Photography Critique :: Episode 3

March 12, 2009 | • Critique

Today we have the last half of the critique I started yesterday. Molly and Dave are up to bat. Molly is just getting started and shot her first wedding. Dave is a guy who I have known for about five years. I feel you all will enjoy this one because this is a nice pairing of someone who is just getting started and has a number of things to work on next to someone who is bit more established and is starting to refine their style.

I normally do not post links to the photographers who I am critiquing. I do this to be sensitive to the fact that google sees all, knows all, forgets nothing. If a client googles a photographer I don’t want that client to find a critique, especially if it is a tough critique. Rules can always be broken.

David Freaking Jackson. He is an amazing photographer with a clear vision. Be sure to check out his Simple + Dirty project as well. Dave is that rare kind of photographer who can mix weddings, music, and commercial work under one web site and pull it off. I had a little more fun with Dave’s critique because he and I have known each other for awhile. I was surprised that he sent his site in for critique and I was even more surprised that I found something he has to work on. :)

You can keep sending your sites in for critique if you would like. Send them to critique @ zacKarias [dot] com. There are well over 300 sites for me to look through now. The reason I want to keep these critiques as short as possible is because I want to get to as many as I can. I can’t get to 300 but I like having lots of options so keep sending them in. Kudos to Luke from Episode 2. You already changed your portfolio up and it looks much better.

Are you folks still enjoying this?

Cheers, Zack


  • anna crane said on March 12, 2009

    still enjoying? yes! keep ’em coming. very instructive…and you manage to strike a wonderful tone…thank you for doing this.

  • Broderick said on March 12, 2009

    Most definitely enjoying it, I’m learning so much…

  • heather kallhoff said on March 12, 2009

    yes, totally enjoying this! thank you for being SO constructive in your evaluations, and so very helpful. this is fabulous. thank you again for your time and thoughtful critiques.


  • Keith said on March 12, 2009

    I missed a bunch of the first crit laughing about the dude on the golf cart. and Dave Jackson must be a good photog if he can score Alan Thicke’s daughter’s wedding.

    Love the series, very useful.

  • Beau said on March 12, 2009


    Thanks for the critiques. I’ve just watched all 3 and have learnt a fair bit. I will be using all of your tips when I finally get around to completing my website.


  • Sean said on March 12, 2009

    These critiques are great. I love them. It’s just what the photography community needs right now – less gear talk, and more on creativity. Good stuff!

  • miguel serrano said on March 12, 2009

    Zack this is great !!!!!
    As a beginner thinking on starting this journey I’m very grateful for the time you are spending on teaching us. Invaluable !

  • Clark Griffiths said on March 12, 2009


    I really enjoy these and have learned a ton!!

  • Martin said on March 12, 2009

    This is incredibly helpful. The work you put into this is much appreciated.

  • Paul said on March 12, 2009

    These are great. I’ll watch as many as you do. Even if you never get to my site there is still so much info to gather and learn from what you are saying about these sites – it’s stuff I can take and apply to my own work.

  • Lewicka said on March 12, 2009

    oh yes, enjoying a lot, and starting to be scared how much you will not like my concert pictures, since you stress that out in ever episode now? 😛

    maybe we will get Chase Jarvis or Joe Mcnally to help you out a bit *giggle*

  • Phil said on March 12, 2009

    Hi Zack,

    Great critiques, and very much appreciated, it really makes me think on how to improve myself.

    I have a question/request, if possible… In Critique 1, you mention that Terrence, should focus on one style of photography to sell himself to clients, although you mention that Davide Jackson pulls it off by mixing a few styles. Would it be possible to go a bit more into details with this, and explain how one can do so, when one can not/should not?


  • jason said on March 12, 2009

    Dave Jackson, imperfect?

    OMG WTF!

    jus messin I love Daves work!

  • Eileen said on March 12, 2009

    So fun and helpful to watch. Thanks again, Zack!

    @Molly- SO many people watching that are exactly where you’re at! Thank you for your noble sacrifice. Lol. You’ve helped a lot of people, I’m sure!

  • Rich C said on March 12, 2009

    I’ve learned a great deal from these already. 300 you say? I’m surprised you don’t have a larger back log.

    Someday I might even submit mine (no, not my blog, it’s just a blog). :)

  • Andy Quadra said on March 12, 2009

    Zach- these have been very helpful. I don’t have a site yet as I am just getting started, but being here has gaving me great insight.

    Being around such a great comunity has inspired me to get serious and not to be afraid to experiment and play with the camera.


  • Molly Moore said on March 12, 2009

    thank you thank you thank you

    I so very much appreciate your time, effort, wisdom, insight, humor and even your sarcasm.
    @Keith… that was a critique of me, and I laughed out loud about the dude on the golf cart.
    Zack, thanks again!!

  • Tyler said on March 12, 2009

    I ‘hate’ David Jackson. Simple + Dirty is Wonderful + Inspiring.

  • Darren said on March 12, 2009

    Thanks for taking the time to do these Zack.

  • Dave said on March 12, 2009

    Thanks for doing these critiques Zack! Everyone here is learning so much, thanks to your willingness to do this.

    Now, I’m off to listen to more emo music. 😉


  • Rebecca Honeywell said on March 12, 2009

    Your critique is very informative, and constructive without being nasty at all. In fact, you are really nice about it! Thanks for sharing.

  • cat said on March 12, 2009

    Another great episode in the books.
    Thanks Zack.

  • zack said on March 12, 2009

    @Phil – You ask why I suggested Terrence from Ep. 01 should focus solely on one subject for now while Dave Jackson from this episode pulls off weddings, portraits, commercial, etc and he does it all very well. The answer is simple…

    Terrence is just getting started. He has yet to find his style or vision. He has a lot of the nuts and bolts to learn about the physical act of making photographs.

    Dave has been at this for a minute and no longer sweats the technical. He knows his camera inside and out. He is comfortable with light. This allows him to focus on his style and his vision that can now cross genres in the industry.

    5 years ago I would have told Dave the exact same thing I told Terrence. In fact, I probably did tell Dave something like that 5 years ago.

    Terrence and I have had some emails back and forth now. If he will focus on one thing and one thing only right now and really pursue it with all he has, then five years from now we can look at his work and see his style forming and moving from one genre of photography to another.


  • PJ said on March 12, 2009

    I think your critiques are great and I love em so far. I’m a very beginner, amature and I find it great to see the different between someone who’s more on my level and then someone I would strive to be on the same level as. Keep em comin!

  • Heather said on March 12, 2009

    Keep em’ coming, love watching these! I’m learning a lot. Thanks to everyone who was brave (much braver than me!) to send in your sites to Zack.

  • Ghislain Leduc said on March 12, 2009

    This is so well done that even if I would love your critics on my own shots… I think before I ask you to check it out, I have a lot of work to redo my website so …. Yes I do want your critic because to me you are just an amazing guy who thinks about helping others and I will surely do the same when I am established.. but more importantly…. I was very discouraged lately not getting any contracts and I was thinking about maybe putting a temporary stop to it but now, I know I just need to re-adjust to make a good new start! Tks man you are the best!

  • Jeneanne Ericsson said on March 12, 2009

    This is great! I think this provides some great points for me to use to critique my own work. And thoughts to ponder as I’m creating new work. You’ve also picked a nice mix of begining photographers as well as experienced. Thanks so much for giving your time and experience!

  • Mike Wood said on March 12, 2009

    Hey Zack

    these critiques are great stuff!!!!!! I am loving them.
    Keep it up.
    Just want to say how much I love your work. Ordered your dvd, and can’t wait until it arrives.

  • Tom K. said on March 12, 2009

    These critiques are pure gold. Thank you very much for taking the time to do this Zack. So many of us will learn so much.

  • Kevin said on March 12, 2009

    All the critiques are very helpful! Thanks again Zack for putting these together.

  • Jon said on March 12, 2009


    Definitely keep this up. I’ve never commented here but I feel that doing so is necessary since you seem to be displaying a bit of trepidation over your critiques. I think they’re great.

    I discovered your blog a few months ago and thus far, yours is the most informative and helpful regarding the things I’ve been tackling personally and professionally. Your studio-lighting tutorials were a lifesaver and helped me construct a studio at my job. Can’t thank you enough for that. I’m having difficulty finding sites that have been as helpful as yours. I’d love to see more practical tutorials from some other photographers as well, videos of shoots – seeing the interactions with clients, what goes on behind the scenes, etc.

    Sites like Strobist have been helpful but something about the “amateur”-level (I don’t mean this negatively at all!) makes me a little less inclined to do heavy research into all of the projects and groups. Strobist is very helpful but in a lot of ways, some of the techniques simply do not apply in a full photo studio, etc.

    I’d love to submit my own site to your critiques, but I’m shying away from it. I know my work is not expansive or honed enough to garner a critique. At least, that’s how I feel. If you happen to check out some of the work I have at my website and think it would be beneficial to other visitors of this site and would be interested, just let me know.

    Again, thank you.

  • marc said on March 12, 2009

    Thanks for making a comment about the music on websites. I’m 100% with you, music on sites really frustrates me and puts me in a slightly negative mood before I even get to see the work, which isn’t fair to the photographer.

    Keep up the good work!

  • lindsey said on March 12, 2009

    Love this! Keep up the good work. I miss the critiques I would get when I was in college. Thank you for your blog, it’s helped me learn so many new things.

  • pt said on March 12, 2009

    Zack – I am thoroughly enjoying your critiques. I often am asked for critiques and have taught PJ at a division 1 school with a well known program. I think your thoughts are spot on and not sugar coated. they are thought out and presented in a straight forward way. I really like this idea of the video critique as a way of being able to do more and offer more to more people. YOur comments about tilting are awesome, I always tell my students that you can tilt all you want, but I’d better not notice it! that is the only time it works, when it is not noticed. as for on camera flash, I think John Falk has the best quote about that. He said ” Having no film in your camera is only slightly better than using on camera flash”
    keep up the good fight and I look forward to seeing what kind of workshop you put together.

  • Christine Gacharna said on March 12, 2009

    definitely enjoying it!

  • Edd said on March 12, 2009

    These are just brilliant….captivating viewing.
    Well done man!

  • Chung Nguyen said on March 12, 2009

    I’m wholeheartedly in love with all these critiques. Dude, sometimes it’s hard to hear (even though it’s not my stuff). “WHAT’S WRONG WITH TILTING IMAGES!?!” I’m screaming out in my head. But you’re right – it’s stuff we need to hear to improve as a whole.

    KEEP IT UP, ZACK! (:

  • daniel said on March 12, 2009

    really good. do continue. the diversity of the websites and the quality of your comments are really great!

  • Joe Reed said on March 12, 2009

    Hell yes Zack! Keep em coming. These critiques are invaluable. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

  • Andy Shelton said on March 12, 2009

    really loving this. learned a good bit so far and want to learn a lot more. even if you don’t get to me, i feel like i should be paying for what i’ve learned so far. keep on going! :)

  • matt s. said on March 12, 2009

    This reminds me so much of the professors I had that I learned from and enjoyed class with, rather than the ones who just patronize and waste everybody’s time.

    Instructive. Helpful. Honest. Funny. You have now become the favorite part of my day-OK, second favorite. :)

  • Chad Pennington said on March 12, 2009

    Zack this is going to start a revaluation. Just watch other will do the same. It will be interesting.

    One thing – What software are you using to record the videos from your mac.

    I also have my first wedding up on my site as well. I have only done about 4 weddings and I get complements but I think it is from eyes that don’t study photography. You tell me

  • Gary Chartier said on March 12, 2009

    Thanks so much for doing this for us.. The Simply + Dirty by David Jackson is freakin awesome!! I would love to pick his brain. He is great!!! Love his work!!!
    Thanks again Zack…I Would love to ichat with you sometime…

  • Mats said on March 12, 2009

    Really inspiring to see that you share what might be trade secrets. I´ve come across other photographers that won´t share anything at all so I’m enjoying your stuff here. I also want to point out as an amateur photographer that your critique sessions are really good. You learn so much by just listening to people who are skilled in their area.

    Keep it up Zack!

  • Simone Merli said on March 12, 2009

    Great videos! Please continue!

  • Gary Chartier said on March 12, 2009

    oops (simple)
    sorry my bad!!!

  • zack said on March 12, 2009

    @Chad – I’m using iShowU. It is a little buggy but it is by far the best screen capture program I have used for the Mac platform.


  • Dan Baker said on March 12, 2009

    These have simply been awesome, your insight is quite refreshing and I cant imagine anyone, regardles of experience not taking something away from these.
    Hats off and bravo!

  • Kevin Kolber said on March 12, 2009

    Yes, still enjoying them, Zack. These are a huge help, not to mention fabulously entertaining. And I’m getting turned on to some great work. I’m well on my way to hating Dave Jackson as well. Thanks and keep them coming.

  • Tim said on March 12, 2009

    wow, thank you very very much for your videos zack – great stuff!

  • Anita Matejka said on March 12, 2009

    You’re amazing to do this! Thanks for all the information that you’re sharing in your critiques!

    I appreciate the time you’re giving to those of us wanting more!!

    Thanks for giving of yourself!

  • Leon said on March 12, 2009

    Great work Zack ok what have I learned so far, Shoot in available light no flash, No sniper shooting, Composition, No security guys at a wedding, make sure my camera is not tilted, focus, focus. ok ready for more.

  • Maryann Caravaglia said on March 12, 2009

    Molly, he isn’t God

    Your first wedding is a lot of stress. You need a partner.
    Your stress level will go way down and you will be able to compose your portraits much better because you will have more time. And you won’t have to worry about every little shot you have to get on your own. I work with my husband and it is great having him there in am emergency. Go to a local college and find a Photography major who is looking for experience.
    Do it. You will be glad you did.

  • Kim said on March 12, 2009

    I look forward to this every day actually. Even thought I have not yet been critiqued, I am learning a lot of what to do and not to do so I’m adjusting my site accordingly.

  • pete said on March 12, 2009

    Zack… totally agree on music. When any pro photo website is first loading, my cursor is already circling the page waiting to find and pounce on the damn MUSIC widget!

    Please keep these excellent critiques coming!

  • Ken said on March 12, 2009

    Hi Zack,
    Great critiques, valuable info for anyone. And by the way in David Jackson’s wedding shoot, the Dad looks like Tom Skerrit (sp?). The dude in Top Gun, although a much skinnier version.

  • Coventry Bob said on March 12, 2009

    Simply a great idea – well executed and a fantastic resource for any level of photographer.
    I love the production with your partner and occasionally the dog getting in on the action.
    Keep up the great work we are all out here lapping up every episode.
    PS we still haven’t got over your unbelievable blog on the Kelby site..
    Good luck with all you do.

  • Peter Olson said on March 12, 2009

    Hey Zack, thank you so much for doing this… I am sure my website is near the bottom of your pile but I feel like I am learning a ton just by hearing the critiques of others… what a great way to help build a better industry… Thank you again
    peter olson

  • adacosta said on March 12, 2009

    Keep em’ coming, this is fantastic! Learning so much from your critiques as well as finding new web sites to visit!

    Great stuff.


  • Louis said on March 12, 2009

    Hey this is definitly great tips and really interesting series of videos, 1000000 thumbs up LOL.
    Exelent critique and i like it when you are being really harsh.
    i will give you the link to my site i am putting along, its totally influenced by you and powered by a free host, i will eventually upgrade to the pro version to get the slideshow options, and domain name. I still nead to put all the text and links to my galleries…

  • Michael Sebastian said on March 12, 2009

    Zack, THANK YOU VERY MUCH for making it CLEAR how heinous it is to have music playing on a photo website.

    I’d rather have my eyeball levered out of its socket with a phillips screwdriver than open a photography web page to be greeted by music.

  • David Burke said on March 12, 2009

    killer. thanks for introducing dave jackson to us. Beautiful work. great job on these, zack. you really have us thinking!

  • Casper said on March 12, 2009

    Please keep doing this, it helps a lot

  • Janine said on March 12, 2009

    the highlight of my day…
    yeah i know i need to get a life huh

    also like meg in the background 😉

  • yazan said on March 12, 2009

    Thanks for sharing Dave’s stuff with us. I’m browsing his gallery, and I keep hearing your critique in my had. That, and his emo music!

  • David said on March 12, 2009

    Another great video Zack, I am learning so much from you.

    Can you give us the link to the Steve Shaefer (spelling uncertain) you mention in your video, I can’t seem to find him on google. Cheers.

  • Matt said on March 12, 2009

    yes, enjoying it is an understatement. I’m learning so much from these critiques.

  • David said on March 12, 2009

    I may have found it… possibly?

    Looking forward to the next critique…

  • Squeeker said on March 12, 2009

    These are awesome critiques, Zack! It’s sooo awesome that you’re doing this! I’m just getting started with my own business and find these videos of yours helpful and applicable to my own stuff.

    Thank you so much for sharing your expertise!

  • Craig Ferguson said on March 12, 2009

    More great stuff. Other than all the useful things I’m picking up that can be applied to my site (hopefully before it rolls around in the critique queue), I’m also discovering some other great photographers.

  • Michelle Miller said on March 12, 2009

    Your sessions are great! I have really learned alot in just these first 3. Keep them coming!

  • Kate Baumgartner said on March 12, 2009

    Love the critiques and your down-to-earth honesty. You are a great teacher and I think you truly have found your voice. Can’t wait for the next installments. Keep ’em coming.

  • Chad Pennington said on March 12, 2009

    Thanks for the software link Zack

  • Roland said on March 13, 2009

    I’m enjoying the critiques more and more especially the odd interactions with Meg. I like how they keep the critiques about the websites and people’s work, rather than go to purely technical stuff.

    Keep it going.

  • Paul Robinson said on March 13, 2009

    For those using SmugMug, there is a way to disable the pop-up info panel mentioned in a few critiques.

    Go to your SmugMug customize tab, and in the Sitewide Cutsomization section find the Javascript box and add this line:

    showPhotoBar = false;

  • jeremy said on March 13, 2009

    He’s a Tom Skerritt look-a-like, not Alan Thicke.

    Anyways…great stuff, you’re definitely helping me with my website and work.

    Thanks so much Zack.

  • Peter Chatterton said on March 13, 2009

    Thank you so much Zack, I find it a seamless transition applying your critiques to my own work. I feel these videos are giving me new insights, and helping me streamline my portfolio, I feel excited!

    Freedom over Facticity,

  • Raymond said on March 13, 2009

    This is enormously useful– particularly what you did for Molly.

    You should offer this as a paid service. I think I’d almost be brave enough to submit my own stuff!

  • Gordon said on March 13, 2009

    Just saw these crits this morning and found them very useful. Thanks for continueing to share your knowledge

  • Sam said on March 13, 2009


    Your reviews have been very insightful and I have learned from them all. Even for someone like me that has no real intentions (OK, when I dream wildly) of making a full-time career from photography, I still have learned so much to even draw in the occasional client. Now, I have to put into practice what I have learned and update my portfolio!

  • Gary Chartier said on March 13, 2009

    A amazing Photography once said… Are you going to continue to be intimidated by this stuff? Its just stuff. Aperture controls flash exposure. Shutter speed controls ambient exposure. Slow down. Breathe easy. Start simple and get into your game. Its just stuff. It has no power to kill you or maim you. Don’t fell embarrassed or ashamed if you don’t nail it. You’re learning. You’re doing EXACTLY what you’re supposed to be doing. You will spend the rest of your life working on this so calm down and think it through. Aperture controls flash exposure. Shutter speed controls ambient exposure. Turn that dang TTL off and be the master of your craft. Do NOT let this craft be the master of you. Start easy. You are going to completely rock this stuff and make amazing life doing something you love. You only get there when you have a strong foundations. Keep going. Keep pulling that light out of your bag and keep working it. Don’t wait for anyone to hold your hand and do it all for you. And put that stupid credit card away…
    ~Zack Arias~
    Zack if you could only know how much this has change my life. Thanks so much for all that you do. The DVD Rocks

  • Gary Chartier said on March 13, 2009

    oops Photographer…
    my bad again!!!!


  • Kenneth Theysen said on March 13, 2009


    Great work what you are doing. The things you teach everyone is very helpful. Got me going back to the drawing board on my site in a heartbeat. Following your work I’ve learned a lot and still learning. Keep up the good work and I’ll be sending mine soon so you can criticize the sh@t out of my site.
    Btw anyone is welcome to do so.



  • Catalina said on March 13, 2009


    another great critique!

    the option + levels was the biggest lesson learned for me this evening.

    onto your 4th critique and as many continue to say, thanks for doing this – you are speaking to not just the work shown here but to me & my work too.

  • Ann from Montana said on March 14, 2009

    Thank you to Jeremy for coming up with Tom Skerritt’s name…that’s who I thought of also and bugging me that I couldn’t bring up the name.

    I’m a rank amateur but passionate about photography and loving sharing it with my small audience – even so, I am learning a lot from watching these that I can use in my world. I enjoy the tone and the perspective.

  • zack said on March 14, 2009

    Yes! Tom Skerritt is who I was thinking about! Not a name that immediately comes to mind these days. I wonder what he’s up to.


  • jason messer said on March 16, 2009

    i hate dave jackson too.

  • Laszlo said on March 24, 2009

    Thank you for taking your time to do this! There is so much to learn from your crituque, and it just makes me want to grab my equipment, and go out and take better and better shots for whatever reason.

    Thank you, and keep up the fantastic effort!

  • jiddu said on April 15, 2009

    came across your site thru strobist and man you rock!!
    I am loving these critiques and I’m very averse to criticism. Bad habit bourne out of a quest to be a constant outsider. But you’ve actually opened my eyes up to having this done to my work some day. I’m a bottom feeder at present and i’m a step above the hapless tourist with a 16 gig card and no idea what to do with it. But there may be hope for me yet.
    thanks man and keep up the good work. you’ve got a fan in the philippines.

  • Twitter said on June 27, 2009

    You’ve got my interest

  • Benjamin D. Bloom said on November 5, 2009

    Hey Zack, just discovered your critiques and wanted to give you two big thumbs up. I’m learning tons, can’t wait to work my way through the rest of your critiques and then revisit how I present my work. How I shoot is constantly changing as I both settle into a style and learn more techniques.

    You’re doing great things for the photographic community. Keep it up!

  • Lana said on July 7, 2010

    This is going to sound like a stupid question but what do you mean when you say “bouncing light”. I am always having trouble with my flash because I cant figure out how to turn it off on my new camera. Do I need to buy some different equipment?

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