What I learned from Zack Arias Critiques

Zack AriasI really had no idea who Zack was until Feb 18 2009. That was guest blog Wednesday on Scott Kelby’s site, and Zack posted the first video guest blog. It was truly amazing and inspiring. This is another piece of his work that really must be watched. The picture on the left, of Zack, ¬†is from that post.

Anyway, after that I started going to his blog. Not long after the guest blog post, he started doing critiques of other photographers web sites, and their work. (People volunteer to be critiqued). I have now watched 10 video critique posts by Zack Arias and Meg (his wife). There is so much content in there to talk about, and I have learned a lot. Some of which I knew, some of which reinforced things I was thinking about, and other stuff that that I am thankful to have learned now. There would be too much content to try to cover it indepth in one post, so I thought I would really just summarize in point form what I got out of his videos.

While I was watching these critiques, I took brief notes. This is really a summary of the notes I took. I am not getting into discussion of these points too much here, but there is a ton of material for further discussion. The material¬†is also collected from across the 10 posts, not in a order by post. I would encourage you to start from post one and just start viewing. Some of these things he hits on many many times, and it becomes more obvious when you take notes because you see the patterns you have written down.¬† There tends to be more “Don’ts” in the photo galleries section¬†and more¬†”Do’s“¬† in the sections on¬†his thoughts on what kinds pictures to take.

Web Sites in general

  • What are you trying to say?
  • What impression does your site give?
  • Do your photographs match your intended image?
  • Stay on target, Stay on message.

Photo Galleries

  • Kill the crap photos
  • Keep each gallery to a single theme
  • Limit each gallery to your very best images
  • Strong images don’t bring weak ones up
  • Don’t post multiple images of the same photo with different actions/treatments
  • Don’t post multiple images of same person usually (unless it is a specific gallery¬†for this person)
  • Don’t post multiple images of same boat/building/etc
  • Don’t mix personal images (or projects) with professional ones
  • No horizontal scroll to the web site
  • Keep photo style/treatment/tone/actions consistent through out¬†a¬†gallery


  • Watch wide angle shots with people – people to middle
  • Watch depth of field to get rid of background – especially wide shots
  • Careful of dead center “sniper” photo’s
  • Think of angles you are shooting at before the shot to keep in mind background
  • Move eye around frame to see what is unnecessary and still in frame
  • Watch consistent exposures especially at weddings
  • Use people in landscape and abstract shots to give sense of scale
  • Don’t forget to take shots with empty space
  • When composing photos outside, decide what you want to see and what you don’t want to see
  • Watch for lines intersecting with model, especially head

Take interesting pictures:

  • Find a frame within a frame
  • Focus on¬†unsual subjects
  • Look for lines and shapes and shades and colors
  • Layer your images
  • Use reflections in mirrors
  • Make use of negative space
  • Make your compositions so they tell a story
  • Find your frame and wait for the decisive moment
  • Locate¬†a clean spot for objects (no intersecting lines unintended)

Style Don’ts (For lack of better word)

  • Don’t tilt camera for the sake of tilting the camera
  • Don’t apply random actions to try to make pictures better
  • Don’t¬†use selective color


  • Focus, specialize. Limit what you shoot so you can get good at something
  • Target your marketing dollars
  • You have to work your way up – Shoot tee ball before you try to shoot the world series
  • Shoot every family that comes in front of you as if they are a celebrity
  • Give every client (even free) the same¬†attention, time, respect and effort you would give your “dream” client¬†
  • If you don’t have – don’t show it
  • Work your ass off – go get it

This last section, especially the focus on one type of photography,¬†is what I am having the most difficulty with. On the surface I agree with him. If you only shoot one type of photography, ie weddings, seniors, commercial, fashion, etc. then you will get good at that type of photography. If you try to shoot maternity, and high fashion, and landscapes, you won’t be able to shoot any of them enough to get good at any of them. It also makes a lot of sense from an image perspective. You don’t try to show to mothers that you can shoot baby pictures beside images of girls in bikinis. The “image” that you are trying to project just doesn’t jive.

On the other hand, I am having a hard time getting enough people to take pictures of to concentrate on only one type. It seems to me that family portraits, weddings and senior shots can merge together. Weddings are a great deal different than shooting senior pictures though!

The material in these videos is priceless, and well worth taking your time to watch them and hear him tell you to get off the web and shoot pictures 😉

1 thought on “What I learned from Zack Arias Critiques

  1. ouch … guilty on many counts! Thanks, Chris, for summarizing all those great points. I plan to watch the videos, too. But I can start to implement your lists right away.

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