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.

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Zack Arias has PDN Presentation Online

Yesterday I went to PDN’s Virtual Trade Show. It was pretty good. The technology that made it possible is getting there. I think they have some integration pieces to work on, but it turned out fine.

The highlight of the day (for me anyway) was the creative lighting session done by Zack Arias. But I missed it. I was out, and didn’t get back until just after his part was over, and someone else was talking about lighting toys/models creatively. It was interesting, but I had wanted to hear Zack.

Lucky for me, Zack has posted his presentation in PDF form, and has a Q&A thing going on¬†at his blog. At the end of the second presenter, they also said they would put the presentations online, but I haven’t seen them yet.

So you want a Critique by Zack Arias eh?

The eh? is my Canadian showing through. Zack Arias has been doing some critiques of people pictures and web sites since March 10. Here is the link to the first one. He has 8 of them as of this morning, I have seen 4 so far. They are really worth the time to watch.

Theses are really amazing on so many levels. First of all is how well he can do a critique in 5-7 minutes of someones work. Now granted, it looks like he spends some time before hand looking at a site before doing the video. Zack has a good eye for photographs, and a good understanding of web presence.

I have been taking notes as I watch. Some of the most useful information in the first few episodes has to do with how you present your work, more specificly how you present it on your web site. Some of the things that come up over and over are:

  • Show me who you are. Only post pictures of the type that show the type of photographer you are and the type of work you want.
  • Only post one version of a given picture (not color and B/W)
  • Only post a picture of any given model once. Pick the best one.
  • Don’t use the same building, boat, object more than once.
  • Only use your BEST work. Your best work will not pull up your weaker stuff, your weaker stuff will pull down your best work.

One of the biggest take aways so far is going to be the most difficult for me. This is the “show me who you are” part. I have a hard time with that. I really like shooting my kids – no money in that,¬† landscapes – you have to be really good at that (and travel), flowers – how do you sell that, and portraits – I have just started. So, if I want to take pictures of people, seniors, weddings, engagements, etc, I need to have a site focused on that, but I don’t have many pictures like that yet. I’ve got to put in the work. Funny about that eh? Until my pictures of people are better than my pictures of flowers, I am not going to have a great website to show people my “work”.

I have some lighting stuff coming. I need to be more agressive about getting oportunities to take peoples pictures to both get better at it, and to build my portfolio.

To switch gears, I feel bad for some of the people. The girl that shot the wedding with her camera on auto, direct on camera flash, crooked pictures and poor cropping made me cringe. I sure hope my first wedding doesn’t go like that. He also has people submitting their flickr account with ony pictures of their kids on it and asking what they need to do to make money at this. Yeesh.

I feel that my pictures are squarely in the middle of what he has seen. I don’t take as good of pictures as the ones he has praised, but I sure don’t take as bad of pictures as the ones he trashes. My web site on the other hand would be trashed. I really need to work on my web presence.

The other think that is interresting is that I don’t always agree with him on the shots that he thinks are amazing. I almost always agree with his “chuck” pile, but some of the pictures he like I find my self scratching my head. One thing that appears to be a trend is to shots that are very close to blown out. There are lots of pictures that look overexposed to me that he thinks have great lighting. I am new to the whole being critical of photography/art thing, and I suppose that we might just have different tastes.

It would be interresting to get a critique of my photo’s. He already has a billion submissions, and my I need to work on my site before I would want to have that part looked at.

I really need to look at where I am going as a photographer. Where are you going?