Photography Critique :: Episode 14

March 28, 2011 | • Critique

We are back with another photography critique! It has been far too long since Meg and I have done one of these. We are getting back into it now and we still have to find our stride. If you are new to this blog you can view the past 13 episodes here.

Let’s refresh the rules that we go by here. Also, after the jump there are a few announcements.

1. Don’t take this personally. We aren’t critiquing you as a person, we are critiquing your work. If you take this personally then you have a long road ahead of you in this industry. A long and rocky one.

2. Whatever we say here is exactly what we would say in person. We don’t hide behind the Internets. If we laugh at a photo it’s because something about it is funny. We aren’t making fun of you and we aren’t making fun of the person in the photo. We’re giving you honest feedback as to how strangers view your work. 

3. Anytime I am saying someone could improve on something in particular it also means I could improve on that as well. This is to say, I ain’t perfect either. My work has flaws and I seek critique from photographers I trust as well.

4. I’m critiquing you from a photographer’s perspective. Meghan is critiquing you from a non-photographer perspective. I’m a “peer” and she’s a “client”.

5. If you want to get in on this, email your site, blog, flickr, whatever to We do not do drive-by critiques of randomly found web sites. We also do not give hot links on this blog to those who we critique so that this critique of someone’s work will not find it’s way into google results.

This is also sort of an official launch of the new site despite the fact that it isn’t finished. The galleries are still being worked. The edits are still getting moved around. The about, bio, resources, etc still has to be populated but if I wait to get blog posts going again until it is finished, it won’t ever happen. :) Big thanks to Timothy Young for working with us on the new branding and design and Alex Morrison for working his web ninja skills into making this thing happen.

So, don’t mind the dust. We’re still working around here.

Coming up on the blog are some more critiques, some recent work we’ve been doing, the studio tour, the grip video, the color video, and our new creativeLIVE class outline. I’ll be doing another three day live weekend April 29th – May 1st. That’s two months of teaching! 😉

Cheers, Zack


  • Richard said on March 28, 2011

    Great to hear your candid opinions Meg & Zack.

    Sidenote: The ‘HD’ version on the player seems to be bugged. Cuts out after 3-4 seconds. Standard def version works fine though.

  • Katherine CAstro said on March 28, 2011

    please critic me! and don’t be gentile :)

  • dario milano said on March 28, 2011

    Hi Zac and Meg,
    I really appreciate that you are doing this publicly and for free; people should know that normally even a professional photographer has to pay good money to have his/her Portfolio reviewed; I know you probably don’t do much food photography but regardless of that I would be honored to have your critique, and I could really benefit from it at this stage in my career.
    Thanks for everything guys, you are such a big inspiration.

  • joey said on March 28, 2011

    lol @ her laughing upon seeing the image of the pregnant super hero couple on the building haha.. nice video

  • scott wade said on March 28, 2011

    hellz yeah! Glad the critiques are back!!

  • Wendy Mayo said on March 28, 2011

    Awesome news about Creative Live! I loved your first class! Oh, and the free softbox wasn’t bad either. :)

  • Luis Godinez said on March 28, 2011

    I’m super curious to find out what’s under your “inspires me” bookmarks. :)

  • Erin said on March 28, 2011

    Nice to see you again! I’ll have to watch the video tomorrow but couldn’t wait that long to express my excitement about you and the critiques being back.

  • Colin said on March 28, 2011

    One general critique: strike the titles if they are IMG_####. I even saw “undefined” (likely a Javascript issue) on hover, which I think was on the red-dressed lady who was in that awkward step in walking. Get rid of that stuff. Blank/no title is better than IMG_3184 and undefined. (Specifically, browsers like to show the title attribute on the img tag if you hover over it for a second or two.)

  • Tasra Dawson said on March 28, 2011

    Thrilled the critiques are back. Feel like I’m in the room hanging out with you and Meg while you judge… I mean critique photog websites and work. With as busy as the two of you are, I think your willingness to give your time, talent and input on other’s work is such a gift to the industry.

    Thanks for the laughs… especially on the couple who might own all the parking lots in the city and the man who owns a gate company. :)

  • Zack said on March 28, 2011

    Hey Tasra! It’s been too long since we’ve seen you and Ron. We have to fix that.


  • Colin said on March 28, 2011

    [Oooo, gravatar images.]

  • Zack said on March 28, 2011

    @Colin – Great point.

  • Lindsi Luffman said on March 28, 2011

    How do we sign up to get critiqued? :)

  • Zack said on March 28, 2011

    @Lindsi – Just email your site to


  • Rick Wenner said on March 28, 2011

    Good to see the critique’n is back. Keep em coming. And if you’re down for it, put my work through the gauntlet. I can take it (maybe)

  • Steve Payne said on March 28, 2011

    First time to catch your critiques. I’m in process of developing my own website and will publish soon. Your frank insights will be of great help. The give and take between you two was enjoyable. The eye of the professional photographer versus non-photographer is great. The majority of people coming to a website are in all likelihood not professional photographers. So, Meg’s thoughts and observations are valuable. Thanks to you both! Steve

  • Donavan Freberg said on March 28, 2011

    Thank you both so much for a fabulous critique! I’m honored, humbled and delighted to be on your radar screen and as Tasra said in the comments above, it really is a gift to us all that you do these critiques. It speaks volumes about your generosity and general goodness that you take the time to give advice to your fellow photographers and I always learn a ton from your words of wisdom. I laughed out loud when you called me a “celebrity”. Made my night. And yes, I would LOVE to take you out for a beer anytime. I get the feeling that we would be instant pals and it would be so cool to meet you guys. I’m going to get to editing now. As a former actor and advertising guy, the analogy of the three hour monologue for a thirty second TV spot really hit home. I’ve got a lot to think about and I feel inspired to turn on the “editor” part of my brain as much as the “photographer” part. Gonna cull, cull, cull. You rock, sir. Beers ahead!

  • Jennifer said on March 28, 2011

    Revolutionary 😉

    Awesome critique and so glad to finally see another one. Thanks,

  • Trenton Moore said on March 28, 2011

    So glad the critiques are back!!

    General industry thought:
    The one thing I’m seeing over and over again is photographers trying to be designers. Just because you know Photoshop doesn’t mean you don’t have to hire a good designer.

  • Wilfredo said on March 28, 2011

    Glaf to see this has returned.

  • Michelle Feeney said on March 28, 2011

    Hey guys, thanks for taking the time to create this critique and post it for all of us to learn from. I cracked up at the “It’s like a weird q-tip.” comment for the grooms head. Love it. :)
    This is so valuable. Master class with Zack and Meghan.

  • ezra marcos said on March 28, 2011

    Hire a photographer’s consultant…crucial! Have them edit your images for your online & book portfolios. They’ll also give you insight on how to make your website more fluid. And a shameless plug – google Amanda Sosa Stone…she’s pretty cool at consulting!

  • Steve said on March 28, 2011

    Great critique like usual. If I ever get off my butt and put my site together ever I’d love to send it in 😀

  • Beth said on March 28, 2011

    this was great. watched all of it. made me feel a bit guilty cause I do some of this stuff! Really helped me though, thanks Zack!

  • Jorge said on March 28, 2011

    Glad to see the critic is back. I learn so much from them. How can I submit my work so that I can get some real feedback. I’m from San Francisco and would like to offer my help if you like for your One Light tour coming to my hometown. Thx and cheers!

  • Ben Sassani said on March 28, 2011

    Always look forward to these. You guys do a great job doing these critiques… and LOL @ the “revolution” chuckle! 😉

  • Kenneth said on March 28, 2011

    Really enjoyed the new critique and learned a few things from it.

  • Gianmarco said on March 28, 2011

    Not only is your blog back up!……but you are doing another 3 days on creativelive, what can I say but thank you in Italy I would not get many chances to attend one of your workshops and the first 3 days you did on creative live were amazing! And now my first complaint! why can I not sign up for it yet?! it is no where to be found on their site! I NEED to sign up! 😀 I really NEED to signup, why can I not sign up yet? I NEED to sign up!………… 😀

  • Alexander Simashin said on March 28, 2011

    The HD version of this video does not work. :(

  • Michael Montalto said on March 28, 2011

    This was really helpful Zack. You and Meg are hilarious! I find that your critiques are very honest, and I think it’s extremely important that you disclaimed at the start that your intent is to give feedback on the photography itself.

    I’m looking forward to your upcoming class at CreativeLive.

  • Edwin Rivera said on March 28, 2011

    FINALLY!! Been looking forward to reading your blog again. You are full of knowledge and most importantly inspiration. Thanks for all that you do. I got your OneLight DVD and love it.


  • Jayme said on March 28, 2011

    Zack Rocks!!!

  • Mike Postel said on March 28, 2011

    Love that the critiques are back! It is inspiring to see working photographers helping us starters. Would love to have you look at me stuff but don’t have a website as of yet. I want to build my portfolio up a little bit more first. But it would be cool to have you look at what I got so far and tell me what you think. Can you do it off an FB page?

  • Phil said on March 28, 2011

    Just when I was getting comfortable, you inspire me to push myself. Every time I watch one of these Crtiques I realize how much more room I have to grow. On most of your points I find myself agreeing. I found it interesting that several of the photos today used photoshops totally fake looking lens flare rendering. I chuckle when I see it because it isnt very realistic but you didnt say anything. I bet this is like one of those insider jokes that the general public doesnt spot but I kind of expected you to comment on it. Anyway keep it up, love these and want to see more blog posts when you get a chance!

  • Mike Padua said on March 28, 2011

    You’re back! My world is a little better.

  • Pj said on March 28, 2011

    erm…safe to say i’m going to have to get a lot better before i put my website under your fiery gaze. Ha!

  • Jack said on March 28, 2011

    Great to see your blog back and better than ever, Zack! 😀

  • Rick said on March 28, 2011

    I am SOOOOO HAPPPPPY to see you back on your blog!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And even happier to hear you are doing another Creative Live class, I really enjoyed the first one and learned a lot. You inspire me and have helped me take my images to the next level. One of these days I will get up the nerve to have you critique my images…lol

  • ale said on March 28, 2011

    These critics are awesome! Please make one every week!!!!

  • stephane said on March 28, 2011

    I did have a great learning time listening to both of you. The combination of both points of view is extremely valuable. It give me so much inspiration to make more effort to honour this art. Thanks you so much. I will be there from France following creativelive.
    Keep going

  • bryan karl lathrop said on March 28, 2011

    so glad you’ve finally got the site back up and running AND are doing crits. Meg, your comments are priceless. Youz guyz rawk!

  • Jesse said on March 28, 2011

    I said it along with you guys: “maybe it’s a REVOLUTION?”. But seriously, this is great stuff, and I am glad to see that you’re back at it.

  • keysarphoto said on March 28, 2011

    Stoked to see these and you back!

  • Terry G. said on March 28, 2011

    Hey Zack,
    Glad to see you both at it again. I still need to get a website up and going and these critiques will help me get it right the 1st time I hope 😉
    Oh, and sorry for doubting you being on the CL chat the other day 😉
    It’s all good :)
    Can’t wait to see your “Studio tour”.

  • Daniel said on March 28, 2011

    Thanks for starting to do these again, Zack.

    You may want to consider upping your volume a bit next time. I really had to crank mine up to hear you at a decent level.

  • Dejan D. said on March 28, 2011

    Hey Zack,

    I am really happy to see you and Meg back with the critique part again. Every time soo enjoyable and inspiring. And the most important – honest critique! It’s so rare these days and it’s really appreciated, cause everyone can learn a ton out of it.
    Can’t wait to see you on Creative Live too.

  • Romain Kedochim said on March 28, 2011

    This is definitely next on my watch-list!

  • Tim said on March 28, 2011

    You mentioned “this shot is kinda sniper.” What do you mean by that?

  • Christian Carroll said on March 28, 2011

    Every time you release another one of these I realize another handfull of things I’m doing wrong on my website. So thank you again for doing this. It’s helpful on so many levels not only to those directly being critiqued, but to those of us who aren’t brave enough yet to have you publicly slaughter us (in love of course). You da man!

  • Nick said on March 29, 2011

    Wonderful to see activity on this site again! I’ve been anxiously awaiting any new posts for what feels like forever. We all can’t wait to see what’s coming next here in the midwest.

  • Jebb said on March 29, 2011

    Rib rib wink wink.

    I was tempted to post a screen cap of your about page and say, “if you don’t got it, don’t show it”, but I just said it instead. Glad to see you back and taking notes to improve my site(s).

    I hope to get to one of your OneLight workshops one of these days. Perhaps you’ll make it to the Raleigh area in 2012. Either that or maybe I’ll just drink a stout and pretend I went. :)


  • Scott said on March 29, 2011

    zack, i have a site and blog and post my photos there. i don’t earn any income from photography right now, but how do you feel about doing critiques for people under my circumstances? thanks for doing what you do for the community.

  • Melissa B said on March 29, 2011

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for doing these. They are amazingly helpful and entertaining to boot!

  • Rick Bennett said on March 29, 2011

    As always, your comments are spot on and very insightful. Best of all, your advice remains consistent–no dutch tilt, don’t over process, be careful with background and composition, and don’t show too much or too little. Thanks for taking the time to do it. Can’t wait to hear more about GPP.


  • Christy Roseveare said on March 29, 2011

    So glad to see you guys back in action.

  • O'nev said on March 29, 2011

    Hey Zack, i was wondering when you will commence your critique shows. Some of the feedback you give sounds so simple but the results are profound. I eagerly await your next critique installment for more inspiration. Keep up the good work.

  • Belen said on March 29, 2011

    Missed U so Much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Thanks Zack and Meg for coming back!

  • Paul Hodgson said on March 29, 2011

    “This look is looking so dated, I can’t wait for it to die.”…Zack, so glad you said that. And whilst I’m not being critical of the photographer you were critiquing at the time, that over brightened flattened look has had me perplexed for quite some time. Out of curiosity, do you advocate a more realistic look? I’m finding the Dave Hill look seems to be replicated far too often as well.

    I type too much!


  • Angelo said on March 29, 2011

    I’m just glad you’re back. I was missing your informative and entertaining blog posts.

  • Judea Jackson said on March 29, 2011

    So glad critiques are back! I always need reminding not to cut off bendable parts and whatnot. You and Meg always make me laugh too! I think the parking lot bit was this episode’s best.

    Thanks for posting and keep em coming!

  • Rich said on March 29, 2011

    Awesome. Loved it. Made me think things through before I put something on my website/blog. I think I’m going to watch it again with my wife!

    Also, saw your time machine icon with the exclamation point in it. It only shows that when your computer hasn’t been properly backed up in a while! Just make sure you have a proper backup!

  • Mike said on March 29, 2011

    So is it officially time to kill the Jasmine-Star style “out of focus groom gazing at the bride from behind” shot?

  • Chris Bergstrom said on March 30, 2011

    Great critique Zack with help of Meg! You both rock and it’s interesting to hear your comments about other people’s photography. It definitely helps me improve my own work. I’m thinking of getting a bracelet or camera strap embroidered with “WWZD”… That stands for what would Zack do. lol Then I can constantly hear you in the back of my head telling me when to do and not do something! Your experience is much appreciated.


  • Allen Ross Thomas said on March 30, 2011

    I’ve so missed these. I bet there are Zack/Meg critique parties out there somewhere. Don’t apologize for personal opinion. It gets major style points!


  • Iain Anderson said on March 30, 2011

    So good to have you both back.
    Fun, relaxed, informative, fun, insightful, poignant (okay yeah, I used a Thesaurus), fun, candid & respectful… LUV IT!!!
    Sending y’all good vibes from the land down under. 😉

  • Edwin Rivera said on March 30, 2011

    Is there a reason why this episode can’t be viewed on the iPhone 4? Is it because of the format that was used? It sure would be cool to able to watch it on iPhone 4 on the go.

    Keep up the great stuff!


  • Borna Cavrag said on March 30, 2011

    About the second portfolio, shooting ‘model portfolios’ or ‘books’ is not going to get you a lot of booking in the ‘real’ fashion photography industry.

    model books aren’t shot in two days, it’s a constant process of adding pics of different looks edited by the model’s agent who knows in which direction to market the model. models who start out usually only have “polaroids” which are simple shots used to present the model without make-up or post-processing. after that, the model would do a series of tests through her agency with photographers who fit her look.

    in my local market, people who shoot books are regarded as people ripping off models who don’t know any better, and 90% of that stuff gets riped out of the book after she gets into an agency. my point would be that this gives an impression of a person who doesn’t really know much about the industry and people would be hesitant to work with you. that person should call the gallery tests or simply fashion.



    (btw, there is no scroll-bar in the comment field in chrome on win7)

  • Dan said on March 31, 2011

    I went to Matt Ferrell’s site to look at the originals you reviewed, but they are all gone. Now he only has the album “weddings.” Guess he decided to rework the site.

  • Elma said on March 31, 2011

    Thanks Zack for another great episode. I especially want to thank those who offered their website and work for critique – much appreciated!

  • Jen Snyder said on March 31, 2011

    I’m so glad the critiques are back! Thank you for taking the time to do these. I learn so much each time. :)

  • Jon Reid said on April 1, 2011

    Hey guys – I was wondering why you wern’t blogging anymore when I read your last post (i.e. the fading one) to let everyone know that you had moved the blog. When I read the post for the first time I assumed it was on a technique to fade the subject and stopped reading…

    Anyway, love the new site – it makes me want to completely redesign mine. You’re a master at naming your portfolio categories. Stoked to be following you again.



  • Jose said on April 1, 2011

    Hi Zack, thanks for all the critiques… I always learned a lot of every episode…


  • josh said on April 1, 2011

    Did anyone else happen to notice the disclaimer banner at the bottom of the last site critiqued… it is definitely worth a look.

  • Jeffrey Kerekes said on April 1, 2011

    What software do you use for the screencasting?

  • Zack said on April 2, 2011

    @Jeffrey – iShowU

  • Kirsten Leah said on April 1, 2011

    I was hoping Meg would catch this because she’s a grammar nazi like I am, but I didn’t hear her say anything. The links on Mario Ramirez’s page need to be fixed for “Wedding’s”, “Engagement’s”, and “Baby’s”. The plural is Babies. No apostrophes are needed, Mario. I now have a twitch in my eye so I’d really appreciate it if you’d fix those.

    I loved the criticism, by the way. I agreed with everything you said and it makes me more conscious of the way I present myself on the interwebs. :) It’s also made me even more meticulous about my website design, which is still in the works. I know he thought I was hell to deal with before but it’s about to get a lot worse. He has you to thank for that. :)

  • Sean said on April 2, 2011

    Great stuff Zack! Thanks for doing this. I actually took notes as you were going through each critique. It’s really like you are doing more free teaching. You are one of the greats!

  • Nathan Padilla Bowen said on April 7, 2011

    Thank you Zack for calling out the plastic eyes! It is SO obvious. I can’t wait until it dies a horrible death.

    @Paul Hodgson: I think like any new toy, everything gets overplayed. We’re all guilty of it at one time or another. In time the wow factor will fade and then, sadly, it will be seen as just an old and cheap gimmick. My gripe? I can’t wait for overcooked HDR to DIE the mexican-black-velvet-painting death it truly deserves.

  • Carl Simpson said on April 7, 2011

    You two are awesome for doing this!

  • Paul Bence said on April 15, 2011

    I’m with you Nathan !

  • Sean MacDonald said on April 18, 2011

    “take that sheet and burn it… along with the photograph” Bah! Love it! Thanks Zack for these critiques, I learn so much from them. Hope to meet you in person some time. Thanks again

  • Stuart said on April 18, 2011

    Thanks, Zack. Your critiques are always fun and educational.

  • Kristi O'Connell said on April 22, 2011

    Yeah, so glad these are back. I love your insight and simultaneously keep my site up while you critique so I can fix my mess ups, some of which I am completely aware but have just been too lazy to correct.

    I checked out the 3rd featured photographer to see if she took you advice and was floored that nothing has changed since the critique, including the one gallery that just never seems to load.

    A fun way to spend the morning when I should be working!

  • max said on April 23, 2011

    Zack! Thanks God you are back!

  • Asad said on April 24, 2011

    I liked Keira Welter’s work. Maybe I couldn’t tell from the slideshow but I couldn’t see the pixelating issues. I thought of all her work was the best.

  • Educated Savage said on May 3, 2011

    Thanks for doing these. As you were chatting I was slowly hacking away at my own portfolio – I think half of it’s left but in my opinion it’s pretty strong.

  • Josh said on July 13, 2011

    I’ve been watching through your old critiques (I’m on 4 right now). I occasionally check the websites of the photographers that have lots of issues, and I decided you need to go back and check what people have done in response to your critiques (with a few extra years of experience) because it would be awesome to see what you think of the improvements.

  • David said on July 15, 2011

  • Duc Phung said on July 17, 2011

    Hi guys,

    is there a “sign me up for a beating” form somewhere or do I just need to email you, Zack to get some critique on my new webpage and pictures?

    Best Regards

  • Zack said on July 19, 2011

    @Duc – Send your site to

  • Chris Kenison said on July 21, 2011

    HAHA! Love the reference to ‘So I Married an Axe Murder’! 😀 Well played.

  • Tudor Ionut said on August 11, 2011

    Hello Zack, please give my foto blog ( ) a critical view !
    I can hardly wait for your opinion !

  • Carol said on December 15, 2011

    Watching these made me think 10 times about my photography. As I was listening to your critiques, visualizing my portfolio at the same time, made me realize that I don’t want to do family portraiture because I SUCK at it. I am now currently doing a post production of the photos I took of a family, which was my first big group – 11, and going through all of them makes me want to vomit. I want to just delete all of them! Aaaargh!!!! I’ll be submitting my website to you as soon as I get it cleaned and take some crap out of it (which I’m pretty sure you would still find some crap in it after I’m done). I still have a lot to learn and I hope I’ll get somewhere. I salute you for what you’re doing! You are crazy awesome!

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