Photography Critique :: Episode 4

March 13, 2009 | • Critique

In episode four we take a look at four photographers. I apologize for the music in this one. I hit the wrong station when I started recording and didn’t realize it until after I finished recording this. I was going to do it again but it really isn’t that bad. Maybe I’ll just ditch background music all together.

For this episode we look at the work of Barney, Justin, Michael, and Jay. Barney and Justin are just getting their feet wet. Michael and Jay are in it up to their necks. Not quite fully submersed but close!

If you have questions about this critique just hit me up in the comments. If you want your work added to the critique list please email a link to your work to critique @ ZackArias [dot] com. (That’s Zack with a “K”)

Cheers, Zack


  • Luis said on March 13, 2009


    keep them coming ZACK…

    can’t wait til you critique mine

  • Chad Wright said on March 13, 2009

    “Is that a sword in her hand?” Classic.

    I know these are a lot of work, but thanks for keeping it up. It really helps us all.

    And thanks to everyone “going under the knife” so to speak.

  • Peter said on March 13, 2009


    Thanks for these reviews. These have been helping me to open my eyes to see where I can make improvements in my own work, and even in how to present my work to the world (note to self: avoid the built in photoshop wesite *wink*)


  • Tasra Dawson said on March 13, 2009

    Zack with a “K”.

    This was a fantastic episode. Worth the wait. Feel like each episode just keeps getting better as you really focus in on what’s working and what’s not working for each site and image. I learn so much in each episode.

    I’ll bet Jay is doing the happy dance right now. What a great encouragement. I’m excited to see where he goes with his photography!

    Thanks Zack (and Meghan!)

  • Tom O'Meara said on March 13, 2009

    Kinda ironic that in the last critique session you went on about how you hate music in the background on website. :)


  • zack said on March 13, 2009

    @Tom – Two words. NO. JOKE! :)


  • Gladstone Taylor said on March 13, 2009

    I really liked the piece of advice about “figuring out what you want to shoot and shooting that, then show it”.

    My issue with this is what about the practicality of it all. The truth is the market place can kind of determine what you’ve gotta do to get work right?

    Think it was Eastman who said it on lightsource.. If goth is your imagery and your marketing to “another kind of crowd” then it just wont work.

    As a result I’m still having difficulties figuring out what to do.. I like portrait photography but.. event documentation seems to be what brings in the money..

  • Eileen said on March 13, 2009

    Interesting. I was just looking at this guy (michael sebastian)’s website yesterday. I don’t know if I came across it here or what. But I had very different thoughts when i clicked through. So it was interesting to hear your thoughts about it. Very interesting.

  • Gary Chartier said on March 13, 2009

    Zack & Meagan
    Another great one. Keep them coming!!
    The image of the parking lot with the yellow dash and white spots. Could be bird droppings!!! Picture Rocks….


  • liam said on March 13, 2009

    yeah, this is a really great thing you’re doing Zack and Meagan. I’ve made a few changes to my site already and you haven’t even mentioned my site!

    i check this blog like its xmas morning


  • Phillip said on March 13, 2009

    You made a negative comment about a horizontal scrolling portfolio in one of your earlier critiques, and I have to disagree that it is an awkward way to view site portfolios. I find it to be fast and convenient, unlike the forever uploading flash formats.

    I do agree, however, that an ending link back to the menu is a good idea.



  • anita matejka said on March 13, 2009

    Thanks for taking the time for all these critiques … so enlightening!!

    I have to say, I was busting a gut when you talked about the picture of the mom holding back her kids in the motel parking lot! That was a great caption! My poor son wondered why I was laughing so hard!

    Thanks again!

  • zack said on March 13, 2009

    @Phillip – I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear or if I mistated my opinion. I don’t mind the horizontal format. It was the lack of a link at the end of the scrolling that was something I didn’t like.


  • Aaron Pelly said on March 13, 2009

    Um, you say you’re not dissing actions, but I’m pretty sure you’re dissing star filters. What’s up with that?!! 😉

    Seriously, though – fantastic episode! I was looking forward to this all morning.

  • luke said on March 13, 2009

    Great critique, and great photographers.

  • Brad said on March 13, 2009

    i vote for losing the background music and cranking up the honest opinion and wit even more than it already is 😀 keep rocking out, because this is invaluable for everyone who is seeing these critiques.

    and congrats on the pregnancy!

  • Mike said on March 13, 2009

    Zack, you a funny dude. Lovin the critiques!! been all over them as soon as I see them posted!

  • Mike said on March 13, 2009

    oh, meg, you’re funny too, and you sound sweet. (don’t kill me Zack)

  • barrett said on March 13, 2009

    hi. I just want to say that i really dig what you are doing. I am an architect and shoot just as a hobby, but what you say and the way you critique can apply to everyone’s work. i even believe that the creative critique crosses boundaries into all aspects of design. keep it up!!

  • Shane LaFever said on March 13, 2009

    These are great. Please keep doing them. Keep Meg in them too. She is great.

  • Joseph Hoetzl said on March 13, 2009

    LOL at the 1000+ flickr mails :-) Regardless, thanks again for putting these out!

    Where is that donate a Newcastle button?

  • Gary said on March 13, 2009

    Really enjoy having a beer and seeing through your eyes Zack, Its fun and informative and just keep doing it, ok?

  • Christine Gacharna said on March 13, 2009

    not only learning a lot, but laughing — I went to college in Eugene with the anarchists. too funny.

    Meg is sprinkling spice, too! I really appreciate her perspective on the art aspect of photography.

  • sandy redding said on March 13, 2009

    Another great set of reviews. I’m really enjoying these. Keep ’em coming!

  • Tim Linden said on March 13, 2009

    Hey Zack I really love your critiques! And I think your wife has great input as well, making the combined thoughts great. It’s made me re-think the way I look at photos.

  • Deborah Wolfe said on March 13, 2009

    Great critiques and thank you so much for the effort. I think most of us realize it IS an effort and I’m amazed you’ll willing to keep going.

    Art is in the eye of the beholder. That’s all I’ll say about that.

    I doubt you’ll get to my site, as I’m about number 500 on the list. In the event you do, I assure you I do not own a star filter. I do, however, know how to get a star effect by stopping down my aperture all the way when shooting into the sun. Gives a sweet star burst I kinda like, every now and again.

    Thanks for all the hard work, good humor and honest feedback.

  • Heather said on March 13, 2009

    You’ve got my husband tuning into these now, having a blast, saying he’s going to submit my site to you himself if I don’t do it (I’ve got a serious confidence problem and he’s got the classic husband “oooh but you’re so great” thing going). Anyway, these are fantastic. I’m learning tons. I’ve updated my website each time you put up a chapter because I’ve learned something that I could immediately apply.

  • Kevin Kolber said on March 13, 2009

    Okay, four episodes in and I am totally hooked on the Zack & Meg Show. Must. Have. More.

    And nice stuff, Jay!

  • Stephen said on March 13, 2009

    You hate Piss Christ, That’s hilarious!

  • Stephen said on March 13, 2009


    I just love that you are featuring so much more in these tutorials. Your opinions are not only valid but also constructive. Your positive reinforcement is extremely warming.

    P.s. Sorry you 2 don’t like piss christ. I got a 10,000 word dissertation to read about it if you want.

  • Dave said on March 13, 2009

    Another fantastic video from Zack & Meagan. I mention both names as I love it that Megan is playing a bigger role with each episode. I really look forward to watching these at the end of the day.

    Thank you.

    Don’t stop…

  • Catalina said on March 13, 2009

    as the first 3, this was yet another great critique with a good variety of photographic skill sets.
    keep ’em coming!

  • Rene Skrodzki said on March 13, 2009

    These critiques are great, I am learning a lot about my own website, or lack thereof. This is going to help redefine how I do things in the future.


  • Brandon Perron said on March 13, 2009

    Zack…You a funny, funny man!

    Umm…Please keep Meg in all of your reviews! but I have to say Meg the hooker comments were super funny.

    @ Michael, that got the critique…If I were you and Zack and his wife said they would love to have a 40×60 print of mine in their house…I would get it printed and send it to them… *cough*parking lot shot*cough*

  • brandon perron said on March 14, 2009

    ohh… And Jay your nuts if you do not buy a plane ticket to Atlanta tomorrow and take Zack and Meg up on their offer!!!

    I’ll will gladly take your spot:-)

    Great to see another Oregonian with great work!!

    P.S. Zack, so very true about Eugene!!!!

  • Mark said on March 14, 2009

    Hi Zack,

    I do hope that you would also post up the critiques on YouTube as the connectivity from Asia is quite bad towards Blip and we can’t view most of the critique videos except the first.

    I loved the first one so much that I really can’t wait to see the others!

  • Nicolas Henri said on March 14, 2009

    I’ve had my work critiqued by so called professionals in a number of portfolio reviews. Didn’t ever come close to the hands on stuff you’re doing here! Keep em coming…

    Off topic question though: what software are you using to capture your screen there?

    Cheers from Switzerland – Nicolas

  • Ben said on March 14, 2009

    I love this new feature on your blog Zack!

  • Nathan Hulse said on March 14, 2009

    Enjoyed all these critiques. Given me food for thought. I’ll be going through the pictures on my own website to see if it projects what I want to photograph and who I am as a photographer.

  • zack said on March 14, 2009

    @Mark – I am in the process of cross posting these on YouTube and I may move from blip to YouTube for iPhone users because I’ve received a few requests to do that. Luckily I have a Director’s account with YouTube so the length of these should not be an issue.

    They will be found here…


  • jp said on March 14, 2009

    Just want to echo what others have already mentioned;
    Love that you’ve both taken the time to do these and that your critiques have provided me and others with many suggestions and hints for our own portfolio’s.

  • Ryan said on March 14, 2009

    These critiques are awesome, Zack. Though they aren’t about my site, I think the advice you give can be applied to any website or portfolio. Thanks for taking the time to put these together. Very insightful. Cheers.

  • cat said on March 14, 2009

    I’m late to the party (had to leave for work before this episode was posted yesterday :o). Again, another great ep. in the books.

  • Darryl said on March 14, 2009

    These are priceless episodes…

    Everything seems like it goes back to the fundamentals…

    Just becuase you can afford a digital camera doesn’t mean your a photographer.

    I know I need to make more images…but I find myself seeing photography through everything…tv, the horses on the way to work, the gradient of sunsets… I used to think old black and white movies were boring, but now I love em because of how the sets were lit.

    Thanks again…Zack and Meg

  • El said on March 14, 2009

    love your blog. Yes it would be great to be able to watch these on my iphone. Tried using iTransmogrify! but did not work.

    Keep up the great work…..

  • Kacy Jo said on March 14, 2009

    Loved what you had to say for Jay, I’ve told him he’s awesome numerous times but I don’t think I have enough street cred to convince him :)

    Great what you’re doing here Zack!

  • Benji said on March 14, 2009

    Man, I love these critiques. Just watching them heps tons. I almost had a stroke laughing during David and Jay,s.

    Thanks Zack

  • Robin said on March 14, 2009

    I’m imagining a new drinking game in which you take a drink every time Zack mentions hookers during a critique. And take two drinks every time Zack takes a drink.

  • Erik said on March 14, 2009

    Keep em coming!

  • Matt said on March 14, 2009

    This is a brilliant addition to the blog and the critique offered is pretty much spot-on. I’m learning a lot about portfolio structure and photography in general.

    Theres also a strange comfort to be had in the knowledge that it’s not only me and my missus that are up and around in the wee small hours.

    I’m loving the personal touches of Meg and the water lapping hound in the background.

  • Joeri said on March 15, 2009

    Hi Zack,

    Is it possible to get these ‘critiques’ through iTunes podcast? I want to be flexible if it comes to places where I can soak up knowledge and best practices…


  • Gordon said on March 15, 2009

    Just wanted to say thanks to all those who have put their work up for critique. I am really enjoying hearing both your impressions of these portfolio’s and each one seems to help me understand my own “issues” more.

    Keep em coming!

  • Matthew Smith said on March 15, 2009

    Hey Zach,

    I would just like to say thanks, this is so amazing that you are helping other photographers out by taking your time to do this. It seem like you are enjoying it too. How cool is that! Anyway from all of us benefiting from this (including those just watching, no critique) thanks.


  • Nicole said on March 15, 2009

    You’ve got a great thing going here with these critiques, Zack. None of us get any better without some pushing, so thanks for the constructive feedback!

  • Fernando Delfini said on March 15, 2009


    really great critiques, i hope my site will be criticized too ! 😀

    Each critique is very usefull to many person, because in the examples, you teach tips of things right, and wrong in a portfolio site.

    thanks, and keep em coming !

  • Darren said on March 15, 2009

    Zack, curious about your review of Michael’s art work. You let him slide on so many cropping errors and extraneous objects in the frame. I really have to wonder if you have been spending so much time looking at eyeless work that you jumped to praise work that was composed merely for the sake of the frame?

  • Tim said on March 15, 2009

    You killed that Newcastle by 9:55, Zackaroo. That inspired me as much as anything else.

    Still waiting for a knock on the door. More Newcastles inside, waiting.

  • Butch said on March 16, 2009


    View the vid cast again. I am sure you can do better critiques than this when it comes to viewing foto’s of lesser gods such as Barny and Justin.

    I think it’s pretty arrogant to sip a beer and just classify shots with one liners such as ‘cheezy’ or ‘ptn’ or a simple ‘No’. You don’t even tell them why you don’t like the images. To me this kind of feedback sucks and makes me believe that you feel like god (even when you say you are not). Your critique on their work is in no way helpful at all.

    Hey, I don’t like their images either for a lot of reasons, out of focus, less than perfect composition, dull light etc. I think they have a long way to go. But the least you can do is respect their courage to share their pictures with you and your readers and point them out a little in the right direction rather than coming short to saying they’d better stop making pics. After all they share the same passion about making photo’s as you! Think about it…


  • zack said on March 16, 2009

    Howdy Butch,
    Can I just set the record straight here that I in no way think that I’m a god of photography?

    The very best of critiques I have ever had in my life were when I sat down with my work over a couple of beers with photographers who I greatly admire. It is less academic and more organic.

    I strive to give feedback in a way that helps give SOME insight for direction. When I say “no” to a good handful of images in this particular critique it is because I have already prefaced my idea of their strengths, pointed out some obvious weakness, and I just streamline the “in” or “out” thoughts because the foundation of what I’m trying to convey has already been laid.

    I completely respect the courage people have for putting their work out there to have a public critique made of their work. That takes a lot of guts to do that and believe me, I know, because I’ve opened my book to some of the finest photographers our generation has known.

    I was a volunteer and board member for the Atlanta Photojournalism seminar for 10 years. Through that experience I was able to sit down and show my work to an amazing group of people through the years. Not only that, I ran the contest judging for that seminar and spent 14 hours a day, 3 days a year listening to top tier photographers and photo editors speak about photography and what made winning photos, stories, and portfolios. You want brutality? Bring your work to a photojournalism conference.

    In addition to that I have attended a number of workshops and seminars at the Santa Fe workshops. From photo school (where we had critique 3 times a week for two solid years) to now… I am always seeking out critique of my own work… work that has SO far to go. I’m not a God Butch. I usually feel that I’m just getting started and I’ve been at this for over 12 years.


  • Butch said on March 16, 2009

    Hi Zack,

    Record straightened!I understand your approach as to prefacing your idea in terms of strengths/weaknesses and then going “in” or “out” for a bunch of images.

    It’s just that I miss that prefacing bit in the first two critiqes. Or have I missed that bit? Hey I am no god either. However, I do like a good beer too!

    Keep up the good stuff!

  • zack said on March 16, 2009

    Then Butch, I raise a beer to you!

    Also for the record, only one critique has been under the influence of only one beer. I’m usually drinking water during these things.


  • zack said on March 16, 2009

    Hi Darren,
    I’ll go back and look at his work again but I think that had I seen “obvious” problems I would have said something. With his work I really focused on what I found to be amazing.

    In a future episode I’m going to look at the work of a photographer from Portugal who is a master of using people in his work to provide scale. Something I will reference back to Michael’s work.

    AS with all things, ALL of this is subjective. I’ll hate one photo that you adore and vice versa. I am only one voice of opinon and you know what they say about opinion… they are like a$$holes. Everyone has one. :)


  • Michael said on March 16, 2009

    @darren (#56), care to elaborate?–I’m serious, not being antagonistic at all. Privately if you’d like.

  • Chris said on March 16, 2009


    I love these critiques, especially the informal beer format with Meg. I am a total hack hobby photographer and have no illusions of or desire to ever being more than that. I have only had a DSLR since last June but I learned a lot tonight just listening to this.

    You two are hilarious and could be a great reality show on Fox ala Gordon Ramsey of Hell’s Kitchen….only you’d have to add in a few more #*&^ and $*@(@ into your vocab!

    Hell’s Lightroom starring Zack Arias

    Zack: Nice work, Madam. You are truly an artist.
    [Beaming contestant runs back in line.]

    Zack [tugging at beard, shaking head and not knowing whether to laugh or cry]: But you, Donkey, oh my GOD! It’s [bleep]ing over [bleep]ing exposed! And what’s with the [bleep]ing photoshopped starburst? SHUT IT DOWN!

    Keep up the great work, I’m learning here.

  • zack said on March 16, 2009

    @Chris – You don’t even know how much fun that would be!


    I don’t think I could pull it off though. My old PJ teacher could! He did every monday morning! :)


  • Dave said on March 19, 2009


    Please don’t move these solely to youtube! My work blocks that site so I won’t be able to view these videos at work!

    (wait, did I just say that out loud?)

  • ashley said on March 19, 2009

    Zack- thanks so much for your honesty! dang it! these critiques have seriously helped me in evaluating what i post on my website and to help me to think more about what kind of image am i trying to portray to my clients and perspective clients. (and you just also give tons of other great tips!) thanks so much for all of the time you have put into this! you rock my face off! :) ps- your wife definitely rocks too for letting you do this! 😉

  • Kallie said on March 21, 2009


    Every time I watch one of these I practically end up on the floor from laughing so hard. I appreciate the straightforwardness, and sense of humor when I watch these (that definitely going for Meg as well).

    I wish I had a portfolio for you to tear apart in good humor!


  • Darren said on March 24, 2009

    Zack, Michael, sorry was without a decent connection for a week, so I had not looked at this page. No worries, I understand, I sat through so many crits while getting my degree that I am immune to having my work picked to pieces and likewise. I expect it.

    To be more specific, one of the things that stuck out the most was the mouse pointer being changed, maybe a pet peeve, but I find it annoying and gimmicky. The overview of the shoreline with the mystery school of fish has a very distracting dark line in the lower left. Also, Christmas tree picture has so much going on it I don’t see the attraction. The drain could be cloned out, and the building on the left will crop out, the street in the background is distracting. It really sounded like the idea of the kid and the Christmas tree was what your were seeing and not the actual picture itself. The target trailers with yellow trash compactor also stuck out to me. At any rate, I like the work. I guess I was more disappointed in the crit itself, it had a completely different tone than the rest and was alternately flippant and gushing.

    Anyway, Michael, you have a good eye, Zack, so do you. Like you said, my opinion. Thanks for showing your work and thanks for providing us with your insights and crits

  • Michael S. said on March 25, 2009

    @Darren, thanks for further explaining your thoughts. Thoughtful criticism is always helpful.

  • Alex said on July 19, 2009

    Z & M

    Thanks so much for these; I’m enjoying and learning so much. Now I need to completely rework my own site.

  • Linda said on May 28, 2010

    I learned of 2 excellent sites today. A forum I go to regularly had a link to one and then that one had a link to your critiques. I’m a happy camper! I’m really enjoying your website critiques. They are not only an excellent learning tool, they are also very entertaining. The addition of your wife made it all the better. Thanks and keep em coming!

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