Category: Uncategorized

Christmas Photos - Just the Tip's n Tricks!

November 30, 2014

Right around now i start getting a bunch of emails from people, former students, current students, all asking about “what kind of camera should i get for xmas”, “what lens should i get”, or “how can i take a better family photo at Christmas dinner”. Well, this Blog’s for You!

Stocking Stuffers

In the small window of December when the economy seems to get a little better and we start spending that saved money on new gear, we want to make it count. It’s not often we have the extra money to buy new camera gear, or even have someone that WANTS To buy it for us! (must be nice)

1) My suggestion to you: sit down for about 10 minutes and Meditate on your Photographic Year. What were you high points? Low points? Do you remember when you “just couldn’t get that shot”, or “couldn’t get close/wide enough”? Remembering these moments will help you figure out what you really need to get better photographs, not what WANT right now in this rare moment of purchase power.

2) Follow the Light! – like the Magi followed that Star, you may be lacking in the light department if you want to do ANY Christmas family portraits indoors. If you are shooting outdoors, you are probably fine when shooting during the day. But these short daylight days get shorter when lunch lasts 4 hours and all those damn TV timeouts stretch the noon game beyond sunset! Jeez!

Check out www.KEH.com and pickup a USED speed light that has a swivel and rotating head. The best way you will cover an entire room is to NOT use you pop up flash, but to light the whole room w/ your new speed light. Angle that puppy to the ceiling (if it’s light/white colored) or bounce it behind you to the white window curtains to give you a good soft light coverage of your portrait.

3) Is it Prime Time? – I would say that if you can’t find direction in the last two helpful hints, then it must be PRIME TIME! Ask yourself – “Self? (yes) what is my favorite Focal Length?” and you might answer…”i don’t know…zoom?” NO! I suggest you check out your Metadata in Bridge or Lightroom and look at a group of your BEST photo shoots…then, look at the data to find out what Focal Length you:

– shot the most at
– selected the most at
– did final edits on

This will give you an idea of what your Favorite Focal length is…then, if you do not have a sharp prime version of this lens…go buy that! Example:


This is the metadata from my recent live music shoot. Looks like i hover around 50mm, 70mm, 100mm, and 200mm. This tells me i would benefit from 50mm, possibly and 85mm, or 100mm prime lens – giving me that maximum sharpness, and 2.8/1.8/1.4 possibility!!

If you have any more questions….let em fly!!!! it’s open season! PULL!


Zack Smith Photography puts out 3 albums in 3 weeks!

November 11, 2014

Well, not really. But three album covers i produced and shot are coming out at the end of this year. I am very happy and proud of the work. Two of the albums were done by talented young New Olreans artists Alex Bosworth (amazing songwriter, voice, piano/guitar) and Andrew Block (in demand guitarist/session dude), and the other was done for season vet’s Debbie Davis and Matt Perrine. I am so honored to have worked on them, and been able to create unique photographs that speak to these artists vision, and present them in a way they want to be seen. This is my favorite part of the job..

It's Easy if You Try, Photographing Kids in the 3rd Wave

November 9, 2014

For years and years i would turn down photographing children. I didn’t want to photograph them by themselves, or with their parents. The ideas of chasing a kid around a park, or someones living room, made me cringe and i would then “politely decline and recommend”…

Politely Decline and Recommend. Politely Decline and Recommend….what i was doing, was Accepting Defeat and Throwing Away Money.

So, what was it that i didn’t like about photographing kids…control. I had no control over what they did, how they looked, if they stared at the camera or not. So if there were so many variables I could not CONTROL, right? I did this so often for so many years, i missed the “first wave” of friends with kids who wanted some photos from me…and the 2nd wave heard from the 1st wave that i “didn’t shoot kids”…

But then the 3rd wave came, and this turned out to be My Wave…

I decided to reduce my variables all together:


Go to City Park (you WILL FIND a great background) Bring nothing that plugs in, takes batteries, or requires over 15 minutes of set up time.


I set up a 30×30″ diffuser panel on a C-stand and dropped a 20lb shot bag (filled with rocks from City Park). My assistant Tamara bounced light back into the diffused area where the kids sat w/ an elliptical 5 in 1 on the Silver side.

Doing it this way allowed me to concentrate on my settings and the kids only. Not recycle time, color temp, shadows on the face – i let go of control and gained freedom in the end.


Canon 6D, 70-200mm 2.8 @ 2.8/200mm

allowed me to bring that moss in the background to just right degree of softness as to not distract from my subject. Here’s a few i like, w/ minimal editing. 


Global Edits in ACR – +whites, +clarity, +contrast – Selective Adjustment Brush on Right Side of Face.

I added that last shot in to show another way to have freedom..just let the kid GO. After trying to corral them under the diffused light, all they wanted to do was move. And if we are trying to always capture someone in their natural state, in their best way…then we had to let em go.

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….

Do what you love and never work...

September 22, 2014

You’ve heard that old adage before right?

“Do what you love and never work a day in your life?”

Yea, it make sense on some levels, but when you do what you love for a living, don’t you have to work hard at it to get to the level you need to be so that it doesn’t feel like work…it’s just you getting better at what you do? I feel that. I know you do too, if you are nodding your head right now.

Today was a good day. The house is clean, i got some good emails, and i got to see a few cross sections of good friends all at once. I went to my friend Veronica Russel’s memorial send off, 2nd line, what have you at One Eyed Jacks tonight. V did so many things in her life with PASSION, she did them so well because she LOVED what she did…and that showed in the quality of her acting, the fierceness of her rollerblading/ass-kicking, the avant-ness of her “Noise”, and the attention to historical detail of her clothing. She had to work to get to to where she was, and she continued to work hard. Miss you much.

Here’s to working hard at loving what you do.  you gotta love that…


Ricky Monie, Ronnie Numbers, Preservation Hall band, and Johnny T..”working” and “loving”

Chalmette Sunset - August 10th 2014

August 11, 2014

I hadn’t taken my copter out since L’esperance and wanted to start a series of sunsets along Paris Road. The sunsets here are amazing, with Bayou Bienvenue in your foreground, and a sun setting on New Orleans in the back. Here’s a toast to an amazing weekend.

CREATE new Muscle Memory and become a better photographer

July 23, 2014

I can honestly say that i repeat myself when i teach. I do. I have some core fundamentals and philosophies to live/shoot by that get repeated time and time again, with each new crop of participants in my classes and workshops. It wasn’t until a few months ago i caught myself saying the same things i say over and over again about “muscle memory” as it pertains to learning the camera and being comfortable with it. I think i stuttered, when saying this for the 1,000th time, i realized that i was stuck.

I had to re Learn how to photograph in a new way

Like a needle stuck on the same song (the same great song!) i had been repeating my shooting style and calling up old knowledge with just a new crop of clients. I had become good at what i do, and i was luckily being hired for it. I really didn’t notice i was stuck in creative rut until those words “muscle memory” came out of my mouth for the 1,000th time like it was destiny to hear my own words and reflect.

I need to create NEW muscle memory. I need to dive in deeper the Waters of New. This will take some breaking down, some reluctant rehashing of why i need to change and adapt and pay attention to the world out there – it’s easy to put the blinders on and work.

Ignorance IS bliss….but there is much you miss

I have been watching a bunch of videos on Creativelive.com about stuff i already know…and realize that hearing about a photography topic from someone else teaching it can be life changing. I have always taken pride in myself to have learned from some of the most talented photographers, and one in particular, Herman Leonard, is with me on every shoot i do. i have branched out recently on my editing choices for certain clients to make things a little more unique to them, while keeping one foot in my traditional editing choices. I have always edited my photos to look like they weren’t edited…i just made sure my natural light + artificial mix was even, and took out items that didnt’ belong. You almost don’t notice anything….i try to get it right in the camera.

But now i am noticing things when i am dissecting a scene and gathering my intention for the final image, that i see things i can do in post, that i never saw before. I realizing i am composing my capture w/ the added intention of a post treatment in Ps, while staying true to me and my clients vision. It’s a new added trait, a new muscle i am currently working out…

And now for something completely different…

SUPER MOON – July, 2014 – zack smith photography

Summertime Rolls - New Ventures and Repeat Clients..do mix well.

July 2, 2014


December 2nd 2014
“Studio on the Geaux” made it’s debut at NOLA Fashion Week, 2014, and it went so well i had to do it again. The premise for SOG is this:

In the fast paced world of editorial and fashion photography, the working photographer needs to be skilled in both the studio and in the field. More times than none, they are working long days while trying to achieve different looks, as well as maintain a high level of control and sustained creativity. A popular method of achieving these goals is to work with lightweight, powerful, speed lights and remote units, that are easy to manage in the studio but also portable for lugging around in any environment, with or without an assistant.
Zack Smith’s “Studio on the Geaux” will highlight the many lighting setups you can do in the studio using speed lights and a myriad of light modifiers such as reflectors, umbrellas, and more. We will use live models in the studio, and then take this knowledge to the streets to work in the natural environment and available light. Zack will also highlight his philosophy for “Shooting for the Wall” as it entails creating the highest quality image for any scene. We will also highlight the methods of creating more depth in your images from manipulating aperture, focal length, rules of composition and creative lighting schemes.

photo: Eric Nunez

I think the last time i saw the Blog it was May. “One Foot in the Swamp” (offbeat article on the show!) was entering it’s 3rd month at The Scott Edwards Gallery, and my “Studio on the Geaux” workshop was about to happen – well the workshop was a amazing success – so many great images were made of our models Annika and Kate, as our participants found so many great spots in the courtyard and balconies behind the gallery.

I will be offering my “New Orleans at Night: French Quarter, From Golden to Magic”, a
photography workshop that teaches the intricacies of photographing the
Historic French Quarter in all types of low light and night. Stay tuned here and to my workshop page for that one.

At The New Orleans Academy of Fine Art I saw 3 full Digital 101 classes move on to Intermediate Digital during June, and they were producing some great work. I am starting my Intermediates next week…and there is still room in the 1-4p class! – go to www.noafa.com to sign up!

The 2nd week of June had me in Jacksonville, FL photographing the 1st Annual Florida Country Superfest for FPI, the same folks that do Jazz Fest. It was a good experience, and hard long days. I was really impressed with the Jaguars stadium though…clean. I guess you can’t have it all…

Towards the end of June i was reunited with my old pal Anne Cassidy of C-Major NOLA. She has some amazing new clothes and needed them photographed – so we utilized my new studio for the clothing detail shots, and went out to Los Islenos to do the look book work. I’ll post some images as soon as i can.

July 1 started off w/a bang – photographing old buds Flowtribe in the Elms Mansion for their press photography that’s going to be used to promote their new album. I always have a fun time w/ these guys – they are some of the most down to earth cats, w/ a keen sense of the music business on many levels.

One Foot in the Swamp - emerging from Festival Season and Starting Workhsop Season

May 9, 2014
Aerial of festival goers emerging from the MS river to enjoy FQF…this was shot on Saturday
Paulin Brothers at French Quarter Fest
Lost Bayou Ramblers at Jazz Fest
Hurray for the Riff Raff at Jazz Fest

I am so thankful for another super successful French Quarter Festival and Jazz Fest. As official photographer for two of the largest festivals in the South, and by far the most rewarding and fun. As a photographer i get to find the magic, and feel the music. As a musician, i get to play both festivals with my band Rotary Downs. April/May is a hectic, frantic, not-home-enough month on all fronts for me, and is both exhilarating and exhausting. i got a chance to talk about it with Jack Hopke on his WWNO 89.9 radio show, “All Things New Orleans” – LISTEN HERE

I am going to start posting all of my Jazz Fest shots on my Smugmug Page for all to see this week. They are also available for purchase.


The show is still up at Scott Edwards Gallery – 2109 Decatur St. We have a few more limited edition Hatch Show Print posters available and my catalogue is too!

Seth Walker, St. Bernard 2014


I will be giving my internet famous “Studio on the Geaux”which premiered at NOLA Fashion Week. This course shows you all you need to know to make the easy transition from studio portraiture to “in the field” portraits using mobile lighting setups and techniques! We will hold it in the French Quarter, and use multiple models!

Stay tuned and sign up for my mailing list for more info!~

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