Month: January 2016

How To Tuesday #14 Our Guest Blogger Blake Haney Talks Creative Collaboration!

January 26, 2016

As photographers and imaging artists know, the word “workflow” can mean many things. Workflow for me is an evolving process of how I see my world and I how I relate the story to it’s medium. There are so many ways to tell a story, and now with the increasing number of social media platforms; an endless amount of ways to show it. These are good problems to have as visual storytellers and I look forward to the new ways to share the world around me with each new online community.

My new workflow includes my understanding these new communities. I have to continually be aware of how these communities see, listen, and follow content. In learning how each community ingests images and stories, I see the components of my storytelling change…for example: I will compose each scene differently in my head to fit the the end medium. Images for Twitter may not be suitable for the way Instagram is laid out and.Facebook requires and allows more words to flesh out a story. These are things I am constantly thinking about….more on that later.

For the first time on my photography blog I am featuring a guest blogger. It’s time for some fresh legs in this race, and some new eyes on this composition! Not only is Blake Haney an outstanding member of the local creative community, he has been a collaborator of mine for the last 15 years. I have learned so much from his insights on art, design, and community that I think his message is suitable for this week’s HOW TO TUESDAY. 

Blake does many things…but as Creative Director of the Canary Collective, Blake’s actual JOB is to offer ideas, creative execution and the tools his clients need to launch, revamp, and sustain healthy brands and growing communities. There’s that word again, community! OK! let’s let Blake talk…

 Image from Blakes Twitter Account - @humidhaney

The opportunities for a photographer, like all visual artists, has increased over the past few years as new mediums for expression and story telling have entered the main stream. With the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, the landscape changed dramatically while the introduction of social media and the obsession of the image has become part of our mainstream culture.

These new tools are a double edged sword for the photographer. Used the right way, a photographer can connect with a much larger audience in ways that never existed just a few years ago. Yet with the smart phones, there now exists a mindset that anyone can be a photographer and anyone can freely express and share their images. The same goes for music, therefore, it has never been so easy to share your work and ideas with the world. One problem is that this world is now inundated with so many choice vying for our attention. Your work can be discovered by the world for almost no cost but there is a hidden cost. The work has the high potential to be lost in all the noise that fights for our attention.

If I were to give advice to a photographer, it would be to collaborate with others and offer your imagery to a writer or writers to help produce stories. Two online outlets I would recommend are medium.com and Exposure.co.

With each site there is a very intuitive editor to allow you to present your content without the clutter and noise of a template or surrounding advertising platform to distract the viewer. Each has a built in audience that appreciates quality work. Use them to post your images and share your insights and ideas. You can explain how it was shot, where, the equipment, the reasoning, and why it spoke to you…

1.     Be transparent in the process.

2.     Educate the public through your work.

3.     Work with an illustrator and writer to help spin a tale with your images.

4.     Collaborate on a story about a mood, place, event or person. Watch as those you work with take your work and add a new dimension!

5.     Spread the work via the free channels online and give everyone their credit.

6.     Use the shared audience and communities of all those you work with and respect. Watch as your work and name are engaged with and hopefully amplified by those that respect your work.

Blake Haney

Creative Director – The Canary Collective ,  Dirty Coast, and Locally.com

January 26th, 2016

Remember to click on the BLOG RSS feed to get these updates before anyone else! Photography techniques and tips, philosophies and best practices..all up in your FEED. Yum.


Photo Set: The Historic Chalmette Battlefield in the Sunrise Fog. January 21, 2016

January 21, 2016

Living so close to the Mississippi River has its perks, and not to mention the plus side of an empty fog filled battlefield. The Historic Chalmette Battlefield rests on a bend of the Mississippi River just outside of New Orleans, and I visit this site at least twice a week at sunrise to photograph it’s evolution of light and texture. Lately when there have been drastic temperature changes in the area, the foggy Mississippi River empties out into the cool land of the Chalmette Battlefield. I have often thought of doing a photography workshop at the Chalmette Battlefield and Graveyard. If you are interested in this workshop – get on my mailing list and you’ll be the FIRST TO KNOW! You can see other workshops I have going on now by going HERE -> New Orleans Photography Workshops

Want to know how I take great fog photographs?

Let’s cut to the chase – you can’t just approach fog photography like you would bright sunlit street or landscape photography. There are so many contrasts in light, texture, and mood that need to be addressed to get the best photos of fog. In my opinion you need to “embrace the shadows” in exposure as you would if your goal was to create more contrast. Don’t overexpose the shadow areas, you want to underexpose them. If you shoot Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority you can set your Exposure Compensation to -2 stops and see where that gets you. As you start early in the morning you will want to have your ISO fairly high, but not maxing out as to create too much noise. As the sun rises and shoots through the fog you will want to decrease your ISO while continuing your underexposure technique. Got some great shots or some tips? Share them with me on this blog!

How To Tuesday #13 - Teaching the Old Dog a New Trick: Lightroom for Dummies and online photography education DIY-style.

January 19, 2016

After 15+ years of being a staunch Photoshop guy (I do remember Photoshop 1. I swear) I have just opened the Pandora’s Box of Lightroom. So many photographers around me have been using and enjoying the power of Lightroom’s editing, organization, and workflow for many years. I felt that it was time to integrate it into MY workflow since 2016 is the year of being proactive, forward thinking, and trying new things. So far I have been overwhelmed by the ease of use and organization Lightroom gives. Overwhelmed, in a good way…

1. I can integrate Keywords faster upon uploading fresh jobs
2. I can switch back and forth to Photoshop and my edits are saved in real time
3. I can save all of my edits and history and be able to jump to my iPad or iPhone and continue the edits!
4. I can’t stop downloading PRESETS. All along I realize I have been making my own presets but never really…saving them. Now I can start with a preset and tweak from there

I must sound like a kid who just discovered that someone had made automatic cars. “Hey! You don’t have to shift into gears, the car just DOES IT FOR YOU!”…C’mon kid – get w/ the program!

I used Photoshop for so long that I was comfortable in my comfort zone and didn’t feel I needed to know any more about editing. As I said, so comfortable. But as I‘ve also said before, 2016 is about being Proactive and Trying New Things. Here are a few great sources to learn NEW THINGS:

www.creativelive.com – One of the BEST sources of online creative content for learning. This site hires only the best instructors and uses their team of 2-3 camera persons and well integrated teaching displays to drive the message home. TIP: watch the free/live instruction and only buy it if you think you’ll need to access it more than once. Some tutorials have just enough info to be watched once, some require repeat views. I own multiple videos, I’m hooked.

www.adobe.com – We are paying these guys every month to use their software, so they better show us how to use it! And show us they do. Adobe has very easy to digest, short, and helpful videos to guide you through any software. TIP: Sit down. Open up your new software. Press Play. It’s that easy…(that’s what I did and I’m an OLD DOG remember!)

www.lynda.com – Here you can find free classes on multiple topics and also subscribe (pay) to open up new classes and content TIP: watch as much of the free content as possible and only opt in when you are ready to take your learning to the next level

www.zacksmith.com – You already have this one down! HOW TO TUESDAY is the ALL FREE greatest source of Techniques and Tips! TIP: Keep coming back it works if you work it!

STAY IN TOUCH WITH THIS BLOG!!! Subscribe to the RSS Feed in the upper right hand corner! And until next time…SHOOT FOR THE WALL!!!

Is it just too hot to photograph a new orleans summer? Not for Magic Hour Photography.

January 19, 2016

I hear it day in day out “it’s too hot to shoot” or “I can only last an hour in this heat!”. Photographers all over the city are complaining that they can’t hone their craft when it’s so hot outside that they end up not shooting at all! During these sweltering summer months in New Orleans  (really, anywhere now!)  you need to wake up early or stay out late to get the most out of your outdoor photography. Magic Hour photography is a GREAT way to get out there for longer periods without draining your energy and staying creative. 

 A row of homes on Claiborne Avenue

There’s the Magic Hour in photography where the sun hangs low in it’s ascent or descent on our willing horizon. Photographers that chase this light know that it is never an hour, or even a half of one hour…it’s really an elusive moment that comes and goes. On a drive to mid-city New Orleans from my home in Chalmette I was winked at by the world’s eye. The sun was calling, and I laid chase.

 The battle of Warm and Cool is in perfect symmetry and motion during the Magic Hour

The battle of Warm and Cool is in perfect symmetry and motion during the Magic Hour

Photographing in this low sun immediately makes the light so much softer and this is best represented in how our overall tonal range is expressed. When you photograph when the sun is directly overhead, or even close to the middle of the day, you will see how far apart in exposure the shadows are from the highlights. It is very hard to capture all of the rich details when your contrast is so high. 

 Being in focus has nothing to do with sharpness sometimes...

Being in focus has nothing to do with sharpness sometimes…

Are there some photography classes in New Orleans that teach Magic Hour Photography?

Over the course of the last 15 years I have taught “NOLA at NIGHT”, an introduction to long exposure night photography and low light photography. Over the last few years I have begun this photography workshop before Magic Hour so that we can shoot in this great low light before it turns night. You can always see the next Night Photography Workshop I have have by going to my webpage here! 

 We stared each other in the eye knowing the chase was over, only to begin again

We stared each other in the eye knowing the chase was over, only to begin again

Our Trip to Hammond, LA to deliver Goldman Thibodeaux to the 10 Oaks compound.

January 18, 2016

Taking down an exhibit is tough. For a few months (if you are lucky) you have the luxury of bringing folks to a room dedicated to your most recent work and showing them what you do first hand. You’ve heard me say it time and time again, but having your photography displayed on a wall is the ultimate tribute to what you do as an artist. Taking that down, as I said, is tough.

If you are lucky enough (there’s that word again) to have sold one of your photographs, there is then the joy of delivering the print to the new owner. I recently brought an image that sold from my recent My Louisiana Muse show to it’s new owners, Michael Holly and Denise Tullier-Holly, at their beautiful lake house in Hammond, LA.

 10 Oaks lake house in Hammond, LA - Home of Michael and Denise Holly.

10 Oaks lake house in Hammond, LA – Home of Michael and Denise Holly.

Michael Holly is an award winning architect who has created his long overdue getaway home that is a Net Zero energy home, totally wireless, quiet, and has a 6ft alligator on the property. Denise is an accomplished artists and award winning arts educator. Oh, and they are family: Michael’s mother and my grandfather were brother and sister. 

 View from the 2nd floor living room.

View from the 2nd floor living room.

We arrived to the smells of crawfish etouffee and the sounds of Zydeco pumping through the surround speakers. Bright smiles and warm hugs awaited my wife and I as we were still soaking in the beautiful modern architecture, our eyes rarely blinking.

 Denise shows us her custom cabinets as Michael tastes the etouffe.

Denise shows us her custom cabinets as Michael tastes the etouffe. “C’est Bon!” he says…

Michael had specifically put on some old time Cajun music on his recent mix since we were there to deliver their print of Goldman Thibodeaux that they recently purchased from the show last September. The stipulations of the purchase required a personal home deliver, custom installation, and short stop over and tour. How could we say no?

 Denise and Michael agree, Goldman DOES look like Uncle Jim....

Denise and Michael agree, Goldman DOES look like Uncle Jim….

Michael and Denise wow’d us on the history of 10 Oaks as they rode us around on their golf cart to the outer edges of the property. We smiled as they told story upon story of their connection to this land and it’s impact on their lives. A tree they planted on their 25th anniversary hung in the epicenter of a keyhole of trees, the troublesome beavers that were chomping down their trees, and the lone driftwood that had swum in the manmade pond since day one. These were only a few of the stories we heard that day and each one was told from the heart. The views at 10 Oaks are breathtaking and unique only because they are from the mind and heart of the ones who made it. If the land is our first teacher (as Darrell Bourque would say) then the student must have the ability to teach the land at some point. Here at 10 Oaks, the man/land relationship is as symbiotic and complimentary as it can be. 

How to tuesday #12 - How you can keep Shooting for the Wall! Top Blogging Platforms that can help you share your work

January 12, 2016

If you’ve ever taken a class from me via the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts or one of my photography workshops, you have most likely heard me say “Shoot for the Wall”. These three words have been fueling my inspiration for photography since my early days and since then I have made them my philosophy.

 Full frame composition from my recent location scout in Baton Rouge

Full frame composition from my recent location scout in Baton Rouge

The meaning is simple: Since the early days of photography and visual storytelling we have put only our most treasured memories and moments displayed on our walls. The wall contains our most loved family members, our proudest moments, and our visual storyline. So if we only put our best stuff on the wall, why not approach every composition and photography as if it were a front runner to be on that wall?

Shoot For the Wall is a way of life and a way of seeing. Ultimately it is a way of slowing down and breathing in the creative moment and exhaling excellence. Inhale, Exhale, Create.

Since I started this blog back in 2006, I have used this digital medium as my Digital Wall to continue the dialogue that reaches more people than I ever imagined. I still do the occasional fine art show at a gallery or event space as I do feel that the Proof is in the Print (more on that soon…) and good photography should be actually printed and seen the way the photographer saw it. This approach is expensive and very time consuming. Although it is the ultimate Wall for me, I know that I can reach more people and tell more stories with my Blog. Oh, I mean my Digital Wall. Best of all, it’s cheap..and sometimes even free. There’s no excuse not to start sharing your work now as the digital wall is already built and ready for your moments.


Google Blogger – I started with Google Blogger. It’s free, easy to use and there are so many cool templates to choose from. Much of my internet traffic was created here since I would regularly populate this Google Blog with a ton of content…which Google likes!

Squarespace – When I created this website, i migrated (via 301 redirect) all of my blog content over to this site. Even though it is not free (you pay for your Squarespace site and it’s features) it’s totally worth it. You get all the robust creative features of Squarespace built into your blog. 

Other Blogging Sites:

Tumblr, Word Press, Medium, and Live Journal. 

REMEMBER TO Subscribe to this RSS FEED! Get this blog when it posts, be the 1st on your block with a new strut i your step and a new ‘tude.



Mexico and Beyond. Zack Smith Photography Travel Photo Gallery

January 5, 2016

I recently returned from the beaches, jungles and cities of the Yucatan Peninsula where I was on a well needed honeymoon with my wife. The photos below show my journey from the jungle/beach corridor of Tulum, Akumal, and the colonial city of Valladolid. 

HOW TO TUESDAY #11 - The Anatomy of an Advertising Photoshoot: Why Client Meetings, Location Scouting, and Prep Work is so Important. Part 2 of 2

January 5, 2016

In HOW TO TUESDAY #9 we talked about how important it was to have face to face meetings with clients. I feel that no matter how large or small the client or how small or grand the budget may be it is so important to use face to face meetings as your #1 fact finding mission that will set the vibe of the entire shoot. Take a quick read of HTT#9 and then come back to this post when you are ready to move on to Part 2 – Location Scouting and Prep Work.

As we learned in HTT#9 I was working with the New Orleans ad agency Peter Mayer on a new portrait photography campaign for Hancock Bank on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. At our first meeting I found out we would be shooting at locations already picked out by the agency and their client, but unfamiliar to me. The locations were very specific: The Friendship Tree on the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Park Campus and a lighthouse at the new Gulfport marina. I had never been to these locations and were unfamiliar about the surroundings, parking, accessibility, and if any permits were required. Luckily the agency had already taken care of the permitting, but it was up to me to visit the locations to determine a few Key Components When Location Scouting to insure a successful shoot:

1. Finding the Best Light – doing some prep work on sun direction will help even before you leave the house. Plugging in each location’s address in Google Maps will tell the you the orientation of your location. From here you can even get an idea of some possible Backgrounds using the Streetview option. (more on Backgrounds later…) Using the LightTrac app on your smartphone will tell you the direction of light at your location at any time of day. It helps to notice the direction of light at each Magic Hour – Sunrise and Sunset. (Click the link for tips on Natural Light and Strobe Portraits in HTT#5) These are your ideal shooting times if you can make it work. 

2. See it for Yourself – the absolute best thing you can do after mapping out the Best Light for each location is to get in the car and hit the road to see these locations with your eyes and through the lens. By doing this you can put yourself in the right position and in the best light with the perfect lens before all the hustle and bustle happens on shoot day.

+ for my shoot with Peter Mayer, I was able to visit each location at both Magic Hours of Sunrise and Sunset. This provided me with first hand experience of what my light looked light, what backgrounds were available for each portrait, and it put me in a good position to figure out shoot logistics like travel time, gear load out options, and where the closest coffee shop was 🙂

+ I have a little tactic I call getting the Real Background. When I am location scouting for portraits I like to focus where my subject will be so that the background will appear as it should when someone is in front of it. Shooting a sharp and in focus background does nothing for you or the agency you are working with if you don’t have a softer option to show what it will actually look like when your subject is in front of you.

3. The Walk-Around – When I have taken a few shots of the #1 Location, I always do a 360 degree turn, and then walk around the entire location just to be sure I am not missing anything. This is a great tactic to get you thinking out of the box and not just what’s on the paper. I often find my best locations here as I can get outside the bubble and relax my mind. (hint hint, click for HTT#7 on this very subject!)


We started the day at sunrise at the Lighthouse shooting to the West since the sunrise was in a perfect position to illuminate our subject and the structure evenly. We only added some hair light (Paul C Buff White Lightning 800x) and a large softbox for some fill light (White Lightning 1600x) but let the soft rising sun do the rest.


Here’s the Peter Mayer team as stand-in’s for a possible shot. Notice the dedication!


Here’s the final shot with final editing treatment.

 Here is the location we ended up using. The sun was rising just behind us with a warm glow, but to the West was our perfect soft blue light we could control!

Here is the location we ended up using. The sun was rising just behind us with a warm glow, but to the West was our perfect soft blue light we could control!

We ended the day with the low setting sun behind our subject at the College. We had to use a 4’x4′ diffusion panel to shade our subject mostly to keep her comfortable but also to shield her from the direct sunlight. Controlling the ambient light in any outdoor portrait shoot is your most important element since it provides your background light source. You can only do so much to control your Subject Light Source but not alot can be done to control your Background Light Source if your background is big and especially far away. One great way to keep your Background Light in check is to shoot in times where the sun is lower in the horizon: Magic Hour Morning and Magic Hour Afternoon. ( I can’t say that enough!)

 I used the bird to act as a stand-in.

I used the bird to act as a stand-in.

 Here is the location the client ended up choosing, which was actually not on the initial location list. This was found doing my Walk-Around.

Here is the location the client ended up choosing, which was actually not on the initial location list. This was found doing my Walk-Around.

 Note: I did put a full power 1600w strobe right on the eagle in the background to give it some more detail. You can see the difference in these two images.

Note: I did put a full power 1600w strobe right on the eagle in the background to give it some more detail. You can see the difference in these two images.

 Notice this image is out of focus.

Notice this image is out of focus.

 This is not the Friendship Tree, but a much cleaner and open tree across the street that we ended up using for a second shot.

This is not the Friendship Tree, but a much cleaner and open tree across the street that we ended up using for a second shot.

There you have it. There are so many components to organizing, scheduling, and executing a comfortable and creative photoshoot. While many of these tasks even by themselves may seem daunting, by working on them one at a time and adding them slowly to your repertoire you will soon have your tool belt full of helpful techniques and tips for any shoot. Make sure you SIGN UP for my mailing list on the HOMEPAGE to get How To Tuesday in your INBOX! 

Take advantage of these short days and low sun! Shoot for the Wall!




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