Category: How To Tuesday

Learning the Land by Location Scouting - How to Turn a Simple Walk into Pre-Production on your Next Shoot!

February 29, 2016

I keep a little black book. Well, it’s a small yellow “pad” application inside my iphone that keeps all of my Locations and Notes as I drive and walk from job to job, studio to home and coffee shop to coffee shop. I am always looking for unique environments to serve as backgrounds and layers for future shoots. As you may have been reading this photography blog (which I have had here since 2006….!) I do feel my purpose is to help others around me in the photography community, but there is ONE thing I don’t share too much of: my locations. I have always felt that learning how to use strobes, how to pose portraits and edit in lightroom are skills that can be learned over time. Some learn it faster, some take more time. Finding the right location, and especially the perfect background for any subject’s story, I feel is the one part of the creative photographic process that evolves even slower. It’s tough to teach since it’s so personal. 

There are a few techniques I can share with you about Location Scouting for your next photoshoot, and it’s an easy one.

I suggest to portrait photographers to always snap photos of your locations and share them with your Google Drive or email AS SOON AS YOU CAN! I don’t know about you but I always am inspired at the wrong time…either I am late and driving somewhere, I don’t have a camera on me, or the light just isn’t right. Well, that’s the point of documenting a location by any means necessary. No matter if the light isn’t just perfect, or your idea is not fully formed, you have the location logged either by photo or a written description. Here are some photos I have taken with my “location scout hat” on…you never know what you might find on walk Learning the Land…

Click on the Photo to Expand and Learn the Technique!

5 Easy Portrait Photography Tips to help you Connect With Your Subjects! How To Tuesday #19!

February 29, 2016

You could be photographing a CEO’s headshot or your own family Christmas photo, by connecting with your subject on a deeper level it will always result in a more powerful portrait.

Whether I am photographing a business person, a musician, or a family of six, I am always faced with the duty of making the best photographs of them that they will be happy with while still being creative. Over the last 15 years photographing people in the loudest most awkward situations to the subtle and quiet intimate times, there are a few techniques and practices I use to make sure I am confident in my approach and that my subjects react to me in the most natural way possible. 

 Artist Melissa Bonin with one of her paintings at Lake Martin, Louisiana in 2015. Through many days of research and conversations we knew we had to be at the lake one hour before sunrise to be setup and ready for the magic of the morning

Artist Melissa Bonin with one of her paintings at Lake Martin, Louisiana in 2015. Through many days of research and conversations we knew we had to be at the lake one hour before sunrise to be setup and ready for the magic of the morning ‘golden hour’.

1. Do Your Homework and Know Your Subject

Anytime I am about to photograph someone, I always do my research on them beforehand. Even if it’s only to review what the shoot is about and why we are heading out to a remote swamp (yes!), it always helps me to get my mind and intentions focused on my subject and the story. I like to research my subject’s likes and dislikes, review their latest album if it’s a musician, or even request mixed songs from the album cover we are shooting the next day. I always like to have topics to talk about with my subject so that we can establish a rapport and maybe even a friendship along the way.

2.  Prepare to K.I.S.S. and Make it Count

Hey now! By reviewing your gear the night before and detailing your intention behind your shoot, you will know what gear to bring and what to leave behind...Keep It Simple Stupid! When I only bring the gear I need for a particular shoot, I can manage my conversations with my subject much easier and not worry about the hassle of gear I will need. I find that when I am able connect with my subject and not be concerned too much about light modifiers and stands, we can both find a place that is collaborative and comfortable much faster! QUICK TIP: If you don’t feel comfortable yet with a new light you just bought, don’t bring it until you can change it’s settings with your eyes closed. Just because you got some new gear and are chomping at the bit to use it and impress the new big client, doesn’t mean you need to bring it out right away.

 Washboard Chaz photographed at Chaz Fest in 2010. I used 1 camera, 1 lens. No lights no nothing. I made it easy and comfortable amidst a loud music festival!

Washboard Chaz photographed at Chaz Fest in 2010. I used 1 camera, 1 lens. No lights no nothing. I made it easy and comfortable amidst a loud music festival!

3. Shoot with Intention and Have a Goal in Mind

I always make a point to meet with my subjects in person before our shoot. If all my subject has time for is a phone call, I’ll take that as a great opportunity to talk with them about Why we are shooting, Where the images will go, Where we are going , and How I want to make this photograph the best thing they have seen. Detailing my intention and sharing ideas on photographic techniques I have to meet their goals, I have begun a unique collaborative environment that has already started to build a relationship. 

4. Bring a Familiar Face and Familiar Place

Having your subject bring a friend join the photo shoot can create a comfortable support system for your subject if you feel there may be some nerves present when the big shoot day happens. I like to always review our location together so that if we need some privacy and less of a public place, we can easily find that at the last minute if need be. 

5. Most Importantly – Have Fun

If you really do enjoy what you do as a photographer it should be present in the way you walk, talk, and hold the camera. Make a new friend, experience life through a strangers eyes and practice empathy! Do these things before you put that camera in between your face and theirs and I guarantee a level of comfort and trust will begin to emerge in your work, and thusly in your subjects eyes and pose!


I’ve been shooting musician Luke Winslow-King for a few years now and we have a comfortable rapport. This image above is from our first shoot together and by following these tips…we were able to get some great shots and start a great relationship of creative collaborating!

Learn how to Photograph a Silhouette and more in this week's Photography Techniques and Tips - HOW TO TUESDAY #18

Learn How to Photograph a Silhouette Portrait in any situation!

I have to say, this last week was a great week for Acadiana area artists. Being from Lafayette and living and working in New Orleans, I love when I get to work with Cajun and Zydeco artists in any way shape or form. I recently got to work one artist from Lafayette that I’ve been photographing for quite a while. 

Anthony Dopsie and the Jazz Fest Silhouette

After shooting as one of the staff photographers for The Jazz and Heritage Festival for 7 years, I have amassed an impressive archive of festival photography. In addition to doing my duty for the festival and getting the shots required to tell the story of the music, food, and fun – I make sure I get photos that I can use for later. I make sure I photograph my friends hanging out in the crowd, I do well lit backstage portraits of musicians, friends and strangers. One aside to this story, most young photographers are always asking me “can you get on stage?” as if being on stage you get the ‘best’ shots. I always tell them that you are more limited from the stage than anywhere else, and the best shot would be “15 feet in the air, in the middle of the crowd”. It’s funny, but kind of true.

There are a few moments when being on stage can really help you: The Backlit Over Exposed Crowd Musician Portrait. Say what!? One of my favorite stages to shoot is the Fais Do Do Stage, mainly because I love the music on that stage (mostly Cajun and Zydeco) but you can get some great silhouette photos (SEE the NEW Gallery) of the musicians since the crowd has more light on them than the stage. The best way to describe what a silhouette is when you set your exposure for a brighter background then the subject that is in front of it. If the subject is in a darker area, then it will be rendered as a silhouette.

I recently was contacted by the Louisiana Office of Tourism as they were looking for a silhouette or partially silhouetted musician playing at a non-descript music festival. Knowing that I had tons of this, I went straight to my Jazz Fest archives and looked up all the Cajun and Zydeco bands I photographed. I usually always get on stage when Rockin’ Dopsie and the Zydeco Twisters play because of the ongoing relationship I have with them. Any time they see me shooting, I always get direct engagement, especially from accordion player Anthony Dopsie. I found one shot from a few years back of the PERFECT silhouette of Anthony, sent it to the agency working for the client and they loved it. The photograph ended up being used in their ad “Come for a Feast – Stay for a Fest”

Anthony was super excited as was I. As you see in the photo above, I exposed for the crowd in the back meaning I wanted the crowd to dictate what my shutter speed and aperture were, and just let my subject (Anthony) fall where it may knowing it would be underexposed. My exposure here was:

In this case of wanting a silhouette I could not set my camera on a Priority Exposure Mode like Aperture or Shutter Priority. Using Manual Exposure (always!) I can use my Spot Meter to read the light from the background to begin my exposure. I set my aperture at 2.8 so that the crowd would only be recognizable as a soft mass of people as I didn’t want the viewers eye to go there. Once I set my aperture at 2.8, I read the Spot Meter and I could then bring my shutter speed to 1/800 which gave me the exposure I wanted which was had the Meter reading “0” or right at 2/3 of a stop below. Having my ISO low at 320 enabled me to crop the image without losing much detail. Here’s the original image before the crop:

It was great working with the Louisiana Office of Tourism to help promote the greatest things about Louisiana! Food, Music, and Acadiana! Allons a Lafayette! 

How to use the Healing Brush and Clone Stamp Tool in Photoshop to clean up your images : How To Tuesday #17

February 16, 2016

I am super excited to debut a new format for How To Tuesday : The Video Tutorial. Bare with me in the early stages of this new way of teaching, I may run a little long winded here and there but it’s great information!

Today we will go “behind the scenes” on some of my favorite New Orleans festival photographs and show you how to use the Healing Brush and Clone Stamp tools in Photoshop to clean up and get your images ready for web or print. Enjoy!

Want to Improve Your Instagram Photography ? Instagram Tips for Photographers and First Timers!

February 2, 2016

Let’s connect now – CLICK to Follow Me on IG!

https://www.instagram.com/zacksmith_photography/Get These Tips and More on my Instagram Feed! Let’s Connect! 

I am sure by now you have all heard of Instagram. Photographers, if you are not on Instagram right now, that progress bar on your App download of Instagram should be inching closer to OPEN right NOW! Wether you use Instagram or not, you can’t deny that it is the fastest growing photo sharing community out there. As of September 2015, Instagram has racked up over 400 million users surpassing Twitter (Source: CNBC), and is gaining steadily. The app has evolved over recent months from only showing your “square cropped” images to allowing 3rd party layout systems to integrate your natural rectangle compositions, collages, and multi-panel grid mosaics. Along with being able to write (not limited by characters like Twitter) about each photo, use hashtags, and Tag other photographers, Instagram is a must-have for photographers and visual story tellers who want to use the App as their “digital wall” and expand their online community. 


New “Layouts” 3rd Party App for Instagram!

I was urged to join Instagram by my good pal Stirling Barrett over at Krewe du Optic (“dude, you’re NOT ON INSTAGRAM?!), being the marketing guru Stirling is, it didn’t take me too long to realize the engagement power of this wonderful app. 170 Weeks and 754 posts later, I am now able to update my followers/friends on my photography projects, my “How To Tuesday” blog, Behind the Scenes from shoots, and just about any cool life-event I care to post to my favorite Digital Wall. I want you to keep thinking of it as a Digital Wall…like the wall at your home or at a gallery, you only put up your BEST WORK. I hope these Tips to Improve Your Instagram Photography will do just that…


If you are already on Instagram, skip to the next step. If you are ready to download, there are a few key points I’d like to share to make your experience worthwhile. When you first join, use one of your main email addresses so that you can easily login, change your settings, and authorize the App. You can also easily start multiple Instagram accounts but you will have to use other email addresses. Choose a User Name that says something about you, one of your main projects, or something fun you will remember. Adding your website in the “Link in Profile” will allow your friends and followers to hyperlink to your website or anywhere you’d like to take them. This is a great way to bring potential clients and friends to your “home” or wherever your customized photography experience (or pitch) can continue. Think of Instagram as just another pathway to your website! Make sue you don’t click PRIVATE ACCOUNT if you want people to see your work!


Before you go off posting random shots of your burnt toast, breakfast, and the tips of your shoes all day…make a plan of how you want your Instagram Gallery to look to the viewer. If you want their experience to be a hodgpodge of images from your life, so be it. I like to use Instagram as a more calculated view of my many experiences in photography. I really to think about how the image will look when posted, what I can write about, and if two, or even three photos could tell the story better than just one. SHOOT FOR THE WALL!


 Photo using Converging Lines to lead the eye

Photo using Converging Lines to lead the eye

 Using Rule of Thirds to simplify your Horizons!

Using Rule of Thirds to simplify your Horizons!

 Leading Lines all over the CBD in New Orleans!

Leading Lines all over the CBD in New Orleans!

All the rules you learned with your DSLR or point and shoot remain the same. Converging Lines/Leading Lines, Rule of Thirds, Negative Space – all apply here. If you take the time to set your horizons straight, watch your backgrounds and always have a subject…you’re on your way to Instagram Glory!


It doesn’t matter what kind of phone you are using Instagram with, if you are composing photos from in-phone you must have GOOD LIGHT. Always have the sun AT YOUR BACK, meaning the sun is shining from behind you and illuminating where you are pointing the phone/camera. The more even the light is on your subject and background the better the photos will be. Shooting during the GOLDEN HOUR (see my most recent gallery!) with the sun setting low will get you some beautiful warm tones and even light over your scene. Harsh overhead mid-day sun will still produce hard shadows and squinting subjects. 


 2 Images put together in the PhotoBlender app

2 Images put together in the PhotoBlender app

 2 Images put together in the PhotoBlender app

2 Images put together in the PhotoBlender app

 Soft Focus, and Vignette filter in Instagram App

Soft Focus, and Vignette filter in Instagram App

Once you’ve gotten a good composition and pressed the blue shutter button, your app gives you some handy editing options. Below you will see some FILTERS from “Clarendon” to “Moon” and others. If you click one, it sets that pre-set color, contrast and vignette on your photo. You can scroll all the way to right and MANAGE your Filters and even add new ones! Pressing the middle button “FLUX” in your Instagram editing screen will adjust contrast. With the small WRENCH tool on the right you can open a whole new set of Fine Tune editing features like: Adjust, Brightness, Contrast, Vignette, and more…experiment and have fun!

++ You can also download some great 3rd party editing apps to breath new life into your images if you get tired of the Instagram presets. Some of my favorites are:

Snapseed, PhotoBlender, PhotoCandy, Edit.Lab, Cinemagraph, iWatermark, and Lightroom. 


WiFi connected cameras make it so easy to shoot with your DSLR or fancy point and shoot then easily upload to your phone, and then Instagram! I do this alot when I am shooting with my Canon 6D and my Canon G7x. I like to be able to use any lens or exposure setting I can dream of and not be limited by my iPhone lenses and exposure shortcomings. Once you get the image saved in your camera, you can then use your Instagram filters and 3rd party apps to enhance your photos even more!


 The SHARE button can bring you to other Apps

The SHARE button can bring you to other Apps

You can easily connect your Facebook and Twitter accounts to your Instagram feed and share directly to those accounts. This is a fast and easy way to let your friends on your other accounts know that you have something cool going on at your NEW Instagram account! Professional photographers like this feature so that they don’t have to share the same photo three times on all of their accounts and can just click SHARE, and voila!


If you don’t quite fully understand what “hashtags” are..don’t be embarrassed – none of us knew at some point. Now we know, and there you go. Using unique and both popular hashtags (all you do is press the # symbol before a word in your photo description) allows whatever app you are using (Twitter, Facebook etc) to collect and aggregate these tags and the photos they are associated with to one place for a collection. Unique hashtags allow you to locate images along the Instagram’s history and you can just type in …. #neworleans and see what comes up. Giving your images descriptor hashtags can help others interested in what you do an easy way to find you..THUS helping you create a larger community. The more tools we have to connect us with other like minded or interesting image makers the better! We can all learn from each other and share our experiences through these applications. Join my Instagram feed to see how I use Hashtags!

These are just a few tips to help you get started or improve your use of the wonderful Instagram app. The key word here is CONNECTIVITY…this app allows us to connect to others with our images. The image is paramount, the image is king. It’s on the WALL to look at for a reason! GET OUT THERE AND SHOOT FOR THE WALL!

February 2nd, 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

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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. 

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