Photo 101 :: Call For Questions

March 7, 2009 | • Workshop News


I’m deep into the planning and preparation for my new workshop series that I will be launching in Dubai at the end of this month. This is a photo 101 course for people who are pursuing this craft to turn it into a living. This isn’t a workshop for the enthusiast. This isn’t a workshop that will tell you how to be passionate and create an experience around your photography. While all of that is important in this day and age, none of it matters if your photography sucks and you have no idea what you are doing outside of aperture priority mode.

I’m going to break down the technical aspects of photography to the bare essentials of what you need to know as a working photographer. I will not be spending a minute of time on the scientific technical math of the craft. You open your camera bag in front of your client. You need to know what lens to grab and how to use the environment in front of you. You need to find the GOOD light and not waste your time in the crap light. I will be teaching you how to trouble shoot as much as I will be teaching how to shoot. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my career and I will be drawing a lot on my mistakes more than my success because failure has been key to my success. The problem is, I could have avoided a lot of my failures. I’m going to help you avoid the same problems.

As I finalize the curriculum for 2 days of teaching this in Dubai and bringing it home as a 3 day workshop here in Atlanta, I want to get some questions from you; the aspiring photographer.

What are you struggling with in your young photographic life? What brick walls are you running into? What part of theory or application bugs the crap out of you that makes you want to hang the cameras up and walk away? Is it the technical? Is it the business?

I need some things from you.

1. Your questions that you would want answered in a course like this. I’ll turn some of these questions into blog articles as well.

2. Your images that you would like open and honest critique of. In public. On this blog. Send me a link to your work at if you want honest feedback on your work. This is only for people pursuing this craft as a viable career option. I want to see where people stand in their technical skills and give some feedback to you. While I give honest critique, I’m not a nail spitting jerk. :) You are safe with me. ETA – I’m already getting emails! Note that when I critique your work here I will be sensitive to search engine indexing of your name and your site. I will host your images on my server without hot-linking. This way you get critique of your work, everyone gets to learn, and google won’t point your clients to my blog critiquing your work.

3. If you are a struggling photographer based in Atlanta who wants to learn more about this craft and get out of your day job, write to me. Tell me what your day job is, why you want to leave it, and what type of photography you want to do. I’ll talk to you offline about an idea I have.

If you have questions about photography, just start leaving them in the comments. Thank you!

Cheers, Zack


  • Jason Y said on March 7, 2009

    I have learned a lot from you and I am now confident in my shooting. I have all the cliché junk I need, for example lights, lenses, website, cards, but I am not finding the money!

    I don’t have the business aspect down. This is what I need! I am tired of having my hand held for everything!
    Any suggestions? Once again thank you Zack, your def. One of a kind!

  • zack said on March 7, 2009

    Finding the money…. that’s a good one Jason. Question noted.


  • Seshu said on March 7, 2009

    Zack – this sounds awesome. Even though I have been at it for a few years, I have attended your terrific OneLight Workshop, my brick wall is working with a variety of ambient lights. How do you factor those shifting exposure values when photographing your subjects? I am talking about doing this at a fast paced and often long wedding day. I may or may not have expressed myself clearly here, so let me know if what I am asking of you doesn’t make sense. Thank you!

  • zack said on March 7, 2009

    Hey Seshu,
    Question noted. Good one.


  • Tony said on March 7, 2009

    What your take on corporate branding? Yes it’s true that I learned a great deal by blog and DVD…thanks alot!

  • Ed Verosky said on March 7, 2009

    Suggestions from someone who’s been there:

    1) How to find the picture the client wants. This isn’t always obvious, and shouldn’t be assumed. Knowing what they really want, helps drive the purchases.

    2) Tips on building rapport or trust quickly using one’s own personal style of dealing with people. A comfortable and collaborative subject will tend to like the pictures you take of them.

    3) How to prepare: Be able to start the shoot without thinking. You don’t want to go blank, or fiddle with too many exposure/lighting decisions at the beginning of a shoot (when you’re trying to build that rapport and confidence in a subject). So, maybe tips on how to “cheat sheet” your own initial setup/settings?

    Hope this helps.

  • Doug Kessler said on March 7, 2009

    Zack- How do you decide how much your time is worth without over or underpricing yourself out of work?

  • zack said on March 7, 2009

    Oooo Ed. Great set of questions. You too Doug. Thanks.


  • zack said on March 7, 2009

    Tony – Are you talking about branding yoruself?


  • Tony said on March 7, 2009

    Yes and also my wife (MUA)We thinking about websites, separately of course. She’s been waiting for me to get in the game big time!

  • Mask Photo said on March 7, 2009

    The most frustrating thing is the public perception that photography isn’t worth paying for. The “good enough” attitude, as in “why should i pay $XX for you when Pete Pointshoot will do the job for only $X?” (these clients aren’t really looking for an answer; they’re looking for more fuel for their preconceived notions that you’re an overpriced highbrow)
    It’s this kind of thing that has gotten me away from the “toilet that it known as craigslist,” but I haven’t found a good way to find clients in this digital-obsessed age.

  • eralphia3 said on March 7, 2009

    I’ve been watching your blog for a couple of days now and learned alot. Your DVD is great. You should do more short videos about shooting with off camera flash. 2 to 5 mins long.

    I have only been shooting for a couple of months now. I come from a graphic design background. So I always think I can fix any mistake in post. Just a bad habit.

    It would be cool if you did a “Photography for Graphic Designers training”.

    Since graphic designers(like myself) are always looking for images. Having a “How to maximize the use of an image” would be a great training session. You have touched on that a little bit on the DVD.

    I just came from my first “pro” shoot with my atl based group last weekend. There were alot of photographers that attended.

    How do you “find the money/clients” with so many professionals and aspiring photographers out there?

  • yazan said on March 7, 2009

    god i wish i was still living in Abu Dhabi or visiting my family there, so I can have a chance at attending this.

    I’ll make sure to send this to my aspiring photographer friends in the UAE.

  • kristie kulik said on March 7, 2009

    I think Ed hit the nail on the head with his questions…these are all things I struggle with. Especially going blank in the moment- would love to get over that one!

  • Zach said on March 7, 2009

    Zack, #3 describes me pretty well. I’m in between wanting to to photography in a more serious way, and just doing it as a side job while staying with the day job. This workshop sounds fabulous!

  • Dan said on March 7, 2009

    I have a few questions, Zack.

    I fall right into your target demographic = I’m in the process of trying to transition from being an “IT guy that’s also a photographer” [who was recently laid off (yay, economy!)] to a “Photographer who used to be an IT guy”.

    I’m in a luckier position that most, in that I have enough of a “pad” to float on for the next month or so, and have been spreading the word amongst _everyone_ I know, looking for photo work. I’ve been pretty lucky so far, too, landing a handful of paid gigs, and [feeling like I] came off professional enough to justify the amount of money I charged.

    My questions are these:

    How much should I charge? Should I try to break things down by hour? Maybe by project? A day rate? What about post production? I’ve been fine with sending clients to a .zip file to download with all of the raw images and letting them do whatever the hell they want with them. Should I specify separate rates for retouching, or just assume that people want that, and bundle it into the price?

    Professional services – namely, photo-centric hosting services like Zenfolio, PhotoShelter, and LiveBooks – worth it? Do’s/Don’ts?

    Microstock – worth pursuing? (It’s not like I’m doing anything else with my down time, so I figure it can’t hurt)

    Accounting/Billing/”running the business” – what software or services should I use? QuickBooks? pros/cons?

    Portfolio – how much is enough or too little? Five really awesome shots all in the same style/genre? Two dozen shots from different styles/genres?

    And that’s just the latest stuff that’s been on my mind this week. :)

    I feel like I’ve got a realistic shot at doing this, and man, your blog and posts – most recently [for me] the DIY-cyc thing – has totally rocked my world. I’m not sure if this is the proper forum to submit photos for critique like you’re asking, so I’ll refrain from posting links until I hear back from you, but I’d love to hear what you think of what I’ve been up to lately.

    Looking forward to seeing this workshop, and will be there with bells on if/when you come to the big apple.


  • Dan said on March 7, 2009

    Oh, I forgot one other crucial question –

    Printing! Online-based service, or better to get my own printer and do it by hand?

    thanks again, and sorry for the verbosity.

    (yes, that’s a real word)


  • anna crane said on March 7, 2009

    this is embarrassing, but my results are quite uneven. Since I am completely self-taught, I am not sure why. I usually shoot in aperture priority mode, sometime manual, but sometimes have focus issues…I almost had to laugh out loud when I saw the graphic up top. Sent you some work for critique…with gratitude.

  • Dennis Murray said on March 7, 2009

    What I want to know is how to interact with portrait subjects to bring them quickly into that zone where they deliver their personality. At the same time, how do you direct their posture and position to make them look their best?

  • Kortney Jarman said on March 7, 2009

    I am pretty confident in my shooting,but nervousness comes into play in the interaction with the client. How to set them at ease, most of the people I have dealt with so far are the ones who say they don’t like their photo to be taken but know they need some new pictures. This causes a major hurdle to overcome from the beginning.

    The other area I struggle with is after the shoot and the processing of the photos. How far should you go in your processing? This last question might be for a photo 102 course.

    Zack, thank you for putting all the great information and tools on this site. It has been a help and inspiration to me. This workshop sounds amazing.

  • Tracey said on March 7, 2009

    How do you make yourself “invisible” at an event, instead of “that photographer that was always in the way”?

  • Dennis Pike said on March 7, 2009

    Hi Zack, the majority of my questions are business oriented. I know my camera inside and out, backwards and forwards. I shoot 100% manual and I know how to use flash. I don’t now how to break into he professional world. I have done plenty of work 2nd shooting for wedding photographers and although I enjoy it, Wedding photography is not what I want to do. I love shooting people, I love portraits, but not like the standard “family portraits” I would love to shoot bands and musicians. I have no idea where to start though. I also do some very boring freelance work for a local magazine. I also would like to know how to make something out of nothing. like when a background sucks or lighting sucks. Thank you Zack

  • zack said on March 7, 2009

    These are all great questions! Keep ’em coming.


  • Bethany said on March 7, 2009

    Thanks for taking questions! One of my greatest frustrations is when I’m shooting on a really overcast day and I have terrible “contrasty” shots. I shoot all manual and I feel like I’m just “not getting it”. This afternoon I shot in one of these situations and it was pretty dreary outside (Oregon) and my ISO was up to 1200 or so just to be able to get 1/200th shutter speed at f/2.2 w/ my 85mm or 50mm lens. And then as I photographed my subjects I kept getting the white blown out and the darks too dark… and I’d adjust my exposure and stop it down a bit… then everything feels too dark and is still contrasty… this is the one situation that I feel like I just don’t understand. There was no shade or overhang to put my subject. How do you expose in these situations? I feel pretty dumb for not getting this since it isn’t rocket science!! Thanks SO much! :)

  • John Hodge said on March 8, 2009

    Zack, thanks for such a great resource on the web. I agree a lot with Dennis’s comment above. I feel like the problems I have are not really technical at all. I know how to get good exposures and sharp pictures, and I know a lot of the basic rules of composition. However, I think that I really lack the confidence, and the portfolio, to go out and tell people that they should hire me as a professional photographer. I feel like there is some sort of gap that needs to be bridged between being technically proficient and being able to make money with my camera.

  • Todd said on March 8, 2009

    Zack~ I echo Dennis in #22. He and I are in a very similar boat. Although I want to get into paying my mortgage with protraits instead of bands/musicians. I feel I have the ability. But I need SERIOUS HELP whith the business side – MARKETING HELP PLEASE!!

    Also, We’d love to see you out here in Tulsa sometime! Let me know if you need a place to stay =).

  • Matt S. said on March 8, 2009

    Zack, as I said recently on the strobist website, you are my hero. I watched your DVD and was blown away. I am an exponentially better photographer because of it. Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge and doing so in an incredibly entertaining way. I’m sure my wife got tired of hearing me yell out, “that’s amazing!” while watching the DVD. Especially when you had your model (christina?) down by the overpass in the abandoned lot.

    Again, thank you.

    Now, my question. I have a very organic photography business where I know most of my clients but it’s growing-fast. I need to know the step by step details on the business aspect of photography when it comes to dealing with clients. From pricing and how you determine how you charge and giving that to the client to what you charge for (retouching etc.). From traveling on location with a client (1 car or 2) to how you get the pics to the client. From how they choose their pics and which ones you retouch to watermarking and model releases.

    I’m sure you treat different types of clients differently as well. I’d love to see examples of business dealings with all of them.

    Thank you again.

  • Kendale said on March 8, 2009

    Aloha Zack,
    Thank you for sharing the information, techniques and experiences through your site, and for offering a platform to ask the questions that have been tripping us up.

    1. One of the areas I’ve been struggling with is being able to shoot faster and more consistantly. As I’ve been trying to shoot in manual mode, what steps would you recommend in learning to read a given situation and selecting the apropriate settings for the camera.

    2. As most of my work has been landscapes, I would like to make the jump over to people/portraits/wedding photography, but have not been getting good results using available light, especially when shooting outdoor weedings/events.

    3. And finally, how does one go about producing prints so that look like they do on the monitor screen (calibrated). Most of my attempts have lacked the depth, brilliance and pop.

    Mahalo and Aloha!

  • Heather said on March 8, 2009

    As for advertising/getting your name out there…what’s better? Word of mouth (plus all the free advertising you can do; blog, website, etc.) or actually paying for advertising?

    Also, how to set your pricing. What’s too cheap, what’s too much?

  • Rosie said on March 8, 2009

    Hi Zack,
    Thx for this opportunity. My question is… how the heck do u break the ice between your client and u during a studio session? I have a hard time cause’ I’m a pretty “not talking” person and usually I’m more concentrated in what I have to do than what I should say to them… I suck @ giving directions LOL… help…glup… glup… You are my hero!!! Best wishes, Rosie :)

  • zack said on March 8, 2009

    Lots of emails coming in! This is great.


  • Charity said on March 8, 2009

    Your timing is impeccable Zack!
    I appreciate you doing this :)
    I am in the process right now, going completely cold turkey into photography – trying my best to come out the other end a continuously working professional.
    I can definitely relate to a lot of the questions posted here already. Especially the ones pertaining to pricing/finding the money and building a rapport with clients – which leads me to my question: self promotion. What are the most effective self promotion tactics that you have found? What have you found to be negative attention grabbers vs. positive? (ie. cold calls, email, follow-up timing and tactics)?
    Is this what I should be focusing on to bring in work? Are there other ways? What have you found brings in the most clientele?

    I wish I was in Atlanta, so that I could participate in that last section :)
    I’ll be interested to learn more about this workshop that you are putting together, along with the questions you choose to write about on your blog! Look forward to it!

    Thanks so much!

  • Seth Thompson said on March 8, 2009


    At the risk of being redundant, my struggle is also the business side of the craft. I’m good with the camera, good with multiple strobes, balancing ambient/flash. And I’m pretty good (and getting better as the technical side becomes second nature) at rapport with my subjects. But getting my name out there, and finding clients, seems like I get around one wall just to find another. I would read and re-read any and all advice, thoughts, successes and failures you have in that area.

  • Terrence Randell said on March 8, 2009

    I am yet another IT guy that wants to be a full time photographer.

    1. How do you break in to the music photography scene, or any photography scene when you are clientless?

    2. Not so much a question as a potential blog post, but developing a list of equipment and tools the aspiring pro must have, based on the type of work they want to do. Everything from glass to web site. Cover how good it needs to be at the start. The balance I am struggling with is spending too much now when I have no paid work yet.

    3. How to deal with crazy light schemes on a shoestring budget, i.e. someone wants a shoot in their home in the evening with just a few table lamps, or a band wants a night shoot.

    4. How to approach a client cold and pitch them. For example, you want to shoot bands but never have. You find some local bands in your scene. How do you hook ’em, even if it’s complimentary sessions at first.

    5. Starting out, is it wise to do complimentary sessions for portfolio building or set your rates low and increase as you get better? Hard to say where the line is between selling yourself short and not getting traction.

    6. How to reverse engineer images to learn what made that image grab you.

    7. How much personal work to show the public versus showing what you want to sell? For example, I love nature and wildlife, but I’m not interested in selling that now, yet some of it is good work and show my talents.

  • Lewicka said on March 8, 2009

    This sounds like an interesting thing, cannot wait to see results.

    I am pretty comfortable with my camera, and I am educated in advertising animation, which helps a lot in business side of photography, but my biggest struggle comes from a fact that I am a foreigner, guess you cannot really find a fix for that until you can speak the language good enough they will not recognize you are from abroad, or simply make something so exotic out of it it will drawn people attention. But maybe you have some other ideas? :)

  • Jon Freeman said on March 8, 2009


    Just to add my voice to the same cry as most of these comments. I personally feel I have the technical aspects of photography, exposure, lighting, etc. down.

    My struggles also are in the business sides of the equation. I recently was in a conversation with a new photographer and told him that the tech stuff is simple compared to trying to make a business out of photography. The difficult part is finding clients that WILL pay you for good work.

    I’ve shot for family and friends, their bands, their seniors, their products the list goes on. I was told that “My photos were better then the guy charging $400 that they previously went to, but we’ll pay you $50 and we want the pics on a CD”. Should I of just walked away at that point? Then add in the Craigslist “ I need a wedding photographer for $150 & I own the rights!” This seems to be the mentality of the people “the market” whom need photographers. Does the Market only want shoot & burners?

    So, if I could go to a workshop that would cover:
    1.Finding clients that will pay for your work. (I’m thinking I got to get out of the people and into corporate work)
    2.What to give in a package? (especially if its not a wedding? (What do you give your bands, magazines, web?))
    3.How to advertise for the right clients? (if advertise at all)
    4.Who to contact to get Editorial work?
    5.What you provide for their magazine and web? (Industry standards)
    6.How you’d go about Marketing/ Branding your work?
    7.How do you know when to cut the cord that is your day job? or just leave photography as a part-time job?
    8.Do you pick your clients and find a way to work for them? Or do they find you?
    9.How to write up a proposal/bid for a job?
    10.What should be in a contract?

    Wow sorry to just unloaded. These are the items I think would help me move my photography business into the next level. I would absolutely sign up for a workshop that went over this. There is so many beginner photography workshops covering all the how-to take a correct photo in an exotic location. How about an intermediate photography class on getting your business running. Running correctly and surviving any economy.

    Zack, your story is so inspiring it gives me hope and I am grateful for what the Lord has given you to pass on to all of us. I hope this helps you and looking forward to this workshop coming to Denver. (hint, hint)

  • zack said on March 8, 2009

    Between comments here and all the email I’m getting, this is becoming a pulse of the young photography market. Amazing. Keep ’em coming.


  • Raymond Ahner said on March 8, 2009

    Hi Zack,

    How do you convince bands, publicists, venues, etc.. that your images are actually worth something? It seems that too many people in the music industry expect you to GIVE them pictures. So cool that you are doing this!

  • Andy Clement said on March 8, 2009

    How do you balance a full time job, family and wanting to shoot and learn more about photography?

    I also echo what Dennis said in #22.

    Thanks, Andy C

  • Frederik said on March 8, 2009

    Zack, You’re amazing !!

    Just sent my email. Thanks again !

  • Rosie said on March 8, 2009

    I couldn’t help myself so I decided to come back and read what ELSE others are asking and… I feel much better now, knowing there are so many of us on the same page.
    I think you just started an EVOLUTION. You rock! R

  • amanda s said on March 8, 2009

    Just wanted to say I love your blog and all the questions people have thrown out are great… Are you planning any other workshops? I’m out on the west coast. I’ve tried learning with books, dvds, etc., but I seem to pick up more interacting with professionals.


  • Adrian St. Onge said on March 8, 2009

    My biggest problem with the photography business is just that.. the business side of things.

    How did you start contacting bands/musicians to take photos of them?

    How did they react to your prices?
    Did you start buy underpricing yourself?

    How did you get the word out about your self?

    What advertising options do you use? (print/radio/tv/online)

    And one personal question that I always ask.. Does living in a big city give you more opportunities to get work or do you just drown in a sea of competition. Is it possible to be successful in a fairly small city?

    Thanks for doing what you do Zack.
    Keep up the good work.

    — Adrian St. Onge

  • Tim Larson said on March 8, 2009

    Zack, first off I have to say that I got your DVD this last week and have learned a lot! Thank you!

    My question is this… Let’s say that I do an event and take 500 photos, how do you decide how many of those photos that you give to the client?

    You mentioned in the lightroom section of your DVD that you sit down with the client and show them your shots… is that after you pick out the best and filter the 4 and 5 star rated photos… or do you pick these out with the client?

    Thanks so much.


  • Andrew said on March 8, 2009

    A little anecdote from my best friend who makes his living as a photographer helped me to think about one point clearly — doing it *right* and making quality work. Story goes that the client approached him about having a portrait of herself with her daughter and they were interested in probably one 20×30 and an 8×10 or something. So he reluctantly took the assignment, knowing that the proceeds would be minimal. When he got there, the light was right, the location was beautiful, and he got into the shot. He did some of his best work and felt really good about what came out of the camera. When it came time to purchase ‘the print’, the client was so pleased with the work that she placed a $1000 order. The obvious moral of the story being – when you have integrity and stick to your artistic truth, rewards can follow. I understand that it’s no consolation to someone who is faced with customers who want to give you a spray and burn assignment. But you can’t be all things to all people. If you do cheap quick and dirty work, it will show, and that’s what your reputation will be made of. There’s one in every retail category — WalMart, McDonalds, Promaster / Quantaray, Maaco (auto body and paint), Audiovox (car stereo), etc. Eventually, the people with the spray and burn shoot will show their package to someone with better taste, and they’ll write you off without knowing that you could do better work. Even if McDonalds makes some form of gourmet burger, I won’t ever bother to try it, because there’s no point. McDonalds makes a Big Mac, and when I’m hungry for one, that’s where I’ll go. But there’s no way I will ever associate a quality burger to the arches. That said, there’s nothing wrong with owning a McFranchise. They’re popular and profitable in their space. But you have to choose what kind of material you want to be a purveyor of with your reputation in mind.

  • Dave said on March 8, 2009


    I’d love to share my stories and struggles along my own journey if desired. I’ve had a wild ride, to say the least. I could even put together some video. Just let me know how I can help.

    Oh and some questions. I still don’t have these answers myself, but I feel this stuff is equally as important as good light and Lightroom 2.0. I’ve had my own trials this past year after going full-time in the photography world, but I never once looked back.

    1. How do you, personally, make your wife and boys the number one priority in your life and find the time to step away from the camera to be a father, husband and friend?

    2. What makes you happy at the end of every sh!tty day… and willing to improve on at the end of every AMAZING day?

    3. How do you measure success within the industry?

    4. I almost left photography 5-6 times this past year. After all the chaos and struggles. What kept you holding on to hope? What kept you inspired and motivated to continue down your path?

    5. Why New Castle. Of all the other good beers out there. Why?

    Take care dude.

  • Charity said on March 8, 2009

    In response to Dave’s comment – I second #4. That’s a huge wall to overcome…

  • Hoddo said on March 8, 2009

    Zach – wish we had people like you over here in the UK willing to help without always something in return.

    BTW – do you ship your dvd to the UK?

  • Hoddo said on March 8, 2009

    Oh forgot my actual question…

    that’s about imagination and inspiration, drive and motivation.

    Many times I get the equivalent of writers block, sometimes ideas just burst forth (usually at times when I wish I had some paper to write them down). I’m curious, are you ideas those that come at 3am or from other sources like clients, your wife etc. What do you do when you suffer writers block?

    Again Zack, thank you

  • Cyler said on March 8, 2009

    I am just starting out, aspiring to be a wedding photographer. I have learned almost everything I know about photography from the internet. Sites like yours, Strobist, and a couple of excellent forum communities have helped me grow into the photographer I am today and will continue to guide me in my constant journey to achieve a higher level of skill and competence. Thank you so much for continuing to help out us that are looking from the outside in.

    I can’t seem to generate interest in my photography. My website isn’t getting much traffic and the inquiries I am getting don’t lead anywhere, yet everywhere I go I’m told how good a photographer I am. I know I still have a long ways to go, but I know there are photographers worse than I making a living in my market. I can’t seem to bust past this.

  • Chad Pennington said on March 8, 2009

    Wow Zack I think everyone answered all of my questions already but let’s see if I can bring up a few new/old ones.

    1)How do you buy equipment that you need without putting your household (my wife and newborn in July) at risk and letting her know that it is a wise investment and it is for all of us.

    2)I am a graphic designer as well but I feel a stronger pull from photography that I don’t feel with design (Why)

    3)Other than Pixel size is Medium Format the next step for more detail in your images at full size.

    4) Some of my shoots are far and few between. What should I be doing in the mean time?

    Should I be shooting things everyday to keep my skills up
    or should it be at least once a week.

    5) Last one – how did you get to be soooo Cool

  • Lloyd Thrap said on March 8, 2009

    O’la Zack. Hope your having a grand day.

    First my condolences on your loss…

    Yes I would like open and honest critique of my work in public.


    Portfolio of sorts.

    My question is… What is the best way for an emerging photographer to promote too and build a client base? IE How do I get people to want to pay me? So many shooter doing it for free….

    Hey if you like the work at all let me hear from you. I’ll tell you how I do it!

    Lloyd Thrap
    Albuquerque, New Mexico. USA

    Transform :: A short film for is amazing. Thank you for that !

  • Mark Weaver said on March 8, 2009

    First off, thanks so much for providing such a valuable resource for everyone. I picked up alot of my technical lighting knowledge from strobist but you fired my inspiration. The seamless videos really opened my eyes to 360 degree shooting and has been indispensable.

    Only a few questions…

    1) Does the struggle to maintain the passion for shooting, tempered by the business side ever truly even out?
    2) How do you manage your time to attempt to avoid getting burned out? (I got buried when I owned a graphic design company in the past and had to walk away from it)

    Thanks again, photography is currently helping me survive a NASA layoff and I owe my confidence and professionalism to your guidance :)


  • Kim said on March 9, 2009

    I’m still pretty new in this field. I know this is what I want to do but I can’t seem to improve one major skill, exposure. Sometimes I get it right on, other times, not so much. How do you get a correctly exposed photo all the time? I have a light meter, and I have tried to use it but I think I’m not understanding something. Then there is flash. Yeah, haven’t quite mastered that yet either. :)

    So, for many on this they seem to have the technical side down but I’m still stuck.


  • Ed Z said on March 9, 2009

    Hi Zack – sent this in my critique request, but figured I’d post it along here as well for everyone else to see too. Anyway, a bit of background: I’ve been shooting casually for about 5 years, seriously for about 2 and am trying really hard to build a business right now. I am eating, sleeping, and breathing this stuff – if I’m not shooting, I’m brainstorming ideas for a shoot or marketing ideas or drawing lighting diagrams.

    my biggest challenge right now is simply approaching clients, both commercial (businesses, designers, etc…) and editorial (art buyers, magazines, photo editors). what is your advice for building that all-important roster? do you just approach them and be like “hi I’m a photographer, here is my work, do you need my services?” I feel like that is kind of “meh” – there has to be a better way :-) It’s not shyness – I have no problem approaching people, I just am not sure how to approach *in a business context*. So far, my clients have all been word of mouth/referrals etc… but it’s not enough to make a living on – I really need to take it to that next level of marketing/approaching more actively/aggressively. Any opinions/advice?

    Also, thanks for doing this, this is an amazing opportunity and resource for all us newbies to the business!

  • Stu said on March 9, 2009


    I find you a very inspirational character to follow and have learnt a great deal from your blog.

    I feel competent on the tech and creative side of things, by personal brick wall is getting the clients- would love to hear your thoughts on this. I love the freedom right now of generally doing what I want to do (fashion and beauty), but would love to take this journey further.



  • Chris Newman said on March 9, 2009

    Hi Zack,

    Much of what I need guidence with have been voiced alredy by the likes of Jon (#36) and Ed Z (#55).

    I have a good stock of equipment and I would say I pretty knowlegdable on the technical side and I even have a fairly regular number of gigs in the entertainment sector. The problem is that they are very seasonal and I don’t want to depend on one client, I need to branch out and market myself better if I am ever going to even threaten to quit my day job.

    Click my name above to go to my website or visit my flickr portfolio here if you like:

    Thanks for the site, I think you have tapped into something here with this new seminar idea.

  • Chad Pennington said on March 9, 2009

    Zack I sent this to your email but here it is for the public I just want to get better each week. Like I said I have onlt been shooting 12-13 months

    Here it is

  • K.Bobb said on March 9, 2009

  • Catalina said on March 9, 2009

    hi Zack!
    Thanks for the offer. i can’t wait to read through all these comments and send you my work.
    You rock. Love your style – teaching and shooting.

  • Sarah Hendsbee said on March 9, 2009

    Ok, here is where I get hung up. Reading through all the lighting forums, photographers talk and list all kinds of lighting equipment, and sometimes I leave more confused than when I started! There is SO much types of lighting and equipment to sort through. I do have your One Light DVD, and that has helped a lot, but still!
    Another thing is just not feeling like I have a safe place to ask simple technical questions, without feeling like I should already know what it is I am wondering about. I would love love love to know my camera so much better, but I need help! So I was really excited to hear about this new course.
    I would also love to know how to create images that aren’t bogged down with photoshop changes. I want my pictures to be real, to reflect what it was I saw in the first place, not a product of digital manipulation.

    Thanks for creating a place to share these thoughts, it is so great that you do.


  • joseph tutlo said on March 9, 2009

    two things:

    my favorite pictures (lighting wise) are the ones in which the light is not the focal point. in other words, the light looks natural and not like strobes where obviously set off. so, whats the the thought process to making light less obvious? in my opinion, achieving this gives a more intimate appearance and the viewer feels more like a witness to a candid “real life” event. more a part of the image and less the audience.

    second. how do you jump the hurtle of being your own worst critic? i’m a part-timer but have a good handful of very very happy clients. yet i still feel like my work is sub-par to warrant charging normal fees. and i know factually that under charging is a sure way to not have people take you seriously.

    thanks, and good luck with all.

  • Tilman said on March 9, 2009

    I’m trying to get more into concert / music photography. I luckily already have the possibility to shoot quite a few concerts during the year.

    My questions are related to this and might be maybe a bit too specific for some:

    – when you know that you shoot at a concert, are you contacting / should you contact the band in any case beforehand (and how much in advance) to tell them that you are there even if you have no previous contacts to the band and / or their management (if there is one) -> I’m talking smaller bands and artists as this approach would not necessarily work with the major ones

    – how to you get to the next level from shooting an artist’s concert to promotion / head shots etc.

    – how did you start with music photography and what pitfalls have there been for you?

    – how did you build your portfolio in this area?

    Thank you giving us this opportunity.


  • angel said on March 9, 2009

    i love the philosophy behind this, zack. i hope to attend many of your workshops in the future. thanks so much!

  • Mark said on March 9, 2009

    Zack, I was wondering if you could touch on this major subject:
    Q: will clients like me better if I shoot: (a) Nikon, or (b) Canon.


    BTW, for those who don’t have a funny bone, this post was meant to be humorous. 😉

  • Tim L. said on March 9, 2009

    Like lots of other respondents, I struggle with the business aspects (promotion, building clientele, advertising, rates and billing). But nothing makes me more hesitant to quit my day job and take the plunge more than the following:

    How do you strike the balance between doing what you love with your photography (the art of it) against finding and taking the shots that pay the bills?

    I am well-paid in my current career, but do not have a passion for what I do and end up dreading when the alarm will go off each weekday morning. I don’t want to dive into a career in photography if it will kill my passion for the medium.

    Your short film, Transform, really hit home for me.


  • zack said on March 9, 2009

    This is a lot to work with. Thanks!


  • luke Copping said on March 10, 2009

    One thing that would be of interest to me, rather than business or marketing aspects, or shooting itself would be in the realm of editing. By editing i refer not to retouching but how to deal with yourself when putting together your portfolio for others to view, and selecting images from a shoot to promote yourself with. Is it better to go with what is your more personal work or to stick with the known client pics from set? what techniques and insights can you give to making the editing and review process more efficient?

  • Ty Fischer said on March 10, 2009


    I know I am late in the running but if you ever have an opportunity I am a new senior portrait on location photo studio. It is a full time gig. I am a student of your one light dvd and would love for you to critique my senior portrait side.

    Thank you for taking time to help others.

  • matt haines said on March 10, 2009

    So you walk into a space, outdoors or in (but not a studio). You’re there with your client/portrait subject.

    What’s the first thing you look for? The second? The third?

    I.e. how do you go about setting up the image? Find the right light and then look for a background? Find the right background and then look the right light?

    And what criteria do you use to choose? What do you try and eliminate or include?

  • Darren said on March 10, 2009

    Ok, Here is a different slant for you. I have been a working pro for most of the last 20 years. For the last 10 I have been working for company that has been becoming increasingly irrelevant. We went 100% digital in 2001 and while the lack of film and physical proofing was great, our efforts are slowly being replaced by 5 megapixel phones. Our niche is essentially over and the owner wants to go down a direction I have little interest in following. My problem is that while I have been shooting steadily and my post skills are quite strong, I don’t have much current work worth presenting. IOW I’ve been managing and doing a lot of cookie cutter photography. I need to reinvent myself, and find new work. I guess I am asking how would you go about climbing out of that hole? I am near ATL, so I am considering your 3 day. Thanks for listening.


  • Sree said on March 12, 2009

    Hi, I was going to read all the comments and post something other. But it’s a lot to read!

    1) How do you know when to go with a lower f-stop versus slower shutter speed?

    2) Composition wise, if you’re at a wedding, shooting a huge crowd scene, how do you compose that shot well so it doesn’t look like your generic crowd of people?

    3) Post production – how much do you do? Be true to what the eye sees? Go overblown creative and collage-y?

    4) Now that I’m shooting in RAW, my workflow is much more tedious and formatting images for the web takes time. Tips on that?

    5) How can you use your protrait lenses, say your 85 mm f/1.8 or f/1.4 to take wide angle shots or action shots when that’s the only lens in the moment?

    Okay, I’ll stop now. Thanks!

  • David F. said on April 25, 2009

    So, you’re back from Dubai and I’m really excited to get in on this workshop. Any idea when you’ll start teaching it here in the states?

  • Tim B. said on May 28, 2009


    I am a full time single father who would love to quit his now boaring full time job of 20 years and spend 3 years and 60k at the large well respected Art Institute in my Midwestern Metropolitan area but things like being able to feed my children and provide health insurance for them and myself overshadow my dreams.

    I have been told that I have lots of raw talent, and I have so much unbridaled passion and creativity in me some days that I think I am going to just burst. The most frustrating part is seeing an image in my head and not having the foggiest idea how use the expensive tools I own to translate it into the mind.

    I have always been a “learn by doing” person and for the last three or so years I have been trying to teach myself, however, the only thing I have accomplished is to realize there are 5oo more things I still don’t know for the one thing I just learned.

    Some of the things I have done within the last six months to change my destiny are finally after 3 years of searching found someone who is willing to teach me what he knows. Our first shoot using some of the pricipals we learned from watching your DVD is being planned for some time in June.

    I also started teaching a digital photography class once a month at my church (last month) in hopes that it would force me to learn what I needed to know in order to teach someone else rather than letting all of the books I have purchased sit and gather dust.

    What I have struggled most with was finding someone to mentor me. At first I practicaly begged photographers I didn’t even know to let me assist for free so that I could learn as I went. What I quickly learned was that no one wants to train their competition.

    Then I tried joining online groups in my metro area and getting to know other photographers in hopes of making friends with one who would eventually consent to mentor me, but that didn’t prove fruitful either. What finally worked was that one of the flickr groups in my area started having meet ups and I eventually found someone willing to help me. How that will turn out is yet to be seen because not everyone is a teacher.

    I know there is no easy way or magic pill that is going to make me an awesome photographer, it is just going to take lots of “doing it”

    I have alreaady vowed that if I am ever able to become the photographer I strive to be that I will make time to freely teach/mentor what I have learned to those like myself now that are just looking for someone to share what they know.

    I quess if I had to boil it all down it would be, How do you learn what you need to learn when reading books or watching DVDs alone and trying to understand what amounts to a whole new language with know one to help you along the way.

    Ps. I wish I lived in Atlanta because I would love to discuss the progect you are thinking about off line with you.

  • Tim B. said on May 28, 2009

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