Tuesday, June 30, 2015

ZACK SMITH PHOTOGRAPHY BLOG is moving to ZACKSMITH.PHOTOGRAPHY

Hello everyone!

I will be moving this blog over to my new home page - http://www.zacksmith.photography/blog/ and I hope you will all come join me!

I started this blog way back in 2006 as a way to communicate with the world again through my words - something I had not done since I traded prose for photography back in 1997. Until that time, I was a constant writer of letters, poems, and prose and felt that was my path. Until that fateful day when I saw that TV in a ditch on GSRI in Baton Rouge, I was sure to be a journalist detailing the stories of the day through my eyes. Little did I know that writing would take a back seat for almost 10 years!




Thank YOU
Zack Smith

Monday, February 2, 2015

Do Your Research, Learn Your Tools & Grow Your Business Keyword Research, Meta-Data, Google Analytics, & SEO - OOOh My Gawd!



Learning & Relearning Your Tools


Very little is ever described as "typical" or "normal" when working full-time as a professional freelance photographer. The life of a photographer may seem far from hard work when you are given the freedom to truly enjoy your art form of creative expression when working behind the camera. However, the actual time spent behind the camera is minimal compared to the amount of time spent on scouting locations, pre/post production edits, answering emails/phone calls, marketing for new clients and managing social media. Due to the photography industry functioning on a day-to-day basis, we are faced with many challenges such as not often knowing ahead of time what days you will be working and how to plan each week accordingly to ensure everything gets done. In the end, I do feel as though I am one of the luck ones because I am right where I am supposed to be, doing what I love best and YES, in the magical city of New Orleans where I can just hit the streets and find inspiration.

Although life is great and my books are full, I have lacked in making time for the other important aspects of my business such as the time for "learning and relearning" my tools. To explain in further detail, photographers develop their own personal style of shooting that over time embeds into their lives creating a safe approach and comfort zone that becomes second nature. You can enjoy these "comfort zones" created along the way however, they do manifest. I find once these habits and traits become second nature, we rarely make the time to dip into the well for additional knowledge and opportunities that could be very insightful and invaluable to one's business


Case In Point

The inspiration behind this blog entry was introduced after taking the time to explore in more depth some of those "additional features" within my Canon 6D. It wasn't long after that I discovered a very valuable tool within the GPS feature that could be be of great use when scouting multiple locations for future photo shoots. Not only does this feature record exact pin point locations (when turned on), but also updates the GPS coordinates every few seconds.



                                                           
Tools In Action

I was recently in City Park scouting locations for a local musician's upcoming photo shoot. Thanks to the excellent communication from this particular musician regarding her desired needs for this photo, I was able to zone in on specific details which then led me to the perfect locations. As I began to get lost in City Park's beautiful Couturie Forest, I turned on my newly discovered GPS feature giving me the freedom to walk around aimlessly chasing the light...instead of chasing location points.

After a quick YouTube Tutorial on the GPS feature, I downloaded the photos to my Canon Utility App and was able to view all of the photos. Each photo had its own red dropped "pin" representing the specific location where the photo was taken. I realized very quickly that this feature was going to be helpful in more than one way. First, I no longer needed to be concerned geographically with location points and more importantly, was able to concentrate on the task at hand which was finding the perfect backgrounds & lighting for the upcoming photo shoot.





My Canon Utility Map of photos in the Couturie Forest at City Park





Musician Dayna Kurtz

For some of you, you probably already know that your camera or phone has this GPS feature! However, the GPS feature is just one representation of many other features available for you to use that possibly was either unknown and/or of no use to you before.

Our photography styles and approach gradually evolve and change over time bringing new tools and opportunities that enable a new level of sanity. With inspiring innovation and improved execution, the photography industry is always changing which means the tools in use are changing as well. Do yourself a favor and make time to "learn and relearn" your cameras tools. You too will discover one or many invaluable tools available that are ready to assist you on your next photo shoot!

If you found out something recently please share it with me here on this blog so we can help others!

SEO -OOOh My GAWD!!

Almost one month into 2015 and it feels very full..full of life, full of new beginnings and full of new frontiers. To start, I have moved into the final stages of completing my new website, Zack Smith Photography, and counting down until the final launch...stay tuned for upcoming announcements! The layout and structure for the website incorporates useful and information-rich content including new features such as direct links to my all of my social media, "Zack Smith Photography Blog", and "Zack Smith Photography Workshops" providing user-friendly navigation giving way to a more seamless overall experience. I will also be including access to an online gallery where select pieces of my work can be viewed and purchased directly. In the meantime, please keep in touch with my Facebook page - Zack Smith Photography for photography happenings and tips.

All of these changes have been made possible by the talented and creative, Tom Williams of Tomfoolery Design, the man behind the all of the magic who continues to work hard to make me look good. I've got to say thanks to you Tom for creating my new new brand identity….feels good.

BUT.... a good website is only “skin” deep…Luckily, I have been along side my inspiring wife as she diligently explores in more depth things such as branding, web presence, online marketing, and the overwhelming power behind what the internet can do for you. She has open my eyes up to new and exciting ways to promote my business including the HUGE potential for success. I learned that purty pictures will not get you clients and although i have great content through this blog (c.2006) there are so many other factors to consider when managing the online presence of your business.

Universe Calling. Hello?

Through all of this new information coming at us full speed, it is very hard to know what will work and if it will be useful in the end. One thing I have learned is that the Universe sometimes brings people into your life when you need them most. For example, Helen, my wife, recently was introduced to a new friend who ironically enough was in town for a conference to present on the subject of internet marketing/SEO. One can waste some time sifting through all the noise on the internet and rarely come in contact with one person who has all the valuable information needed to fully connect the dots. The following day, this new friend met with Helen to share some key information and help her with a better understanding of the overall picture. We are so thankful to our new friend and now absorbing all of his words of wisdom via his website, blog, and youtube videos. His name is Andy Crestodina and his stellar blog is Orbit Media. He continually updates his blog with relevant and insightful information on how to get your website and brand out there in the most rewarding way. The information he provides on such topics as “Creating Content for the Lead Generation Funnel” and “7Dead Ends on your Website” are revealing and challenging. Helen just started reading his book "Content Chemisty" which I obviously have to wait in line for but either way…I really urge you to check out Andy Crestodina! Good stuff folks. Needless to say, I've got a lot of work ahead but I've never been more ready…

Please stay tuned for the full launch of 2015 Zack Smith Photography Website coming soon to a location near you!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

“Do Good Work, Stick Around, and Be Nice To People” - ZSP Photography Philosophy #1 for 2015

“Do Good Work, Stick Around, and Be Nice To People”

This saying really has been my motto for quite some time. I remember moving to New Orleans in the fall of 2000 and hitting the streets hard, knocking on doors, looking for work. I had no idea what i was doing, but a few years went by and i became a little more comfortable and established in city. When Katrina came, that seemed to wash all that work away - but my ability to return fast to the city i loved to create in, AND continue good work, really helped my networking. You can use these tips as well and apply them to what you do - they really work for just about anything.

With My ZSP Photography Philosophy series i will try to relay some insights i have gained on photography, the business of photography, working with clients, and life in general. I hope you enjoy.


photo ©Zack Smith - "Seth Walker, 2014 St. Bernard"



Do Good Work 
Means what it means, but more specifically to always be true to your passion and your craft. Your interests will change as you learn more about yourself and your world. But what should not change is your truthful devotion to your art, your continual education as it pertains to your medium, market and message, and the strive for honest expectations.

Stick Around 
You need to know your surroundings before you can begin to tell it’s story. Anyone w/ a camera can take a pretty picture - but only someone with intimate knowledge of their subject and environment can move your soul. The more you know of a place, the more you are familiar with it and those that inhabit it and thus - the more they are familiar and trusting of YOU.

Be Nice To People - that’s pretty self explanatory. What goes around comes around really does hold true in life and especially in your market for whatever you do. Do all three of things things and good things will come to you.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas Photos - Just the Tip's n Tricks!

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!

Z

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Zack Smith Photography puts out 3 albums in 3 weeks!

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..




Sunday, November 9, 2014

I'ts Easy if You Try, Photographing Kids in the 3rd Wave

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:

ENVIRONMENT:
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.

EQUIPMENT
I set up a 30x30" 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.

GEAR
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. 

EDITS
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.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Photographer, Teach Thyself!

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.




Studio!


Reflectors!


 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!

Zack