, 2009

    Could not be more excited about the new critique! Watched it then re-watched three old episodes. Such great, honest critique. Thanks

  • Andy Pennebaker said on October 14, 2009

    Thank you so very much for doing these. We are so very blessed that we can get an outside, professional critique, such as this. And I love it that you do it “with your hair down.”

  • Denise said on October 15, 2009

    Zack and Meg
    When you have little ones at home time with your family or spouse is very precious. These videos mean a lot to me and I appreciate the time you set aside to do them.
    Have a great week!

    Oyasumi nasai, Good night from Okinawa.

  • Angela Eaton said on October 15, 2009

    Zach and Meg – Thank you for your comments! Agree with everything and wasn’t a big surprise. You pointed out the nagging issues that were in the back of my mind but I pushed away. You’re right that I’m fairly new and just building my portfolio so it will only get better.

    TOTAL BONEHEAD IGNORANCE on the music. Wasn’t thinking and like someone mentioned, I was under the impression that if you purchased music, you could use it. Learned the hard way through your critique and being used as “Miss Example of What Not To Do.” Ouch.

    Couldn’t agree more that I am stuck in the same composition mode. Will evolve. But I also took to heart your comments that if I could nail a certain look, that would be my special niche.

    Picture of the baby with the strange hand. Meg-so funny that you said it looks like a little butt – it does!! Actually, it is the grandmother’s hand who is holding the baby and she has MS so her hand is misformed. I think my sympathy for her influenced me to ignore it instead of face that it is distracting for the photo, which I totally agree with. This is another example of something that deep down I know from a technical standpoint, but for some other reason I push out of my mind.

    Yes, those two girls are sisters and yes, the one often gets mistaken for a boy. :)

    Last comments on child portraits in general:

    (1) Technical suggestions like using reflectors, getting perfect light and using nondescript background are of course all goals to shoot for and things that I’m aware of, but often have to be sacrificed when you are chasing these little buggers around! It’s often a tradeoff between a natural expression or technically optimal photograph. For example, there was one shot of a little boy in which you said it would’ve been nice to fill in a little more shadow with a reflector. Yeah, that would’ve been nice– except that he was on a scootter! :) Not making excuses, but those of you who work with children know these realities! Bottom line is that if I want the best photos, I need to work that much harder and commit to a shot. Anyone want to get on a scooter with a reflector to help? :)

    2) The general public or professionals may get bored with kid shots, but we have to remember who the client is with portraiture…it is the parents. (Unless, of course, your shooting commercial or stock.) As meg pointed out, a pose or photo may be cheesy or overdone or whatever, but when it is YOUR kid, you like it anyway.

    That all being said – the critique was very helpful in guiding my work and site to the next level and I appreciate it.

    Wilfredo: Thanks for your suggestions! On the overall site: music, slow flash, meta data errors – I’m in the process of transitioning to a new site to avoid all of those annoying pitfalls and to make it user friendly. This was my first attempt at a website and I used a flash template. Totally annoying – I agree. Thanks for caring to comment!

  • Tom Legrady said on October 16, 2009


    I used to view a now-defunct critique website where the host was far gentler than you are. He would start by saying what effects the picture created, and then go on to suggest “in a perfect world” improvements. Sometimes “perfect world” consisted of being able to take another ten steps forward at the edge of the grand canyon, sometimes it involved things being in focus and not cut off.

    One of the things I like about your site and the critique series, is that you are far more to-the-point. “This stuff is weak, and you have to ditch it.” All the same, I think you need to think ahead, sometimes, and figure out the best way to say things. Accusing Michael of plagiarism is counter-productive. Pointing out that it is immitative and weaker is useful. Having a great idea for a series is not enough, if it is an idea which many people have already thought up, and some have done better. The number of ideas I have invented in my life …some have been around for a thousand years!

  • Shea Flynn said on October 16, 2009

    In my opinion Michael seams to really like to rip off other peoples work, intentional or not I don’t know. But several of the images in that portfolio highly resemble Chase Jarvis.


  • Alastair Moore said on October 16, 2009


    Some very informative and useful critiques there. I think you were very fair, if not blunt and to the point, in your critiques and felt you justified all the negative criticism with reasons why. Good work on this and all the critiques you’ve done.

    I don’t believe Zack accused Michael of plagiarism, and I don’t recall him using the word either. He did say they were very similar and they ARE very similar.


    You said “If you look at Griffith’s work you’ll see the difference if you understand light.”.

    People who are looking at your photographs are unlikely to understand light, unless they are a photographer themselves and given your photographs and Christopher Griffiths, one would say they look very, very similar – either yours like his or his like yours, but there’s no doubting they’re clearly both in a similar style. The subject is the same, the mood is very similar, the style, to the layman, is the same – black and white images of blown tyres on a seamless background. I do believe that Zack has a very good point when he commented on your Blown and Forgotten series. But whatever, I really like your photos and have been looking at your website and you have some great and inspiring photos. I wouldn’t take the critique personally, difficult as it may be, but certainly would take on board some of the comments made.

  • Michael Schulz said on October 17, 2009

    @Shea: You’re funny .. more of that please LOL

  • Darren Tuer said on October 17, 2009

    Ah – so, so very glad you’ve done another one of these – and even with a Podcast!

    I’ve just become a iPod owner for the very first time – and having some ‘Zack to Go’ is just music to my ears & eyes. Instead of talking about these posts & can actually show people …”look – this is what I mean!”

  • Darien Chin said on October 18, 2009

    I love your bluntness. Long live the bold truth!

  • sloanie said on October 19, 2009

    2 cents… I know it’s been beaten to death… But I could take Zack’s critique of the blown out tire photos along with the other critiques and what I’m getting is that he’s trying to help not only with the photographs themselves but how a photographer represents themselves. I didn’t get the feeling like he was calling Michael a plagiarist as much as just being close enough without enough of a twist on the theme to really own it as an artist.

    I could be wrong (obviously I can’t speak for Zack), but that’s my take on it. He basically said what his reaction would be if he were an editor– and I think that’s fair information to take into consideration.

    As an artist you always take every critique with a grain of salt– its getting outside perspective to help you improve, to perhaps see the things you haven’t seen.

    Thanks for doing these critiques, Zack. Reminds me of photo 101– the only photo class I’ve taken 😛 Good to remember some of those specific things that create emphasis in a photo (and those that distract).

    (I have to agree on the grad school app point… But then, I can be a bit cynical on the educational “institution” when it comes to art.)

  • Heather said on October 20, 2009

    @Michael…. did you read my comment? I said you DIDN’T do something horrible, only that the reality of today’s world is that we see something similar and cry “plagiarism” instead of “inspiration”.
    You are really, really unnecessarily defensive here – even to the people who don’t think you did something wrong. It’s not helping you out.

  • Michael Schulz said on October 20, 2009

    @Heather: I did. I’m not trying to be defensive just clarify. It’s so easy for people on the Internet to hang on every single word of their master with limited knowledge. There’s this saying that among the blind, the one eyed is king.
    I’d like for people to really see. Maybe you didn’t call me copycat, some other people did. Now even the person I was accused to copy from didn’t think that I did. Go figure.

    I just re-read your comment and one other thing popped out. You say you have to accept the world as it is. I strongly disagree. That’s exactly what I don’t do as an artist. I make my own and try to change the existing. (Oh and I can already hear them rattling their swords because how could you if you copy work blah blah).

    Anyway, it’s been an interesting thing to see what happened here. Some really valid points and lot’s of stupid BS (not from you, but others).

    Lesson learned: Get off the f&*&(&ing Internet and photograph your own world.


  • Kelli said on October 22, 2009

    Would love to be the one getting critiqued… so I can get better of course!…. how do you get on that band wagon?? :)

  • Thomas TC said on October 25, 2009

    Thanks for an inspirational episode. I’m working on my own site right now and it helps a lot.

    A few things:

    I think it would be nice, if you said something about the intentions of the site that you review. You need to know who you are targeting and how they will react. Sometimes it sounds as if you have had words with the owners before you do the review and have some idea of where they are and what their intentions are.

    The goal of my (main) site is “Something I can show to potential portrait/wedding customers”. The url features in huge type on my card.

    @Schulz: I don’t understand is *why*, you want them (the tire on white series) on a site, with the rest of the stuff you do. It fits in like a Dog Food section in a Candy Store. I would do a separate site (I use zenfolio for my panorama/postcard shots as they are irrelevant for my portrait/wedding work).

    @Angela: You seem to be relying on natural light. That can be very hard, close to impossible with kids. They are fast, and that make it very hard to get a good focus at f/1.4ish. Consider working with some off camera flash. If inside, bounce some flash of the walls/ceiling, to bring the general light levels up (just enough to give you a stop or two extra). Or do it camera in one hand and a flash with a small softbox (like a LumiQuest SB III) in the other hand. I’ve this a lot, and it’s hard, but also really nice when it works.

  • Lake Tahoe wedding photographer said on October 30, 2009

    Amazing…as always!

  • Zootsuit said on October 31, 2009

    Absolutely love these critiques, watching the series has definitely improved my eye on my own shots. Thanks for taking the time, Zack! And you and Meg are a thoroughly entertaining pair to listen to.

    I wanted to add my $.02 the hatred which gets aimed at thin models in some of the feedback. There’s this popular weight doublethink that declares we should accept people as they are (which is true), while still bashing people who are below average weight.

    Yes, there are eating disorders that make people over- or underweight. But, did a single image make us experts on the soul of this particular woman? Running and normal metabolic factors can also lead to a very thin build. I myself spent much of my life quite underweight by Western standards. Not a matter of starving or unhappiness or some external body image. Just my natural weight. How is that less okay than being naturally heavier?

    The image wasn’t even a glamour shot. Not all photos should be construed as presenting a universal physical ideal — what sort of art form would we have in that case? Not allowed to photograph the old, infirm, or different?

  • Abelardo Ojeda said on November 2, 2009

    Lots of learning in every photography critique :)


    That is the lesson that fits better to you.

    I think the real lesson here is:

    – Now I know that the tire work is not precisely the most original, I can take the next step exploring new ideas –

    That’s positive thinking.

  • olie olson said on November 4, 2009

    we all stand on the shoulders of giants…



  • Tim said on November 5, 2009

    These are consistently helpful, Zack. Keep it up!

  • Sharon Miller said on November 6, 2009

    Thanks to the people who put their work out there so we could all learn from these critiques.

    Thanks for doing the critiques, Zack.

    Hanging out with the doctor and the captain (Dr. Pepper and Captain Morgan Spice Rum) once in awhile is beneficial to sanity. Spice rum goes perfect with Dr. Pepper.

    Diet soda (artificial sweeteners) is bad for you. Really bad. You’re better off drinking regular Dr. Pepper, Zack.

  • Johann Marx said on January 27, 2010

    Hey Zack and Megan.

    Really nice feedback you guys are giving here. Thanks for sharing the info for all of us to pick up on and learn from.

    A friend of mine suggested that I submit my stuff for critique with you guys. I’m quite nervous about it, but I know it’ll be good for me.

    So, if you guys are keen to crit my site and my work, I’d really appreciate it.


    PS: The “running, jumping, climbing trees, putting on make-up while you’re up there” had me busting a gut. Eddie Izzard, awesome!

  • Greg Hartman said on February 3, 2010

    Micheal… Keep doing what your doing man. It’s all about learning and continuing to learn. Jesus once said let he without sin cast the first stone. I can guarantee you that MANY (if not all) here that are trashing you have at some point blatently ripped off someone elses work and probably even tried to take credit for it. If they say that they have not they’re just plain lying. It’s just like Zack says, “It’s all been done before”. In fact if you look at Zack’s site you’ll find band photos that look just like 50 other music photographers photos ( no offense Zack, I dig your work).

    So just stop hating on Michael. Instead go out and shoot something great. Hell… copy someone great. You’ll end up a better photographer for it.

    (was this the comment you were talking about being removed? It just wasn’t moderated yet.)

  • Greg Hartman said on February 4, 2010

    Was my comment removed for some reason? Sorry Zack.

  • zack said on February 4, 2010

    Greg – I never remove comments unless they get really nasty. Not sure why yours would be missing.


  • Greg Hartman said on February 5, 2010

    Yeah Zach, I’m kind of slow. I was hoping that I hadn’t offended you. I really dig the critiques. They really help.


  • Drifting Creatives said on March 24, 2010

    This is fantastic! The critiques are funny and I’m learning a ton . Your personalities work great together. Love the comments, love the passion and the accusations and the random students trying to sell their services, all the finger pointing and useless arguing, love it all. Very entertaining & inspiring. Can’t wait for the next critique!

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