VisionMongers :: Give The Gift of Encouragement Contest

December 1, 2009 | • Resources News

I’ve just read the best book about being a photographer that I’ve ever read. It is the new book VisionMongers by photographer David duChemin.

I don’t even know where to start with my review of this book. I do have to say for the sake of full disclosure that I am one of 9 photographers profiled as a case study.  I know that there will be some folks who discount my review of this book because I have a few pages in it.  So for those of you who may feel this way, please buy this book and rip those pages out and throw them in the trash. Hopefully the majority of you know that I don’t jump up and down and scream from the rooftops about anything but I am about this book.

To do a full review of this book will take me a week to put my thoughts about it into words. VisionMongers isn’t a “how to” book.  There is no formula to follow.  There aren’t 10 easy steps to becoming a full time photographer.  This isn’t a “follow your heart and be passionate and go get ’em tiger” book either. It is more philosophy than ….

Look, this review is stupid so I’m going to stop and get into the meat of this blog post.  I’ll do a better review later.

I only made it through the introduction of this book when I got on the phone with the publisher, Peachpit, to ask for 10 copies to give away on the blog here.  Seriously, it hit me right between the eyes from the first five pages and it kept hitting me there until the end.  So Peachpit sent 10 copies to give away.  Then I thought that many emerging photographers will not buy this book because it doesn’t tell you a damn thing about what lens to use, what settings are best, how to use a softbox, the best way to handle post production, etc.  This book has nothing to do with how to make photographs.  It’s all about why we make photographs.  It’s all about the demons inside that keep us up at night fretting with this “thing” that we have to do because we have no other choice but do it or die trying.

So if folks aren’t going to buy this because it has nothing to do with camera settings I thought I would give a OneLight DVD away with the copy of the book.  Then I started thinking about other resources that have been super helpful and inspiring to me as a photographer and to me as a business person.  So I got 10 copies of Drew Gardner’s Location Lighting DVD because I have watched that a number of times this year and it has been a massive inspiration to me.  So VisionMongers, a OneLight DVD, and Drew’s DVD.  Oh yeah then there’s this, and that, and the other… So I started making phone calls and this is what is going into each of 10 gift boxes.  These are hand picked resources that have been a help to me this year.

1 year membership to

6 month membership to ShootQ

VisionMongers by David duChemin

The Moment it Clicks by Joe McNally

Trade Secret Cards by Chase Jarvis

Location Lighting with Drew Gardner DVD

Sessions with Joey L DVD

Best Business Practices for Photographers by John Harrington

OneLight DVD

That brings the retail value for each package to $1,100 plus change.

There are a few other things that are going to be added to each gift box that no one will know about until they are opened!  And, well, we might just get Willy Wonka on one or two of them. Who knows? :)

Here is the thing… It’s the holidays.  It’s the time to give and not receive.  So you CAN NOT win this for yourself.  You are going to win this for someone you know and give this package to them on (insert the big day of your holiday choice here.)  Like… Christmas morning or something. Right? All inclusive we are around here. :)

How to win ::

We love stories around here.  We want to hear the story of someone you know who would really, really, really be blessed by this gift of encouragement.  Someone who lies awake at night dreaming of becoming a photographer.  Someone who is doing all they can to make this dream happen but they just aren’t there yet.  Maybe they are just learning and dreaming about it.  Maybe they are 1 year into it and are having a hard time.  Someone you know needs a big ass package like this to help them get through the winter months and keep going.  Every single person listed above knows about this contest and are personally interested in giving this stuff away to someone who will appreciate it, love it, and RUN with it!

Maybe it is your spouse. Your friend. A photo student. You know someone who will jump with joy to get this package and YOU want to give it to them.  Maybe you can’t even afford a single book on this list and it would be a blessing to YOU to be able to gift this to a loved one.  We only regret that we can’t give 1,000 of these packages away.  We only have 10.

You figure out who it needs to go to and tell us their story in 750 words or less (or there about) and email us at  You have until midnight December 10th to write in to us.  Include a link to their blog, their site, their flickr account, whatever.  If they don’t have a link, no worries.  Send in their story all the same!

Who better to chose the top 20 stories than our two brand new interns?  Two folks trying to get this madness of photography turned into a dream and turned into a vocation.  So Robin and Rhonda are going to pick the top 20.  One more intern may be added to the mix soon as well.  Then on December 11th we as a studio will pick the top 10 and start packing the boxes.

Once we have the top 10 chosen we will notify the winners by email.  The “winners” are the person who wrote in.  We will be shipping the winning packages on the 15th.  It will be the winner’s job to wrap it up and hide this away until big holiday morning of your choice.  Like, Christmas morning, or whatever.  Get it?  Got it?  You have until the 10th.  Let us know.

Happy Holidays everyone.  We love you a lot.

Cheers, Zack

PS – Buy VisionMongers.  I swear I don’t make a red cent off of it. I have no motives other than to say you have to read this book. Just buy it. Seriously.  I’ll do a better review soon.

PPS – Legal stuff about winning contests and stuff and stuff and legal mumbo jumbo and stuff and responsibilities and stuff. Blah, blah, blah. Not valid on the moon.

PPPS – If you write in about yourself in third person to try to win this for yourself then your teeth will rot, your transmission will blow up, and Jesus will know about it.  Just sayin’.  😛


  • Rusty Bryant said on December 1, 2009

    LOL. I love the PPPS. I’d love to have that package but I would sooooo love to give it to someone else too.

    Zack, you’re a blessing. Thank you!

  • Kelli said on December 1, 2009

    What a wonderful thing to do, I’m thinking now about someone to nominate! Thanks for the opportunity.

  • Eugene said on December 1, 2009

    Wow, this is a brilliant idea, Zack!

    This package is definitely going to make someone’s holidays that much brighter :)

    Thanks for your creativity, recommendations, and advice.


  • David said on December 1, 2009

    This is just BRILLIANT! Will you be publishing the stories? I’d love to hear them, as I’m sure many of your readers would love to hear stories of other people in a similar situation as they are.

    I’m so glad you brought this new book to my attention. On Sunday I was wandering around my local B&N looking for a book. I have enough HOW stuff. I was looking for a WHY book. Why make a photo? Why do I keep aiming this thing at stuff and pushing the little button?

    Thanks for a great blog Zack!

  • Chris Plante said on December 1, 2009

    Now THAT is a great idea! A “gift to give”. I would also like to know how the winner of the gift does in the next year? Could we get an update of the package winner say 6-12 months from now?

  • heaven said on December 1, 2009

    truly an amazing gift…but even better.the knowledge that someone loves/believes in you enough/wants your success/cares about you to take the time to enter. That is glorious! To say nothing of the good feeling that everyone who writes in will feel in talking about this person in their lives..and the gifting goes on and on. you shine that light! Thank you!

  • Hunter said on December 1, 2009

    What a brilliant idea. I don’t want Jesus to be mad at me, so I am just going to put my pen away.

    I guess I will have to buy Vision Mongers or amend my Christmas wish list 😉 Oh, and the Kelby Training!

  • Dave said on December 1, 2009

    Awesome package! Wish I could get in on it of course. There will be 10 very lucky and extremely happy individuals. I’ll definitely pick up VisionMongers, been hearing great things from other photographers.

  • Will said on December 1, 2009

    Great idea Zach! I wish I could win this for myself, but it is a great way to give to someone else; in true holiday spirit. You have done so much to give back to others, I really enjoy your posts like this. Keep em comin’!

  • Brett B said on December 1, 2009

    thanks Zack for comming up with a great idea. You always have great ideas. This is really going to help those 10 people. Your inspiration helps me everyday
    takes care, and God Bless.

  • Zack Arias said on December 1, 2009

    Ya know, you could leave this page open on your spouse’s / bff’s / etc computer!! :)


  • Denise said on December 1, 2009

    What a huge blessing this is going to make in someone’s journey! The list of resources is a big gift in itself. Thank you and your friends for making this gift happen. Many blessings to all!
    Take care ~ DB

  • Justin Van Leeuwen said on December 1, 2009

    I am going to do everything I can to promote this – your motives are so genuine, helpful and good I can’t think of a better way to help people feel good about themselves, about others, and to hook their friends up at the same time. I got some writting to do about my friend/photographer.

  • Squeeker said on December 1, 2009

    Wow! This is an amazing gift you are giving! You and everyone who contributed stuff for this are all such amazing people! All of you are so inspiring in so many ways. And, I’m definitely going to have to pick up that book. =)

  • Les Doerfler said on December 1, 2009

    Zack…I’m going to start calling you “EZ Bake Oven” because your lightbulb is always on and you are always cooking up some treats, both materially and spiritually.

  • Steven said on December 1, 2009

    Sweet idea. Inspiring for both the recipient and the giver. Still just blows me away how much you give to others. Thanks.

  • Alli Gaulin said on December 1, 2009

    Read your blog all the time, never leave a comment but thought you might want to know- I bought that book and I bought it simply because you said to. I might actually buy anything you told me to.

  • Adam said on December 1, 2009

    Really awesome idea, Zack.

    “Ya know, you could leave this page open on your spouse’s / bff’s / etc computer!! :)”

    Good thinkin’! :)

  • rashawn woodgett said on December 1, 2009

    taking the eclectic approach, I like it. I just dont know anyone who needs it but me.

  • zack said on December 1, 2009

    Wow. Stories are already rolling in. Robin and Rhonda have a tough job ahead of them!


  • Andrea said on December 1, 2009

    I know a perfect recipient. This is fantastic

  • Heather M. Smith-Matthews said on December 1, 2009

    Wow! I can’t even begin to express properly the magnitude of this prize package…every time i read about it, I just get giddy as a school girl! Wow…amazing!! Must see if any of my friends will write me up. is it ok to fish for their support in this instance?

    Answer – A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. :) -Zack

  • Heather M. Smith-Matthews said on December 1, 2009

    I will also be contributing some words of encouragement for several of my own dear photog friends as well. YAY! This is so “pay-it-forward-photog style”!

  • Mandie said on December 1, 2009

    LOL. Love the PPPS.

  • Jon said on December 1, 2009

    Zack you are a truly wonderful person! Hope you and your family have a fantastic festive season!

  • Laura said on December 1, 2009

    What a PHENOMENAL thing to put together, and what a great way to do it. It’s like two gifts in one (the box full of goodies AND someone else telling your story for you in order to get it. I don’t know which one is better cuz they’re both pretty sweet).

    I hope Santa has something equally wonderful in store for you, Zack. :)

  • Darrell Harris said on December 1, 2009

    Thanks for offering this opportunity Zack! I nominated my buddy Dieter Zander! Good luck Dieter!

  • Rosaura said on December 2, 2009

    Wow! You are so amazing and you inspire me and so many. Thank you and I can’t wait to meet you for the OneLIght Workshop! I know who I will nominate… :) Grasias!

  • Jimmy Moncrief said on December 2, 2009

    Thank you so much for doing this! This is awesome!

  • Christopher said on December 2, 2009


    I met with a few photographers and we were laughing at the people in this business who think they are all that and a bag of chips. That success makes people more bloated about themselves.

    But then your name came up and everyone said exactly the opposite of you. Zack, while you may be well known, your generosity to give back, to inspire are unmatched.

    Thanks for what you do.

  • Jamie said on December 2, 2009

    Can we nominate a few people that we feel might find this appealing?!? I have two people in mind to share about if that’s okay….

    Answer – Yes you can! – Z

  • Brian Davis said on December 2, 2009

    I got so excited about the opportunity that I submitted my story without reading the rules. Disregard….guess I can’t win it for myself :(

  • Takki said on December 2, 2009

    What a great idea this is – giving to give it away! If more people would practise giving the world would be a better place – thanks and cheers to Zack for this brilliant idea !

  • Jon Uhler said on December 2, 2009

    I just bought this book. It is a great read so far.

    Highly recommend it.

    Excellent idea on the contest Zack….

  • Otto Rascon said on December 2, 2009

    Zack, you and your crew are so thoughtful and amazing. Thanks for posting such giveaways and making it about giving to others. That is brilliant. I will definitely check out the DuChemin book as well. Rock on dude and much love from Chicago!

  • Gail said on December 2, 2009

    What a great contest Zack! I can’t wait to see what response you get!

    And I’ve ordered my book! Can’t wait to dig in!

  • Angie Becker said on December 2, 2009

    I have the perfect person in mind!! I am working on my submission right now.

  • Wayne Yuan said on December 2, 2009

    Alright, time to put my thinking cap on!

  • carlos benjamin said on December 2, 2009

    Dang! I was totally gonna write a third-person essay about myself, but I’m already having problems with some of my teeth……

    Great idea. I need to figure out who I know who would benefit from this the most. Good on ya for thinking of this.

  • Lyndsey said on December 2, 2009

    Thanks for doing this! So very thoughtful!

  • Scott Nickell said on December 2, 2009

    I’ve got both of David’s books. The first, “Within the Frame” on your recommendation and the second when he began discussing it on his blog. I am writing my nomination for submission even as we speak.

  • Opinion said on December 2, 2009

    I think is someone is lack of motivation or inspiration, not matter how many books you read or speeches you hear you will not get to anywhere…because deep inside you don’t need to get there… the $ 1100 dollar on these days economy sound to much for ( I’m not say is does not worth the money on the contrary I think Zak is a talented photographer). But I would rather to spend that money in a wished lens or to get a ticket to china and learn from myself. My advised would be to break the ice for yourself and do your life according to your own needs as an artist and do not imitate others peoples life. Be yourself and be honest with yourself too, life is to short!

    (Sorry for my english I’m a recent immigrant from Cuba.)

  • Sina said on December 2, 2009

    Hi Zack,

    I am from Indonesia… I have been following your blog recently. This is an extraordinary idea. I would like to post it in our community forum. Since you mention it not valid on the moon. We, who don’t live in USA, are possible to participate in this also, aren’t we?

    Thank you for this inspiration.

  • jeff said on December 2, 2009

    this is such a nice thing to do Zack one of the many reasons i look up to you.

  • Eric Fialkowski said on December 2, 2009

    My son Eric has become an advid photographer. He is a
    single Dad raising 4 kids.
    he works very hard. Loves taking pictures of his kids.
    and taking pictures with his
    Dad who also loves taking pictures.
    A very proud mom.

  • Eric Fialkowski said on December 2, 2009

    My son would be a great one.
    He is raising 4 kids on his own…luvs to take piccs.
    a proud mom Jennie

  • SMH said on December 3, 2009

    Dear Zack,

    You will be abundantly blessed for your generousity!!! You’re making a greater impact than simply purchasing 10 books and passing them out to folks. Your contest has an integrated impact to all involved. :)

    1)You’re giving 2 “budding” interns the opportunity of a lifetime to develop as future leaders by allowing them to select the winners. In addition they get to be inspired not only by you, but by the stories they’ll read.

    2) You’re giving the authors/vendors/instructors great exposure by further endorsing their products.

    3) The winners will grow and be inspired by the overall contest, the prizes and the encouragement from us (fans).

    You’re embodying the saying “the “fruit” of our gifts/talents are not for our own pleasure…they are for the world to enjoy.”

    I’m working on my submission for my fiance’ who has a similar giving spirit, but I can’t wait to read all the entries (if you decide to post them – we hope you do!) :)

    Continued blessings and success!

  • Trudy said on December 3, 2009

    I voted for mine. I hope she wins, she is a good person/photographer and deserves it. Thanks for the kindness. God bless.

  • JL said on December 3, 2009

    Opinion…I think i know what you are saying but think of it as not having the “ice” broken for you but a tool “hammer/ice pick” whatever being given to you by someone who knows how hard it is to break that ice. You still have to swing the hammer and do all the work yourself they are just offering a tool in doing so.

  • jared said on December 3, 2009

    Damn thats a awsome set up!

  • Frank T said on December 3, 2009


    This is an amazing concept. And I am very pleased to see the top names in the business step up and help support this cause. thanks to them, and to you for this spirit of giving – and helping to make this a time of giving and remembering why we celebrate this time of year. Thanks.

  • Ben said on December 4, 2009

    Zack –
    that’s a brilliant idea…wow…what a gift! This really is an exercise in letting go of the ego.
    I just thought that you’re surely gonna remember the year 2009. All the things you’ve achieved and shared…it seems like it has become a spiritual journey for you. You really follow your true inner voice. As Bob Marley would say/sing…one love,

  • Rich C said on December 5, 2009


    I read this tonight and dashed off a letter regarding a photographer I met recently who is becoming a good friend as well. I look forward to seeing the stories sent in, and I hope to see who the folks are who get selected. I have a feeling we’ll all get to see some great stories, and meet some fantastic folks in the process!


  • Laura said on December 6, 2009

    Amazing idea! Can I enter this to win for my friend who is based in the UK? (I’m also in the UK).


  • Emily J. said on December 6, 2009


    It amazes me every time I see an update from you how much you are willing to give back to make dreams come true for those of us just trying to step forward in the dark with something we are so passionate about. THANK YOU!!!

    When I saw this chance I first did that selfish trip (because we know we all have it in us) and wished there were someone who might see this opportunity and feel that I am worthy of such a gift. But I know that there are a lot of people out there and that you guys will make the best choice in who gets this package of opportunities and love, and we will see great things from them. I look forward to hearing their stories because even if I can’t buy the latest and greatest out there, I know that the stories of those who won your gifts will at least inspire me and many others to keep at it and work our butts off to make it to the top (or at least the middle ;P).

  • Scott Webb said on December 6, 2009

    WOW what a great great initiative. I really want this book to read. It’s right up my alley!

  • Mike M said on December 7, 2009

    Chris Plante… I agree! It would be great to check in with the people that win to see how the package helped them during the year.

  • Vanessa said on December 9, 2009

    Just wanted to say thank you for your initiative and inspiration. I’ve submitted someone I believe in, and feel blessed for the opportunity to share her story.

    Also, I picked up VisionMongers – it’s every bit as wonderful as you said!

  • Nasim Mansurov said on December 9, 2009

    Zack, thank you for this opportunity – we truly value everything you do to keep the photography community motivated and going! You are a true inspiration for many of us!

  • jen berry said on December 9, 2009

    husband and i each wrote a story. and regardless if our friend wins, 10 people out there will be inspired and encouraged. love this.

  • Emily Moore said on December 9, 2009

    Just submitted – in time i hope (from the west coast!).
    Thanks so much for holding this contest. Really wonderful.

  • Brandon said on December 10, 2009

    I miss read your information and thought you only wanted 75 words. Hope this doesn’t hurt my chances I could have gone on much longer.?

  • Ryan said on December 10, 2009

    I am buying the book.

    That is a way cool thing to do for 10 people!

  • zack said on December 11, 2009

    Contest is over!

    Oh… Dear Anonymous commenter with broken English – I did not approve your comment to be on here. You can email me why to ask. Had you put your name out there I would probably have let it slide.


  • brooke said on December 11, 2009

    i think this is extremely generous of you zack. the 10 winners will be soooo excited to get this gift. just wanted to say thanks.

  • Ryan said on December 11, 2009

    I took this to mean the 10th, about 11:59pm.

    even if I didn’t get it in on time could you give it a read?


  • cindy said on December 11, 2009

    Have the winners been picked and notified yet. Just curious about my entry.

  • John C said on December 11, 2009

    Thanks again Zack. This was a very cool deal.

    Ryan, I doubt we can all get feedback on the stories we submit. I don’t know how many people wrote in, but it would take a long time and a lot of effort to reply to everyone’s stories.

  • Jamie said on December 12, 2009

    So have you notified the winners yet? I keep checking my email incessantly….

  • zack said on December 14, 2009

    The winners have all been notified by email.

    We had 517 entries. I wish I had 517 boxes to send!

    We will be sharing some of the stories after Christmas!


  • Lucia De Giovanni said on December 14, 2009

    Dear Zach –

    I am one of the lucky people who won – I know this because my beautiful friend Linda submitted my story and she is leaving on a trip for a month in a couple of days, so she had to tell me what she did before she traveled overseas. I read her letter, I cried like a baby. You have no idea what this means to me, I have admired your work and your story for a long time, and now I not only feel like I have some hope to continue doing what I love, but feel incredibly blessed to have friends in my life that would actually do this for me and for my Project. I was stunned, then happy, than incredulous, then grateful. For what I do, for having such amazing friends, for the support, for people like you who have been there, for the gift I was given, for my life. Such a simple gesture touched so many lives. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

  • Michael O said on December 14, 2009

    Congratulations to all the winners, and hats off to you Zack. It lifted my spirit reading this and it did bring back the Christmas spirit I was missing.

    Thank You Zack.

  • Joe said on December 28, 2009


    I’m one of the beneficiaries of this contest and I just wanted to drop you a quick note of thanks.

    My buddy Bryan, dropped by my house Christmas day with his entire family in tow (no mean feat with 3 small children!) and a large package under his arm. I had no idea what was going as Bryan plopped the package down on my coffee table and handed me a knife. When I opened the package, I found a seemingly endless array of DVDs, books and all the other cool stuff you put in the box. I was completely blown away, and I still had no idea what was going on! After a couple of minutes I found the essay Bryan had sent you guys, at that point all I could do was stand there saying “that’s amazing, thanks…” over and over, like a wind up doll. I did eventually manage to give him a solid bro hug.

    Bryan explained about the contest and what he had done and our wives told me about how excited he had been over the last couple of weeks since he had heard from you. Apparently he caused some small scale destruction in his kitchen when he found out you had chosen his essay :)

    I can’t tell you how much this whole thing has meant to me, Bryan and I will both benefit greatly from this, and we will indeed run with it. Thanks again from the bottom of my heart. You have helped to give me a Christmas I will never forget, and in the process reminded me how blessed I am to have the friends and family that I have.



    I just have to say that Bryan really sold himself short as a creative mind in his letter to you. A few days ago I visited him at Marshall Space Flight Center where he works, and he showed me a three-story tall piece of precision hardware he designed for NASA’s ARES rocket program. If that’s not creative I don’t know what is.

  • Dana Fontaine said on January 24, 2010

    I am just discovering this book and this post now. I am a firm believer that you discover things as you need and are willing to truly embrace them.

    Thank you for sharing this book (just hit “pay” on Amazon) along with so much of your incredible passion and knowledge. I had a feast of your podcasts over the holidays and a few are kept on my iPhone, ready at a moments notice for encouragement and inspiration.

    Thank you –


Speak Up

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *