Photography Critique :: Episode 9

April 21, 2009 | • Critique

We are back with Photography Critique, Episode 9! I had everything ready to do some of these critiques when I was in Dubai. I had the opportunity to have some GREAT guests for this series BUT the Internet sucked and when I did have time to grab one of our distinguished colleagues, the Internet was broken.

For new blog readers, of which there are many (thanks Strobist, Joe, David, and Chase!), this is a series that my wife, Meghan and I do. Folks email their web site in and we stay up far too late at night giving our thoughts about their work and photography in general. I’m a full time photographer and Meg is not. She brings a different point of view to the work. I do not provide links to those getting a critique. This ensures their web site does not get indexed by Google so prospective clients don’t happen upon a possible negative critique of the person they are thinking of hiring. If you want to see their work then watch the video. You’ll figure it out from there. :)

I am still researching hosts for these videos to turn this into a podcast. My plate is filled though so this is not a current priority. If one of you knows a great, quick, and affordable solution to this please email me. Send that email to zack @ zackarias [dot] com and place “Podcast solution” in the subject line.

If you want to have your site put on the list of work to be critiqued then please email the URL and any other information you would like us to know about yourself of questions you may have to :: critique @ zackarias [dot] com. Notice the “k” in the spelling of my name.


Cheers, Zack

PS – Remember how Meg and I gushed over that parking lot image by Michael Sebastian in one of our first critiques? We are the proud owners of a beautiful print of that image. We are currently deciding which piece of art in our house will have to move so we can hang that in its place! Thanks Michael!

While we are at it, we would like to thank y’all who have sent us nice little gifts for our soon, soon, soon to be born son. We cherish your thoughtfulness! I would name names but that list isn’t in front of me and I have a meeting to get to. You know who you are! :)


  • Joe Reed said on April 21, 2009

    This day needs to be over FAST so I can get home, fire up the laptop, and watch the newest installment. Keep em up Zack, they’re fantastic and invaluable.

  • Rob W. said on April 21, 2009

    I think this is the third or fourth episode where urine is mentioned. :)

  • carlos benjamin said on April 21, 2009

    I wouldn’t worry too much about missing an opportunity to do one of these with a Chase or Joe Mc (although that would be cool). I think a lot of people appreciate Meg’s input as a non-photographer (but with a clue about aesthetic) and the back and forth between the two of you.

  • Rick Wenner said on April 21, 2009

    I’m very impressed with these 3 portfolios. Excellent work. Really looking forward to the next few critiques. I’ve already learned a lot from these and can’t wait for more.

    Zack….any advice/opinions you can give on the overall design of the portfolio websites you critique? I know that it’s all about the images being shown but do you feel that the layout and design of a site is important?

  • Charles Verghese said on April 21, 2009

    Great to see another one of your critiques and thanks for sharing. I have already discovered a lot that is wrong with my photography and website but am waiting for the Dubai photog’s turn.

    I think you said all that needed to be said on these 3 portfolios but like Rick Wenner mentioned (in the comment above), what about design? More importantly, I designed my site to be more SEO (search engine optimization) friendly and didn’t use as much ‘flair’ as I would have liked to. Now my site has got a better ranking for local searches and therefore nearly reached the goals I set for my site. Is my method OK? What is your take on that?

    Once again…thanks for all that you (& Meg) are doing with this series!!!

    Bye Frm Dubai

  • Stephen Collins said on April 21, 2009

    Zack and Meg,

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR DOING THESE VIDEOS! (sorry, it wasn’t the yelling kind of all CAPS, it was the emphasis kind.) I really do appreciate all the time you put in to offer all this quality advice. Looking through 100+ sites in a single night? WOW. that’s dedication.

    I’ve Loved 1 thru 9 and I can’t wait for 10 thru infinity.

    On this video especially, you found 3 inspiring photographers, and really pointed out what makes them cool and different.

    Thanks so much,

  • Rob W. said on April 21, 2009

    I’m really looking forward to the more critical critiques.

    As a guy who has “just picked up a camera” with no formal training, I know my portfolio sucks, I mean… I think I have some great landscape stuff, but I’m definitely interested in getting into dealing more with light and photographing people on location.

    I want to know what NOT to do. What standards my portfolio must meet (not necessarily the photographs, you’re doing a great job defining that), and suggestions on correcting common photography conundrums.

    Thanks again Zack and Meg for this great resource. It’s an excellent tool for me to develop my photography and clean up my online presences.

  • kyle said on April 21, 2009

    I love these critiques, they’re always useful. I do have to agree with Meg about the photo of the bride, where you thought it was great because of the light, but she thought that as a woman the client probably wouldn’t like it. Clients definitely care more about how they look than about the photography aspect I think.

  • Jeff said on April 21, 2009

    Again, a great video showing what works and what works well.

    Looking forward to the next ones where you play the “tuff guy”. It can’t but help us all.

  • Shane LaFever said on April 21, 2009

    I love these. It should be a podcast. Maybe different people doing them that you respect. Podcast don’t have to have a schedule. I really liked some of Michael Sebastian work, but I really don’t get that Parking lot picture. Glad you guys liked it thought. That’s what art is about.

  • Victor Huang said on April 21, 2009

    I love your critiques. It really helps me realize how to compose and work on my shooting. And the interaction between you and meg are hilarious…zucchini hairbrush? HAHA

  • Kevin said on April 21, 2009

    Thanks again for the great work.
    There was a fair bit of the slap-happiness kind of occluding, rather than enhancing, the content.

    Also, I find myself greatly looking forward to the harder critiques, as this episode was just slightly boring with the “i love this. no, i love *this*” theme. I know it’s fun to talk about work that you love, but I would have been happy to have the nice shots glossed over in favor of the ones that had issues.

    But like i said, your next installments look to address this so i anticipate them greatly (even if the one you pick happens to be my own; i know it needs work).


  • Brett Arthur said on April 21, 2009

    Some really great work and some really great words from both you and Meghan. Jason really had some amazing work and I agree with the ditching of some of those actions. His work is so strong and powerful as it is. The frame within a frame that he is consistent with is inspiring.

    The work that Deb is doing is absolutely beautiful. Your comment on her shooting things the way she sees thing is very true. I feel that a lot of people, including myself, struggle with shooting the way we want to and to be able to shoot for the audience we want to rather than shooting to make everyone else happy and see what they want to see. Very powerful philosophy to keep in mind.

    Thanks for the great critiques and the hard work you both put into these!

  • Clinton Miller said on April 21, 2009

    I am really curious why the 1st and 3rd photographers in this video even ask for critiques. They should know by now that they do really great work. I know you can always improve but I feel like I learn a lot more from the critiques you do of people who are almost there. I am looking forward to the next episode. These are always very informative.

  • Chris O'Connor said on April 21, 2009

    I’ve been following your RSS feed for a couple weeks, and I’ve gotta say you’re one of my new favorites. These critique podcasts are what more people should do.

  • Nicolas Jutzi said on April 21, 2009

    You still have 2292 emails to read before sleeping :-)
    Again nice work but with a little bit less information than in the previous critiques I think.

  • Woody said on April 21, 2009

    Check out They offer unlimited disk space and unlimited bandwidth for $88 a year. Yeah, it sounds crazy but its true.

  • Musa said on April 21, 2009

    hey Zack ive just come across you website… for the first time.. loving everything about it.. i have book marked and will be having a right good gandus at it in the coming days and catch up on what i have missed out on the site…

    anyway love the photo critique clip you have added recently :-)

    ur cool! :-)




  • Casper said on April 21, 2009

    Was Debs work shot with a Holga? The pictures were really cool

  • cbp said on April 21, 2009

    good mix of websites, great critique. Looking forward to hear your photo industry critique!

  • Meghan said on April 21, 2009


    Hi there!

    Meg here.

    Just read your comment and, while I don’t want to completely speak for my husband, (as he is currently outside playing with our boys and I can’t confirm this), I think it’s safe to say that the reason he picked these sites for this critique was because they were GOOD. I remember him saying over and over last night, “C’mon people, inspire me. Show me something different. Show me something GREAT.” And I would hear him mumbling and muttering, “No…no…no…Oh LORD. No…”

    That being said, sorry you found us boring on this one. 😉

    It was just nice to look at really lovely work and show the rest of you as well!

    Hopefully some of you were and are challenged and inspired by seeing really great work. Even if not all the shots had the “head in a clean spot.” 😉



  • Janine said on April 21, 2009

    I really look forward to these critiques, and actually love your random comments along the way, you both make me laugh out loud.

    …btw hope your hair grows back on that one side real soon 😉

  • Heidi Fazio said on April 21, 2009

    LOVE what you and Meg are doing… amen on the 100 sites looking homogenous. i am probably one of those but am trying not to be.

    thanks for all that you are doing!


  • Christina Montemurro said on April 21, 2009

    Thanks for another great episode. I have no problem with the critique being short on critique and long on praise when that’s what’s in order. I find it helpful to see diversity in the quality of sites critiqued. And I’m certainly glad to discover a site like Jason’s – that’s photography I want to see!

  • Derek said on April 21, 2009

    rofl: “who wants to see naked dudes on water buffaloes?”

  • Phat Photographer said on April 21, 2009

    I wouldn’t mind seeing a water buffalo stomping on some naked dude.

    Great critique – you and Megan play off of each other so well. Would love you to rip into my work if it made me a better photographer.

  • peter bang said on April 21, 2009

    zack and meg you two are funny together.

  • Matt S. said on April 21, 2009

    My guess was the shots in the last site that had the blurred edges were shot with a lensbaby. If that’s the case, they were the best use of it I’ve seen yet. Lensbaby should be knocking on her door to shoot their ads. I’ve been playing with the idea of returning mine, but this has inspired me to try some new ideas and I think I’ll keep it.

  • Wojtek said on April 22, 2009

    lets sing: “frame with inner frame”


  • chadmoore said on April 22, 2009

    you guys are so effing hilarious. love that you pull it all together, insight, education, valuable nuggets of info, and your great personalities…can’t wait for you to announce the one light workshops!

  • Alice said on April 22, 2009

    Thank you so much for these! I have learned so much and it is just so fun to hear you guys interact with each other.

  • Joe Reed said on April 22, 2009

    Hey Meghan-

    I got my girlfriend (also named Megan) to watch this with me last night. You had her (well both of us) cracking up and she said “I love her!” Your input is appreciated for sure. Keep up the good work you two!

  • Sunita said on April 22, 2009

    Zack and Meg,

    Love your critique series and esp. this last one was very inspiring for me. I would love to get your feedback on my website, but it needs a lot of work, so will hold off on that for now.

    Congratulations on the baby and also the GPP group photo! It was brilliantly executed.
    Cheers, Sunita

  • Jeff said on April 22, 2009

    This is the first episode I have watched. Having the attention span of a gnat, I wasn’t sure I would watch the whole thing. Wrong! I liked the way you guys interact and talk about the photos and the comments were great! I learned a few things too. Thanks for taking the time to put these together and thanks even more for getting the phrase “urine filter” stuck in my head….

  • Sam Fifer said on April 22, 2009

    I had to laugh that ‘knowing guy laugh’ upon hearing you talk about taking your wife’s picture… my wife is EXACTLY the same.

  • Christina Montemurro said on April 22, 2009

    Re #29 – “Frame with inner frame” – is that what you’re saying, Zack? I was hearing “frame within a frame.” Six of one, half dozen of another I suppose…

  • Tim Lewis said on April 22, 2009

    was that a malcolm gladwell “10,000 hours” reference i heard? now i really can’t wait for the next critique.

  • Moria Zuriel said on April 22, 2009

    I don’t normally comment on things… but wanted to say thanks for these. I’ve watched several. As a normal/average person who is trying to improve, these have been utterly enlightening. AND highly entertaining. I love the discussion between you and your wife. Keep them coming! (and thanks for showing me how “levels” works in photoshop… already made a HUGE different for me!)

  • Brad Tanner said on April 23, 2009

    This episode felt like a waste of my time. Don’t get me wrong…I love you guys and have been religiously following your critique series. And you provide so much great stuff on your site for free. No disrespect intended.

    But really, what’s the point of “critiquing” the websites of three obviously competent photographers. It reduces the critique to a commentary on why you like their work. Boring.

    I find it more valuable a learning experience when you look at the work of photographers who are almost-but-not-quite there. People who have real concerns and are looking for advice….not people who are looking for a free advertising plug for their work and a pat on the back from you and Meg.

  • Wojtek said on April 23, 2009

    Christina, I guess you are right, I have to work with my english…

    Greetings from Poland.

  • Eileen said on April 24, 2009

    I came across Deb’s site a little while ago. I found her work SO inspiring that i bookmarked it on my laptop and look at it almost daily. I love love LOVE her work! Thanks for gushing over her. That was a nice surprise.

  • PJ said on April 24, 2009

    Thanks Zack and Meg! I love these critiques. Being a newbie in the world of photography (bout a year and a half) I find these really helpful and interesting. I don’t have enough of a collection that I am satisfied with yet, but someday I will pass along my site for a critique.
    Looking forward to the next, maybe “harsher”, critiques.
    Meg, with you involved, even my girlfriend who’s not into photography as much likes watching these.

  • Dorean said on April 24, 2009

    As a (hopefully) budding photographer, I’m finding these critiques extremely helpful, as well as entertaining. I noticed in the comments on this one some people don’t see any value in a critique of great work, and I have to disagree.

    Seeing awesome work discussed is not only inspiring, it also helps me see what is possible. I saw some ideas in this critique I wouldn’t have thought of. This is not to say that I plan on copying the work of these photographers. Rather, seeing their work discussed has inspired me think outside my own box to try some unconventional ideas.

    Let’s face it; no one has ever been inspired to become a better photographer by viewing photos done by the school picture guy, but I’m guessing there are many of us have been inspired by Ansel Adams or Henri Cartier-Bresson.

  • Chanell said on April 24, 2009

    Your work is AMAZING and your website is such a goldmine for someone just getting into photography–i.e. ME. :)

    I learned so much from the critique I just watched. AHH. I’m so looking forward to delving into your archives.

    Thank you!!!


  • Mariann said on April 24, 2009

    Let me start by saying that I love your critiques. I have watched all of them and have been learning so much from them. I did feel that this critique was a bit too silly at the beginning and in so it felt a bit disrespectful to the photographers. It’s not that I don’t love the banter between the too of you or the critiques but it did feel like your focus was on something else other than the work. But hey, it’s your blog and you do what you want.

  • hugh said on April 24, 2009

    Im a big fan of your critiques,,,,
    Although this episode seems like your crossing the line between critiquing and taking the piss.

    My only advice for you Mr Zach, is kep it professional with that “Nice” tone of wit that you have been blessed with.


  • Martin said on April 24, 2009

    Love the critiques and Meg rocks!
    You were mentioned in a recent post on Photofocus, fyi.
    Look forward to some harder criticism. That’s what we learn from,mistakes.

  • henry said on April 24, 2009

    i don’t understand your use of the word ‘action’. the first critiques i watched i thought you meant provoked expressions in people, but after this one it seems like you mean manipulation of color? please clarify?

  • zack said on April 24, 2009

    @henry – By “actions” I mean pre-purchased or self-made Photoshop actions that usually can be spotted from a mile away.

    I use actions from time to time but I only use them as a light extra punch to certain images. I make my own as well.

    To give you an idea, here is the set that I have purchased…


  • steve said on April 25, 2009

    I recently found your critiques and I think they are truly awesome! As someone new to photography with the “passion” that few of my friends and family seem to understand, it is great to hear you and Meg talk about photography and give feedback to others starting out.

    I am slowly working on my site and my portfolio in hopes of submitting them for your critique in the near future.

    Thanks for these great critiques.

  • Jen Snyder said on April 28, 2009

    Another excellent crit. I learn so much from these and look forward to it each week. Thanks to you and Meg. :)

  • Julie Mixon said on April 28, 2009

    Thanks Zack and Meg, great critiques. After watching them I felt great and a little queezy at same time. And I would like to second the whole thing about which critiques I remember. The critique that stands out to me the most is the one where I left in tears. It was also a very beneficial critiques. Thanks again!

  • Vasco said on April 28, 2009

    Hey Zack,

    I don´t know if you got my last email, so I´ll try here.
    Try to empty your browser´s cache, and my website should work as it is supposed to. After that, try navigating in the normal way, not as a slideshow. Best photos are in the beginning of the normal navigation.
    Again, I can´t thank you enough for including my website in your acclaimed and always expected critique.
    Keep up the fantastic work.

  • Julie Mixon said on April 28, 2009

    Let me clarify the “little queezy” thing, what I mean is I was calling myself out on a lot of things while watching :)

  • Eric said on April 28, 2009

    these things are my new crack. they’re better than microwaved peanut butter m+m’s

  • Gary said on May 21, 2009

    I only am now finding this video and blog / website, whatever.

    Just want to comment on your final comments. I don’t think critiques have to be negative – you are offering REAL constructive criticism for many photographers.

    Don’t feel bad about that!

  • jiddu said on May 22, 2009

    you guys rock. simple as that. been following you ever since DH showed us the (one) light from dubai.
    Now every time I look over my photos i cringe. Not worthy of a critique and probably won’t be for a while but i love the direction you’ve given some of my work. I see the obvious flaws now and i’m trying to work on those every time i put that evil lil box up to my face to make another disaster.

  • kristi said on May 25, 2009

    You selected three incredibly different and accomplished artists this go round. Loved this. Deb was one of my first ‘photography internet’ friends. We began our photographic business journeys at very nearly the same time….the big difference between us being, she is just one of those people who in addition to being a tremendously skilled technical photographer, she is also an amazingly inspired and gifted ARTIST. I am so very happy for her, and for you, for highlighting her work which is so deserving of praise. When we first chatted on the internet, nearly three years ago, I remember asking her what she wanted to “do” with her photography….her answer was always, fine art. She is definitely doing that.
    Congrats to you, Deb, and thanks for shining the light on her talents even more, Zack ( ps. she was an attendee at your San Diego workshop awhile back…I remember the girl in the red dress shots)

  • kristi said on May 25, 2009

    left out the line about when you are an artist, as Deb is…that is something that cannot be learned or taught. It is just intuitive. It sounded as if I felt my work was very comparable to hers, which is not what I meant….I am leaps and bounds behind her in my journey! But still trying :)

  • celso said on December 16, 2009

    You guys just rubbed my nose into reality, and I thank you for that.

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