Month: October 2014

Photographer, Teach Thyself!

October 30, 2014

Truer words could not have been said, but by whom? We’ve all heard it said “Physician Heal thyself”, “Doctor, heal thyself”and we take it to mean just what is says, right? The doctor and physician’s life is spent healing and curing everyone else, but little time is taken to look at his own life and fix what needs to be fixed. Over that last few weeks in my classes, that person who said that had been me…and i had finally begun to listen to what i had been saying…

As photographers we need to continually be learning ourselves, but more specifically as an educator, I, continually need to be teaching myself. Shit, even taking my own advice would work now and again. Over the last 12 or so years i have been teaching various courses in photography, i continue to echo the words “muscle memory” as it pertains to learning the features and functions and F-stops of an SLR. Little did i realize that the practice of “muscle memory” in any facet of life can yield positive outcomes.

Yesterday i gave my lecture in Portrait photography to my Intermediate DSLR class at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Art. In this course we go over the many studio strobes, light modifiers, and tools used to get the most out of studio and location portrait photography –  (in 3 hours). Needless to say it’s alot of information in a short amount of time, but i have gotten good at the Speed Round of Knowledge…lucky for my students there’s a Power Point and a Dropbox link of the info in their inbox later in the week. It’s a LONG day for me going over X-rite Color Checkers, Expo Discs, Light Meters, Modifiers (soft boxes, parabolic umbrellas, grids, and such…) and strobes in the 1st half of the day, then switching over to photograph one of the models’ at the Academy, Annika. We use Natural Light, 1-Reflector and 2-Reflector lighting schemes, as well as 1 and 2 strobe setups indoor and out. Did i mention this is all in 3 hours?

Here’s a little sampling of what we learn..in that short amount of time – the model is the talented Annika, and i am assisted by my students.



 Sunny 16 and More!
Diffusion + Strobes

Low Light/Night Portraits

What i continually learn at each of these classes is the basics of what i take for granted every time i set up an elaborate lighting scheme – i am reminded of the core basics of photography and what is so amazingly SIMPLE about achieve great photography. To me it seems so easy, but to the mind just learning and trying to wrap their heads around the technical and mechanical craziness to get to the creative freedom…it’s got to be frustrating. So we go slow. We start at the beginning and layer knowledge each week – we do assignments based on that new knowledge and we critique each week. But just doing this is never enough – we need to create new Muscle Memory by shooting every day, or at least turning the damn camera on! Once the camera is learned, muscle memory takes over and the camera becomes an extension of your story telling abilities….

Over this last year, i have given around 5 photography workshops via Zack Smith Photography Worskhops (www.zspworkshops.com) covering many topics. NOLA at NIGHT is one of my flagship workshops as i have been teaching it since around 2002. I also do: Fashion Photography Portraits, Festival Photography, How to Shoot French Quarter Festival and Studio on the Geaux. Sign up for my mailing list by going to my workshop page and scrolling down – or just hit me up here. Thank you for all the continued support!


Shoot What You Love

October 7, 2014
“tv in ditch” 1997 baton rouge, one of my first negatives shot, and processed in my bathroom

Shoot What you Love has always been my motto in a sense for so many things. The reason i got into photography is because i started seeing things in my world that i could not write something to accurately capture it – the scene and experience had to be photographed. To be more accurate, i saw a TV in a ditch. Yes a TV, in a ditch. I saw the TV and it really hit home everything i was thinking that Fall of 1997. As the internet was just getting going, my already saturated mind was reeling from ADD medication and over stimuli of school and life, i saw the symbol i was searching for that said to me “ditch what you know, and begin your journey”…so i did….but that’s a different story.

Today’s story reflects on the best way to become comfortable with learning a camera and having that camera be an extension of your creativity in the way thoughts process words, and mouths scream its command…

“Shoot What You Love” is something i always say to my students when they hit the wall, and are having trouble finding inspiration. As you may know, you will NEVER learn how to use the camera in a creative way if you learn on subject matter you have no emotional connection to. It’s the truth! You must find what you know the best in this world, what you treasure most, and SHOOT IT!

I have been following that adage since DAY 1, learning my cameras and myself by following what i love to do – music, people, travel, experience. This journey has brought me to where i am now – and i find that journey now turning to a greater, more important photographic and creative experience. I have been developing projects now that tell stories on such a large level that it’s hard to keep up…but i do….

I am happy that i have stuck with what i have been teaching for my own self..because i have to admit i do stray from my own teachings especially when it comes to INTENTION IN COMPOSITION and  PURPOSE IN PRESENTATION…

i find myself sometimes shooting for the JOB…and not the WALL. I have noticed this when i have taken on jobs that i will absolutely NEVER print..and i begin to approach them differently..disregarding high ISO’s, putting on too much Clarity…but the Client loves the image. So, is what i am doing wrong? Have i strayed from doing shoots of things i do not love, for the money? In a way yes – but i have justified doing those $ jobs to fun the BIGGER PICTURE that continues me on the journey of Shoot What you Love as i continue to tell my story….

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