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Month: March 2017

Stop the Madness! So will your new Digital Camera instantly make you a professional? Nope.

March 27, 2017

How To Tuesday asks the tough questions photographers face every day in an easy to read way!

I have been teaching beginner photography to beginners and mentoring professional photographers for many years in the New Orleans area. From time to time I am contacted by photographers from around the country who are on vacation in the city and want a customized mentorship for a few hours while their family hits a tourist trap. I have taught and mentored photographers in the Gulf Coast region since the early 2000’s and am reminded of the many insights I’ve gained from these years of perspective.

plus ca change plus ca la meme chose….

New cameras and new technology come and go, but the CORE principles of great photography remain true.

When I first began this journey of educating photographers, I was teaching film photographers how to load film, shoot night photography, and master their concert photography skills in low light. From the old Nikon n90s to the newest Canon 5D Mark IV I always return to the basics when teaching people how to get the best photographs – KNOW YOUR TOOLS and GET A PHILOSOPHY! The cameras that are coming out now have so many added features that may help us fine tune our camera settings to fit our specialized needs, but in the end we still rely heavily on finding the comfort zone of creativity in mastering Focal Length, Aperture, Shutter speed and ISO. 

I recently purchased a new Canon 5D Mark IV, and I love it but how will it make me a better photographer?

Just by dropping some well saved monies to buy the new-ish Canon should that make my images that much better than the Mark 3? Yes, and no. As I still need to rely on my master of light, focal length, and depth – there are some newly added features that advance my workflow as a professional. But does this camera make me better? I feel it gives me a deeper feeling of confidence with more focus points to choose from, and I feel that it allows me to toggle through menu options easier with the touch screen. Yes, all that is good but it’s not going to make me a better photographer.

The reason I write this blog post is that I have been seeing more and more the bubbling up resentment of long time professional photographers towards the less knowledgable image creators. This sentiment, I feel, has popped up in the recent years due to the increase in quality of DSLR’s and the downtick in prices. Add in the power of marketing and social media, and the once iPhone shooter can spend 3K on new camera gear and immediately start putting out some impressive work in a short amount of time. (and I say impressive by the sheer volume, not astounding quality). Just because one purchases a nice camera, doesn’t make them a pro and just because that newbie is taking on clients, shouldn’t mean that the professionals jobs are at stake. Or does it?

In my almost 20 years of taking on photographic clients, I have seen a few things remain constant:

+ The ability for a creative visual professional to solve a clients visual problems begins and ends with the consistency to produce high quality work in all facets and eras of their careers.

+ Through economic recession, hurricanes, and life downturns the professional photographer maintains their equipment insurance, invests in their business, creates marketing and business plans that reflect their markets ability to support them. They use their master of Focal Length, Aperture, and Shutter speed and ISO to tell the compelling stories in ways that are unique to them, and their client. 

+ Trends come and go and the creators never stop yearning for more knowledge of them themselves, the competition, and their art. Look inward, look ahead, never look back.

New Gear New Techniques: How to Shoot Fill Flash Portraits into the Sun and Pocketwizard TTL Product Test

March 20, 2017

How did I make this photograph you ask? Get inspired by Louisiana, befriend a tree, and wait for the fog….

 ISO 100, 1/125 at f1.6 with Variable Neutral Density filter at 8 stops on my 35mm on Canon MarkIV, self timer. Canon 580EX off camera flash at 1/1 (full power) Orange Gel.

ISO 100, 1/125 at f1.6 with Variable Neutral Density filter at 8 stops on my 35mm on Canon MarkIV, self timer. Canon 580EX off camera flash at 1/1 (full power) Orange Gel.

What gets you off your couch? What motivates you to pick up your camera and find the next great photograph in New Orleans, Lafayette, Baton Rouge or Bunkie? For me, nothing gets me out of the office like a new lens, flash, or gadget to help tell the story in a different way. As you know I have been photographing that amazing oak tree at the Chalmette National Historic Battlefield for almost over a year. You can see some of my galleries on this blog (CLICK for one here!) where I have photographed this tree at sunrise, sunset, in the fog, and in an impending rain deluge! I have awoken from deep couch sleep to peer out of my window and see the sun 20º above the horizon knowing that tree was perfectly backlit. I’d race out the house with my 17-40mm f4 lens and get what I could. I enjoyed posting my photo galleries and explorations in light, but I needed some new inspiration: NEW GEAR!

Learning my new DSLR and flash was going to be on the fly and inspired by Louisiana

I don’t have alot of time these days to be with that tree, so I have to photograph it when the moment hits. Usually the perfect combination of fog and sunrise will get me out the house, but with my recent acquisition of some new lenses have me very excited to see my tree in a very different way. When I shoot music festivals in Louisiana there are a few lenses I like to bring with me: a wide angle for getting those large establishing shots, my telephoto for when I am shooting from the photo pit at a far away stage, and a few primes for nice creative depth of field. You can see some of my recent music festival photographs at my Voodoo Fest Gallery and French Quarter Fest galleries.

Remember our lenses are our eyes and how we see the world through our camera

I have been playing around with the new 35mm 1.4 L lens and loving it. I have been working around with my 8 Stop Variable Neutral Density filter, shooting at 1.4 with my Canon 580EX speed lights. The only way that I can photograph into the sun AND use my flashes is to knock down the light that is entering my lens. As you know, our cameras have a sync speed that must be met so the light from our flash can be exposed on the sensor while not being interrupted by the camera’s shutter. Most cameras sync speeds are at 1/200, 1/180 or around that speed. When you set your shutter speed FASTER than that (1/320 or 1/500 for example) the shutter is moving too fast across the sensor plane and your flash cannot get through, thus leaving you with a black bar across the image:

Let’s talk about how I got the photograph at the header of this post – photographing shallow depth of field portraits using studio flash.

I recently purchased the Pocket Wizard TTL Wireless Radio 5 Pack for Canon, allowing me to control the output of my off camera Canon speedlights from my camera. This allows me to place my flash near my subject, then adjust the power of the flash from my camera thus helping me work faster and smarter!

I setup my 580EX at full power 1/1 in manual mode and put an orange gel taped to the front of it. I set a prefocus on the bench with my lens on Auto Focus, then set it back to Manual Focus. This is very important because if we tap the shutter again, the camera might want to focus on something else and all our hard work is for naught as our subject will be soft! Taking a test shot, I then zoomed into the shot to see if I was in focus. We need to remember that what we see on our LCD screen always looks great, especially when our focal point at f1.6 is only about 6 inches! We really have to get into the habit of zooming into our photographs so we learn how to see the actual focus. This is a great photo-habit to have!

After I took a few test shots with the bench, I was able to sit down (on the wet morning dew bench of course) and get in the shot. I forgot to mention that I was using my tripod for this shot, but at this point I assumed you knew that! I wanted this shot to be iconic in a different way as I have always shot the tree and very seldom am I in the shot. Thinking about the new gear that i just acquired I wanted to see if I could put all the pieces together and make one striking Louisiana inspired self portrait. Thanks for reading, and get out there…SHOOT FOR THE WALL!

Remember its FESTIVAL TIME IN NEW ORLEANS! Spots are open for my French Quarter Fest Photography Workshop so CLICK HERE to sign up now!

EXCLUSIVE LIGHTROOM CONFESSIONAL "I was lost and now am found" One of Zack Smith's stock images breaks it's silence!

March 13, 2017
 I have seen the light and in it

I have seen the light and in it’s a room. It’s Lightroom….

I never knew life could be so easy, I never knew life could be so grand..Now that I am setup with Lightroom my archives are in Command!

Ya like that? I just wrote that. Inspired by the last 365 days of using Lightroom to manage my archives, tag and star my favorite photos, and really rock my Global Edit WORLD I am a new man. What finally brought me to bite the bullet and totally throw my workflow into the waiting bosom of Lightroom was a day last year that I will never, ever forget…

I received a call from a potential client looking for Louisiana stock imagery for a limited use agreement. The images needed contained no visible people, private residences or business store fronts. It was a dream stock job from heaven! The only catch was that the client needed to see gallery of Louisiana stock images and New Orleans cultural galleries by the end of day. Sure, I thought, I’ll just go through my Louisiana Stock hard drive and find what they needed. But lo and behold all of my New Orleans and Louisiana images were in separate folders and in multiple drives. The only way to find specific themed images was to open each folder, inspect the images and drag them to a new destination folder. I had no time for that!

It was time to learn Lightroom for myself…

It was then that I needed to get my workflow “act” together. I was shooting more client work than ever from music festivals, corporate head shots, conferences, and events – I needed a better way to archive, keyword, and edit my files in a way i could find them fast and easy! Welcome in my buddy and yours, David Marx. (www.davidmarx.com)

David and I attended the Rocky Mountain School of Photography during the same summer of 2000 and became fast friends. Our love of PHISH, slide film, and music set us on a path to friendship going on 17 years strong. Not only has Dave helped me improve my workflow management, he has helped me with my Lightroom techniques and archiving prowess. Thanks Dave, I owe you alot!

I began using Lightroom to SAVE my workflow, now it’s a part of my lifeflow…now teaching it to beginners who were right where I was!

For the past 15 years I have taught what I know. Concert, Portrait, Long Exposure, all types of photography that I do..i teach. That’s why I thought it was a no-brainer to begin teaching Lightroom in New Orleans. I taught my first class (15 people) in the Summer of 2016 and begin my second one this Saturday, March 18th where I will unleash tons of new helpful tips, presets, and editing techniques.  For me, giving it away is the ultimate treasure and balance to receiving so many rich insights from others. 

I teach Lightroom with the same philosophy I have had for photography since day 1: Shoot for the Wall! I teach and preach non-destructive editing, fine tuning your images for print, and using Photoshop as a file, not a chainsaw. If we can shoot RAW and get what we need with our initial exposure, then there are only a few edits we need to do in Lightroom to get our images print ready. 

What are you waiting for? Get a Philosophy! Learn Lightroom with me!!! SIGN UP HERE~!

 

Mardi Gras: A Feast for the Senses for it is the Playground of Creatives...

March 1, 2017
 Winners...my favorite costumes were these two

Winners…my favorite costumes were these two “House Ornament” lions…

Mardi Gras 2017 Photo Gallery: #Colourgasm

Photographs really do tell a story don’t they? One photograph can say so many different things to many people, and a series of images may tell one singular story so well, that we all agree. I hope you take a second to look at these images and agree with me –

Mardi Gras is a feast for the senses because it is the playground of the creatives…

If you just took a second to look around you, take it all in, you realized that New Orleans was one heartbeat, one song, one love on Mardi Gras day. It was something I had sorely missed after 3 years not participating in the revelry. Yes, I had put together some great marching bands for Chewbacchus and Krewe Du Vieux but that was more like creative WORK rather than creative PLAY. And I was due for some play. 

Being able to create a costume with my family meant the world to me, as this was our daughter Vega’s 1st Mardi Gras day (definitely not her 1st parade…she’s a pro). My wife and her dressed as slick Owl’s and I the moss laden tree. At the last minute I abandoned the costume for the easy of use carrying the “dad bag” full of baby needs and wants, and my camera. In year’s past partying took precedent over bringing out my good working cameras, but today was different and it had to be documented. 

ALL MARDI GRAS NEW ORLEANS PHOTOGRAPHS HERE ©ZACK SMITH…SO ENJOY HERE! 

Pls Share! Feel free to link this page post!!

 

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