Top 10 Ways To Become A Professional Photographer ::

November 4, 2010 | • Discussion

Or… Why does this photographer have to be so cynical?

I’m having “one of those days”. I’m stressed. I have more on my plate than I know what to do with. End of year means taxes and accounting which means I’m ready to find that short pier to take a long walk on. I saw a “Top 10 ways to become a pro photographer” link on Twitter this morning. Those are becoming more and more popular these days. And, IMHO, they are becoming more lame. Things like “Order business cards!” or “Put your images on a website!”. Another fun one is “Play with different lighting!” and those are followed by three or four vauge sentences that have zero value to them. More noise. Less signal.

Being a professional photographer can never be summed up in any sort of “top 10” list. I could make a top 10 list of why an 85mm 1.8 lens is a good lens. I could also make a top 10 list as to why an 85mm 1.8 lens is not a good lens. There are 20 list items right there and it only scratches the surface of a single lens. If you have to add “put images on a web site” as a top 10 list of things to do then who in the hell is your target audience? Infants? And I’m not talking metaphorical infants. Order business cards? Note to bloggers… if you have to state the bare bones minimum obvious… don’t bother.

Why am I so stressed out today? Because being a professional photographer, or rather, being a small business owner is a hard effing job. Last night Meg and I were sitting at our dining room table. The kids were in bed. The kitchen was a wreck. Laundry is coming out of our ears. The dog needs a bath. She has a migraine. I have muscle spasms in my back and we were in a pretty heated discussion about taxes, accounting, bank statements, expenses, budgets, and the like. We were two team members of the same team having it out in our own locker room. She was stressed. I was stressed. Running a business and being a photographer is amazing but it takes a toll on you at times.

Last night I sat down at the dining room table and announced that I’m ready to throw in the towel. I want my job back at Kinko’s. I want to go to work, drone on for someone else, and come home and turn it off. I want someone else to worry about taxes. I want to look forward to always having two days off a week. I want to go back to being anonymous and useless and overlooked. That’s how I felt at Kinko’s and last night it was the greenest grass I’ve seen on the other side of the fence in a long time. This is coming off the heels of hosting Joe Effing McNally in my studio just the night before. One of my heros was in MY studio and the very next day I’m ready to take a match to the whole damn thing and walk away. Note that I don’t want to throw it in because I’m comparing myself to others. It’s just hard sometimes to be a husband and father, run a business, and engage with people. Sometimes, no matter how many good things are going on, sometimes… you just want to give up.

ETA – I am in no way going to do this of course. By God’s good grace I’ll be doing this till I die.

So this morning when I see this insane, stupid, “captain obvious”, top 10 things to be a professional photographer list I wanted to scream at the internet web site page I was reading. It might as well have been a top 10 list on how to fly a 1980’s era Soviet fighter plane that goes like this…

#10 – Climb into the cockpit. #9 – Familiarize yourself with all the dials and stuff. #8 – Learn about how jet engines work and why they are used on air-eee-o-planes. #7 – Go forward real fast and when you’re at that good speed make the plane go up in the air. …

Do you see how absolutely useless this list is to someone who would actually want to fly an 80’s era Soviet fighter plane? So a “how to be a professional photographer” list that includes things like “make a portfolio” or “try different lighting and stuff” is an exercise in being useless. It’s an exercise in making more noise than signal.

So in my typical “escape reality and do something fun instead of something important” I thought I would come up with a quick top 10 list to becoming a pro photographer. Let’s see if we can make so much noise it actually becomes a signal.

#10 – Breathe! – I can’t tell you how important it is to constantly breathe when you are professional photographer. Not only does it help you make great photos but if you can keep breathing long enough after a photoshoot then you’ll be able to collect the check from the client. Try different kinds of breathing too! In through the nose and out the mouth. Or in and out of the mouth. Talk to your customers about how you like it in and out of the mouth.

#9 – Try out a digital camera! – Boy howdy! Digital cameras are becoming all the rage in 2010! For only a few hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars you can take photos that don’t need film!  Digital photography allows you to take pictures and see them as soon as they are downloaded on a computer! It’s almost instant!  The Russians have now developed computer tools to work on your digital photographs! Check out this internet web site with all the details! If you buy a digital camera make sure you get a good one like a Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, or iPhone.

#8 – Everytime you see a tree… take a photo of it! – Have you ever thought about how important trees are in the world? They help us achieve number 10 on this list! Everyone loves trees and if you have a lot of pictures of trees everyone will love you. When showing your photos of trees to people talk about how you were thinking about the innocence of that tree at the moment of capture. Or point out the transcendental qualities of light and form as the moon beams of uranus waft through the branches. People will think you’re quite the artist.

#7 – Make a portfolio! – Take two or three hundred of your best photographs and make a portfolio! You need this to show to people how good of a photographer you are! I like to make mine out of half inch galvanized steel because it’s really impressive and useful for many other things in life!

#6 – Take pictures of kids! – Parents love their kids and they love photos of their kids! If you don’t have kids then go to your local park and take lots of photos of children. Try shooting from different angles like from inside the bushes, behind trees, or from your parked car for really “exciting opportunities.” You’ll soon meet all of the parents of the kids you are taking photos of as well as lots of local law enforcement officers who, lots of times, have kids too! If they come up to you with baseball bats in hand be sure to have your portfolio from #7 with you. That steel cover is going to be useful to protect yourself. Drop a few of your business cards as you run away. Always market yourself!

#5 – Move to New York City! – Lots and lots of photographers are in New York City. Lots of people who love photography are in New York City. It only makes perfect sense to grab your camera bag and move there to open as big of a photo studio as you can find! Fill that studio with things like backgrounds, lighting, and tripods of different sizes and colors and you’ll be on your way to the bank! I’m not sure what you’ll be doing once you get to the bank but it might involve a ski mask and a paper bag with a note attached to it. Ask the teller if they have kids.

#4 – Join the social media revolution! – With internet web sites like myspace and friendster becoming so popular these days you’ll need to be on there to meet people. You’ll also find many opportunities to win free stuff for all of the online surveys these internet web sites have to offer! Add lots of spinning cameras that make noises to your internet web site pages because you want people to notice you and nothing is better than animated gifs of cameras. Also try out Xanga. Check out another awesome version of my blog to see what I’m talking about!

#3 – Make your own lenses! – Did you know that professional lenses can cost up to $189? As you are getting started you might need to save some money and one way to do that is to make your own lenses. The most important thing to remember is the convex lens curves outward; a biconvex lens curves outward on both sides, and a plano-convex lens is flat on one side and outwardly curved on the other. There are also concave lenes, biconcave, and plano-concave lenses. The elements are not necessarily symmetrical and can curve more on one side than the other. Thickening the middle of the lens relative to its edges causes light rays to converge or focus. Lenses with thick edges and thin middles make light rays disperse.

#2 – Wear socks! On your feet! – I’ve met a lot of professional photographers in my life and one thing that they all have in common is almost all of them, with few exceptions, wear socks… on their feet. I notice this because I’m a photographer and I’m supposed to notice the details in life and find beauty in those details. The next time you meet a professional photographer ask them to take their pants off and see if they are wearing socks. You’ll be shocked at how they react to your noticing details like this and they will know that you are a lot like themselves. You will now have friends in “the industry”! Talk about the moon beams from uranus with your new friends.

#1 – Try to get people to comment on your blog by asking them what the #1 way to become a professional photographer is….

Cheers, Zack


  • Jeffrey Chapman said on November 4, 2010

    What a relief! I feel better for you, but I’m not going to wear socks. :-)

  • Rich Meade said on November 4, 2010

    Great read! I needed that!

  • Paul Pratt said on November 4, 2010

    Number 6…too funny Zack, too funny!

  • nelly said on November 4, 2010

    I always found those lists so condescending. The vagueness and generality is hardly inspiring, and sadly more clever and creative photographers tend to write these fluff posts that help no one except their adsense revenue :)

    I think honest posts about the good, bad and ugly are the best lists of what is a daily struggle in a creative field and what isn’t.
    That’s why I love your blog. At the end of the day, no matter how amazing your work of the day has been, the things that speak to me the most are the honest “human” bits. They relate the sentiment and passion which no top 10 list can.

    thanks :)

  • Simon said on November 4, 2010

    #1 – The more megapixels your camera has, the better photographer you will be.

    Also, dancing baby ftw!

  • Matthew Dutile said on November 4, 2010

    I just about died laughing at #8.

  • adrian hitt said on November 4, 2010

    oh man, i needed this today!

  • Ravyn said on November 4, 2010

    I’ve got it! #1) Buy every set of Photoshop Actions you can find: You must use at least 3 actions at 100% strength on every photo. Otherwise, you’re just boring. If you don’t get the photo right in the camera, just let the actions fix it for you! ;o)

  • Nicholas Collister said on November 4, 2010


    You’re too awesome. I haven’t finished the post yet but my eyes were drawn to the other version of your blog and had my self a good laugh.

    Keep this shit coming. I love hearing your take on photography.

  • Mark Salmon said on November 4, 2010

    I’ve also heard that expensive ‘pro’ cameras can actually make people look more attractive than they are…

  • Kurtis Kronk said on November 4, 2010

    Oh what I would have given for such an insightful article when I was just starting out. Thanks Zack-attack. 😀

    P.S. Chin-up, my man. If it makes you feel better, I have piles of laundry too. Sometimes, just maybe, I wear stuff from the bottom of the pile, because surely the little bugs under there have cleaned the grime off. Like composting sort of but for laundry.

  • disco said on November 4, 2010

    socks…..dammit that’s where I’ve been going wrong all this time!

    great post and oddly I was having a similar evening last night and without being a pro photographer…sign of the times methinks? definitely socks I’m missing.

  • Jeff said on November 4, 2010

    Give us – your readers – some credit. We know those lists are dumb too.

    But, everybody’s entitled to vent their spleen now and then. Hope you’re feeling better now.

  • John Batdorff said on November 4, 2010

    # 1 Learn to laugh…most importantly at yourself.

  • LaKaye Mbah said on November 4, 2010

    I must admit when I looked at the title I was uber excited that you were going to tell me exactly what I needed to do to get in the game. LOL! (don’t judge me)

    But I like your sarcastic, in your face version much better. Sometime last week I read a tweet about the top 10 ways to stand out as a photographer and it was about as bland as a wet paper towel. I totally get where you’re coming from.

    I guess your point is that there are no hard and fast rules. But that’s not going to stop me from searching for the perfect solution…even if there is none.

    Thanks for the laugh!

  • Barry said on November 4, 2010

    Shouldn’t I buy a digital camera that has a “P” for “Professional Mode” button on it? The other soccer mom photography professionals say I should.

  • Mark Bakley said on November 4, 2010

    That just made my day Zack.. it seems like we share the same boat… I love “laundry coming out of our ears”. Funny how running our business some times consumes us.. Yet some photogs tell us not to let that happen and only work 4 days a week and no weekends.. If life was just that freakin easy… Thanks for sharing..

  • Chris Newman said on November 4, 2010

    I just ordered the 85mm f1.8 what now?

  • Chase said on November 4, 2010

    “ask the teller if they have kids”!

    I make my living in the “AV ZONE” dont hate. joke.

  • Connor said on November 4, 2010

    Now I know where I went wrong…. The socks were not supposed to be on my hands! Finally, someone explains it to me, it’s way easier to hit the buttons on my camera now with my socks on my feet.

  • Laura Stone said on November 4, 2010

    Zack! I love this post. I love that it is sarcastic without making a victim of any one particular listmaker or… leader. I want to quit sometimes, but I don’t. Thanks for taking the time to write this.

  • Jeremy Hall said on November 4, 2010

    Love the post, especially knowing someone doing so well at what they do (in my view) can feel frustration like I do.

    Don’t you dare ever use the match & go back to Kinko’s. You have way to much to offer this crazy world of photography. Let’s just keep figuring out how you can make a good living at it and keep your sanity at the same time.

  • Dustin Bess said on November 4, 2010

    And if you REALLY want to be a pro then buy a film camera (and try and find some film to go with it)

    Because being a pro is all about making your life harder than it has to be.

  • Dustin said on November 4, 2010

    #1) Avoid all lighting workshops! They’re all scams! 😉 hahaha! cheers bro

  • Rod Harlan said on November 4, 2010

    #1 way to become a professional photographer is….

    …Go to a photography conference and get your picture taken with a pro.

    (just by being in their presence, listening to them for 45 min, and then getting your cell phone picture taken with them… makes YOU a pro! Or at least that’s the assumption you can make on your blog or website.)


    PS. Don’t back it in just yet buddy! (Remember, copy toner smells bad and gets all over your hands…)

  • Scott Brown said on November 4, 2010

    That’s some funny shit!

  • Elisabeth ~ Babbette said on November 4, 2010

    I thought all it took was business cards & a website. Shoot. We’re screwed. 😉

  • Audrey Smit said on November 4, 2010

    mmmm now…when you say breath…do you mean, like…oxygen? Or should I try something else, something more ground breaking?

    Just wanted to ask the important questions. You know. It could make or break my career after all!

    Thanks for the awesome laugh:)

  • Christie said on November 4, 2010

    I couldn’t have said it better if I spent year on that list. hahaha Perfect timing too…the wedding & portrait season (in the midwest) coming to a halt… the coldness of winter about to bring us taxes, paperwork, and the worst parts of out job. Reminds me I’m not the only one out there, …thinking a drone job would be nice right about now. BTW, I have to say, I think you are by far the most interesting blog I’ve read and keep up on. Love reading your thoughts.

  • Rob said on November 4, 2010

    Clearly, the #1 way to become a professional photographer is to hijack people’s blog posts with your own URL:

    Thanks Zack, for all the inspiration and laughs. I really hope you never throw in the towel, you’re too good to not be seen.

  • Dorean said on November 4, 2010

    I love that you brought back that stupid, ugly, dancing baby! Way to rock out the retro-net!

  • gerald gonzales said on November 4, 2010

    #1 way to become a pro photog: BE UNDENIABLY GOOD.

    – stolen from chase jarvis, who stole it from Steve Martin

  • Tyler Wainright said on November 4, 2010

    Great read Zack. So glad to hear about the sock thing since I wear them on my feet too.

  • Keith Taylor said on November 4, 2010

    I didn’t really bother to read your list, but I can’t tell you how much I feel your pain about what you wrote at the top — and I don’t have a wife, kids, or the overhead of a studio space. Sometimes I sooo wish I would have found something else to do with my life — but I truly believe God put me on this earth to be a photographer, and I suspect the the same is true about you. Being a photographer is not something you do, it’s something you are. I don’t know what else to do. Keep at it dude, you’re an inspiration to many. Ok, back to my minibook production…

  • Stephanie Natale said on November 4, 2010

    The #1 way to become a professional photographer is obviously to shoot in “P” mode, P is for professional baby!


    Great article, I felt as though I was at that table with you last night.


  • Corey Ann said on November 4, 2010

    #1: Join an alphabet photographer group (PPA, WPPI etc) because that makes you legit yo!

  • Miguel said on November 4, 2010

    Oh dear lord! Watching my website go 10 years ago with that “geocitiesizer” (stupid) tool was soooo much fun!

    ps: Man, calm down, relax, chill, smoke a big blunt… and re-think how great opportunities you are having lately. Many of us are not so lucky!

  • Chad said on November 4, 2010

    “only scratches the surface of a single lens”

    Dang, so to be a pro I gotta scratch up my 85mm?

  • Ozbon said on November 4, 2010

    Not too pissed at all then, Zack?

    Hope things improve, man.

  • Derek said on November 4, 2010

    OMG… xD

  • Jason Blake said on November 4, 2010

    So…what you are saying is to take a deep breath, duct tape my 85mm lens to the front of my iPhone, throw my kid up into a tree in Central Park, take a picture and tweet it on my photo blog all while wearing socks?
    …and to think this morning all I had to do was have business cards made.

  • Christian Anderl said on November 4, 2010

    THANKS A LOT zack for that post! as much as i´m sorry for you, i´m glad for me to see someone doing so well in photography can feel the same way as i do these days. 2 days ago i thought exactly the same, saw the greenest gras i´ve ever seen thinking of a 9-5 mo-fr job …

    but please don´t give up, go on! would be too sad to see someone like you giving up 😉
    (not that i think you really would. guess you are obsessed … and i know obsessed photographers won´t give up ;))

  • Dennis Pike said on November 4, 2010

    yeah, the list is funny and all, but, I’m not gonna lie. The beginning of the post kinda pissed me off. I have taxes. I have my own business. I have a wife. But I also don’t have enough business to support myself fully with photography yet. I have to work 40 hours a week at a shitty day job that I hate, AND try to run a business.

    I don’t have my own studio. I certainly don’t have Joe Mcnally stopping by, or Chase Jarvis inviting me to teach or to stop by his place and have beers with him.

    I don’t end up with 50+ comments on my blog every time I post something. I don’t have Scott Kelby contacting me to do a guest blog post.

    Sorry if that comes off a little dickish, not my intent. But, I certainly don’t feel bad for you or your career. I think if working at Kinkos is looking good, you need a reality check.

  • Rufat Abas said on November 4, 2010

    That was something… #3 and #6 are killers…

  • juan said on November 4, 2010

    so true I look on web sites and some work that posted is like someone {lie to you} your work is not pro,just because you have a big ass camera and lens dont make you a pro

  • Steve said on November 4, 2010

    Can you expand on #10 a little? I’m still struggling with that.

  • dario said on November 4, 2010

    Thanks Zac, I’ve got 2 kids under two, big mortgage, small studio … but still trying hard! I think about quitting every second day, but I love my job too much; that is my #1 to become a professional photographer.
    Cheers, Dario

  • Kaysha said on November 4, 2010


  • mel haynes said on November 4, 2010


    Thank you soo much for this top ten list. I have been struggling with photography and feel that this list will spring me back. I will print this out and follow each item on the list until I am a professional photographer. My question to you is: do the socks have to match? Should I get them 70% grey so that I can use them as a white balance? What about bleach? Why doesn’t b%h sell socks? Socks with CF card slots in them and have SSDs in them to back up the CF cards?

    Can you make this list into an iphone app? Call it…..TheBestList ( sorry Chase :) ).


    I constantly think about going back to the 9-5 job, not having to worry about taking a super high percentage of my income to put away for Uncle Sam, paying my own insurances, wondering what its like to have a weekend, ending the day, turning off, just like you. I am sure there are plenty of others out there dealing with the same problems having the same thoughts. Sometimes it helps me knowing that there are others up at the same hour as me, working just as hard or harder. We feel your pain and you feel ours. Its a sick club that feels overwhelming, yet we stick with it because we can’t be that person that checks in, then checks out and just drives home and waits for the next day. You’d find yourself leaving Kinkos with ideas in your head to do something great or fun and then that would take up your time until you wish you could do it full time.

    Hope you get out of this mood and never give up…never surrender ( I feel a urge to yell “Wolverines!” )



    P.S. look forward to you coming to Denver for the workshop. I will try and wear socks.


  • Trudy said on November 4, 2010

    DEAD!!!!! LOL!!!!! Thanks. I needed a smile.

    My life isn’t like yours (not married, no kids) but as a photographer I am very in love and very in stressed with the field. AYE. I’m tired sometimes too. :(

    Thanks again for the smiles. Hopefully we all get the energy needed to push forward, even if sometimes it is like trying to push down a brick wall or grizzly bear.

  • sunith said on November 4, 2010

    It is almost that time of the year isn’t it? winter will pass over….. And so I hope.

  • Matt Ward said on November 4, 2010

    thanks for the laugh Zack!

  • Jeff said on November 4, 2010

    Great down to earth post and perfect timing, I am having a shitty day dealing with issues and this made it a little easier, thank you

  • Aimee said on November 4, 2010

    Damn, I don’t wear socks! I knew my career was missing something.

    Thanks for another entertaining read. If you can’t love life every day, at least you can laugh at it.

  • Glenn said on November 4, 2010

    #1 – Know your market. On this side of the pond it ‘socks and sandals’ :)

    seriously good post – made me smile

  • Brett said on November 4, 2010

    #1 – Become a professional photographer. If you say it enough times to people you know and at parties, they might start to believe you. Thus, you’ll be professional photographer. Just be sure to capitalize on your new career before the clock strikes twelve.

  • Mary said on November 4, 2010

    This list rocks my socks off! Now I’m going to go geocities my website…

  • Meg said on November 4, 2010

    @Dennis (commenter #42)

    I said THE SAME THING. 😉

    “If you want to go back to Kinko’s fine, but I gotta say, that’s just stupid.”

    Or something like that.

  • caroline said on November 4, 2010

    Thank you, Zack. I now have absolutely everything that I need to open my own studio and start shooting $30,000 weddings. I’ll get right on that sock thing.

  • Mark M said on November 4, 2010

    Shit. I wonder if it’s too late to cancel the business cards.

  • Laura Radniecki said on November 4, 2010

    Refreshingly real and yet not in a way that blatantly bashes any one person. Just what I needed to read today – thank you.

  • Sissel said on November 4, 2010

    Whoa, i needed this today. I am still working on building my business and every day realize how naive I was to think this would be “easy”. Foolish girl. Every night I thinkto myself I should just quit, and then part of me feels like a quitter and won’t. Obviously, the less educated part. Ugh.

  • Mark H said on November 4, 2010

    #1 Don’t forget to pee…before your big professional photographer shoots. That way you don’t have to tell your clients you need a tinkle break in the middle of the shoot.

  • said on November 4, 2010

    +1000 to Dennis Pike
    You usually dont know what u have until u loose it.

    Be happy.

  • Trevor Dean Photo said on November 4, 2010


    #9 Are you trying to say that an Iphone is not acceptable as a digital camera… hahaha

    Dang, now I’ve got to go out and spend $300 bucks on a D40 lol!

    Love the post Zack! I needed a good laugh today. For some of the same reasons but at a totally different stage of my photography career :)

    Keep up the amazing work!!

  • Trevor Dean Photo said on November 4, 2010

    LOL!! By the way I love the new blog design :) I hope you paid the artist for the rights to the song though lol

  • jilliankay said on November 4, 2010


    Technically there is only ONE way to be a professional photographer.


    there. the end. doesn’t matter what “industry” you’re in, that’s the definition of going ‘pro’. :-)

    and if you want to be a professional copy-machine-technician…i think you should follow your dreams. 😉

  • Pete said on November 4, 2010

    well, I feel much better – thanks! The last line of the breathe point nearly made me spill my coffee.

    Seriously though – do what you have to do for you and your families all round well being, just don’t make any decisions on a bad day. Have a beer, write a funny blog post and wait for tomorrow. I would be surprised if that ends up being Kinkos…

    #11 because its louder than 10

  • Andy said on November 4, 2010

    People are always going to write bad lists of bad advice. People are always going to take bad photos of trees and kids. Just unsubscribe from all the awful photography blogs and find ones that speak to you. Make something better vs. making fun.

  • Thatcher said on November 4, 2010

    I feel ya bro!! I actually went back to selling snowboards because I was getting so tired of try to make money at photography. I just applied for a salary position and putting all this crap behind me. I’m going to stop forcing it. If it works out that people like my stuff, rad. If not, I don’t care anymore. And the worst part for me was all these people telling me how I should market my self and what I should shoot. F it!! Im going to go to work, snowboard when I can and shoot what I want when I want. Paycheck, yes please.

  • Cody Ames said on November 4, 2010

    #1 When taking lots of dem pictures, make sure yer camera is set to full drive, meaning you just hold the button down and it keeps taking pictures! Hell, you can take a thousand pictures in just a few minutes if you do that… then you’ll have plenty for yer portfolio mentioned in #7!

    Is it bad that I read the whole thing with the southern Zack accent voice in my head? :) Awesome list man!

  • Sunita Thyagarajan said on November 4, 2010

    Oh, Zack – you are hilarious! Definitely made me feel a LOT better after a lousy week. Thanks for the laughs (and I hope that as you wrote this you felt better too!). Please don’t ever throw in the towel. You are an inspiration and a mentor to so many of us…

  • Javier said on November 4, 2010

    Zack et al,

    Hopefully you have a good CPA to delegate the numbers to, so you can offload that stress from the family and give the task to someone that can do it faster and cheaper than you.

    I’m sure in small business its quite different but think how those grow to become large businesses. The CEO doesn’t mop his own floors. There comes a point where one needs to look at outsourcing certain tasks, even if its something as simple as having someone come in and washing the dog or doing the family laundry to take those things off your schedule and off your mind so you can focus on your business. What’s your time worth to you?

  • steph said on November 4, 2010

    “Talk to your customers about how you like it in and out of the mouth.”

    Um, that’s a whole different kind of professional…

    But seriously, you couldn’t have warned us to grab sunglasses before checking out your alternative site design? I think I sustained permanent damage to my retina.

  • Bernie said on November 4, 2010

    Classic post Zack. But my teeth grated on that line about only scratching the surface of the lens….. ouch.

  • The Derek said on November 4, 2010

    Loved your post!

    Really loved it.. It also applies to any other skilled profession (musician..) that people feel they can achieve effortless mastery in, with just ’10 how to’ steps..

    Love your work!

  • zack said on November 4, 2010

    @Dennis (#42) – You are not coming off as “dickish” at all. I’ve spent more of my photography career in your position than the one I am in now.

    Today I just needed to blow some steam. Coming off the heels of PhotoPlus last week I get the feeling that a lot of people look at me and say “I just want to get to where he is.” and I’m sitting where I am, not fully understanding how I got here or should I say… how I got to where people perceive I am… and I just wanted to say please don’t think it’s all puppies and kittens riding unicorns down rainbows of gum drops.

    It’s hard as hell trying to get it started and what I’m finding is it is hard as hell to keep it going. You’d think with some experience under your belt you could sit back for a second and enjoy the ride.

    I have this little inflatable kayak. It’s nice for smooth water. The only water that kayak has seen this year is when my basement flooded. I had more recreation time when I had a day job.

    I know what I have. I know it is a good thing. I don’t take a second of it for granted and I know I could lose it all tomorrow because I’ve lost it all before. I’m not going to walk away. I’m a photographer because it is all I know how to do. I’ve worked too damn hard to get to this tiny little spot on the map and know that I understand how tiny and miniscule my position in the world is… but it’s my little spot and I’m camped out.

    Each year we look at what worked and what didn’t. We make course changes. We shift priorities. This year was better than last. Next year we hope to improve on what we did this year. 20 or 30 years from now I should be getting it right and be back in my kayak. :)


  • Mike Campbell said on November 4, 2010

    I may have laughed coffee out my nose at starbucks reading your top 10 list.

  • RLM said on November 4, 2010

    Kinda funny top 10 list. The beginning of the post is a little sad. I guess everyone deserves a pity party every now and then. Tomorrow when you wake up try this little excercise. Open your eyes and say thank you. Thank you for a great wife, four wonderful boys and the ability to provide for your family as a photographer. A friggin photographer! If only others could be so fortunate. Just sayin.

  • Tim Williams said on November 4, 2010

    You forgot: Take a lighting workshop from a bitter photographer who is having a crappy day!
    Hope the day got better Zack. We all have them. Look around you – you actually have it pretty good. I would love to hang with Joe, Chase and Scott and get paid for doing what I love. I’ll trade for a week if you want. Good luck with the Kinko’s application.

  • zack said on November 4, 2010

    @Tim – Bitter lighting and cynical portraits by Zack Arias is the next workshop! Hope you sign up! Hahah! :)


  • Joshua said on November 4, 2010

    I think number ten is actually quite helpful and it seems like you may need to do that right now. Just breathe Zack, breathe. With much respect…

  • Kris Dysert said on November 4, 2010

    You have just brought a big smile to someone who had thus far had a totally shit day. Thank you!

  • puck said on November 4, 2010

    #10 – so wait. when i was young my dad told me not to breathe while aiming and pulling a trigger, and i just carried that over into my photography.

    Is that what I’ve been doing wrong???

    and socks. damn, so that’s why my feet are cold.

    how did i get this job if i missed almost every point on this list?

    i know the #1 way to become an art photographer: make sure you are seen at galleries carrying a camera. no bag, no kit, just a camera out in the open. it don’t have to work, you won’t be taking any photos, it can even be film! you just have to look like once you’re done studying this one Eggleston print for an hour and 45 minutes you’re gonna go out and make your own too!

  • lyle said on November 4, 2010

    Take good care of your wife and kids, and the business will be fine :)

  • Alton Marsh said on November 4, 2010

    I just bought a camera that does all the things automatically that professional photographers do. I’m gonna make a fortune.

  • Marianna said on November 4, 2010

    Mmh. The only ones I do are #9 and #2. #2 in particular. Except in summer, Italy is too hot to wear socks in summer. Or shoes. Sandals are much better.

    Does this mean I can’t be a professional photographer?

    Oh no. Bwaa-haa. My life is finished.

  • Adam said on November 4, 2010

    Hahaha! This post just made my day! Loved it Zack!

  • Frank T said on November 4, 2010

    Crap. Now I have to give up wearing my Vibram FiveFinger shoes (no socks…) Dang.

    How about #11 – Do a 365 photo blog. Make sure to not only work, do taxes, be a dad, etc, take a photo every day and make sure to post it every day and write something pithy every day and every day make sure you wake up every day.

  • Stephen Milano said on November 4, 2010

    thanks for another great read as always. and, the comments are great too

  • puck said on November 4, 2010

    oh yeah and – if you need a rec on a great accountant who gives good ‘do xyz next year’ advice – gimme a shout. she handles a couple photographers including my wacky taxes and is a sweetheart. she’s not free, but tax preparation is a write off… i think…she knows… hahaha and remember – sometimes, you save money by not doing everything.

  • Eddy said on November 4, 2010

    Shit man, I know how you feel.
    Sometimes you just wanna run away. As good as it is, life can be a little overwhelming sometimes.

  • amy said on November 4, 2010

    #5 made me snort hot chocolate through my nose. owwww….

  • Dennis Pike said on November 4, 2010

    Damn it Zack, it’s not puppies and kittens riding unicorns? (I think that may be my xmas card this year)

    Thanks for understanding that I wasn’t trying to just be an asshole. I may have been having a bit of a FML day myself. And it can be frustrating when you see someone who is doing better than you vent about things.

    I don’t claim to know your problems, or really much about you other than what I have seen here. (I also met you briefly at photoplus last year, you were very nice to me) And you probably do know many of mine.

    I personally, would not have vented in such a way with such an audiance on my blog, however, this is your blog and you can write whatever the hell you want.

    But don’t ever go back to Kinkos… you may have forgotten, but day jobs are a special kind of soul sucking torture… and the general public is very rude. If you ever forget again, let me know, I will happily remind you.


  • Samuel Justice said on November 4, 2010

    Zach, life is stressful, but it could be worse. Roll with it.

  • Michael said on November 4, 2010

    My eyes are still bleeding from that new blog layout you have. Where do I send the bill for the trip to the ER?

    And everyone knows you have to use the “A”wesome mode if you are a Pro. And have the flash in the socket thing.

    I am now off to my favorite forum because I need to shoot a wedding in two days and need to find out how.

  • Scott Shoemaker said on November 4, 2010

    So the first LOL (no really) Moment for me was the “new” blog crashed Firefox. Couldn’t have planned it any better.

  • jr said on November 4, 2010

    #1 REASON: Make any Comment in Zack Arias blog, to probe “you know about photos”

  • Karlb said on November 4, 2010

    :/ I really liked to read your blog before but Jeebus… this is just unbearable…

    This mushy thing to “express feelings” is totally and absolutely moronic if you aren´t taking a decisive action on what the hell you want with your life and it is REALLY simple you either:

    1) Decide to quit and avoid the emo Booh-booh-beeh-booh.

    Which means you need to revise:

    A) the way you are administering your business (holes you have in your expenses, time wasted in useless things, resources poorly used, etc. things you aren´t doing right in the process of administration).

    B) to whom you are aiming your marketing: wanna bigger clients? wanna better paying gigs? wanna have a better stream of work? man up and start calling ad agencies to get an appointment, your portfolio is more than good enough to show yourself there and start landing better gigs of course if they read this post they will be scared to think you lack skills of administration.

    C) Take a frigging course on business administration and you will learn how to efficiently and effectively run your business.

    D)More importantly STOP wasting time in twitter, facebook, Myspace and in any other form of social media crap and instead focus on YOUR BUSINESS. The time you use to waste in social media can be used to market yourself to new and better clients, to focus on better practices to administer your business, to focus on spending your time in a better way.

    It is true that social media is a nice marketing tool but seriously have you seen how much time you waste in twitter, facebook et al????

    In less words: buckle up, man up and start putting your sh·t together instead of going all emo here without actually doing ANYTHING to improve the situation.


    2) Quit and have the guts to not be all mushy with your choice.

    And I should trim my RSS seriously.

  • Steve G said on November 4, 2010

    LOL! Great post Zack as always. I love the new version of your blog- who said the dancing baby was dead?

    #1 way to become a professional photographer: Buy Photoshop, all the pros use it and it will instantly make your photos look their best.

    Hope your days get better Zack! Cheers!

  • Kevin said on November 4, 2010

    Very honest. My taxes are long over due too, but I’m sure the task seems worse till you get started on it. Err… well that’s a pointless thing for me to say because I’m STILL procrastinating, but I WILL do them soon. At least my business taxes are for about $2000 of work, it must be terrible with the millions you are earning. (smile).

  • Andy said on November 4, 2010

    Marry someone wealthy, have them buy you a camera and lens for $8000, attend two workshops, make a facebook fan page and a showit site, talk about the INVESTMENT and shoot for next-to-nothing all-the-time.

    That’s my plan at least.

  • Matt Radlinski said on November 4, 2010

    I think photography is a really great hobby.

  • zack said on November 4, 2010

    For the record…

    #1 – I’m not giving up. :)

    #2 – I do have an accountant but that doesn’t mean I can totally walk away from the numbers, spreadsheets, and stuff. I still have to be involved in some manner.

    #3 – No. This is NOT a dig at Scott Bourne. He actually adds nuggets of useful wisdom to his top 10 lists. :)

    #4 – Thanks to all of you who see I’m just blowing some steam today and having a laugh at pretty much all of us in the industry. As soon as you take yourself too seriously, no one else will. :)


  • Joshua said on November 4, 2010

    @100 (Karib)
    I feel like this is less about the emotional side of things so much as making sure to relay that the life of a photographer isn’t all rock stars and hot tubs. It’s a living. It’s a job. It’s work. Why should a photographer who teaches people only teach them about the technical side and none of the rest of it. Some people need to hear that it is a hard business so they have some sort of idea about what it is they are getting ready to delve into. I think this adds some depth into Zack’s instructional blog. And hell, its all in fun I’m sure. Come on, it’s the internet…

  • zack said on November 4, 2010

    @Joshua – Thanks holmes. Well said.


  • Darla said on November 4, 2010

    Thank you for making a stressful day funny!

  • Daithí said on November 4, 2010

    That’s focking hilarious!!

  • Matt Radlinski said on November 4, 2010

    “As soon as you take yourself too seriously, no one else will.”

    Exactly! I don’t take myself seriously at all, and everyone else agrees.

  • Tom Bricker said on November 4, 2010

    #1 Pretend you’re best friends with a famous photographer.

  • puck said on November 4, 2010

    a yes. i have a spreadsheet waiting for me at home, right next to the pizza box full of receipts and invoices… yours i imagine is a significantly larger pizza box and probably requires attention more than just quarterly and has likely has worksheets and subsets…


  • rock said on November 4, 2010

    #1) Grow facial hair. The more the better. If Zack is so professional with only a Goatee imagine what you could do with a full on ZZ Top?!

    #1a) Setup a studio in an exotic place, like Strongbadia. When your studio is in an exotic location, everyone must know you’re great.

  • zack said on November 4, 2010

    @rock – 10 points for Homestar reference!


  • AmyQ said on November 4, 2010

    Holy cow, this was pretty funny stuff! Number 1 caught me by surprise and I busted out laughing:) So hilarious! And moonbeams & uranus… potty humor is THE BEST!!!! Thanks for cheering me up at the end of this shitty day. Got a crazy letter from the FL Dept of Revenue about use tax on equipment for the last 3 years and taxing session fees for the last 3 years….. it’s been balls to the walls all damn day. Glad it’s over. Cheers, buddy!

  • Scott said on November 4, 2010

    #1 – Ignore all top 10 lists that are forwarded your way. :)

  • Nobody said on November 4, 2010

    1) Write lots of whining sarcastic blog posts about how nobody else is as real a photographer as you and how joyless life is when you are a real photographer.

  • zack said on November 4, 2010

    @Nobody – FTW! (not really)

  • Sami Calkins said on November 4, 2010

    It’s so funny how things work, I am very stressed right now and just needed a laugh. Not only did this give me the much needed laugh, but it’s inline with what I have been thinking so often lately! Thank you!

  • J Quinton said on November 4, 2010

    I love Zack (at least what I know of him though his work/blog/videos) and I ‘get’ this is his style of sarcastic humor. He’s being real, no filter, himself. That’s probably why we all love him.

    Unfortunately this reminds me of my own blog writings when I started out a couple years ago, being very cynical. I got roasted for it…and deserved it. While I applaud the humor, it’s sad to see so many other photographers glorifying this into ‘pure gold’ as some put it on Twitter.

    Is making ‘lame’ top 10 lists really that bad? We are all inspired by photographers like yourself Zack to give back to the community. Some of them don’t have much to give…but they try. I think we all find out the hard way how difficult it really is.

    Cheers all!

  • Mandie said on November 4, 2010

    Thanks, Zack, I think this frustration is pretty well felt by lots of us in this crazy photo world/community/zoo.

    I’m very thankful to you for sharing this. Not only did it make me laugh, but it really helps to know that you go through this type of frustration, too. Joe MacNally is your hero, you’re a hero to many of US… So to know that not even Zack Arias escapes the stress of frustration over everyone and their brother thinking photography is a hunky-dory, easy-as-pie career so long as you have a blog and a Rebel… Well, it’s a relief. :) Thanks!

    And I’m really glad you’re not seriously going to return to Kinko’s. Because I really don’t want to throw the towel in, either!

  • MK said on November 4, 2010


    I could have written this EXACT post today. It’s just that time of year. Yesterday I did an awesome shoot and at the end one of the people I was photographing looked at the back of my camera at an image and sad, “Wow! your camera is awesome!” As if the camera did all the work.

    Please. Shoot. Me.

    The taxes. The 70-80 hour weeks. Never seeing my husband. Absolutely never seeing my friends. The clients, the albums, the e-mails… no one else can do the work, it’s all on me.

    So overwhelming. And it must be that much more stressful with kids, Z.

    I even told my husband today that I sometimes wish I had my goverment job back and could come home at 5, have every other Friday off and have off all holidays.

    But I do love what I do…. right?

  • zack said on November 4, 2010

    @MK – My thoughts exactly. Thanks for “getting it”.


  • Matt Moore said on November 4, 2010

    As the pro-iest pro photographer in this lonely, lonely room…er…I mean, 10,000sqft studio I’m professionally sitting in (right next to a big stack of professionally printed business cards and being knee-deep in models) that I totally bought with half of what I made on my last professional photography photoshoot (I spent the other half on 3 white tigers, b/c I feel every pro needs at least 3 white tigers on staff).

    But if you really want to know what the #1 way to become a pro photog (other than ordering professional business cards from Office Depot in all Papyrus font) is to attend a Zack Arias workshop (pssst…you can professionally PayPal me a professional cut ;-D). I mean I only bought the DVD and look at me now (knee-deep in white tigers).

  • Melanie said on November 4, 2010

    #1 Read Zach’s blog regularly. No matter how bad your day is or how fricking crazy your clients are it will put a smile on your face or interesting thoughts in your head and you can know that all is well in this crazy photography world.

    By the way I hate, loathe and despise anything having to do with accounting, spreadsheets,etc. It’s a necessary evil but gosh darn it does suck!!

    You are blessing and inspiration to so many of us. Kinko’s certainly would be fortunate to have you back….but PLEASE don’t go!

  • Luke Copping said on November 4, 2010

    I got a horrible little cynical kick out of #5. I cannot tell you how many photographers, agents, and buyers have told me that I am not a real photographer because I don’t live in NYC, seriously….

    I like to represent the other side of New York State, thankfully, I will never let their short sightedness slow me down.

    And the best way to become a pro photographer is, in my opinion – Become a nefarious master of disguise, and with a twirl of an over waxed mustache, assume to identity of an already established pro (insert maniacal laughter)

  • Mauricio Mussi said on November 4, 2010

    Hey Zack!
    I just LOVED your post! hahahaha
    I can tell you that MANY photographers here in Brazil REALLY need to read this.

    Can I make a translation of this and post on my blog?

    — From Zack — Go for it!

  • linda kuo said on November 4, 2010

    Man I needed to read that. I am feeling exactly the same way. I’m a mother, wife, have 2 dogs and trying to be a photographer. I was hoping to run into you and Meg at the Expo. I never seem to catch you when you are in NYC. I attended the expo, missed my daughters halloween parade at school, commuted to the expo at 5:30am and on SUnday decorated the house, got candy, carved pumpkins, took her to a Halloween party, yadda yadda yadda and I’m feeling alone and drained and alone. Did I say that already? I drove 1 hr and 40 min just to meet a bunch of wedding photographers in order to connect with some kind of community. I’m burnt out. You always make me laugh. If you ever jump ship, you’ll make it as a writer or stand up comic.

  • linda kuo said on November 4, 2010

    PS Must know this. Is that an airedale lying on the ground? It looks exactly like my dog Ernie.

  • rock said on November 4, 2010

    @rock – 10 points for Homestar reference!

    How many points does it take to make me a pro photog?

  • zack said on November 4, 2010

    @rock – With a name like Rock I’d say you are already pro! 😉


  • Rich Charpentier said on November 4, 2010

    Thanks for this post Zack! I needed it. Small business owner to small business owner….TAXES! Ugh!

    After a week of business killing construction in front of my shop I’m stepping away and heading for a favorite photo spot. Unfortunately I will most likely be wearing Chacos….implying no socks. I will show nobody the photos from the days with Chacos

    As always, thanks for sharing with all of us!

  • Clay Garrett said on November 4, 2010

    This is the most raw, interesting, worthwhile thing I’ve read in a blog post in a long time. I’m a hobbyist photographer who’s thought several times about trying to go pro, and realized I need to leave it to the big boys, because I don’t wake up every day thinking there’s nothing else for me. It’s the guys like you that deserve to wake up every day and call yourself a professional photographer.

    Thank you for calling out the fakers in the world. I wish, for every shitty top 10 list out there, that either a starving baby would get a full bottle or a reality show would get cancelled. The world would be a better place.

    Just know that these kinds of sites make your site even more valuable. I can tell you that at least 3 white seamless setups have been purchased and assembled by multiple people because I came across your website with practical, useful, insightful information. Other people are producing real results from the work you’ve put in and your willingness to share your knowledge with others. I doubt any of these fluff photography websites can say the same thing.

  • Elizabeth Dahl said on November 4, 2010

    You just became my favorite photographer. Seriously.

  • Carl Licari said on November 4, 2010

    I get it Bro… Well said.

  • Erin said on November 4, 2010

    Geocities AND Xanga in one post?!

    It’s too much to handle.

  • Christopher said on November 4, 2010

    #1 way to become a Professional Photographer is….

    Say you are.

    (Cue music.)

  • Stephanie Zettl said on November 4, 2010

    Dude, what do you need glass for to make a lens? I mean seriously, a digital pinhole camera is like totally all you really need to be a pro photographer. And that’s just a body cap with a hole in it.

    Seriously, I actually made a pinhole digital camera one night when I felt the exact same way you did. (A couple of photos here: – Please enjoy the fat tire photo with my compliments :) )

    Thanks for the article Zack. Your honesty and clarity in what you write is always appreciated.


  • Justin Van Leeuwen said on November 4, 2010

    Don’t take yourself too seriously. And never, ever, look at JoeyL’s work.

  • Blips said on November 4, 2010

    My dear friend;

    I was almost there. Have just 1 things left to do; #5 Move to New York.
    Thanks you so much Zack, I realized I was using the wrong top 10 list but you brought me back to the real deal to be a sucksessfull photographer. I’m not sure about the tree photo’s tough, we have so many here. Should I finish that first or just move on? Tuff decisions to make here. Oh and I agree Xanga rocks.

    All the best, will send you my business-card and friend you on disaboom,kiwibox,exploroo,delicious and myspace and WFTlife.

  • Chet said on November 4, 2010

    I appreciate the honesty in this post.

    We wannabees can read these pro blogs and think how nice it would be if only…….

    We all know you will get back up and carry on, you have what it takes and have come this far.

    Thanks for this blog and relating to the enthusiast that wants to learn & improve.


  • Sean said on November 5, 2010

    Drink Newcastle Brown Ale :-)

  • Daniel Kaarma said on November 5, 2010

    #1 You should change your name to something that screams ‘photographer’ Like Chase Jarvis or Ken Rockwell.

  • Levi said on November 5, 2010


    it’s been said, but this post made me laugh hysterically. Literally.

    In regards to throwing in the towel, the grass IS always greener. I live my life currently on the ‘other’ side of your fence wistfully gazing over without the guts to step out and go for it on my own because I know it’s a sacrifice. But the grass still looks very effing green. I sit in an office 9-5 and there’s a lot to be said, looking at it through my shaded shades, for not being a slave to the system or a cog in someone else’s machine.

    Just my 2c worth. :)

  • Don said on November 5, 2010

    Post at least one video a week on your blog telling other photographers yo give you money so you can teach them how to be professional photographers.

  • Jakob said on November 5, 2010

    #1. Now that you’re a pro you can start relaxing while the money is rolling in, take a vacation, do fun stuff with your family, get a hobby…

  • Raji Barbir said on November 5, 2010

    Easy on the NYC dissing! haha

    Ok look… I’m sorry, but after having lived in f***ing Utah for almost 10 years and still looking forward to two more, I’m very much planning to move to NYC.

    Not because “every serious photographer moves there”, but because I love the damn city so much! 😉

    I need to be in a city that’s actually alive and where the people aren’t zombies!

  • Eelco said on November 5, 2010

    I think sometimes the best advice is shut up and just take pictures :-p

  • Donavan Freberg said on November 5, 2010

    Top ten ways to LOL and gain even more respect and love for Zack Arias than you already did, which is saying a lot because you already loved and respected Zack Arias but now you really, really do:

    1. Read this post.
    2. See #1
    3. See #2
    4. See #3
    5. See #4
    6. See #5
    7. See #6
    8. See #7
    9. See #8
    10. See #9

    Repeat as needed.

    BTW, Zack, if you get your old job back at Kinko’s, will you become manager and hire me to run the soft drink machine? And will you also please never ever get your old job back at Kinko’s?

  • Aaron Aubrey said on November 5, 2010

    First off, I gotta say that the #1 way to become a professional photographer is to NEVER..EVER..GIVE UP~ learn, go crazy, think you’re not good enough, compare your meager work to the McNally’s and the Arias’ and wallow in your self-loathing… and then shoot some more and learn some more and go even crazier.. but if you really want it, just.don’t.ever.give.up.

    And second..I’m with Dennis on this one (but I’m still uderstand where you’re coming from!!)
    I don’t want to get where (people percieve) you are, I want to get where I want to be.. but it’s been one fuck of a ride this year..
    I lost my mom 6 weeks ago,a week later I came home to the end of a 3 year relationship and had no place to live, my camera is a broken 30D, I have one LP160, and I’m $20,000 in student loan debt. I’ve done nothing but soul-sucking jobs and every day I hear my soul beg me to save it and make something of myself so I’m no longer trapped in a warehouse doing monkey work M-F 12-830..
    And while it would be easier to just give up this dream and accept the fact that I’ll never be anything but broke and tired, I’ll do everything I can to have laundry coming out of my ears, back spasms, chillin’ with McNally, and teaching others how to be a better photographer..

    Thanks for not throwing in the towel… (but maybe throw it in the wash?? it’s a little smelly 😉

  • Mark said on November 5, 2010

    Zack, if you’ve got 15 minutes there’s a great video by an up-and-coming photographer here that might help. This guy gets a winter funk too!

    Hilarious read today though. You should see my sock collection – I’m going to be a GREAT photographer: you can tell by the socks.

    Thanks for the smile.

  • Rob Wise said on November 5, 2010

    You can’t throw in the towel now, not after you’ve inspired so many.

    In all the blogs in the industry (that I’ve read), yours is one of the few that is transparent. You don’t hide behind a veil of “wisdom.” You just share, even on days like this were your life just sucks you’ve inspired many different people to take this seriously.

    but maybe Im just looking too far into it 😉

    good luck

  • Sam Fifer said on November 5, 2010

    That is one damn good description on how to fly a Soviet jet… especially the ‘go fast’ part. I’m going to try it today! Move over Chuck Yeager!

  • Andy said on November 5, 2010

    Thanks for making me feel a little more normal Zack. Ahhhh….taxes.

  • Debbi said on November 5, 2010

    Love ya zack!
    You are so honest and it’s refreshing
    We all get days (weeks, years) like that
    Now please post the micro stock blog you promised 4 weeks ago!

  • Sam Fifer said on November 5, 2010

    ‘Nother note…
    I was recently diagnosed with type II diabetes and was not feeling too good about my life. Your post put a smile back on my face that had been missing for several weeks.

    Maybe you could branch out into psychology too! With every photo session, you get an hour of couch time… and visa-versa.

    Thanks Z!

  • Adam Sasim said on November 5, 2010

    #1 When you got your dream camera + lens.. DROP IT on the floor !!!

    The bigger splash the more PRO you are !

    …True story…

  • C.C. Chapman said on November 5, 2010

    As a fellow entrepreneur chasing the dream I COMPLETELY relate to you on those feelings. We all go through them and they never go away, but those of us who push forward get to keep chasing the dream. Isn’t this fun? *laugh*

    I’ve seen a similar trend in the social media world with all the top 10 lists and every time I see one I want to puke and punch. Not always in that order.

    Keep at it and the #1 tip I’d give? Buy as much gear as possible! I mean isn’t that how a real photographer is measured by how much gear they have? *laugh*

    Keep it up man!

  • Angel said on November 5, 2010

    Sounds like my day! Good to know someone has it all figured out!! 😉

  • nate parker said on November 5, 2010

    Da, i like your new blog format with the dancing babies and farting G Bush much better. you will suffer great success!

  • Barbara Dozetos said on November 5, 2010

    I’ve actually been trying to track down the so-called guru who told people that these inane lists are ‘good content’. I know I’ve seen it offered repeatedly as advice, which is why we keep getting pelted by them.

    As for the sole proprietor woes… I’m so with you! I wouldn’t give it up for the world, but some days I dream of punching a time clock, again.

    Thanks for venting what, apparently, many of us are feeling!

  • Barbara Dozetos said on November 5, 2010

    I’ve actually been trying to track down the so-called guru who told people that these inane lists are ‘good content’. I know I’ve seen it offered repeatedly as advice, which is why we keep getting pelted by them.

    As for the sole proprietor woes… I’m so with you! I wouldn’t give it up for the world, but some days I dream of punching a time clock, again.

    Thanks for venting what, apparently, many of us are feeling!

  • Lou said on November 5, 2010

    This is how reading this went for me:

    “ZA’s a bit frustrated, can’t blame him…”


    *more laughter*…


    *laughing a bit more*…

    end of post: “Oh snaps, I see what you did there… Clever asshole. XD”

    I admire how you just don’t give a shit, Zack. Keep speaking your mind and sucking us into providing linkjuice for you. XD

    And yes, I know that’s not your goal here, it’s just funny. 😀

  • zack said on November 5, 2010

    @Lou! Hahahahaha! Thanks for the play by play. Ahhh. Funny! Yeah, I just want to be the Marshal Mathers of the photo industry. :)


  • Ian Kreidich said on November 5, 2010

    I feel your pain as someone who works in this business with their spouse. We had the completely burnt out want to quit breakdown last week after having a bad shoot. We gave ourselves our first full day off in 6 weeks after that. It was nice. January is a great time of year for a vacation!

  • Patrik said on November 5, 2010

    The good thing with you Zack is that this just show that you are only human.
    Thanks for being who you are.

  • David Bridle said on November 5, 2010

    Fucking Hilarious!

  • Daryl Shields said on November 5, 2010

    There are no ways to accurately express my love for this post! LOL

  • OSAM said on November 5, 2010

    So much win. So very very much win.

  • Olivier said on November 5, 2010

    @ZA: Lol at the MM of the photo industry!

    We need more people like you here.

  • Les Doerfler said on November 5, 2010

    Zack…as the inventor of the Saturation Attacks™ and Selective Black & White™ Photoshop actions as well as the best selling Chimpanzees Amok™ photo backdrop, I can assure you there is no easy road to photographic Sucksess.

    It takes a solid two weeks of study with my “Your Career In A Can”™ DVD series to get the job done. Act now and the limited edition can is yours to keep.

    PS I don’t know if you are the Marshall Mathers of the photo industry yet, but you are well on your way to being the Jerry Mathers of the photo industry and everyone loves them some Beaver.

  • zack said on November 5, 2010

    FINALLY…. Les is in the building. :)

  • Andrew Rutherford said on November 5, 2010

    #1 Look at the latest photoshoping trends.
    Download all the free vintage actions you can and selective color your nicest photos.

  • Steven Fielding said on November 5, 2010

    Rule # 1.01.1.a – Read Zack’s blog

    Rule # 1.01.1.b – take lots of workshops

    Hope you feel better soon. Am in the same boat with the types of convos with wife and have yet to build up a clientele pipeline = no revenue = more stress. Am going back to breathing…

  • Shari said on November 5, 2010

    I’ve always had all kinds of love for you (and Meg) but I love you even more today.

  • traci said on November 5, 2010

    this is why i love reading your blog!

  • Chris Ward said on November 5, 2010

    You forgot my number one “Press the shutter release button!” I have done some research, and discovered that all most all the great images were taken by pressing the shutter release button. On most cameras it is on top to the right. I have found that some people use timers, cable releases, bracketing, and such as a different way to take a picture, but guess what? It still does the same thing, it trips the shutter. So, I think the best thing you can do in your journey is to press the shutter release button. You have no chance of getting professional pictures without this step!

  • Rich Park said on November 5, 2010

    this is #1 when it comes to the “Top 10 Ways To Become A Professional Photographer” lists, haha. AWESOME POST!

  • Mark said on November 5, 2010

    Mark’s Top 3 list for Zack:

    3. Identify what the top three parts of the business are not fun for you.

    2. Save your sanity. Hire someone do the crap identified in part 3. You’re a photographer and an educator. Do what you do best and do what you enjoy. Let someone else do what they do best. Stop hogging all the responsibility. Delegate.

    1. Splurge on family. Hire a maid to come into your home once or twice a week to clean and do the laundry.

    Accept the fact that stress and worry is going to be a part of life. It’s needed in order for us to identify and really enjoy the good times!


  • Donald Page said on November 5, 2010

    Ill be perfectly honest…

    I got through the frustrating life part just fine. it was raw and interesting to see real feelings about real life.

    But then I got to the top ten list and almost didnt read it cause i was dreading more people telling you what you should do. But I know you to be a pretty insightful person so i went ahead into it. I was expecting serious top ten list and was relieved to find myself wrong.

    Man im so glad I did, that really made my day

  • Myles said on November 5, 2010

    Somewhere in the world… a lone stranger is reading Zack’s top ten list… and taking notes.

  • brian said on November 5, 2010

    Wow. This is EXACTLY what I needed right now. It’s been one of those weeks/months. thanks alot for blowing off steam. Feel free to do it anytime! This business can get so crazy sometimes, it’s nice to sit back and laugh at it every now and again.

  • Nick Collins said on November 5, 2010

    This has been the best perk you could ask for on a Friday afternoon!

  • Chris Rowe said on November 5, 2010

    “Geocitiesizer!” – Jesus Zack, can you give us five minutes notice of things like that please? I have had to spend half the afternoon cleaning the Diet Coke that I snorted down my nose off the keyboard.

    Hope you feel better about life soon – you deserve to.

    All the best to you and yours.


  • Todd White said on November 5, 2010

    Whew, glad you got that off your chest.
    As for me, cleared up my questions and provided key points for my business plan. thanks!
    Now, i’m off to buy a Holga Pinhole camera and make some photographs!
    Inspired. Peace!

  • Aleeya said on November 5, 2010

    Well crap. I wish you had posted this a long time ago. I already spent money on business cards and a web site. I could have saved that cash and had all my tree photos matted and framed.

  • Josh Gubler said on November 5, 2010

    10 steps! What the crap! I thought all you had to do was watch Zack’s Creative Live workshop and you were good to go.

  • Phil. M said on November 5, 2010


    If the grass is greener on the other side, it’s because they use more manure.

  • Glyn Dewis said on November 5, 2010

    Deep breaths and count to ten….nah doesn’t work for me either :)

    Great post Zack; totally get it!

    Raising a pint of Stinger to you,

  • michael said on November 5, 2010

    okay, I’m not a professional photographer but I have flown an 80′s era Soviet fighter and your directions are pretty much…right on. like fo’realz.

  • Bowman! said on November 5, 2010

    this site needs more dancing babies!

  • Christopher said on November 5, 2010

    Is selective coloring back in yet?

  • Sree said on November 5, 2010

    hahahahahaha. awesome. just the laugh i needed as I was falling asleep at work. I think Zack should be the Colbert sidekick

  • leesia said on November 5, 2010

    LOL! zack — you rock.

    hope you feel better soon.

  • Berni van Die said on November 5, 2010

    often forgotten but a pro sells his photography, they actually charge money that other people can print or publish their picture! – doesn’t that sound weird!?

  • Darryl said on November 5, 2010

    I am a ‘Professional Commercial Photographer’ during my day job…and am trying to ‘Freelance’ …..after seeing your frustration for this post….I didn’t read anymore……there is no way to get rich quick……even with digital photography…..the market is not saturated…..because to make money you have to satisfy ‘customers’…… hey Zack…..maybe your post should of been…the ‘Over saturation of buyers’…… just kidding sort of……

  • Tim Skipper said on November 5, 2010


    Thank you.

    Thank you for being honest enough to tell the truth.

    Thank you for admitting even when you “arrive” its not always a great place.

    Thank you for not really quitting, we would miss you.

    Thank you for 10 Ways to Become a Professional Photographer. It made my day.

  • Paul Miller said on November 5, 2010

    Thank you for clearing that up. Now maybe the dopey top 10 lists will cease. Probably not, cause David Letterman makes a living with top 10 lists.

    Get a damn accountant and take pictures.

  • Chris Bergstrom said on November 5, 2010

    Zack, you are my inspiration, if you give up, I’ll have to aspire to be Ken Rockwell… Please don’t give up, although I know you won’t. You are doing great things and the taxman will go away sooner than you know. Keep your head up my friend!


  • Benjamin Lea said on November 5, 2010

    #1 way to become a professional photographer – Shoot lots and aspire to be as amazing as Zack Arias

  • Jeremy M said on November 5, 2010

    Your new blog is absolutely hilarious. Thanks Zack! Keep your head up. You are an incredible inspiration to us all and we appreciate your honesty.

  • Kevin Glackmeyer said on November 5, 2010

    feel better now?

  • Kevin Glackmeyer said on November 5, 2010

    and don’t forget…”On the personal side, my life changed again when I met my love, Meghan. We were married in 2008 and between us we have four boys.”

  • Jim Sentowski said on November 6, 2010

    Zack, you’ve been such a blessing for us, please continue.

    Thanks for all the stuff you you!

  • Jon M said on November 6, 2010

    I’ve got most of these down, but where do you get your half inch galvanized steel?

    Thanks for the laugh and keep your chin up.

  • Jennifer said on November 6, 2010

    But if you gave up the socks, you’d have less laundry….just payin’ attention to those small details you know?
    Awesome post – made my night :)

  • ST said on November 6, 2010

    @Benjamin Lea : #1 way to become a professional photographer – Shoot lots and aspire to be as amazing as Zack Arias.

    100% Agree..Cheers!

  • brec__ said on November 6, 2010

    oh, this is supposed to be funny. Sorry, didn’t get it right away. I’m in the middle of my 2010 zarias-funk ™. Yes,I got the blues. I just got back from a 12 day self-sponsored trip to shoot for my portfolio and wrestling with “the craft”. But let’s get back on track – I was just catching up with some blog reading, stumbled upon the panel talk then got here. Well, nothing new, Chase is explaining how exciting it is to send a photo over the air to a computer and how this young lady became a very professional photographer by buying his iphone app, I’m sorry, buying a digital camera four years ago. Then there’s Joe L who’s officially pro since he’s 15 years old and the beauty of it, it’s not as much work as you think Mr. Vincent Laforet, so please do not interrupt Chase and assume it is hard work. Hard work is for compensation of talent.
    Zack, thanks for being honest. Truth is all the guys from the panel discussion are both – talented and hard working. They are just selling it differently. There’s completely different success stories in the world of photography, but these people don’t blog as popular, you know why.

  • Mike M said on November 6, 2010

    The most successful photographer that I’ve known told me that all of his hard work at the beginning of his business lead to constant advancement for the first 3-5 years. Then after that, all of the hard work seemed to re-direct from advancing to mostly maintaining position and status quo. It was good advice, and I learned a similar lesson in the first decade of my business. In the early days, there seemed to be a momentum associated with success and I kept taking on more and more tasks. But then there came a point where I found that i took on too many things and had a hard time just maintaining my earlier successes. Once that happened, I began to avoid certain projects and streamline my time better. For me, learning my own personal limits and balancing time was actually the hardest part about the first decade of business. It was actually harder than the photography LOL Anyhow, don’t know if that helps or not but best of luck with the future.

  • Charles said on November 6, 2010

    Zack, you need help dude. Seriously. Hire someone to help you with the crap that stresses you out. OR go to a shrink. Or both.

    I do agree with the useless advice alot of blogs give. We have to think back to knowing ZERO about pro photography though and give it some perspective. Life as in photography is all about perspective.

  • Chris Rowe said on November 6, 2010

    By the way Zack – would you ever consider doing your Critiques for pay?

    I have been so inspired (and had several wake up calls!) watching them all. It must take an inordinate amount of time to plough though a site and come up with constructive comments so why not do some for cash? You’d get more of your fantastic content and get paid for it too – I’d pay and I’m sure others would, even if the comments weren’t favourable.

    Thoughts on a postcard…

  • gabe s said on November 6, 2010


    Ill be honest. I watched your interview with Chase and didnt really like what you were saying, or what you were about, etc. I dont know why, so dont ask.

    Then I stalked your website and blog. I read everything you wrote, watched all your tutorial videos, etc. I do that for things/people I dont like, kind of to justify my dislike.

    Then it happened, it clicked. I was reading that you still use Alien Bees, that you dont have all the “it” gear. It is true, the camera doesnt matter one bit. Its not about what you dont have, its about what you can do with what you got.

    I am trying to start a business thats not like the others in this midwestern town I live in. I dont own a “pro” flash… im using the one my grandmother used 10 years ago. There are no settings or adjustments that can be made, its full power and thats it. Yet i still get people who want pictures.

    You became my favorite photog because of who you are and what you stand for. I watched the Chase panel with everybody and it hit me then, simple gear does not mean simple photos. Ill be stupid and admit I cried when I read your post. Both from laughter and sadness. Its hard. People think you show up and take the picture and thats it. Somebody in the office building Im in asked why im always there till midnight. My response? “Because its not a 9-5”
    Thanks Zack for the laughter and the tears and for the virtual slap in the face that made me start to “get it”

    Gabe S

    P. S. Come to Iowa for a workshop, my car wont make it the 5 hour drive to Chicago

  • Samantha said on November 6, 2010

    Thank you for being the antidote to most of the other stuff out there, and to, well, me.

  • Judex said on November 6, 2010

    #1, he/she shares his knowledge to others… Thanks Zack…

  • Carl Spring said on November 6, 2010

    #1. Copy pictures other people have taken. No point reinventing the wheel or tiring yourself out trying to think what to do.

    Copy everyone else and you are on to a winner. After all, they are Pros, so if you copy them surely people will see you as a pro.

    Popular locations to do this include railway tracks and brick walls can make a highly professional background if you happen to have one handy.

  • Sean Fenzl said on November 6, 2010

    #1, Buy a nice camera. People often tell me I have a nice camera, and I figure that must be it!

  • Jessica Sweeney said on November 6, 2010

    Zack, I love you. I know you’ve got Meg and all, but ditch her and marry me. I’ll help you do your taxes. And I ALWAYS wear socks.

    From Zack – Not. An. Option.

  • zack said on November 8, 2010

    @jessica – Ummmm. Ain’t no way in the world I’m ditchin’ my love Meghan.

  • Christian said on November 6, 2010


    How is it that you have come to know so much about flying a 1980′s era Soviet fighter plane, hmmmmmm? Pinkos at Kinkos? 😉

    I can somewhat relate with what you’re feeling. I’m not super sucksessful yet (still working a 40/hr week job and constantly shooting/editing at night and on the weekends). I feel like I’m traveling at Mach 3 with tons of enthusiasm for my budding photography business the vast majority of the time. Then, I hit weeks of massive discouragement and complete exhaustion (like last week) where I feel like I have no talent and no real chance of ever doing this for a living, because I’m just a Zack Arias wannabe hack. During those times I long for a more simple, slow-paced, less chaotic life.

    I’m some weird way, it’s nice for me to hear that you struggle with similar emotions at your level as well. I’m not sure why, but it’s comforting to know you’re human and not always Super Zack, The Photographer of Steel.

    So thanks for the encouragement! Ya big Commie.


  • Brian said on November 6, 2010

    Losing it man! So sad reading your blogs. I think Kinko’s might be a good idea. I’m done here, to depressing and negative. Its not funny when your serious. Good Luck! But whatever you do next, stay postive. It’s like listening to a little kid who doesn’t get his way.

  • zack said on November 8, 2010

    @Brian – Sorry to turn you off but there are days as a photographer that the dark clouds loom, things get hard, and you feel like thrashing about a bit. I feel pretty confident that I keep a solid track in life and work but I’m not going to be one of those photographers that paints this life as a bed of roses without pointing out the thorns from time to time.


  • Opinion said on November 7, 2010

    to be or not to be that’s the question!!!

    When you spend most of your time working for some else you loose your identity. when yo for for yourself no matter how much money you make you are making your life and not somebody else.

    working for somebody else is just the best way of wasting your life.

    You should watch “Modern Times” for Charles Chaplin it will make feel better and get you back to work more happily

  • Brian said on November 7, 2010


    Great post! Though I’m a bit disappointed that you shared the pro secret of making one’s own lenses…it’s pretty hard and requires a great deal of time and equipment–the sandpaper and quartzite ingots alone nearly took most of my small business loan funds (though the email from Nigeria said the quality was very high). So, while I respect your continuing efforts, I think you should think twice before revealing all of our trade secrets…who do you think you are, Chase Jarvis or something?

    All kidding aside, though. I personally enjoy your posts, both positive and “negative”…it makes it more real for those of us on the same path. I have a day job as a therapist and deal with ups and downs every day–there is no getting away from this in any endeavor and those who think that you should be “happy” all the time simply don’t get it. Keep sharing wherever you are at!! Pain is inevitable in this life, it’s the suffering part that is truly optional! I look forward to meeting you someday and thanking you in person. Be well and yep–good to breathe!

  • Mark Millar said on November 7, 2010

    With such a wide variety of ‘professionals’ pontificating on this interweb thingy, I’d say the number one thing is to act like and emulate (without copying) those professionals you’d like to base your career on.
    Zac, we couldn’t hope to move up in this world without guidance from photographers like you.

  • Rolf Lillfors said on November 7, 2010

    Thank’s man. You give me the laugh of the day!

    Number #6 is the best but i doubt i’ll try photograph children that way. 😛

  • Vizcara said on November 8, 2010

    I think you forgot to mention instead of a portfolio create a “Flickrpage” or “Facebook” page….

  • MelR said on November 8, 2010

    LOL. Thank you for a very entertaining post. I enjoyed the thoughts behind it as well as the laughs it gave me this morning. I’m sorry you’re feeling so overwhelmed. I hope that things come together in such a way as to give you and yours the breathing room you need. I hope your week starts off and continues on less stressful than your weekend ended.

  • Beau said on November 8, 2010

    1. After you have done 6 free sessions for your friends, you’re ready to start charging money for your services. BONUS TIP: Did you know that if your clients pay you in cash you don’t need to declare the income to the IRS!

  • crimson.sunrise said on November 8, 2010

    Man, i leave just two rows here to show you admiration. Happy you’re not giving up, since i’ve discovered you and your blog i’m really enjoying your photos and your irony as well (the “sucksessfull photog” vid was a blast!). Cheers from Italy!
    (I agree with Simon on #1: more MP, better photog!)

  • Stuart Carter said on November 8, 2010

    Thanks, Zack. I needed that today. I’ve just been re-watching your Creative Live workshop… inspirational as always.

  • Charlie Clift said on November 8, 2010

    This really did make me laugh, lots. Thanks for the comic relief Zack

  • Courtney said on November 8, 2010

    OMG – you mean I actually have to work to be a professional photographer?? DAMNIT – I thought all I needed was a camera and photoshop. Thanks for making my day and also for helping me realize I am not the only one out there that feels like throwing in the towels sometimes! Great post! – officially adding you to my list of blogs to stalk!

  • Brian Laurent said on November 8, 2010

    Thanks for the Blues Traveler; that’s a jam. It made me want to make your new blog my home page. It’s high impact.

  • DJH said on November 8, 2010

    Well man.

    Count yourself lucky. I am trying to build a business and working all hours of the day and getting nowhere fast so far.

    Maybe you need to write a more positive blog as to how you got to where you are now, would help me for sure, starting with how it all failed the 1st time…

    Stop complaining Zack :-) and get on with it…

  • Mark Sweeney said on November 8, 2010

    Okay, now this is fun. In #4 click on the alternative blog. Make sure you have your speakers on. Make sure it opens in a new window. Now come back to this page and repeat. Once more…at least. Lay down some tracks. Killer track when overlapped. Good times. Great post.

  • Chris Bergstrom said on November 8, 2010

    Zack, did you get hacked? For a day or two I kept getting PC attacks when I visited your blog site here. It seems fine now, but it was crazy before. I hope the site is intact and unharmed…

  • chrisdavid42 said on November 8, 2010

    Real and transparent as always. Thanks for helping the little people remember that it’s not all unicorns and lollipops.

    True story: I don’t know if I would have stepped off the dock without the encouragement and insight that you give through your blog. Don’t ever stop.

  • Nico said on November 8, 2010

    Love the design of your new blog !

    Keep it going, as we say in French :

    L’humour est la politesse du desespoir…

    I will let you translate by yourself as a number 11 way to become a pro photographer : learn a foreign language and you might just understand what your customers mean…

  • Henry Yong said on November 9, 2010

    Comment #239: Zack had interview with Chase and gave an insight into his career. I think it sums up his “up & down”,

  • Trevor Allen said on November 9, 2010

    Thank you for posting this! Your sense of humour -and honesty – is refreshing.

  • Paul Glover said on November 9, 2010

    There is one bright side to the inane “top 10 how to be an awesome pro photographer” lists:

    Most people today just want to take the shortest short-cut they can find. They can’t be arsed to do things properly and resort to getting all their advice from the aforementioned lists on blogs.

    Those of us who *can* be bothered to do things the right (read: hard) way will always prevail over that. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway! 😉

  • ami siano said on November 10, 2010

    hi zack.
    you are about the only one on the web that expresses the “down side”of the photography business.

    my question is. even though I am familiar with the some of the issues and dealing with them,
    do you think it is wise to publish negative issues ?

    your blog is part of your business marketing. aren’t you suppose to manifest the glamoures side of photography ?
    is a blog really as good as a psychologist couch ?

    please note, it is not ment as criticism but as an actual question.

    thank you and good luck


  • zack said on November 16, 2010

    Ami – Sorry for the late reply.

    The clients I want to work with get “this”. When they hire me they hire “ME”. What I blog is “ME”. If you meet me you meet “ME.” You do not meet one version of me and then I live another version of me. Whoever doesn’t get “me”, that sucks, but ok. I’m not going to live with a facade.


  • Erica said on November 10, 2010

    I loved this post. …I especially loved your alternate blog. ha! Thank you for the laugh and breath of fresh air. 😉

  • luke Copping said on November 10, 2010

    This inspired me to write my own Top 10 Ways to NOT become a pro photographer. So often your writings and story have been a catalyst for a lot of the positive changes I have made in my own life Zack.

  • Brian Powell said on November 11, 2010

    At once hilarious and heartfelt — always great posts Zack.

    Keep ’em comin :)

  • cat said on November 11, 2010

    wow! You hosted Joe McNally! You’re done, dude. You can retire now… heh. heh. heh.

  • Randall Douglas said on November 13, 2010

    #11 Randomly udjust your dials until it looks OK, and talk a lot about the inverse square law. If that ain’t working for you, mutter something about the luminosity of the moon equaling 250 foot candles (and then just fix it in post with a bunch of actions).

  • Belitas said on November 13, 2010

    Boy do I feel better!!! Thanks for pointing out the super-hero “Obvious Man”!

  • Tara said on November 14, 2010

    Not sure why some have their knickers in a twist. Successful or not, I’m sure we all go through some hard times. Personally I find it a relief to know successful photographers have bad days too, get fed up with the same stuff I get fed up with, feel the same frustrations. Maybe it’s just me, but sort of affirms I’m on the right path. If I’m never to suppose to feel any doubt or frustration, then I guess I’m not in the right path, because I frequently deal with both. Yup – going through a really really frustrating time right now! lol

    I personally found the list funny and it gave me a laugh I sorely needed :)

    Thanks again for the review at PSW – this last couple of weeks, it’s been that review that has helped in dealing with the new challenges every day.

  • Gabriel said on November 14, 2010

    Thanx Zack! I REALLY needed the laugh 😉

  • KJ said on November 15, 2010

    How dare you forget about photoshop!

  • Dan Speicher said on November 15, 2010

    love the article and your humor mixed in through out. But after this article, I think I’ll stick to “!0 Reasons why using a reflector makes you a professional photographer”

  • John Baikie said on November 15, 2010

    Thank you for cheering me up on a Monday morning – quality post!

  • Pete Sheppard said on November 15, 2010

    This reminds me of a page i stumbled onto a while ago when I was actually seeking out guidance from these types of articles. Its by an aussie designer and it is one of many very funny satire pieces he has put together due to frustration of ignorance in his industry.
    check it out if you are still in a bad mood, it is very funny, and kind of enlightening- like your blog posts.

  • Oud said on November 15, 2010

    #1 way of being a successful photographer find myself a trademark like Zack’s the “OneLight” Dvd guy. And keep making new series with OneLight idea for example, the OneLight at the Great Wall of China, the OneLight at Pyramid of Egyptian’s king, The OneLight at the Venice Beach. And mass produce them and sell them worldwide.

  • Sarah said on November 15, 2010

    You might feel overwhelmed, but take comfort in the fact that it is an experience you share with every other person in the world.

    Also fortunately, your version of “overwhelmed” isn’t all that bad. There are so many things that you are taking for granted. And I don’t even mean the big things like a family that loves you or a thriving career or even that house you live in. I mean little things. Things like having running water. No one thinks of that as a convenience unless they have to live without it. The feeling of soft cotton clothes that someone else made for you. The way the light falls on your wife’s cheek before she wakes up. Some people will tell you that you will be much happier finding something every day that you are thankful for. I think that if you have to wait a day to find it, you aren’t looking hard enough. There are things all around to be thankful for. So you have to pay taxes. I mean, really? Not a big deal at all. It may need your attention and focus, but so do a ton of more important things: like your wife and kids. Don’t forget that on your death bed you won’t be agonizing over whether or not you submitted your taxes perfectly for this year. You really won’t care at all. What you will care about is the type of person you were able to become. If you are doing well in that arena (and my guess is that you are) take a deep breath and be thankful.

    Sometimes the best cure for stress is use the time we would have spent being stressed, and using it to put things in perspective.

    Take care, Zack. I hope the rest of the month goes a little better for you.

  • Alicia Wagner Calzada said on November 15, 2010

    #1 Tell everyone what a great and successful photographer you are. If you can drop names– magazines and photo subjects especially– that will make you seem even more great and successful. If you say it enough, someone will believe it.

    Thanks for an entertaining post.

  • Calvin said on November 15, 2010

    Photog photog man… I’ve got to be a photog man. Photog photog man… I can’t wait to be a photog….

  • craig said on November 15, 2010

    Damn! So all those magazines I freelance for are wrong and my father in law who hates everthing I take, and takes random pictures of trees is right!? Say it ain’t so zack…say it ain’t so…. I don’t think I could trade in beaches, surfing, and girls in bikinis for trees…..damn…this is gonna suck.

  • Tim said on November 15, 2010

    How about don’t stress about being the best photographer on the internet?

  • Jim S said on November 16, 2010

    I read “grace of God” in this post which assumes you believe in God? If so, where is He for you right now and more importantly, where are you for Him?

    You’re trying to do it alone and unfortunately, we’re all much too ill-equipped on our own. As a former business owner with 21 employees I’ve lived your stress and then some. Give it to Him. It’s really that simple.

    Hang in there! I’m sending one up for ya now. Feel free to email me with any questions.

  • Javier said on November 16, 2010

    It would be interesting to read a post about how and when you built out your current team. Dan, et al. At what point in your careers’ (2nd time around) did you start hiring folks to perform different roles and delegate responsibilities. Also, which are the hardest things or things you haven’t yet delegated. Lots of folks outsource their post production but it seems you haven’t, as an example. Would love to hear your thoughts and take on the process.

  • Bryan Lynch said on November 16, 2010

    Wow. This really made me stop & think.

    my D3 and D300 and thousands of dollars worth of lighting & modifiers are literally sitting on shelves… where they have been -untouched- for 3 months.

    Why? Because I am in full blown dejected self pity mode. I can’t make myself pulll the trigger. I have a million reasons:
    I have four kids.
    My family still thinks this is a phase (the 10 yr variety?)
    Im not as good as Zach, Jeremy, Joe, Chase, etc, etc,
    I can’t find enough time w my full time job/family responsibilities to shoot and edit and deliver quality to actual customers to get started.
    Yes ive read enough inspirational posts that i realize –in my mind– that all of that is BS. At least i was able to accumulate a fairly potent arsenal of equipment, none of which released me from my paralysis. I was so embarrassed that i didn’t list my website where it asked, because, “someone might actually go to it, and crap there’s old work on there, and its not really all that good”…. yeah. So why did this post speak to me??
    Because it made me realize that there will always be valleys. Thanks for being real Zack. oh and btw….. its 😀

  • TheOm3ga said on November 16, 2010

    Smoking is certainly not among those 10 ways of becoming a pro photog. Quit smoking nao.

  • PL said on November 16, 2010

    I’m gonna make, myself, a serious list. Thanks for the inspiration you provided… :-)

    (First i must get rid of all the digital equipment….)

  • Michael Newman said on November 16, 2010

    Do all your reflectors have a “Z” on them? :)

  • Stacy Hughes said on November 17, 2010

    My version:
    #1 way to become a professional photographer. (to other people besides your friends & family)

    My answer…
    Don’t bother. Buy as nice of a camera as you want. Photograph everything & everyone until your heart is content. Have a website, but do it for you & your friends & family. Put the photos you love on there. Don’t ask Zack Arias to critique your website because it shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks if you do it for yourself. Don’t charge your friends & family. Charge others just the minimum amount to compensate you for your time & gas. Don’t expect to make what the pros make. Make sure those people know you are not a pro and they shouldn’t expect consistent and professional quality images. Don’t expect to be taken seriously by the photography industry. Do Not Invest in the dream of being a professional based on friends and family telling you that you are good enough. We all watch American Idol. We see those people get up in front of those judges and sing horrendously. They looked genuinely shocked when the judges tell them that they stink. We sit on our sofas and wonder, “Do they really think they can sing?” The answer is yes, and the reason is that people close to them lie to them so they don’t hurt their feelings. Not everyone who buys a decent camera can or should be a pro. 50% of the websites I look at are people that consider themselves pros, but they really shouldn’t. Going to WPPI doesn’t make you a pro. Selling multiple prints doesn’t make you a pro. Doing a few weddings doesn’t make you a pro. Photographing a handful of seniors doesn’t make you a pro. You can not fake it until you make it in this industry. I just bought a Canon 7D. It had a user manual, a warranty, but no photography degree. No certificate claiming me to be a professional. Buying a nice camera does not make you a professional. Not everyone who takes a picture is a photographer and not every photographer can be a professional.

  • Alan Matthews said on November 17, 2010

    If you use “boy howdy” in normal conversation you are a true southern boy! Way to go!

  • dante said on November 17, 2010

    I think I peed myself

  • Farron said on November 17, 2010

    I loved this. more than words can describe.

  • Stuart said on November 17, 2010

    I’ve just been to an exhibition of award winning photography at the NPG in London, you know what the content was..
    Snaps, of people, well composed but just snaps, all of them had merit of some sort, and I’m sure the 5000 or so other entrants who didn;t make it to the exhibition were equal in terms of content and quality. If it makes you feel good, then do it, if you can make a living, thats great, best of all love your art, because thats what it is YOUR ART !, Van Gogh?, never sold a single canvas, but now look at what they fetch now. Persevere at what you do, enjoy it for what it is, best of all don’t expect miracles. its a tough life, but fun if you love what you do enough
    Peace Out :-)

  • Toemailer said on November 17, 2010

    Seems I have been doing everything wrong! Must move to NYC with my home made lenses and lots of socks.

  • david said on November 17, 2010

    I cant run no more with that lawless crowd while killers in high places say there prayers out loud. Well they v summoned up a thunder cloud and there going to here from me.
    Im just sayin

  • JPS said on November 17, 2010

    The pain is real until you get that call then everything else is just background. Awesome!!

  • Dale said on November 17, 2010

    I am no pro photographer and while I enjoy the hobby I have no illusions that I’ll ever make a living or gain notoriety through my photography. So, I was mildly disappointed that there weren’t actually some tips on becoming at the least a “better” photographer.

    Then I started laughing my ass off and had a difficult time stopping. Your points are dead on.

    I wish I knew what to say or do to help you over your difficult spot. Having tried my hand in small business, I can sympathize with the challenges you face. However, your dedication to keeping on keeping on is admirable and will be the thing that makes you ultimately successful. Um, oh yeah, that and the great photos of kids you take sitting or playing under trees in the light of your anus.

    Did I just say that out loud?

    PS Where can I find some good tips on how to become a *better* photographer? 😉

    Have a better day!

  • Tim said on November 17, 2010

    *grin* Good one. I’ve also been getting miffed with the tweet -> crappy blog article scene.

    I was thinking I might have to start a `refutations’ blog for the purpose – countering some of the idiotic or one-sided arguments we see (eg “never shoot outdoors between 10am-2pm”). OTOH, humour also works. :)

  • Ashley Dawn said on November 17, 2010

    ha ha- I was crying I was laughing so hard.

    I hope you feel better :) Be happy.

    Glad you arn’t going to Kinkos. The world needs you. Even if sometimes that is hard to see. (I tell myself this phrase alot….)

    and also…

    to save money. Can I use vintage glass coke bottles in making my lenses? (ha ha)

    and I am on my way to the store. To buy socks.

    Thanks for the tips.

    hee hee- jk

    Thank you again. I needed this laugh.

    I had a photog teacher who told me That pointing my lens towards the sun would ruin the insides of my lens and camera. And if I took a picture the memory card would get damaged in the process.
    I think that might be well suited for the list as well. Pro photographers never take pictures in direct sunlight. Sunrays might ruin all the equiptment you spent money on and the lenses that you made yourself.

  • danielle said on November 17, 2010

    you made my day… :)

  • Steve Elmer said on November 18, 2010

    Zack, you my friend are a legend! You’r brutal truth in what you write (and explain in your DVD) are a fresh wind in a industry that is filled with “i love this photo… and I love the light here”.

    High 5 Brother!

  • Vanessa Paris said on November 18, 2010

    You owe me royalties for using ‘Piles of Laundry’ in a sentence. I own it. I have 5 kids and a 5D, (love your stuff x)

  • DJH said on November 18, 2010

    Done and Done. Now don’t let me down Z.

    I actually prefer a physical copy of things…Plus you can’t be ripped off from dodgy pdf copies floating around the net…

  • Jeremy said on November 18, 2010

    “Talk to your customers about how you like it in and out of the mouth.”

    i see what you did there!

  • Kiff Backhouse said on November 19, 2010

    Great !!! Love it and the sad thing is, so true!

  • Drew lawrence said on November 19, 2010

    Arrgghhh !

    Oh no….I’ll never get to be a pro…I HATE socks !

  • Stephanie said on November 19, 2010

    I needed this. I always forget to wear socks. :)

    Thank for the giggle.

  • isabel said on November 19, 2010

    oh how i relate to this post, let me count the ways.

    parent…small business owner…spouse. what happened to the days of endless time with your camera and no responsibilities outside of when you should eat your next big mac and what time is it acceptable to crack open a beer.

    speaking of beer, can’t you make a lens out of beer cans? seems like it should be possible…

    cheers Zack, this was a great read.

  • Akos said on November 19, 2010

    The other version of your blog is way better than this thing. Great tune too, love the midi sound. I ought to use it more often

  • Nathanael Gassett said on November 20, 2010

    L to the OL.

    #4 is pure brilliance.

  • Parnell said on November 20, 2010

    I had notes on uranus but dang it I don’t have the socks… does B&H sell the really professional kind??

  • Wing Wong said on November 20, 2010

    ~LOL~ OMG!! Too funny… but also… so true. Less 10 item listing… more shooting!!

  • José "the Stone" Caetano said on November 22, 2010

    I don’t wear pants some days

  • markowen said on November 22, 2010

    Great blog post zack!

    Take it easy and dont forget to breath…lol

  • ST said on November 23, 2010

    Just realized, you put a watermark on the reflector. I thought it was cool Zack.

  • Matt Steeves said on November 23, 2010

    Thanks Zack, you just changed my whole day around 😉

    Love the GeoCities blog, the song captured that era for sure.

  • #1 Wedding Photographer Patrick Ralph said on November 24, 2010

    My advice to people who express an interest in becoming a wedding photographer.
    1. Dress only in black .
    2. Your computer must be a Mac.
    3. Your camera must be a Canon.
    4. Use photos taken at seminars and workshops in your portfolio.
    5. Get a website based on a cheap flash template.
    6. Buy the latest ‘must have’ dome/reflector/thingy for your flash.
    7. Believe everything you hear at seminars. These guys really do make $250k+!
    8. Believe ‘Fusion Photography’ is the bees knees and will make you tons of $$$.
    9.Use a minimum of three actions per photo.
    10. Work for free to get loads of experience. Your clients will really love you for it.

  • melissa said on November 24, 2010

    :) heart you and this

  • Richard Davies said on November 24, 2010

    Amen to that I guess the #1 would be…Use your eyes :)

  • Marvin said on November 27, 2010

    You owe me a laptop Zack! I literally spit my coffee on the keyboard when I saw your blog’s other version and now they’re not functioning! ROFL!

  • Dawn said on November 27, 2010

    I wish I had a buck for every time I felt this way – then I could buy more gear and continue the madness 😉 Thanks Zack – love you and thanks for acknowledging the craziness of this awesome career we’ve journeyed into….

    xoxox, Dawn

  • Phil McDermott said on November 29, 2010

    Nice one Zack – love this, really made my day.

  • Erin Michelle said on November 29, 2010

    That was great, it just made my night!

  • Nicole Chan said on November 30, 2010

    Possibly the best blog post I’ve read this month.

    It’s real. It’s raw. It talks about the struggles of a small business owner. Kudos.

  • Stephen Fisher said on December 3, 2010

    The BEST way to become a professional photographer is to…MARRY MONEY! Thanks for a good read…SEF

  • Raju said on December 9, 2010

    Zach you rock 😀
    thanks i needed the laugh.

  • Richard Turton said on December 10, 2010

    Thanks Zack, I have been a self-employed graphic designer now for 3 years and feeling very much the same as what you’ve described.
    Everybody warned that when you go solo you’ll begin to feel differently about what you do and boy, were they right. The constant battles with asserting you’re vision, chasing unpaid bills and keeping the taxman happy…any road, it’s nice to know that you’re alone and that there are many others who are in a similar boat.

    Thanks again,


  • Erlantz Bilbao said on December 11, 2010

    Thanks a lot Zack, this is exactly the stuff noone tells you about the industry, the best keeped secret in photography.
    I’m moving to the USA soon and i decided to change more than my residence, i go to change my career too and i’m actually, in my country, working with a photographer, but he was keeping all that to himself (bastard!); so thanks a lot, i really think this goes to help me a lot to start my own bussines there in the USA.

    LOL, thanks for your humor sense, i really had fun readding it, that’s a good way to start the day 😀

  • Bruce Weber said on December 16, 2010


  • Nathan said on December 17, 2010

    You rock, Zack! I’ve been in the business 34 years, and you’ve summed things up quite nicely.

  • Echo said on December 21, 2010

    Did I ever tell you that you’re my hero?

  • Suzy said on December 21, 2010

    ROFL, I need to get me some socks ha ha! This was an awesome read!

  • Sean Walsh said on December 22, 2010

    I was just telling my wife the other day that I pine for the days of Kinko’s. Glad I’m not alone

  • Kellianna Wirth said on January 20, 2011

    I kind of love you. Yay for someone with some sense!

  • Eleanor Gannon said on March 28, 2011

    It’s refreshing to hear the lows as well as the highs. Love this post – thanks for cheering up my day!

  • Edwin Ornedo said on April 1, 2011

    Nice tips about the trees and shooting kids photos….hmmmm… marketing stuffs eh.

  • Sarah Klock said on April 9, 2011

    I just peed my pants. Hilarious. Thanks for this. Now, I’m going to move to NYC and find the BIGGEST studio I can find, probably big enough to fit my entire radio flyer wagon inside. Thanks. I’m on my way!

  • bimal nair said on April 11, 2011

    Your ‘ve an outrageously humorous mind! ROFL!!! this is one of the best “top 10..” articles i’ve ever read. Thanks a ton for being so sincerely open about your thoughts Zack!…..I love you for that! This is the next most hilarious thing am seeing after “u sharing the man touch with Chase” in one of the interviews. Hahhahahah!
    Cheers Zack….have an awesome week!

  • BeJay said on April 16, 2011

    Sir, you are my Hero at the moment!

  • Alicia said on April 18, 2011

    I just read this, and it made me laugh so much. I love it. It’s exactly the kind of top 10 list I needed to see. Thanks for your wonderful insight! haha
    Much love to your blog too. I like it a lot.

  • Stacie Frazier said on April 19, 2011

    What a breath of fresh air this was for me! Thank you for your honesty in a pretty deceitful industry. Yes, tax time has taken it’s toll on me too! Feeling pretty down about the same things you mentioned and I appreciate hearing that someone else has days like this too!

  • murad rm said on April 22, 2011

    nice post lol

  • Gregg Obst said on May 3, 2011

    I went to B&H looking for professional photographer’s socks but they only had the import versions in stock and they said that the US warranty would not cover them. What should I do ? I don’t want to be walking around my massive New York City studio full of lavish, expensive equipment and snag my import version professional photographer’s socks on the light stand of my epicly sized Octabox and then have to meet with my top fashion model clients. They will know I am not a true professional photographer when they see the tear in my professional photographer’s socks. Ah….white gaffers tape !

  • stephanie said on May 26, 2011

    holy shit, that brought me to tears. seriously, thank you. i thought i was the only one with the idea to ask people to take their pants off. its refreshing to know i am on the right track to being a professional photographer.

  • Laura said on June 20, 2011

    Too funny….I just showed my nephew your website and we came across this….I think you will have a new set of fans at a college in Indiana. He LOVED your port of hiphop and now wants to go out and buy a camera….LOL

    Thanks for the laugh! (the article, not your work)

  • David said on June 29, 2011

    I came about your page by first watching your creative live show. Which by the way your portfolio wasn’t metal but I will keep that in mind to make mine metal. Your work is great but your sarcasm seals the deal. Keep it up Zack and I always enjoy what you put out. One day maybe I’ll send you a business card since they are so very needed and let you critique my website because that too is awesome! Especially your wife’s feedback. Cheers!

  • Harold said on July 4, 2011

    I laughed, I almost cried, too funny and you pull it off well… it proves the creative muse comes from within; whether it’s writing or taking a photo. All this reality is great for disarming the likes of…. and the more I see and learn it’s not hard to see why you could do the Transformation video. Keep going, it’s working…!!!

  • Damen said on July 6, 2011

    I tried number 6 – take photos of children – but when the parents found out my life-long desire was to become a photographer of nudes, they mentioned the father was an “X-Boxer’ … whilst I asked for his “friend code” so that we could play Halo on-line at some stage, he hit me repeatedly and with such force that I realised he was an “ex-boxer” and didn’t like nude photos … at least not of his son. I figure I’m on my way to being “professional” now and as soon as I regain my walking facility, I will attempt my nude photography dream. Being a little wary, I will make sure it is ME who is nude … look for me soon on the streets of NY …

  • A Pro said on August 12, 2011

    #1: Shooting naked girls because all Pro´s doing it! Sooner or later, they are tired about shooting trees……

  • #1 Way to Becoming a Professional Photographer: WAKE UP!
    Think how hard it would be to become a professional photographer if you slept all day. Or if you walked around in a daze, as if you were sleeping all day. Almost every professional photographer I know keeps his or her eyes open (expect for an occasional blink now and then) at least 10 hours a day. Part of those 10 waking hours, you can spend with one of those fine digital cameras Zach writes about (like a Fuji x100) in front of your face. (Of course if you use a Fuji X100 you won’t be able to make your own lens using biconvenx, convex and planoconvex layering.) Being awake makes it easier to notice old ladies with strange things on their head (Kitty, Kitty) walking down the street.

  • Cindy Brown | Atlanta Street Photographer said on September 5, 2011

    Zack: Sorry I spelled your name wrong … have i done that before on your blog?

  • #2 Way to Become a Professional Photographer: Spend lots of time reading blogs written by other professional photographers and listening to and/or watching podcasts created by other photographers.
    The more time you spend watching others work, the less time you have to work yourself, which means you won’t have any time to alter the style of photography you already practice (except maybe to alter it to match other working professionals.) And if your photos look like other professional photographer’s work, then you too will be a professional in no time.

  • Juan Torm * Newbie said on October 4, 2011

    I JUST DIEE!!!! this thing is hilarious man… hey thanks for your tutorials which are the best in the world.. and i do agree on you.. you got to practice and work really hard to master the art of profesional photography… now im going to fly a soviet plane 😀

  • CarlyErin O'Neil said on October 17, 2011

    ROFL. Words out of my mouth. And yeah, there are a few days a year when you hope it all goes up in flames…..but you don’t ever remember them in the editing room. :)

  • Gianni Ottone said on October 21, 2011

    I LOVE #5. It’s my dream to live in NYC. In 5 years when im 18, I am going straight there to pursue my photography dream

  • Mario said on November 30, 2011

    Holy cow!

    In winter, I wear double socks on my feet. I must be an exceptional pro photographer in winter.

    And Zack: Who cares about taxes? Taxes are the price you have to pay for the evil empire to let us in silence …

  • Otto Haring - Miami said on January 11, 2012

    Funny!!! and awesome! We all have to pay taxes. Everything will be fine at the end.

  • Pat Harris said on January 12, 2012

    This article’s old and still relevant! I feel your pain – sometimes it’s just one of those days (or weeks, or months)

  • chris said on February 16, 2012

    Zack, I L`ed my A off! Sarcasm is my favourite art form. PS I always make my own lenses to a recipe handed down to me from a descendant of Kepler, and I ALWAYS make a point of talking about the light shining from MY anus (URANUS ? old english TV joke…) when talking with clients, just before I give them a business card…..but then again I´m not a pro photographer. :) Yes AND I AM on Facebook

  • ste said on March 12, 2012

    wow not the top ten i expected which is refreshing. Living in oz we tend to wear thongs, flipflops grr on yr feet not yr ass. If u wore socks here u would creep ppl out. I have to say thanks for yr insight as to being a pro photographer is refreshing, the stresses and worries u go though. Sounds similar to being a builder as I am there are many stresses ppl don’t realize. Photography is my passion tho regardless if i become pro at it or not, i will always pursue it.
    Thanks for sharing your true to life story’s.
    Kind regards
    Steve Eberhardt

  • Clark said on March 22, 2012

    Thanks Zack! Now I too can be a pro too also. I think I see a problem though… Stop wearing socks. Underwear too. Shirts optional. Not only does this greatly help with the laundry problem, it also is quite helpful in sparking some interestingly animated family expressions when photographing children in the park.

  • Max almonte said on March 30, 2012

    This is such a relief, and I can’t stop holding my sides. Truly funny shtuff.

  • Ephraim said on May 11, 2012

    #5 & #6 just killed it.. lol..

  • mike said on May 17, 2012

    We’re a bit late to the party but this was a good one, Zack. 😀

  • bronney said on June 6, 2012

    wait Zack.. you mean, wear shorts right!!!? right?! *ducks* 😀

  • jason said on July 15, 2012

    Your up there with Bill Bryson Zach ! Funny as f***

  • Lisa said on July 23, 2012

    Hilarious list, made me lol :)

    #11 consume vast amounts off coffee and nicotine just to get jumpy and strange. I’d adds to your odd photographer’s manners that differs you from the lame mob.

  • Bryan said on August 7, 2012

    This is why I hate shooting for money.

    If you shoot for yourself, it is art…. a give-and-take between you and your sitter/subject(s).

    If someone wants to pay me for my art, then yea for me! However, this is rare. It is a bonus.

    If it is a business, then…. it can be a real grind.

    Sell me a t-shirt, Zack. I’m happy to help pay you to just be you.

  • Web said on August 16, 2012

    I started taking pictures when I was a freshman in high school. Now-a-days, I shoot digital and like so many, with different cameras. Everything I read of yours is RIGHT ON! I’m 66 years old and plan on working for the county for a couple more years so I can get my last camera. Photography is a state of mind and I am still learning how to take pictures. You are a GREAT inspiration, Thank You!

  • Jaap said on August 23, 2012

    Old Soviet jets were also known as “flying bars” as the “kerosine” they flew on was sometimes used as post flight “refresment” or as a pre flight bravery inducing elixir when the wodka was short. I guess the moral is that you have to make due with what you have and being a photographer is sometimes like being a pilot…you’re all on your own up there B-) but getting up there in the first place is never accomplished without the help and support of a dedicated group of friends, colleagues and loved ones!

  • Brett said on January 3, 2013

    Great Thread!

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