Call To Action :: "When I play pretend, I'm an ambitious person…"

August 24, 2009 | • Philosophy • Resources


If you are just coming to this blog post without seeing all of the blog posts that have led up to it then let me bring you up to speed.

• I made this video in February for a guest blog spot on Scott Kelby’s blog.

• A few weeks ago a dude named B. wrote to me and I answered him on this blog. That post set off quite a discussion in the comments.

• Then a door to door salesman showed up that same day. I interviewed him and made a short video. That led to more discussion. That video was viewed over 12,000 times in one week.

People wanted to buy this man’s soap so we sold virtual bottles of his soap on the blog. People were so motivated and moved by him they bought $6,000 of this virtual soap.

• I realized I need to sell soap instead of photographs. :)

• Last Monday I had a post about motivation.

That brings us to today’s blog post. First I’ll share how I’ve been motivated by all of this.

In preparing for this blog post I was searching my archives for some sort of image to open the post with. I never make a blog post without starting with an image of some sort. I twittered yesterday that I was going to make this blog post and here it is 10pm and the post still isn’t up. I wanted it up at 10am but I couldn’t find the right image. That’s my story. If it can’t be right then I won’t do it. So instead of trying to find the right image or go make a video you get helvetica in 36 points. Not having everything “just right” should not stop me from going ahead and getting something done.

Another reason this wasn’t up at 10am is because my awesome wife, Meghan, kicked me out of the bed this morning and we went to the gym. I have to lose about 40 pounds. Been talking and thinking about losing weight for a long long long time. No more thinking about it. Now I have to do it. So instead of blogging I was jogging. Or elipticallying to be more precise. For. A. Whole. Ten. Minutes. But that’s ten more minutes than I did yesterday (you see… that’s a joke because I haven’t exercised in years).

Meg has also been on me for as long as we’ve been together to write the stuff in my head down on paper or, preferably, white boards. I finally got off my rear a few weeks ago and put white boards up. Then I started writing stuff down on them. Goals. Ideas. Concepts. Things to do. Etc. It looks like this…


I wanted to chart out the process of how a client is moved through our studio. From phone call to thank you card. [confession] I never send thank you cards. [/confession]. But I want to! I really do! I just never do. Once the job is delivered I’m off to the next thing which is always two steps behind from where that next thing is supposed to be. The last six years of my career has been a constant game of catch up. Well… no more. I’m getting my $!&^ together. All of this discussion on the blog is helping motivate me. This is the first time I’m actually getting the chaos in my head organized visually in front of me. First time! Meg is one part happy that I’m finally doing it and one part pissed off because she wonders why I took so long.

Note how small the actual taking pictures part of the process is. That chart above is the big picture. Every line item is associated with another meeting and another whiteboard filled with stuff. It’s amazing how writing stuff down actually works! If only I had known of it earlier! (cue Meg’s fist slamming into my arm.)

Ok… so we are motivated. That’s all fine and dandy but motivation without action is… not good stuff. Motivation without action is… some great sports metaphor. I don’t know.

Last week I asked you to think about stuff. Some of you just went from thinking about stuff to doing stuff in about zero seconds. Well done! Some of you need a push off the dock so I’m here to say that all of your fears and anxiety are getting old and it’s time you learn to swim whether you like it or not. You might be right back on your dock in about two seconds but damn it, you are getting in the water… over your head. Drenched. Your excuses for not doing something are now void of having any real meaning.

Here is what I want us to do ::

Serve someone with our cameras.

This week you are going to think about how you can do this. You are going to find a person, a family, a ministry, an organization, a place, a shelter, a movement, a something that needs pictures. These pictures are needed for advocacy or fund raising or simply giving portraits to people who can’t afford even the cheapest of the Wal-Mart packages. Follow what Jeremy Cowart is doing with his Help-Portrait project as an idea.

You are going to do this for zero money so that pressure is off of you. Attaching dollars to photos can be stressful so just take the money part out of the picture. You are also doing this on your own time with whatever skill/talent/gear you have and you aren’t going to get all anal about how good it will be because chances are you will find some people who will love your work because if you don’t photograph for them NOBODY will. Any picture is going to be a good picture at this point.

“But I’m not good enough yet.”

The only person who cares about that statement is you so go ahead and build a bridge so you can get over it. :p

Week of August 31st – You have now identified a few families, organizations, ministries, etc that you think could use some of your picture taking skills. You start emailing, calling, knocking on doors. You have seven days to get yourself and your camera in the door and pitch your service. Not everyone will need you. Some will reject free stuff! Who cares? Move. On. Dot. Org. with it and knock on the next door.

Week of September 7th – You have this week to get your schedule figured out and get some sort of service job on the books. I don’t care if you have a day job and 14 million kids. If you are so tied up in stress and anxiety about your passion for this craft AND you aren’t doing anything about it then your job is suffering and your 14 million kids are suffering because while you may be present in person your mind is kept busy thinking about all the photo stuff you aren’t doing.

Just tell the kiddos that “Mommy/Daddy needs to follow her/his heart for at least one day before Mommy/Daddy implodes.” A happy Mommy/Daddy makes for a happy house. If your job sucks a$$ you can make it through the day knowing that you have a project that has purpose and meaning tied to it unlike the TPS reports you are filing. Your kids can say one of two things when they grow up…

“I watched my Mom/Dad be miserable.”

“I watched my Mom/Dad serve people with what they had.”

Pick one.

This isn’t just a self serving “I need to make $50, $100, $200 shooting portraits of middle class families in the park” kind of project. It is something that serves someone or a group of people in need of being served. Keep that in mind… You are going to use your camera to “serve” someone so you can stop staring into your own damn naval because at the end of the day, this project isn’t about you. I mean, it sort of is about you but it isn’t at the same time. You need to get off your butt and do something but the “you” part of this will soon fade when you see what you are doing for others.

Week of September 14th – September 30th – Get the job done, edited, and delivered. You only get a pass if the project you are now pursuing can only be best served in a timeframe that doesn’t meet this deadline. If you have someone or some group on the line for a project but it has to be shot at X date then you are doing fine. But that’s your only pass.

October 1st – I’ll blog about what I’ve been doing along this same time table. Many of you will talk about what you have been doing to serve your community with your camera. Some of you will be kicking yourself in your ass because, once again, like always, as per usual, like you do, you got motivated and said “Yes!!! I’m going to do that!!!” and you won’t. Tsk. Tsk. If that is you then you need to hear this…

I spent about four hours with Derrick on Saturday and, as Derrick does, he said all sorts of amazing things. One great thing was this…

“You have to believe that your life has meaning and purpose BEFORE you see that it does. If you believe it then you will be doing the right things, and saying the right things, and putting yourself in the right situations to see that your life has meaning and purpose but if you HAVE to believe it before you SEE it.”

That’s a paraphrase. He said it a lot better.

IF you are standing on a dock and you don’t know how to jump… Don’t quit your job or anything crazy right now. Turn off your television after work and find someone to serve with your camera. You have until October 1st to get it done. No whining or complaining. Just go effing do it. I’m going to be right there with ya doing something too.


Cheers, Zack

PS – I’ve been having some amazing email volleys with B. The post title of “When I play pretend, I’m an ambitious person…” came from one of his emails. He’s a funny dude who has more talent than he thinks he has. He’s had a back log of stuff he has promised people he would do so he can be free to work on his own projects. He’s getting that done now. You may need to do that as well. You have 72 hours to get it done. Might need to make some coffee tonight.

PPS – Derrick can’t even begin to thank everyone. More to come on that.

PPPS – Don’t come around here asking how to approach someone for this project because you aren’t going to get any help beyond this point. Many of you reading this blog want to turn this passion for photography into a career option if you haven’t already. The community at large is here to help but there are some things you just have to figure out on your own. Like identifying markets, clients, needs and then figuring out how you are going to connect with those markets, clients, and needs. You can’t have your hand held through the entire process.

Consider yourself pushed. It’s up to you for the next 30 days. Go change some lives… including your own.


  • Geoff Ball said on August 24, 2009

    Yet another great post!

    I look forward to working on this.

  • Eugene said on August 24, 2009

    Wow, Zack, thank you so much for another inspirational post.

    I’m actually in the stages of doing stuff for the readers of my photoblog. This week I am giving away free prints. I’ve linked to your Transform video in one of my posts as well.

    Longer term: over the next few months, I am going to offer free engagement shoots to couples. Since I want to get into wedding photography, I figure that if I can’t get booked directly, I need to start doing something about it. After thinking about “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” I am convinced that this is a sound strategy. Your blog post only confirms my feelings.

    And I wanted to make a comment with your mentioning that you really want to send thank you cards. I think that if you *really* wanted to do it, then you would have already done it. So something is preventing you from sending out the cards. Like your latest analogy about the gym: if you really want to lose weight, then there’s no point talking about it. There’s only the doing that matters: actually going to the gym and working out.

    Thanks for the inspiration!



  • Amy said on August 24, 2009

    I’m IN!

    Thanks so much. I’m just getting started in Nashville, and you have no idea how much your blog had helped me get through a rough summer.

  • Karen said on August 24, 2009

    Hey Zack,

    I love this call to action. Although I am not a fellow photographer, your message still strikes me deeply. I’m on the edge of the dock, and need to jump. I need to get on that elliptical for ten minutes, too.

    I want to go help someone in the next 30 days. I will. Not sure how, but I will. I’ve been consumed with what my next move in life should be (including getting my ass on that eliptical), and you’ve shown me that I need to just jump. I’m using your October deadline of just getting something new started for myself, and try to help someone else out as well.

    I spent most of today transcribing Derrick’s words in your video, and my God, that guy inspires the hell outta me.

    I am so glad to hear of all the support he is getting, because he deserves it. I’m thinking he should buy a laptop with part of the proceeds, and start a blog! :)



  • Thatcher Dorn said on August 24, 2009

    WOW! I just set this same type of schedule for my self last week. I have a studio who wants to back me so I’m getting my s**t together. Hell yeah!! This is going to be rad!

  • Martin said on August 24, 2009

    thanks zack! this is very helpful 😉
    i love your blog btw!

  • Broderick said on August 24, 2009

    I’m IN as well! This sounds like a great project, can’t wait to see all the pix!

  • Patrick Clough said on August 24, 2009

    Thanks for all you put into your work and the lives of so many. YOU are making a difference. Hope you keep listening to your wife. Take care of you.

  • Lee Starnes said on August 24, 2009

    It’s funny how things happen in life. About a month ago, I took the cannonball off the dock and quit my job in the service industry to focus all of my efforts on my craft. Needless to say, its enthralling, scary, invigorating, terrifying, and countless other emotions all lumped into a huge knot that migrates from my stomach to my throat and back down again. And repeat… However, I wouldn’t want life to be any other way. I’ve worked more in the last month than I ever have in my life and gotten less sleep than I ever have. But, this is my passion and a reflection of ME.

    So how this pertains to this blog… Soon after I took this plunge, my friend Keith told me about the mixer before the One Light workshop. He asked me if I wanted to come. I had just finished shooting an event and was pretty happy with what came out of it, so spirits were high. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this whole outing, but I didn’t really care… He asked, I said sure, and off we went.

    Little did I know the corresponding sentiment that would be echoing around the room of making the commitment to not only yourself and your dreams, but to doing it whole heartedly and wisely. It really rang loud and true within me. It was as if I was meant to hear this, meant to be there, meant to meet these people and hear their stories. It was a powerful moment.

    So I went home with this feeling of Horatio Alger and his bootstraps bouncing around my head. Either I was to succeed at my own hands or fail at my own shortcomings. The ensuing week has shown what a positive attitude and some raw nose from the grindstone will get you. I stand now, overwhelmed with the prospects of what seems to be sitting on my horizon. While hopes stand high, I still am preparing for the next step regardless of the outcome. Potential and prospects imminently stand in my path, and it is up to me how I move.

    I thank you for those words at that moment. Timing seems to be everything and this bit of inspiration couldn’t have come at a more crucial point in my career as a photographer.

    All the best and ONE LOVE,
    Lee Starnes

  • sunith said on August 24, 2009

    Perfect, I had a plan but not with a kick-a@# deadline like yours. Did you ever go to B-school? That “Prospect -> Advocate” was beaten into us at B-school. I have some plans which starts in the building I live in. So many doors are awaiting to be knocked at. Well, less talk, more action.

  • zack said on August 24, 2009

    Never been to B-School. My friend Hassel shot a corporate event and the speaker talked about some sort of seven steps to turn a prospect into an advocate. I can’t remember all the stuff in between. I Just like the start and finish! :)


  • Brian Palmer said on August 24, 2009

    Thanks for the push Zack, There are many many people who could use our service but don’t have the funds to inquire. For a lot of us, this will be the start of a routine to start giving back now and not saying “once I make it I’ll give back.” It is easy to just donate to a charity (I’m not knocking that in anyway, there are pleanty of photogrpahers who donate 10+ precent of every booking to a charity) when you are making a steady income from a career. I think it takes and builds character to step outside your comfort zone and approach someone or an organization to give your services away. And you never know who you are helping and/or impacting.

    I’m Down for this project! I need to get organized, make my list, rock those comfy shoes and hit the pavement. As tough as it is for Derrick we all should be able to do the same! We need to get our work done at work, manage our time so that we can go out and get to know who really needs us. i’m getting excited just thinking about how a family would feel recieving a free portrait session knowing they couldn’t afford one to begin with. Image what that would do to some ones day;week;month!

    Let’s Make it Happen!!!

  • Evan Rogers said on August 24, 2009

    Game on!

  • Manny said on August 24, 2009

    I am SO in… I was workin on some sort of plan myself because I have to drop some dead weight. I had hopes of getting this started a few months ago with a friend of mine and it seems that I have been pulling all the effort while he just gives excuses for why he cant help. I have been wary of venturing off and doing my own thing but this virtual kick in the pants could be the thing to get me going. Let’s Go!

  • Tiffany said on August 24, 2009


    I found your blog posts/videos through a link on Twitter and although I am not a photographer, the underlying message is EXACTLY what I needed to hear at this moment in my life.

    I’ve been planning (aka: not doing) a small business for years now, and as terrified as I am of ‘the doing’, this time I am going to jump and believe that my life and work have meaning and purpose (thank you Derrick!).

    It is so wonderful to be reminded in “random” ways that God’s timing is indeed perfect. :)

    I’m looking forward to reading about all the wonderful things that are going to come out of this collective jump off the dock. :)

  • Scott said on August 24, 2009

    Thanks Zack. I need to forget about my excuses that protect me from so called FAILURE and use my creative being to make a go of it.

    Beware Australia! This photographer is about to make a SPLASH by October 1st.

  • Matt S. said on August 24, 2009

    I was standing on the dock wanting to do something great. Then 8 months ago my laptop died.

    I had to go to my desktop to use the computer. Away from the TV.

    I stopped watching TV and got my **** together and jumped off the dock.

    Now I spend 40 hours a week at work (graphic design) and 30-50 hours per week on my photography. I have purpose now.

    I’m so thankful my laptop broke.

  • Charles Verghese said on August 24, 2009

    Once again…Thanks for the insights into your world. Have been following your blog in secret over the last few months. In Secret? yeah, cuz I have been surprisingly busy over the last three months in Dubai.

    My thinking is also a reflection of what you mentioned here. It’s just that I haven’t put it down on paper/whiteboard like you have. And like you, I too have been meaning to send out cards of follow up with a phone call, but haven’t done so.

    I am in the process of shifting house and will hopefully purchase a whiteboard to chalk down priorities & jobs.

    To hear it from you is an inspiration to get off my rear end and execute.

    Anyways, hope all is well on the other side of the pond! Love to Danger, Meghan, Erik and yourself. Hope you still remember the desert drive!



  • Doug Robertson said on August 24, 2009

    tell us what you really think 😉
    Thanks man. I pray for you, maybe that means something maybe it doesn’t, but there it is.


  • Dan B said on August 25, 2009

    These last few posts have been so inspiring Zack. I love the way you get the ball rolling and now Virtual Soap is a “HOT” web item. I am totally in for this. Free stuff is great for anybody, but its especially great if you NEED it.

  • Joe said on August 25, 2009


    These last few posts have been amazing, and this one has been by far the best.

    I really want to do this, and I hope I don’t allow school to bring me down from accomplishing this feat!

    Thank you for pushing us all,

  • Hank James said on August 25, 2009

    I started, what you have suggested, volunteering about 6 months ago taking images @ the Humane Society of the Nature Coast. Not too long after I started taking photos of the shelter animals I was asked to sit on the board and the images have taken a back seat to other endeavors. The photos I have taken though were loved by everyone. I will be putting this back on the burner. I started the project as a way to take better portraits. Animals are not an easy subject.What I found was that after I left the shelter sweating and out of breath from working with these shelter animals was a peace. It felt good to help! It felt so good that I jumped in and became so busy with other aspects of the shelter that I got away from taking images of the shelter animals. So, it’s back to the shelter with my camera to continue with this endeavor and be a part of your challenge. Furthermore, I started several other projects and it is time to get those back on the burner as well. They all have different time lines and it is time to get crunching on them.

  • willie said on August 25, 2009

    Awesome stuff as usual!!!

    I have just made the following post on facebook. Thanks for the inspiration.

    “”FREE PHOTOGRAPHY!!!!!!! One day pro bono ! I will provide a day of photography for a suitable recipient. If you have a person, charity, community group, club, organisation, movement, shelter etc, that needs photography feel free to reply by message (rather than post comment). All respondents will be considered. Unfortunately only one can be accommodated. Please note – NO political or religious groups are eligible.””

  • Will said on August 25, 2009

    Wow, my a#$ hurts but it’s a good pain! Now that I am mid jump I can’t turn back now! I do have a couple clients lined up in the next month! I do need more and will take your challenge! Thanks again for your great posts!


  • Peter Wright said on August 25, 2009

    Hi Zack – thanks for all this.. so thought provoking and so true and close to the bone.
    I got out there today – I live in Cape Town, beautiful but surrounded by poverty. I went and found the guys who cleanmy car from a mobile car wash truck – offered them some portraits to help market their business. It turns out they had just been brainstorming a framing business making frames from recalimed wood – the portraits I take can be used to showcase the frames as well as to help them sell their car wash services..
    Guess it was meant to be in a way..
    Thanks again.


  • Christopher said on August 25, 2009


    @ 6:52 AM, I saw your post from last night, by 7:12, I had read it four or five times. I sat there for the next 20 minutes thinking about it, over and over again.

    I went through my head who I knew, whose “door” I could knock on. Within just a few minutes, I knew of three groups who I could approach. It is now 8:03, the email is drafted and I am about to hit send. And you know what? If all three take me up on it, good for me! And if none of them do, I will find three more whose door I can knock on. I will not wait for them to come to me, I will search them out.

    Your post with its dates/goals is now printed and hung up on my wall right next to my computer. I can’t miss it (unless I don’t want to work on my Mac!).

    I don’t see how I can lose! There can only be good that comes out of this.

    Thanks for taking the time (as always) to make us think and act!


  • Dave said on August 25, 2009

    Great assignment. Funny that you bring this up. I’ve given myself that same assignment. At the end of July, I posted on my blog, announce on Facebook & Twitter that I would be doing portrait sessions for free during the month of August.

    It was a slow start, with some inquiries, but no commitments. Yes, a little disappointing. Until last week, I did 2 shoots last week and I’ve got one tonight and tomorrow night. Kind of slow to start, but once I got started it seems like it’s picking up, let’s hope that momentum picks up.I’m also taking a trip Labor Day weekend with some friends up to W. Virginia. A couple of us have lost our jobs due to the economy and I will be doing family portrait sessions for them as well.

    I also think it’s great about getting back into the gym. Once I lost my job, I started running. My previous excuse was I didn’t have time. I also signed up for the Peachtree 10k as a way to motivate myself to continue training. The Peachtree was my goal and I reached it. Now I’m continuing to run and have signed up for another goal, the Inaugural Atlanta 13.1 Half Marathon. I have found that there is a side effect to this kind of physical activity. Beside some weight loss, I find that I have a more positive outlook and a lot more energy. It helped when I wasn’t getting any response to my free offer.

    If you’re going to get into running, just remember, it’s like walking, only a little faster.

    Thanks for your continuing words of inspiration.


  • Carlos Bruno said on August 25, 2009

    Ok … sorry for the translation once my first language IS NOT the English and, believe or not I learned it watching FRIENDS on TV (any better reason/excuse to see JA’s nipples every episode? ;-).) But let’s see …

    “A very rich man did a party in one of your several houses (mansions).
    NO, this time was not Zack … and ‘those’ beers.
    Full of people … very crowded.
    Riches (photographer from CA … poors (definitively photographers from East Coast) … people with serious jobs and of course Photographers … :-(.

    Well … in certain moment of all that orgy of eats&drinks, the host ask attention of all told to his employees to uncover a HUGE swimming pool. Inside of it, crocodiles, piranHas and other not so gentile animals … all, starving. Can you image the noises of the freaky movies (made with 50Ds and D90s)? Roooar … rooooar … splash … splash.

    SO, the elder party patron (see … couldn’t be Zack) said in laud and good sound that he’ll give 100 millions of dollars if somebody jump into the pool and cross it swimming, and of course, get out alive the other side.

    Nothing … crickets … silence.

    SO, he spoke again and promised, besides the millions, all 250 cars from his precious collection.

    Nothing. Nada. Niente. Even the crickets are paying attention to the scene now.

    He, of course smiling at this point promised besides of those last things, he will give up also all his sexual slaves (gorgeous blondies from switzerland that can make Gisele feels like an ugly duck … asians … brunnets … you name it) AND one of his most beloved houses in Georgia.
    (Well Zack …).

    Of a sudden … a scream!
    A person into the swimming pool! Fighting … swimming … fighting …
    All SB900s and 480EX start to pop trying to register that moment:
    “And IF this person can do it? Hun? Much better than get a place on the first line to see Obama’s Inauguration, right?”
    Even the powerful Alien Bees with a full power Vagabond couldn’t compete with so many power of lights and …
    That person … a very thin man, looking like one of VF magazine’s model, completely scratched, bleeding, almost no clothes covering his bonny body get out the other side of that wet hell.
    Silence again and a couple seconds later an explosion of clapping and HU!HA!s … that last at least 10 minutes (until all batteries of the flashes and cameras drain out … that sh*t rechargeables!).

    So, the host ask all to calm down and shut up. Hug the man and said: Congratulations my man! You got the prize … you are a winn..
    -” … no thanks.” said the man on a very dry voice.
    – “What?” Asked the host “How?Why?
    … don’t you wanna the millions?”
    -” … the cars … the mansion?”
    -“… nope … nope …”
    -” even the SEXUAL SLAVES?”
    -“Nooooope … the only thing that I want is …” and EVERYBODY turns all ears to him to listen his wish …
    -” … discover the M@^%$#^%# F@#^$# who pushed me into that pool!”.”

    Well … sometimes we are pushed into dangerous swimming pools by people we start to consider them enemies.
    But if you pay a close attention you’ll notice actually they are your REAL friends.
    They don’t extend their hands, save you for a brief moment and leave.
    They TEACH you how to teach yourself how to survive. By yourself.
    You born alone and you’ll dead alone.
    All the people that pass by you during your life, I’m not saying they don’t love you (at least not ALL of them), but if YOU don’t want fight FOR yourself, nobody can help more than few moments.

    I deep believe what B., Zack and Derrick did to all of us was pushed each one of us in our own “crocodile swimmingpool”.
    It’s up to us swim, to fight and be winners by ourselves to get out from the other side. Alive. In body and soul.

    There is no easy ways with “three easy steps”, but thanks God there are friends like those three.

    God bless you all!

  • Shannon Kelley said on August 25, 2009

    There is something about this last week’s list of posts I can’t get out of my head. I find myself randomly talking about Derrick’s story to family and friends. Just to see how great God is and how He works!

    I’m an ex-social worker of incarcerated teenage felons and it is blowing my mind how my two worlds, social work and photography, and coming together just by these posts. Love it!

    To all the Derrick’s out there, you are constantly in my prayers.

    As I’m typing this I know how I’m to serve and give back. To give back to these kids who have made mistakes but are fighting for hope.

    Thanks so much for putting this out there Zack!

  • Scott Webb said on August 25, 2009

    This is awesome! It’s right in line with what i’ve been posting on my blog. no regrets. I think you’re much better at rallying the troops though! lol

    I am going through the whole process as I write about it. so i would never expect near the number of troops that show up for this army here. I am taking a bit of a different approach but I have plans for ways that I can try and help.

    Brilliant. My Online Store for my photographic art is almost ready.

    I am in contact with someone that wants me to shoot some interior/exterior architecture for property management, and I am going to contact a few people about portraits today.

    And I already posted up my daily photo on my photoblog. It’s all in steps to building my photography 2.0 business.

  • keith said on August 25, 2009

    “Just tell the kiddos that “Mommy/Daddy needs to follow her/his heart for at least one day before Mommy/Daddy implodes.” A happy Mommy/Daddy makes for a happy house.”

    This is an incredible thought. I can’t even imagine how this could impact a child’s life. How many people wake up and suffer through their 9-5. How many kids pick up that vibe? We need to stop being so complacent with our dreams. Make goals and go after them.

    It’s time for departure. Bon Voyage!

  • JP said on August 25, 2009

    Whoa… that post just cracked me up!

    I will join in this as well. I own a business now that is far from photography (METAL!), and i try to do one thing daily that will help or benefit a customer/client. Whether its helping out an elderly person or giving away something for free, I notice it always comes back 10 fold. A excellent book to read on wanting to run your business your way is a book called “Let My People go surfing” and is based on the owner of Patagonia and how he did things his way… anyhoo, great post and thanks!

  • Josh said on August 25, 2009

    The day I saw the video of derick I came home after work and it was like the first thing I showed my wife. We have a photog biz and immediately we thought who can we help. Both of us immediately thought of a family we know that is trying to adopt & that the grant money they were supposed to receive fell through…so now a portion of all our session fees are going towards the once the little girl is here from haiti the family is receiving a free session & product!

    We also are putting a link on our site and blog just for people don’t even have to book anything through us they can just go directly and help this family out.

    If anyone wants to help out please read more here:

  • zack said on August 25, 2009

    @Carlos – :)

  • Aaron W said on August 25, 2009


    Your new online OneLife workshop is inspiring! Thanks and keep up the wonderful work…! :-)

  • Tim said on August 25, 2009


    Funny you should assign this. I was moved to do exactly this after reading your post and comments about standing on the dock. What really has stuck with me was the comment you made in your original video about everybody sucked once. Then all of the “dock” comments pushed me over the edge.

    I did a family portrait for free. I built the bridge to get over the fact that I don’t know how to adjust the settings on my fancy camera and shot on auto with studio lighting and was knocked over by how well the images turned out. I am certain that if someone as talented as you would look at them you could point out all of the suckage in them but I like them and the client liked them, and I think that was the first step to getting over myself.

    Ps. I posted my flickr website so anyone can stop by and see what I’ve done, suck or not.

    Thanks for your inspiration,


  • Marcus Neto said on August 25, 2009

    This series of blog posts have helped me tremendously. For several years now I have owned a web design company and have really been treating it like a part time job. I do work when I can and only when “inspired”. But this series of posts has given me a kick in the butt. I already make a regular habit of doing pro bono work (just built a site for humane society and starting on habitat site today) but I needed to jump off the dock in another way. I needed to formalize my business so everyone would take what I do more seriously (including myself and my clients). So starting Sept 1st I will be moving into an office instead of working on the couch in front of the TV. This is a big step for me as it is preparation in the case that I need to hire some additional folks. Plus as an added bonus it gives me a place to do my photography.

    Anyway, I wanted to say thank you for all that you have done in the last couple of weeks for all of us. You have ignited a fire…

  • Jon Phillips said on August 25, 2009

    I was at OneLight last week and with these latest blog posts, I can’t help but feel pushed to do something.

    This is where I’m going to start. We have a small annual festival in the town I live in and I’m setting up a little booth. I want to do free portraits ala Clay Enos

    Another project I want to do is start a free portrait ministry in my church. I need to run it by the pastor and get his approval. Thanks Zack

  • Elizabeth Smith said on August 25, 2009

    I am on it. God has been speaking to me LOUDLY about this lately and this was the last kick in the a@@ I needed. Thanks!

  • Jeremy Hall said on August 25, 2009


    you,be just given me a time line and a sift kick in the butt for something I’ve been thinking/talking about doing for a long time. Being the organizer type that I am, it is going to be a group service project. See that positive wording? In my mind it is already underway. I also write this on my iPhone with my butt on the exercise bike for the first time in too long time ad well – it’s time to put several personal goals into action and get off thus plateau I’ve been on.

    Thanks Zack. This is just what I needed.

  • Jason Brooks said on August 25, 2009


    Congrats on trying to lose some weight. The first 2 weeks of going to the gym will be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done. Stay with it. After a few weeks you will come to like it and it will become a habit. It really sucks right now, I’m sure.

    I love this post because it makes me feel ahead of the game. In the past month, I’ve done several shoots for free. Church events, PR for new businesses, and later this week an awards ceremony. Oh yea, I’m also the videographer for our local high school band. I won’t make a dime from these, but who knows what kind of exposure it will bring?

  • brent said on August 25, 2009


    thx – I have a small greeting card company named GIVING that I started w a good friend years ago… / our motto is “what’s inside matters”

    anyway – it’s been a challenge lately for reasons we can all imagine, but the company is part of who I am, and I can’t let it go.

    your recent post have reinspired me.

    so we will help our local free medical clinic with a photoshoot and brochure / ad campaign (tv production via siegler HD) as part of this challenge. thank you Zack – I needed that.

  • Sean said on August 25, 2009

    Gotcha. Will do.

  • Ellie said on August 25, 2009

    Thank you, Thank you! I have been struggling with all of these things you discussed. Progress, and how to love people with my work, like what can I do to give back. I will say the times I have tried in the past have left me quite burnt, so finding what is right for me, I suppose is where its at.
    Sometimes it is discouraging to know I am one of milllions probably to claim this mutual passion. But, I am resolute that my impact will not be miniscule and not because I want to be famous, I could care less. And not because I want to be a millionaire, money only matters to me to pay bills. I could care even less about that. I really believe we are vessels to a higher purpose, so even in this…I can be a friend, family, to those who need it. Compassionate Servitude. But the question is how do I reconcile this goal with the goal of being a business person and not being stepped over. If this means anything. maybe it’s as easy as learning to say “No” when it is needed, and “Yes” when it matters.
    I am also struggling within myself with people that may not understand who I am as an artist, not claiming that I am not quite where I would like. not at all. But when your heart is so connected to your work, it is hard to separate feeling from this. I want to take time and love this, but I end feeling like a photography machine, money in -product out. How do I not feel like this? Well, really I mean what are steps to not let my love become a bone of contention in my life.
    I definitely don’t want my hand held through all of this, but I DO want to be wise enough to listen and take heed to those who have been there, so I can rise above adversity I may face instead of letting it crush beyond intention.

  • scoutj said on August 25, 2009

    I made the mistake of seeing this right before I went to bed last night and it got the wheels turning and made it difficult to sleep. I’m meeting with another photog today and am going to print this out to see what we can come up with. Really great idea.

    Pay it forward.

  • Steve Kalman said on August 25, 2009

    Hi Zack,

    Two items to mention today.

    One: weight loss. My wife pushed me for years to lose weight. A few years ago I said I wanted to get a digital camera and get back into photography. (I had a B&W darkroom when we met.) She offered me a deal. Instead of a gym membership I could use the money to buy a camera if I promised to take pictures while walking/hiking. (I got a G7, which turned out to be the beginning of an addiction. My wife’s latest comment: “He should have tried cocaine; they have rehab for that.”) In that process we found a site I encourage you to check out: You’ll need a handheld GPS (cheap). It is a treasure hunt game with emphasis on the hunt, not the treasure. Start with the low terrain ratings and work up. You’ll soon be taking 30 minute or hourlong walks in parks and woodlands or even city streets, getting some exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise. Look for descriptions that include words like great view or waterfall, if that interests you. Many of my favorite photos were made while looking for a geocache. (Here’s my favorite example, taken in Copenhagen: ) Most caches have some images posted and I usually add one. You can do the walk with the whole family so in years to come, it will be a great way to spend time with your kid(s) that doesn’t involve TV and popcorn. By the way, I walk nearly every day and I’m 100lbs lighter.

    Second, you MUST do thank-you’s. Red River Paper sells pre-scored cards. MPIX prints on playing cards. Find out something about the person who booked the shoot (bridge player? send 6 decks of cards; coffee drinker, send a mug) Include a picture from the shoot if appropriate or one of you favorite shots or even their monogram done on a nice background in CS4 and make it part of the gift (back of the cards, for example). Somehow make it personal, not routine.

    All the best, to you and Meg.


  • Steve Kalman said on August 25, 2009

    Looks like the link got dropped. Not that important.

  • Ryan said on August 25, 2009

    Just volunteered to shoot for the AFSP suicide prevention walk in October. It’s on.

  • Jason Grover said on August 25, 2009

    Wow!Your white board looks very similar to mine. I also found it super crazy how photography is the smallest part about the entire process.

    I find I put majority of my time into the creative planning step and that step alone cuts the time down on the actual shoot seeing how I am prepared and know what I am after for the photos. If the creative planning step is skipped my photo shoot step increases greatly because there is no solid idea to work off.

    One thing I can share and I am not sure if you have heard about this already is I am also trying to remind my self to send out thank you cards but ahhhh! I just never seem to do it (Terrible!) Jen Osullivan told me about this site and it works great. Worth checking out for sure.


  • Megan Case said on August 25, 2009

    Hey there guys!

    I’ve taken the momentum over the last few weeks to combine two of my loves….photography and animal rescue shelters. I sent out my first email to the vet organizing a large event here in Atlanta mid September offering my services to set up a photo booth for pet owners and their beloved animals. All proceeds will go back into the animal rescue foundation (if they accept the offer). Wish me luck!

  • Christopher Kijowski said on August 25, 2009

    Hey Zack, I have been an avid reader of you blog since I stumbled mupon it several months ago. Your assignment put a smile on my face. As a full-time social worker and part-time photographer i am constantly looking for ways to give back. last year I began partnering with the local chapter of Make-A-Wish and photograph their two local galas as well as other fundraising events for them. I am thankful for all of the help and direction I have received since reviving my photography career and if I didn’t give back as much as I have received, well that just wouldn’t be right in my book. Thanks for this post.

  • Jeffrey Morris said on August 25, 2009

    My wife and I jumped off of the dock last Sept. after a couple of years of watching boats and swimmers and drownings and crashes happening around us and were still longing for the photographer experience. Freebies is exactly how we got going.

    First was a wedding for a friend who couldn’t get the photographer he wanted so was willing to take what he could get…us! We photographed that thing from the rehearsal to the last crumbs of the cake being vacuumed up…probably 16-18 hours of total free time…and it was the absolute best teacher in the world. We sucked, but we learned more than standing on the dock would ever teach us.

    Then we volunteered to take photos for a local theater group of their shows and plays and such. About every 2 months they call and we go take pics for a couple of hours at a show so that they have shots for their website and themselves if they want…again, you just could pay to have a better classroom. We have learned so much about working in bad light with fast moving action happening all around you…we do it for free but we almost feels like we should be paying them for the education it’s provided us!

    We’re now on or 4th paid wedding and various paid portrait sessions…still haven’t quit the day job but we’re definitely on our way and for us it totally took taking a free swim or two with many more planned in the future.

    Free isn’t free…you’re being paid very, very generously!


  • Shawn Grimes said on August 25, 2009

    Kick in the pants received and rather than sitting on it, I stood up and I took action. Posted on my blog a request for suggestions of people/families who are in need and I feel great about it. I’m hoping for a quite a few responses so I can help out a few people.

  • DM said on August 25, 2009

    i have stepped up and shot one family and have two more this week all for free and it feels great!!
    Thank you Zack you have given me a new direction and I love it.

  • Don Mamone said on August 25, 2009

    Inspirational to say the very least. Thanks for leading the charge and here is my project:

  • Andy Q said on August 25, 2009

    I am officially signing up so I am placing myself in the hot seat to get this done. I’m pumped !!

  • Doug Wilson said on August 25, 2009

    Nice. In times like these, this is what we all need. Recently through my photography club, we have been donating our time and expertise in making images for our County Paramedics. We ride with the crews, sometimes all day, and capture their story with our images.
    I am amazed of their professionalism, dedication, and compassion for others. These folks are the true daily hero’s, the folks making a difference. I am proud to participate though, if only in a very small way, as I shoot images with my camera. I am telling their story; I have too, as they are far too busy saving lives. Here ZA you are doing your part, again Nice!

  • Martin said on August 25, 2009

    Ok, you’re on, fat man! :-))
    I have been dieting and exercising, too. It’s all about discipline, you know.

  • deb schwedhelm said on August 25, 2009

    my friend, steph and i, have just begun working on a “give ten project” (blog). it’s still in its infancy, but our goal is that it is a place to inspire and share…a place of giving.

    also, i wanted to share about a family i photographed for about six months…until max passed away, from neuroblastoma, at the age of 7. i photographed max once or twice a week, every week, for about 6 months, until aug 31st, 2008, when he passed away. max’s dad created this blog for me, to post some of the photos and journal thoughts. the goal was to raise awareness of neuroblastoma and share the reality of what families, with a child with aggressive cancer, often go through. we wanted it to be more than just a portrait. we wanted to share everything–the good, the bad, the happy, the sad–as much as we possibly could. you can read and see the photographs here:

    even though i no longer live in san diego (near max’s family), i try and stay involved with their foundation (–as much as i can, from a distance.

    the end of september, i will return to san diego to photograph the foundation’s upcoming fundraising event, maxapalooza (

    there truly is nothing more rewarding than giving and the possibilities of doing so are endless.

    we have provided a few ideas (links) on how/where to give, on our “give ten project” website (

    thanks zack for bringing attention to this and making a “call to action”. can’t wait to see how many people you inspire to act.


  • Ray P. said on August 25, 2009

    I am IN! These past few blogs have been the kick in the ass I was in need of! Thanks.

  • Meera said on August 25, 2009

    This is the first time a professional photographer has said to me “Go do something for free”. Free is exactly what I want to do. I want to be the best free photographer in my town! I went for an awesome workshop earlier this year and I got asked “Well if you want to work for free, why are you here?” (asked by another participant). There is a general “you mustn’t be that good” attitude about free services.

    I do all my work for free – for human friends or for underprivileged dogs who are sitting in rescue waiting to be adopted, and one beautiful portrait can be the difference between finding a forever home or being in foster care till you die.

    I’m struggling to find the human equivalent of my rescue dog project, but I will go out there and try once again as a result of this post. Thank you.

  • Eric Langlois said on August 25, 2009


  • Lou said on August 25, 2009

    Wow, awesome post all around. Well, I’m in on this, assuming I can get my computer fixed/replaced by then. Considering as I’m behind on real bills, who knows if that will happen. But we’ll see what goes down. 😀

  • Chris Newman said on August 25, 2009

    I just contacted my local foodbank and offered my services. If they have no specific needs, I’m going to take the initiative and provide them some high-quality images of their facility and some generic “food” stock images they can use. Thanks Zack.

    I was already in the water but I’m now in a new current.

  • Christina Gressianu said on August 25, 2009

    Amazing. This series of posts has made me cry, laugh, think, and discuss. Your Transform video spoke to me like no one has in very long time. You spoke to me like you understood what was in my head, in my heart, and you cared. I pushed off that dock a year ago and I still feel that I am treading water, barely keeping my head afloat. B’s letter, Derrick’s video are bits of encouragement that are so warm and touching and, well, encouraging. Thank you Zack, and B, and Derrick.

  • Stephen said on August 25, 2009

    Thanks Zack.
    As usual, you’re inspiring us to take steps. I’m excited to see where the next few months take this photo community.

    As a newbie to the “full-time” scene I’m trying to have this mindset. I grew up a hustler…I hustled my way to a D1 College Scholarship for tennis…pretty much with this quote:

    “Hard Work ALWAYS Beats Talent, IF Talent doesn’t ALWAYS work hard”.

    I hit so many bad shots, but over time, through pushing my arse as far as I could…I got good. Photography is no different. We’ve gotta jump, just put it out there.

    I don’t have to be the best, I just have to want to be the best, and to follow up that desire with trying OVER and OVER and OVER…

    Thanks for the continued push!

  • James said on August 25, 2009

    I am shooting senior portraits on Friday for a guy who has no money and a broken family. Thanks for the push.

  • Troy B said on August 25, 2009

    Zack – get a hold of me, I can help with your whiteboards…check out my website.


  • Rick Wenner said on August 25, 2009

    “When I play pretend, I’m an ambitious person…” Yep, that pretty much sums up what I’ve been doing with my business over the past month or two.

    It’s time to stop thinking about what I want out of my business and start working at getting there! Zack, your blog is really lighting a fire under my ass (and a lot of other’s as well). It’s like a damn wild fire man! Look at how everyone is reacting to your blog. Awesome!

    In my case, here’s what’s up. I finally finished designing my advertising material and brought them to a local store. They let me hang two 11×17 signs, a 8×10, a ton of brochures and business cards all right up front! I’ve also mailed letters along with brochures to 3 local school districts advertising my senior portrait work. I will follow up the letters with a phone call on Thursday while I’m fresh in their minds.

    Will this work? Will I get my foot in the door? Will someone pick up the phone after seeing my signs at the store? Honestly, I really hope so, but if not, at least I got up off my ass and did something for my work.

    You gotta work for what you want, no one will hand it to you.

  • Martin said on August 25, 2009

    Cheers for this Zack, off the back of this i have taken the plunge and booked a studio to get stuck in.
    For me its a big step forwards, i didnt think i was good enough, others around me tell me i am.
    So what do i know? lol.

    Cant wait till this friday when i get in the studio. Going to be shooting a girl local to us, its free but its a start, its experience.
    Very very exciting, will be so cool.

  • dave jackson said on August 25, 2009

    I’m listening to your words dude and taking on your call to action:


  • tera said on August 25, 2009

    Game on…I’m in!

  • Glyn Dewis said on August 25, 2009

    Can’t say fairer than that.

    We’ve all got one life; let’s make the very best of it we can and give those close to us what they deserve!

    My biggest fear is getting to old age and saying “I wish I’d …….” … with people like you Zack, giving a much needed kick up the a$$ to those of use that need it, that statement ain’t never gonna be said!!!

    Zack, I and many others owe you BIG time. I’m just soooo very grateful that Dave Cross from NAPP blogged about your DVD all those months ago so that a guy like me in the UK could find you; life has been on the ‘up’ ever since ;o)

    Best wishes to you and yours,

  • matt haines said on August 25, 2009

    Photography is easy. Getting it into the right hands is the hard part. Like you said, some things you just have to learn yourself.

  • Jeff Armstrong said on August 25, 2009

    You are becoming a bit of a guru Zak. Don’t let it go to your head 😉 Jokes, mate. Great blog. Again. You have struck a chord that resonates. I hope that we can keep up, truly. Be Good, Jeff

  • Riz Crescini said on August 25, 2009

    Thanks, Zack!
    I’m in.

  • Christine said on August 25, 2009

    I’m in. although, I’m not sure this is the interpretation you intended.

    I’m an at-home Mom, two beautiful kids, love my husband to pieces, volunteer at the school, serve on the PTO board, volunteer with local AND national alumnae associations, constantly shooting and editing photos for clients, designing Christmas cards for my friends…it goes on and on. but what in my day do I do for me? for my spiritual, mental and physical well being? some. but not enough.

    so today, after I read your post, I set everything else down and turned my fall schedule upside down. I’m signed up for yoga class (twice/week), golf lessons (once/week) and a fundamentals of design art class (once/week). four days/week this fall, I’m doing something :I: want to do, something to make me healthier, smarter, more interesting to the world.

    one day/week I’ll work — and work in your challenge.

    looking forward to it!

  • Sparrowhawk said on August 25, 2009


    You have to check out Mind Mapping software!!!!!!!!

    Here is just one..there are dozens.

  • Emilee said on August 25, 2009

    Thank you SO much for this, Zack. These posts have come at an important time for me. I’ve been in a rut and I haven’t known what to do. I know what I want to achieve, but I don’t know how to get there. All I have to do is jump. Overcome my (many) fears and just do it. And I’m going to. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • Amy said on August 25, 2009

    It’s funny how the universe works sometimes. I offered up some free family sessions to my coworkers and to my facebook friends, just as a starting off point, because I didn’t want to put this on the back burner yet again.

    I think so many people are cutting back on family portraits because of the economy, and I’ve known too many people who just wished they could have had just one more photograph of everyone together before someone passed or moved away or became estranged, etc.

    Anyway, I had absolutely no intentions of any personal gain from this. And yet, I’ve had more inquiries for paid sessions this evening than I have had in weeks. It’s like when the universe knows you aren’t in it for selfish reasons, it throws you a little extra pat on the back.

  • Sandy Redding said on August 25, 2009

    Okay… just got off the phone with the woman’s shelter in town. They’re excited. So many things they’d like. Just need to narrow down what they need.

    Crap! I’m in!

  • Scott D said on August 25, 2009


    About losing weight, if you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, get the Lose It! application for it. It works if you use it.

  • Paul said on August 25, 2009

    Great idea. I’ve been trying to shoot people for free for months. I will say that getting takers is often not easy & I gave up! I’m going to get up off my arse and try again.


  • cat said on August 25, 2009

    Calling all still standing on the dock.

  • Aubry said on August 25, 2009

    Awesome…….. I’m in. And like someone else said, keep listening to your wife; it’ll be the smartest thing you ever do!! (go Meg!!)

  • DB said on August 26, 2009

    Hello Zack,

    I’m going to participate in this month’s project but I already did it this week.

    I did a session for a Military Family. The husband is deploying so I offered to take their family photos.

    They stated it meant a lot to them because you just never know what may happen to the military member while they are gone.

    I did not charge them and I will not be making a profit on prints.

    Thank you for send out this challenge!

    Many blessings to you and yours~ DB

  • Stacy said on August 26, 2009

    This is what photography is about. Not about looking at how good of a picture you can take, but WHY you take them. Excellent post.

  • Brian said on August 26, 2009


    thank you for pushing yourself and pushing us out of what we know and into something better. I’ve been kind of burnt out lately with everything photographic, but this really get me excited again about how I can actually help people with my camera. I have a ton of ideas going on upstairs. I’m in.

  • Warwick said on August 26, 2009


    Forget the white board! what you need is this:

    For real!

  • Austin said on August 26, 2009


    I’ve followed your blog regularly since I found you through the shooting on seemless tutorial you offered back a long time ago. I admire your willingness to give of your time and talent to, as cliche as it may sound, make the world a better place.

    You have inspired all of these people who have posted to your blog, and countless others who have read but haven’t commented, to go out and do the same. To put someone ahead of themselves and give. I think this current economic climate can really be viewed as a reawakening to many of what the real priorities of life are. If we die with a lot of toys, a “name” that is followed by “a excellent photographer” and loads of money, thats what we die with. Just stuff and titles. But many people are now realizing that money is fleeting, jobs are fleeting and the titles that they once held, Manager, Owner, CEO, don’t carry quite the status that they once did in the eyes of many. Many in this time are shifting their focus on the things that matter like becoming better parents, husbands, wives, and people.

    I have donated my time in the past with the thought of “This will be great exposure” “People will see what a good photographer I am” and when I didn’t get the bookings from the donation that I expected, it stung. However, I had lost the true focus of that donation. You have helped me refocus my motives when donating. It’s not about me. It’s about what I can do for someone else. I am currently teaching a photography class at my church for free with the goal not to be seen as “an excellent photographer” but to see that each person learns and can then pay it forward to someone else.

    Thank you for your inspiration, Zack.

  • Byrd McDonald said on August 26, 2009

    Just found your website thru reading Tasra and Ron Dawson’s book. You have some amazing insight, and you are a great person for taking the time to impart it. I can’t participate in this challenge as it’s the busiest time of the year for my company, but come October, I’m honestly and passionately going to “give” my creative time to an underrepresented group. Thanks for getting me excited about this.

  • Allison said on August 26, 2009

    Thanks for pushing Zack.


  • Martin said on August 27, 2009

    Been doing the local charity and organization rounds. Amazing how no one wants any help.

    Reminds of derricks 30 door thing. will keep going, there must be someone out there that wants it.

  • Alex D. said on August 27, 2009

    Man, being pushed feels so good sometimes.

    It’s refreshing to hear a creative professional talk about something other than how big there gear bag is Zack. I’m a firm believer in the power of doing things worth doing, and worth doing well. I push myself hard to always shoot something good. I might not always succeed, but tomorrow is a new opportunity to do a million things.

    Anyway, I’m doing my best to spread the word about actually working hard and it’s benefits to everyone I know.

    Thankfully, a lot of them already know you (or at least your blog).

    Keep it real,

  • Nina said on August 27, 2009

    Zack, thanks for the push: I feel the hand on the back and I’m hereby jumping! This statement really speaks volumes: “Turn off your television after work and find someone to serve with your camera.”

  • zack said on August 27, 2009

    Looking forward to what you are doing Mr. Jackson!


  • Luke Copping said on August 28, 2009

    I’ll be speaking this week with the Staff of the Buffalo Alternative Theatre. A struggling non-profit theatre and education group in Buffalo that is in great need of funding, to try to put together an awareness campaign for them. I am also trying to get a designer, as well as some pro-bono ad space donated to them through other publications that I work with in a commercial manner. Buffalo had a once great tradition of theatre that has started to fade in the last few years as Buffalo’s economic atmosphere has been in decline.

  • Scott said on August 28, 2009

    Been away for a few days and catching back up I have to say I really fancy doing this but after the motivation received I fear I have went back inwards, backing away from the challenges.
    Having (yet) another crisis that im no good, in fact I know im no good, the 101 people above that have commented are a small sample of the better togs than I.
    I so want to break this endless cycle of insecurity and hope that these challenges that you have gave are the push I need to get back in the water.

  • Sean said on August 28, 2009

    My ideas always come to me when I am cycling. Tonight was no exception. Exercising is great for generating ideas . So is alcohol of course, but I usually forget the alcohol induced ones :-)

    There’s a music studio down the road for teenagers in bands. I live in Japan and teach English part-time and also have two students in bands. None of them, including the studio kids, can afford a pro-photographer but I’m sure they’d love some good shots for their blogs etc. And I know I’d enjoy shooting them.

    I also have one professional CD cover under my belt which is a bonus.

    For what it’s worth this is what I wrote in my diary this evening;

    I’m going to photograph bands (covers, promos) for free for teenage bands and I’m going to start with Naotaka’s band.
    I’m going to ask him tomorrow.

    And then I’m going to ask Mayumi.
    And then go to the studio near Tsutaya.
    And I’ll ask Yoshimi and Amy.

    My previous attempt to start a business as a kids photographer has kind of fallen flat. But that’s OK. I always knew I was kidding myself with the kids shots. (Just haven’t updated my website yet).

    Thanks Zack, and B, and Derrick. And Scott.

  • Jefrey said on August 28, 2009

    Fate is a strange thing…

    Just over a year ago I was ready to pack away my camera and return to the rat race, when I stumbled upon your website. Your tutorial on white backgrounds made me see the light and opened a whole new set of possibilities to me.
    I’ll be honest; I sponged up the tutorial and drifted over to Strobist from there. I finally started taking some action by partaking in Bootcamp2, where a lot of emphasis is placed on helping someone out with the assignments.

    But it’s been nagging me for some time now that I haven’t checked out your site in ages and last weekend I finally did – boy, am I glad I did. After having seen your clips and the e-mail from “B”, I knew what I had to do. I went out and took some portraits at an old age home. I spent all of Monday and Tuesday trying to figure out what this “blog thing” is all about ( Hey – do live in South Africa:-) and how to do it. As of Tuesday I have a blog and will be updating it several times a week with photos that I ACTUALLY TOOK.

    I just returned from a shelter on the outskirts of Johannesburg which harbors, clothes, feeds and provides education for over 600 people without any state funding –totally self sustaining, apart from public donation, which are few. It turns out that they need photos for pamphlets and if someone could help them with a gallery on their website..? I thought I’d check in on your site and catch up with what’s been happening this week and there she is again – FATE.

    So I’ll be documenting their workshops, educational programs and development projects in the townships.

    Thanx for getting “real” and inspiring others to do the same!

  • Jennifer said on August 28, 2009

    I want to go to a homeless shelter and take pictures of the moms and their kids. I like this idea. I like that I won’t have the pressure of getting paid, which will relax me and allow me to be more creative! Yay!
    And I believe the mom’s will REALLY appreciate this gift!

  • Steve Jewett said on August 28, 2009

    Hi Zach,

    I am really interested in your ‘white board’ chart. I’ve been fascinated with managing the creative process for years. I’ve built a cool system that really helps. It started with a graph on a board, and has grown to be a very comprehensive system… Lots of fun from there to here.

    Check us out at

    I’ve built a schedule for a shoot based on what I saw in the picture of your white boars… time, tasks, budgets everything. all available via the web, all very easy, very flexible, very accessable by everyone involved. It took me about half an hour.

    Thanks, I’ve enjoyed your images and your posts.


  • lmphoto said on August 28, 2009

    im in.

    and running is just putting one foot in front of the other. just until you reach that mailbox, or the quarter mile mark on the treadmill. and once you do, you will probably think, “hey, i could do that again.”

    thanks as always. i’m paddling now, i think!

  • SAL-e said on August 29, 2009


    I saw couple of comments about Mind Mapping software. I was thinking in the same line, but before you start using software take a look of “The Mind Map Book” by Tony Buzan and Barry Buzan
    The white board with color markers is the best start.

  • Brittany Davis said on August 29, 2009

    Thanks for putting this all together and for the inspiration. It’s amazing how one or two simple moments can change the lives of many. You are doing that hear, with that hope and inspiration trickling down to thousands of others through those who participate here. Thanks for not being afraid to start a movement. Congrats.

  • Just Another Girl With a Camera said on August 31, 2009

    OK. How is it that you show up with just the right word/idea/challenge every time I feel as if I’m drowning?
    I’ve been thinking about closing my studio and calling it quits. For the moment, anyway, I think I’ll accept your challenge, instead. Once again, I thank you.

  • JVL said on August 31, 2009

    I just want to throw down a comment because what you’re doing is so DOPE that I took the time to solicit, bank, shoot, and BILL my first fully corporate client and I did it with a bit of belief in myself inspired a lot by the past few weeks of this blog.

    Seeing this post now makes me feel that I got a little off my ass before “papa” Arias came to slap me off my seat. Weird; reading your blog makes me feel good about MYSELF. And not in that “watching the trash on Jerry Springer kinda way”, but the mutual respect that you have for everyone kinda way.


  • Wouter Brandsma said on September 1, 2009

    This kicks ass Zack. Very inspiring!

  • Chris Newman said on September 2, 2009

    I just heard back from my project idea (a local food bank). I was getting disheartened that they hadn’t responded and was trying to come up with other ideas. But they emailled me today and are excited to meet.

    Keep plugging away guys.

  • Amanda McKinley said on September 4, 2009

    Awesome! I twittered a link to your site so I can share this with my friends.

  • Liam said on September 7, 2009

    Re your PPPS you’ve summed it up many times on this site.

  • Greg Lumley said on September 11, 2009

    I love this idea! I’ve volunteered my services a few times! I recently did a shoot for of a tea-lady at my GF’s work. She earns a measly R250.00 a week that’s about $33.00 Us, the minimum wage and her wealthy boss chooses to pay it (pathetic!)

    Initially it was supposed to be for stock but I quickly abandoned the idea realizing this girl could just have something so I shot more for her portfolio instead.

    I really hope that she does pick up modeling work from them I’m sure she could and quite frankly nothing would make me happier for her to earn more in a single day than she does for a whole year!

    In the meantime I have become her “godfather” she is so appreciative of something I gave her that I take for granted it really is quite fantastic!

    If you are interested in seeing the shots here they are:

    What a great idea Zack, I’ve done various charity shoots but seldom where I initiated it… that’s about to change!


  • Jason Jones said on September 16, 2009

    About 3 weeks ago (before I saw this post today ), I filled out a volunteer application for an organization that does newborn remembrance/bereavement photography and gives the images to parents. Even before reading this post, I had this nagging urge to do thsomething like this, I just did not know what it would be. Another photographer showed me the site and I knew it was what I wanted to do with my camera to make a difference for someone else. My wife and I have friends who lost a baby, and the hospital gave them a disposable camera and said you have a few minutes to take pics if you want them. They looked like autopsy photos and I doubt they will ever look at them again. So many parents never get to take their baby home, much less have the opportunity for professional portraits with them. Their application process takes a few weeks and I haven’t heard back yet, but I am really excited. Anyone else interested can check it out at

    even if you dont want to volunteer photos, they have spots for photoshop artists to help with pics taken by hospital staff or parents when no one else was available. Many of the babies are born with missing or heavily bruised skin and other traumas, so they try and work the photos to a point they are not so upsetting etc. I know this is not for everyone, but if you read thru the forums where parents who really were not sure about the service at the time reflect back a year later- it is AMAZING at what a simple photo session did for them.

  • Rick said on September 16, 2009

    FAILURE – If you have never failed, you have never lived! ZACK check out this vid – perfect for your blog.

  • Cindy Stevens said on September 19, 2009

    Just read Jason’s post and had to respond. I am a labor and delivery nurse and I have cared for family’s that have lost a baby. The last one I took care of just came to visit me with the album and video from our nowilaymedowntosleep photographer. It was the most precious thing in the world to this young lady and it brought tears to my eyes. A true worthy cause. I will refer everyone I know to this photographer (Danielle Bodony) because of the wonderful thing she did for my sweet patient. I would also like to suggest sendoutcards to anyone who has photography experience. It will change your life…
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