New Orleans Photography Moments: Learning how to "see" like the camera sometimes means to close your eyes by Zack Smith

Zack photographing Delfeayo Marsalis in 2017. Come behind the scenes of focal length and learn to see like the camera! 

Zack photographing Delfeayo Marsalis in 2017. Come behind the scenes of focal length and learn to see like the camera! 

Rob your eyes from their sense of sight and gift your ears the color of sound. Close your eyes anywhere in New Orleans to hear the sounds of history, joy, sorrow and struggle. It's like a song that continues to be written as you walk the streets listening for the next verse in the city's sweet ballad.

Hear the song, see the shadows, feel the light from the sun.

Walk with a 50 and zoom on the run...

As photographers we need to be in the moment sometimes to really feel when a photograph needs to be made. We are makers, we are doers, and we are definitely not takers. In order to truly KNOW what the camera sees we need to OWN our Focal Length. 

NOTE: I have blogged about focal length and the Zen of it a few times, you can read and see more about how I explore the world with a fixed gaze. Click on any post to read in a new window. But please continue to read on.

"Finding Inspiration with a Prime" Dec 2015

 "85mm Walking with a Prime" -

"French Quarter Prime Walk" (JULY2016)  

Image of trumpeter in New Orleans shot on a fixed 50mm lens at an aperture of 1.2. ©2017 Zack Smith Photography. CLIENT: Mark Lawrence Johnson

Think of your specific focal length as a new pair of prescription glasses. It takes some time to get used to the perspective...

I would like to introduce the photographs used in this uniquely New Orleans gallery to show you how I see with a lens. I try to create the new visual reality while telling my client's story. I recently had a wonderfully busy week photographing musician Delfeayo Marsalis, trumpeter Mark Lawrence Johnson, Dirty Coast tshirts, and more. I'd like to use the photographs I took "on the side" to explain my relationship with focal length and learning to see like the camera. 

Choosing which lens to use on your subject also means to dictate how your background will relate.

I feel I am able to tell the story of someone, or some business, as I relate their visual needs to the way the story unfolds in front of a particular focal length. For instance, photographing an image of a tee shirt really close up is very important to my client but do I want to photograph it with a wide angle lens (like 20mm, 24mm) to widen my perspective angle and distort the image? Photographing with a wider angle lens at a close up subject will distort the subject, but it will also separate it from the background which could be appealing. On the other hand I could photograph that shirt with a longer focal length (120mm to 200mm) to compress the background and give the effect of shallow depth of field at most any aperture combination. The further the background is from my subject, the more soft and diffused the bokeh will be. 

Mark Johnson photographed on the Mississippi River in New Orleans with a 100mm focal length at 2.8 aperture. ©2017 Zack Smith Photography

Dirty Coast Press photoshoot (photo boil?) where I used 100mm at 2.8 aperture to bring in the background and frame my subjects. ©2017 Zack Smith Photography

Dirty Coast Press photoshoot (photo boil?) where I used 100mm at 2.8 aperture to bring in the background and frame my subjects. ©2017 Zack Smith Photography

A longer lens will bring the background in...

Whatever funny saying or trick to help you remember what focal length will do to help you craft your composition, figure it out! One that I like to use is "Longer Lens brings the Background In". This little saying will remind you to use your longer focal lengths like 100mm and above to bring the background closer. Bringing the background closer to your subject will give a more important stature to the background, allowing a closer relationship with subject and giving it more meaning. Using a wider angle lens will do the exact opposite.

When I chose a 24mm lens at 2.8 aperture for this shot, my idea was to have the menu frame his head and be out of focus. So i chose 24mm and had my subject get in position. Sometimes you have to work for the shot! ©2017 Zack Smith Photography

When I chose a 24mm lens at 2.8 aperture for this shot, my idea was to have the menu frame his head and be out of focus. So i chose 24mm and had my subject get in position. Sometimes you have to work for the shot! ©2017 Zack Smith Photography

My Photography Workshops help you Get a Philosophy...

Since I have been teaching photography in New Orleans (c. 2002) I have always taught that you must have a subject, the subject must have a story, and the subject will help you set the settings. You will never be able to choose which focal length to use properly when you don't know how the image will tell the story of the subject. As you can see in the photographs above, background has SO MUCH to do with the story of the subject. In any one of Zack Smith Photography Workshops, you will learn the tools and workflow necessary to help you make the decisions on what focal length to use when, where, and why! 

Stay in touch!



Natural Light Portrait Video Tutorial and Lightroom Edits with Zack Smith in New Orleans! by Zack Smith

Watch this Video for my Natural Light Window Portrait Tutorial and see the final edits!

Watch this Video for my Natural Light Window Portrait Tutorial and see the final edits!

How to Photograph Portraits using Natural Window Light! Watch as I set up and explain an easy portrait scenario using the natural light at the TASC Performance New Orleans store on Magazine Street! I have to thank my friend Ava for modeling, photographer Sarrah Danziger ( for the LIVE shoot, and Amanda, Seth, and Regan for the help at TASC!

Using a store window to shoot natural light portraits is easy, fun, and you can do it too!

As I have always said - "let the subject set the settings" and the rest will follow. In this 15 minute photography video tutorial I show you the nuts and bolts and basic settings to help you get your best natural light portraits yet. From putting the lens on the camera body to the final Lightroom edits, watch the video above and then see the edits below! No secrets here! Watch as I show you in real time how to quickly switch back and forth from shallow depth of field to extended depth of field to get two types of backgrounds and change your perspective!

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Stop the Madness! So will your new Digital Camera instantly make you a professional? Nope. by Zack Smith


How To Tuesday asks the tough questions photographers face every day in an easy to read way!

I have been teaching beginner photography to beginners and mentoring professional photographers for many years in the New Orleans area. From time to time I am contacted by photographers from around the country who are on vacation in the city and want a customized mentorship for a few hours while their family hits a tourist trap. I have taught and mentored photographers in the Gulf Coast region since the early 2000's and am reminded of the many insights I've gained from these years of perspective.

plus ca change plus ca la meme chose....

New cameras and new technology come and go, but the CORE principles of great photography remain true.

When I first began this journey of educating photographers, I was teaching film photographers how to load film, shoot night photography, and master their concert photography skills in low light. From the old Nikon n90s to the newest Canon 5D Mark IV I always return to the basics when teaching people how to get the best photographs - KNOW YOUR TOOLS and GET A PHILOSOPHY! The cameras that are coming out now have so many added features that may help us fine tune our camera settings to fit our specialized needs, but in the end we still rely heavily on finding the comfort zone of creativity in mastering Focal Length, Aperture, Shutter speed and ISO. 

I recently purchased a new Canon 5D Mark IV, and I love it but how will it make me a better photographer?

Just by dropping some well saved monies to buy the new-ish Canon should that make my images that much better than the Mark 3? Yes, and no. As I still need to rely on my master of light, focal length, and depth - there are some newly added features that advance my workflow as a professional. But does this camera make me better? I feel it gives me a deeper feeling of confidence with more focus points to choose from, and I feel that it allows me to toggle through menu options easier with the touch screen. Yes, all that is good but it's not going to make me a better photographer.

The reason I write this blog post is that I have been seeing more and more the bubbling up resentment of long time professional photographers towards the less knowledgable image creators. This sentiment, I feel, has popped up in the recent years due to the increase in quality of DSLR's and the downtick in prices. Add in the power of marketing and social media, and the once iPhone shooter can spend 3K on new camera gear and immediately start putting out some impressive work in a short amount of time. (and I say impressive by the sheer volume, not astounding quality). Just because one purchases a nice camera, doesn't make them a pro and just because that newbie is taking on clients, shouldn't mean that the professionals jobs are at stake. Or does it?

In my almost 20 years of taking on photographic clients, I have seen a few things remain constant:

+ The ability for a creative visual professional to solve a clients visual problems begins and ends with the consistency to produce high quality work in all facets and eras of their careers.

+ Through economic recession, hurricanes, and life downturns the professional photographer maintains their equipment insurance, invests in their business, creates marketing and business plans that reflect their markets ability to support them. They use their master of Focal Length, Aperture, and Shutter speed and ISO to tell the compelling stories in ways that are unique to them, and their client. 

+ Trends come and go and the creators never stop yearning for more knowledge of them themselves, the competition, and their art. Look inward, look ahead, never look back.

Spring has Sprung! New Gear New Techniques: How to Shoot Fill Flash Portraits into the Sun. by Zack Smith

How did I make this photograph you ask? Get inspired by Louisiana, befriend a tree, and wait for the fog....

ISO 100, 1/125 at f1.6 with Variable Neutral Density filter at 8 stops on my 35mm on Canon MarkIV, self timer. Canon 580EX off camera flash at 1/1 (full power) Orange Gel.

ISO 100, 1/125 at f1.6 with Variable Neutral Density filter at 8 stops on my 35mm on Canon MarkIV, self timer. Canon 580EX off camera flash at 1/1 (full power) Orange Gel.

What gets you off your couch? What motivates you to pick up your camera and find the next great photograph in New Orleans, Lafayette, Baton Rouge or Bunkie? For me, nothing gets me out of the office like a new lens, flash, or gadget to help tell the story in a different way. As you know I have been photographing that amazing oak tree at the Chalmette National Historic Battlefield for almost over a year. You can see some of my galleries on this blog (CLICK for one here!) where I have photographed this tree at sunrise, sunset, in the fog, and in an impending rain deluge! I have awoken from deep couch sleep to peer out of my window and see the sun 20º above the horizon knowing that tree was perfectly backlit. I'd race out the house with my 17-40mm f4 lens and get what I could. I enjoyed posting my photo galleries and explorations in light, but I needed some new inspiration: NEW GEAR!

Learning my new DSLR and flash was going to be on the fly and inspired by Louisiana

I don't have alot of time these days to be with that tree, so I have to photograph it when the moment hits. Usually the perfect combination of fog and sunrise will get me out the house, but with my recent acquisition of some new lenses have me very excited to see my tree in a very different way. When I shoot music festivals in Louisiana there are a few lenses I like to bring with me: a wide angle for getting those large establishing shots, my telephoto for when I am shooting from the photo pit at a far away stage, and a few primes for nice creative depth of field. You can see some of my recent music festival photographs at my Voodoo Fest Gallery and French Quarter Fest galleries.

Remember our lenses are our eyes and how we see the world through our camera

I have been playing around with the new 35mm 1.4 L lens and loving it. I have been working around with my 8 Stop Variable Neutral Density filter, shooting at 1.4 with my Canon 580EX speed lights. The only way that I can photograph into the sun AND use my flashes is to knock down the light that is entering my lens. As you know, our cameras have a sync speed that must be met so the light from our flash can be exposed on the sensor while not being interrupted by the camera's shutter. Most cameras sync speeds are at 1/200, 1/180 or around that speed. When you set your shutter speed FASTER than that (1/320 or 1/500 for example) the shutter is moving too fast across the sensor plane and your flash cannot get through, thus leaving you with a black bar across the image:

Let's talk about how I got the photograph at the header of this post - photographing shallow depth of field portraits using studio flash.

I recently purchased the Pocket Wizard TTL Wireless Radio 5 Pack for Canon, allowing me to control the output of my off camera Canon speedlights from my camera. This allows me to place my flash near my subject, then adjust the power of the flash from my camera thus helping me work faster and smarter!

I setup my 580EX at full power 1/1 in manual mode and put an orange gel taped to the front of it. I set a prefocus on the bench with my lens on Auto Focus, then set it back to Manual Focus. This is very important because if we tap the shutter again, the camera might want to focus on something else and all our hard work is for naught as our subject will be soft! Taking a test shot, I then zoomed into the shot to see if I was in focus. We need to remember that what we see on our LCD screen always looks great, especially when our focal point at f1.6 is only about 6 inches! We really have to get into the habit of zooming into our photographs so we learn how to see the actual focus. This is a great photo-habit to have!

After I took a few test shots with the bench, I was able to sit down (on the wet morning dew bench of course) and get in the shot. I forgot to mention that I was using my tripod for this shot, but at this point I assumed you knew that! I wanted this shot to be iconic in a different way as I have always shot the tree and very seldom am I in the shot. Thinking about the new gear that i just acquired I wanted to see if I could put all the pieces together and make one striking Louisiana inspired self portrait. Thanks for reading, and get out there...SHOOT FOR THE WALL!

Remember its FESTIVAL TIME IN NEW ORLEANS! Spots are open for my French Quarter Fest Photography Workshop so CLICK HERE to sign up now!

EXCLUSIVE LIGHTROOM CONFESSIONAL "I was lost and now am found" One of Zack Smith's stock images breaks it's silence! by Zack Smith

I have seen the light and in it's a room. It's Lightroom....

I have seen the light and in it's a room. It's Lightroom....

I never knew life could be so easy, I never knew life could be so grand..Now that I am setup with Lightroom my archives are in Command!

Ya like that? I just wrote that. Inspired by the last 365 days of using Lightroom to manage my archives, tag and star my favorite photos, and really rock my Global Edit WORLD I am a new man. What finally brought me to bite the bullet and totally throw my workflow into the waiting bosom of Lightroom was a day last year that I will never, ever forget...

I received a call from a potential client looking for Louisiana stock imagery for a limited use agreement. The images needed contained no visible people, private residences or business store fronts. It was a dream stock job from heaven! The only catch was that the client needed to see gallery of Louisiana stock images and New Orleans cultural galleries by the end of day. Sure, I thought, I'll just go through my Louisiana Stock hard drive and find what they needed. But lo and behold all of my New Orleans and Louisiana images were in separate folders and in multiple drives. The only way to find specific themed images was to open each folder, inspect the images and drag them to a new destination folder. I had no time for that!

It was time to learn Lightroom for myself...

It was then that I needed to get my workflow "act" together. I was shooting more client work than ever from music festivals, corporate head shots, conferences, and events - I needed a better way to archive, keyword, and edit my files in a way i could find them fast and easy! Welcome in my buddy and yours, David Marx. (

David and I attended the Rocky Mountain School of Photography during the same summer of 2000 and became fast friends. Our love of PHISH, slide film, and music set us on a path to friendship going on 17 years strong. Not only has Dave helped me improve my workflow management, he has helped me with my Lightroom techniques and archiving prowess. Thanks Dave, I owe you alot!

I began using Lightroom to SAVE my workflow, now it's a part of my teaching it to beginners who were right where I was!

For the past 15 years I have taught what I know. Concert, Portrait, Long Exposure, all types of photography that I do..i teach. That's why I thought it was a no-brainer to begin teaching Lightroom in New Orleans. I taught my first class (15 people) in the Summer of 2016 and begin my second one this Saturday, March 18th where I will unleash tons of new helpful tips, presets, and editing techniques.  For me, giving it away is the ultimate treasure and balance to receiving so many rich insights from others. 

I teach Lightroom with the same philosophy I have had for photography since day 1: Shoot for the Wall! I teach and preach non-destructive editing, fine tuning your images for print, and using Photoshop as a file, not a chainsaw. If we can shoot RAW and get what we need with our initial exposure, then there are only a few edits we need to do in Lightroom to get our images print ready. 

What are you waiting for? Get a Philosophy! Learn Lightroom with me!!! SIGN UP HERE~!


Mardi Gras: A Feast for the Senses for it is the Playground of Creatives... by Zack Smith favorite costumes were these two "House Ornament" lions... favorite costumes were these two "House Ornament" lions...

Mardi Gras 2017 Photo Gallery: #Colourgasm

Photographs really do tell a story don't they? One photograph can say so many different things to many people, and a series of images may tell one singular story so well, that we all agree. I hope you take a second to look at these images and agree with me -

Mardi Gras is a feast for the senses because it is the playground of the creatives...

If you just took a second to look around you, take it all in, you realized that New Orleans was one heartbeat, one song, one love on Mardi Gras day. It was something I had sorely missed after 3 years not participating in the revelry. Yes, I had put together some great marching bands for Chewbacchus and Krewe Du Vieux but that was more like creative WORK rather than creative PLAY. And I was due for some play. 

Being able to create a costume with my family meant the world to me, as this was our daughter Vega's 1st Mardi Gras day (definitely not her 1st parade...she's a pro). My wife and her dressed as slick Owl's and I the moss laden tree. At the last minute I abandoned the costume for the easy of use carrying the "dad bag" full of baby needs and wants, and my camera. In year's past partying took precedent over bringing out my good working cameras, but today was different and it had to be documented. 



Pls Share! Feel free to link this page post!!


How to Photograph Aliens and Yoda's in Low Light While Marching: A Practical New Orleans Tutorial by Zack Smith


In my 15 years teaching photography I have been asked alot of questions, and most beginning photographers want to learn the basics: how to shoot manual exposure, how to get that blurry background, and "how do I see like my camera sees?". But once a year around Mardi Gras in New Orleans photographers want to know how to photograph some of the most difficult types of subject yet: moving objects in low light. In order to best educate those that want to know how to photograph low light moving objects, I try to bring my photography workshop participants on a journey through time and space to a land of Aliens, Chewbaccas, Yoda's, and fantastic floats in the Bywater. You guessed it: The International Krewe of Chewbaccus Parade.

Each year we are over the moon interstellar-ly excited that the IKOC lets us peer into their amazing world of Wookies, spaceships, and Star Wars revelry. The costumes and floats in this parade are truly one of a kind and "Only in New Orleans". Each year this workshop is a joy to photograph and be a part of something memorable.

I have been photographing Mardi Gras Parades in New Orleans since 2000 and has marched in more parades than I cares to remember (or can). For this parade we begin at the secret headquarters of the IKOC to document over 100 krewes and sub-krewes as they prepare themselves and their floats for the exciting route. We follow the Krewe as they wind through the crowd filled streets of the city, finding the perfect vantage points to tell the best story of the parade and our great city!


How to photograph a Mardi Gras parade? First; focus on what you know, and go from there.

My suggestion to anyone wanting to get better at photographing Mardi Gras parades, or any marching, dancing, or moving entity, is to first shoot what you know. As a portrait photographer I usually see the faces and emotion before I see the big picture landscape scenes. I will walk up to people and ask if I can photograph them, and either capture a portrait or just a candid of them soon after. This way I can get comfortable approaching single people and then on to larger groups. 


Photograph wide open in the waning day hours, then increase your ISO when the night falls...

When the sun sets, usually fast, on a parade that usually means you are not too far off from beginning your march. If you are marching with the parade, like we were for the Chewbaccus workshop, you can get accustomed to the speed of the crew and get your settings right. After the twilight hour has settled in, you notice that the artificial light has taken over as your dominant light source (or key light) for the rest of the parade. Whereas earlier you had the sunlight to light your portraits, now you have random, blinking, and sometimes glowing light sources. Difficult, yes. Impossible, never. Says Yoda.

Photograph wide open in the waning day hours, then increase your ISO when the night falls...  When the sun set, usually fast, on a parade that usually means you are not too far off from beginning your march. If you are marching with the parade, like we were for the Chewbaccus workshop, you can get accustomed to the speed of the crew and get your settings right. After the twilight hour has settled in, you notice that the artificial light has taken over as your dominant light source (or key light) for the rest of the parade. Whereas earlier you had the sunlight to light your portraits, now you have random, blinking, and sometimes glowing light sources. Difficult, yes. Impossible, never. Says Yoda.

Some Tips for Photographing in Low Light:

First of all  you have to assume that all rules apply when trying to capture the sharpest photographs in low light:

1. You and your camera Must be Stable - taking your time to compose each shot and standing still at each exposure will ensure that you are not moving and making your images even softer by adding blur! Stay Still!

2. Turn ON Vibration Reduction and Image Stabilizer - most newer lenses and zoom lenses come equipped with VR/IR to help stabilize the lens when you are moving ever so slightly. This feature does NOT stabilize or help freeze the subject you are shooting. Remember that! 

3. Move at the Speed of your Subject - I find that if you are shooting at shutter speeds of 1/30 - 1/4 it helps if you are moving at the speed of your subject. This will help keep your subject sharp but blur the background which can result in some crazy cool movement!

Enjoy this Gallery from Chewbacchus 2017! SHARE this post with friends in the Krewe!

Was it the Instagram takeover that resulted in a blockbuster NBA trade deal? Or not? by Zack Smith

Baton Rouge model David Dunn Jr. (FiftyTwo45 Agency) wears some Sacramento Kings gear in New Orleans for my NBA All Stars weekend Instagram takeover.

Baton Rouge model David Dunn Jr. (FiftyTwo45 Agency) wears some Sacramento Kings gear in New Orleans for my NBA All Stars weekend Instagram takeover.

In a  New Orleans NBA All-Star game that wheeled and dealed players, local Instagrammers dealed the Kings some gems

Over this last 2017 NBA All Star weekend, which was held in New Orleans, I had the honor of taking over the Sacramento Kings Instagram account to showcase some NOLA spots for their followers. I had never been asked to do something like this, and I was honored. I met up with their digital team at the Westin Hotel upon their arrival on Friday, grabbed some Demarcus Cousins jerseys, and then proceeded to walk the French Quarter. I had with me one of my favorite models to work with ( and all around great guy) David Dunn Jr, as well as his buddy Nick. 

I thought it very smart that the Kings' Digital Team did some research and reached out to collaborate with some local photographers - it's no wonder why their digital team is one of the top creatives in the NBA. The Kings were also the first NBA team to use Facebook LIVE. Smart dudes....

Nick and David model some Kings gear in front of the Sheraton's huge NBA wrap on Canal St.

Nick and David model some Kings gear in front of the Sheraton's huge NBA wrap on Canal St.

We walked around to Canal St. to photograph in front of the Sheraton's NBA All Star wrap, then ventured into the front gates of Bourbon St. The mood immediately changed, the smells became thick, the language fierce...yeah we were in for a ride.

My job this weekend was to get people wearing Demarcus Cousin's All Star gear around some New Orleans spots in trade for posting and links on their account. The Kings have 568K followers, so I thought this could be a great experience and might get me some New Orleans followers that live in CA...reminiscent of their home. 


We had a blast. I even brought the shirts to the Krewe of Chewbacchus Parade where I was teaching a Mardi Gras photography workshop. I ran into a few people who were from Sacramento and got to throw the jersey on them for a few photographs.


But the craziest most random thing that happened wasn't the Jedi Knights and Yoda's that surrounded the Kings gear. It was that in the late Sunday hours of the All-Star game, Demarcus Cousins was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans! In a deal that seemed to be a "make or break" situation for Del Demps and the organization, they waged all their bets including a direct trade for Buddy Hield (damn), Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and two draft picks. So you're saying I photographed the last Cousin's All Star jersey as a King in the city of his new team? I am sure there's a better way to say here's some more photographs!


All Images ©Zack Smith Photography and it is against the law to extract these these images for personal or commercial use. It ain't cool either.

New Orleans can be an improvisation both musically and photographically... by Zack Smith

Simon Lott AKA Context Killer, HIP FEST 2014 - ©Zack Smith Photography

Simon Lott AKA Context Killer, HIP FEST 2014 - ©Zack Smith Photography

I have posted these images from HIP FEST in 2014, but I thought it was a good opportunity to relive them again. I was recently contacted by New Orleans musician/drummer/improviser/composer Marcello Bennetti to work on an image I shot of him for his upcoming record. The image in question ( i won't show it here...) was from a series of backstage portraits I made at HIP FEST at the Blue Nile, where over two nights various sets of improvised music was played by shuffling trio's and quartets.

My backstage portrait setup was visual improvisation...

Local and out of town improvisors like Aurora Nealand, Brad Walker, and Paul Thibodeaux (REDRAWBLACK), Simon Lott, and organizer Jeff Albert, played out there and right on music downstairs at the club. Upstairs I wanted to do my own improv with lights. I ended up bringing three Paul C. Buff Alien Bee strobes only and bounced a red gel strobe on the background, and fired off two 30º gridded strobes perpendicular to my subject's faces. I wanted to create harsh side lighting, with a dark center strip on their face. Here are my results photographing Cliff Hines, Rob Mazurek, Nathan Lambertson, Gianluca Petrella, Jeff Albert, Simon Lott, Johnny Vidacovich, and REDRAWBLACK (Nealand, Walker, Thibodeaux)

Check out some more live photography from that event at their website -

PRODUCT REVIEW: VLOG reviews Lightroom Presets and Adjustment Brushes! by Zack Smith


I was recently contacted by the marketing folks over at to see if I wanted to try out some of their Lightroom presets and brushes. I have to be honest with you, before Jane contacted me, I had only downloaded and used one Lightroom preset and was very green about the brushes presets. In my business as a freelance photographer in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, I am constantly editing jobs that are VERY different in shooting style, thus are different in the way I edit and deliver. 

I Photograph so that I can edit like my clients see...

I always want my deliverables to have a certain "realness" about them. I want my clients to feel that they saw that same thing I did, but in the end there's a certain magic about it. I edit sparingly, and try not to let the "hand of photographer" show through my edits. So when I was downloading Sleeklens brush presets, I was skeptical. But real soon after playing around with each adjustment brush that I dialed in, I realized that I could easily dial back, or push further the effect in a way that was creative and comforting. I recently worked on a photograph for New Orleans drummer and improvisator Marcello Bennetti where I used a few Sleeklens presets and brushes. Lucky for you, I recorded that workflow! Enjoy this VLOG of my Lightroom workflow of a portrait of Marcello using a few Sleeklens presets! And by all means...check out their great BLOG at

The Sleeklens bundle comes as the ultimate solution for anyone looking to edit images in Lightroom and caters for absolutely anything you need for your work. Whether you are editing Portraits, Landscapes, wedding photos, HDR or anything else, the Lightroom Collection consists of everything necessary for all photography styles. The collection is a complete compilation of all of their Lightroom presets and brushes thus giving you massive tools at a great price. As such, you can achieve more with the complete collection without spending much money in the process. 

Feb 2nd - "The Frame: A Louisiana Photography Podcast" presented by Louisiana cultural Vistas moderated by photographer Zack Smith. by Zack Smith

Alphonse DooWee Robair, Gang Flag Hard Head Hunters 2014 - Image by our first guest - photographer Pableaux Johnson.

Alphonse DooWee Robair, Gang Flag Hard Head Hunters 2014 - Image by our first guest - photographer Pableaux Johnson.

Finally, A Louisiana Photography Podcast!

I am honored to be interviewing a wonderful group of Louisiana photographers for the brand new bi-monthly series "The Frame: A Louisiana Photography Podcast"

Hosted by Louisiana Cultural Vistas magazine, these hourlong events will take place at the Louisiana Humanities Center in New Orleans. I will interview Louisiana photographers in one-hour conversations that preserve the important history and document vibrant contemporary work of Louisiana photographers.

The first episode will be taped live at the Louisiana Humanities Center, 938 Lafayette Street, February 2, 6pm, with guest Pableaux Johnson. The event is free and open to the public.

Please come be a part of our LIVE studio audience and mark this event as something you do every two months! I am really looking forward to asking Louisiana photographers the questions that don't get asked, talk about the photos in a way that only photographers can, and to get to the visual center of the image.



Watch My Lightroom Workflow Edits from our Facebook Live Workshop in New Orleans! by Zack Smith

Wow what a day! On Saturday, January 14th we completed a successful FACEBOOK Live broadcast of my "One Block in New Orleans" photography workshop! Yes, this was all a promotional opportunity to help drive traffic to my website to promote my New Orleans photography workshops, and it was a blast!

See the Re-Cast of the Video HERE

See the Lightroom Workflow Edit Below:

See the full final Photo Gallery Here with the Edits as shown above:

When agency, photographer, and client communicate, they are able to Creatively Collaborate! by Zack Smith


When you really take the time to look at a body of advertising or creative branded content, you truly see that there are more than just one cook in the kitchen. Notice the placement of the type, the size and it's font. Notice the negative space allowed by a photograph to boost what would be a blank space into a colorful background for an apt page title. See the subject in position, smiling, balanced, and lit to make your eyes move over the page slowly with precision and tact? Yeah, I notice that too!


Being able to coordinate these subtleties of a large scale photoshoot and Annual Report takes the utmost patience and clear communication between Agency, Photographer, and Client. I recently had this experience when working with the New Orleans branding and web design agency, Design the Planet, and the LSU Health Foundation to produce a series of portraits and photographs for their 2016 Annual Report and website. In order to get the most out of each portrait we made location scouting a top priority. Each doctor, organization, or donor we photographed were on seriously tight schedules and we could not take up more time than needed. 


After each scout, I knew what lighting we would need to create each dynamic portrait. At each shoot we were able to arrive a few hours early and setup only the gear needed for each shot, nothing more and nothing less. Having Adrienne Folse at the agency be the liaison for the client helped me efficiently communicate with each person as to the best time to scout, and then ultimately, to shoot. As agency head, Adrienne was also on each shoot helping with all facets of the shot - something I happen to enjoy on such an important shoot. 


What I gained from this experience is that when you have open communication as to what the goals are from each photograph, where they are going, and how they will be viewed can do nothing but help you with composition, exposure, and even focal length. I have always said "let the subject set the settings" and I still stand by that, but these helpful insights will only benefit the shared outcome of the next amazing portrait you make.


High Resolutions: Photographing with Intention and Purpose in 2017 by Zack Smith

Need A Photo Resolution for 2017? Why Not Shoot With Intention And Purpose?

Can we all agree on a few things?

Can we all agree that every great photograph has a subject? Ok? Good. If you don't believe me then pull out the nearest photo book on the shelf and open it up to one of your favorite photographs. I guarantee there is a place in the photograph that your eye settles to by way of the photographer's placement of that subject. Here are a few photographs I selected from my favorites of Voodoo Fest 2016 to show you what i am talking about. Even though I am running like a mad man from stage to stage, chasing the light and following the music, I always have to consider my subject. What's my best composition, where's the best exposure, how long is too long to wait, wait, wait, wait, for the moment to engage the shutter?

Silhouetted dancer at Voodoo Fest 2016

Silhouetted dancer at Voodoo Fest 2016

Dancers with Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Dancers with Preservation Hall Jazz Band


I intentionally did this by using lines that have directed your eye there, or by the subject having components that reflect more light than other objects. There are various ways to direct our viewers to where we want them to go in our photos, so that in turn, they look at them! Yet, we must be calculated about this compositional decision. We must have a plan to have a subject, create depth, and photograph creatively. We must have purpose and intention when that camera meets the eye, when we become observer to director.

Here are a 3 proven techniques I have used to make sure I am creating my next photograph with intention and purpose.

1. Let the Subject Set the Settings - be ready for the shot by pre-setting your aperture and focal length before you start shooting! Your subject will dictate what your depth of field should be and if you want to "freeze" the action with your shutter speed. Why not pre-set Aperture or Shutter speed, and move on?

2. Practice "Photo Patience" - don't be in such a hurry to "get the shot" and move on. Sometimes the best shots happen when your face isn't jammed into the back of your camera. Stick around and witness your scene change as the Earth spins and the shadows get lower. Have a seat, put the camera down, and just

3. Review Corner to Corner - when reviewing (playback) your images, make sure you review with your eyes from corner to corner, starting at one edge and slowly working your way to the opposite edge. You are looking for objects, highlights, or features that distract from your subject. If the point is to have the viewer see the subject, then we don't want to have any extraneous things taking them away from it.

So as 2017 approaches make sure you have some New Year's Resolutions planned that are strictly photographic, truly creative, and purposefully intentional!



WGNO and Zack Smith help you Shoot the Supermoon! by Zack Smith

To photograph the Supermoon anywhere, you need the right equipment at the right place and the right time. 

I was grateful to have WGNO's News with a Twist producer JD take interest in my upcoming supermoon photography workshop in New Orleans. We met at Crescent Park and filmed a segment for an upcoming Photography Tips video.

You can view that here:

SIGN UP for the Workshop HERE! -


TEXT From Article on

Do you ever wonder why some pictures of the moon look outstanding, but yours just look fuzzy, blurry, or just really, really, small? Well the reason is probably your camera setup. According to Zack Smith, owner of Zack Smith Photography, you can't just point and shoot to get that impressive picture.

“Our cameras are really smart, our smart phones are really smart. But what they want to do is give us an average scene," he says. "When we're photographing the moon, it's anything but average. It's dark and it's bright and the camera has to pick one unless we put it on manual and spot meter and pick it ourselves.”

Zack has been working in photography for 19 years and knows a thing or two about getting that great shot. His number one tip? You have to have the right tools!...WATCH THE REST HERE


"This is where we make ART" New Portraits Have Begun in a Sacred Space by Zack Smith

New Orleans is and always will be a sacred space that pulls the creativity from those that are ready to give.


Don't think for a second I am not grateful about the amount of amazing gifts New Orleans gives. Most of all this city allows the artist to create freely, experiment at will, and be a force in any way under her skies. Since I moved here permanently in 2000 I have always had the need to organize my thoughts, make art, create moments, in a way I have never before. I am very grateful to have begun a new portrait series in thanks to the wonderful creators and organizers of New Orleans' newest force - The New Orleans Airlift's Music Box performance space. These guys are nothing new to creating groundbreaking art and installation in town, but they now have a new home, and are letting me photograph there....alot

I began this series last week and was able to witness some quiet rehearsal moments when the legend Rickie Lee Jones began whisper-singing into an effects laden phone, stretching from an old telephone booth.


Louis Michot from the Lost Bayou Ramblers sauntered over with his violin so his tune was in earshot, unplugged and raw like amazing Music Box performance space. I go to hear a few tunes as I setup to make portraits of these amazing musicians. I am forever grateful at the opportunity to create art at this wonderful space.  

Am I lucky to live here, or am I lucky to have migrated east continually since my birth in Lafayette, Louisiana? I keep moving east...east...and south. I moved through Baton Rouge, and when I began my New Orleans life I started uptown and moved east through the Irish Channel of New Orleans. I lived in the Garden District before living in the Treme. I lived in the Bywater, Holy Cross, and now St. Bernard Parish. I keep moving east, south, east but I keep moving inward and outward and out in my own life and creative journey. The roots continue deeper and connect with others like myself. I am grateful the The New Orleans Airlifts' Music Box started in the Bywater, went to City Park, and then moved East, South, and landed where it is now in the 9th Ward. Come share the journey....

The organizers, Delaney, Taylor, and Jay have been nothing but warm and open, inviting me to create in a place like no other. As I said before, New Orleans has a way of bringing out the best in artists, and the Music Box, I think, is the living and breathing musical reality of that. Go see a show...INFO HERE

Spider Stacy of the Pogues plays inside the Tintinnabulation by artist Angaliska Polachek

Spider Stacy of the Pogues plays inside the Tintinnabulation by artist Angaliska Polachek

Rickie Lee Jones at the Music Box in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

Rickie Lee Jones at the Music Box in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

It was a pleasure to meet Langhorn Slim at the Music Box. Thank man...

It was a pleasure to meet Langhorn Slim at the Music Box. Thank man...

Of Airboats and Audubon in the Parish of Vermillion, My Trip to the Edge of the Earth is online now by Zack Smith


Timmy Vincent cut the airboat’s engine and surveyed the water of Cole’s Bayou in Vermilion Parish. “They had cattle drives in these marshes,” he told his visitors. As the senior manager at the National Audubon Society’s Paul J. Rainey Wildlife Sanctuary, Vincent knows every inch of the 26,000-acre preserve. “Mr. Cole was a trail boss. They’d drive them north, hit the Old Spanish Trail, U.S. 90. There was nothing to stop them, just a few natural bayous they had to swim.”

Excerpt from "Living Laboratory" by Brian Boyles, Louisiana Cultural Vistas, Winter 2016

I was honored to have been pegged to join Brian and Chris from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities trip down south, way down to the Paul J. Rainey Sanctuary in Vermillion Parish. Along with filmmaker John Ritchie, we experienced a hands on working testament of what the National Audubon Society sees as the coasts future in land, birds, and the full article HERE

It is time to begin your life as a photographer and create your own reality. by Zack Smith


Take one moment with me and reflect on the words you are about to read. I want you to think about your day so did you wake up? Did you step out of bed with your left foot, or right? Did you step out of bed with both feet, walk to the bathroom or kitchen to start your daily routine? What was the next thing you did?

You access your digital information on a daily basis without even looking, thinking, or reacting. It's just Second Nature.

I want you to reflect with me one more time. Did you check your email today? Did you check a text message or a website you frequent? I wonder if you even have to remind yourself how to swipe your smartphone, wake up your computer, and access the daily digital information you use every day...without thinking, without having to remember how to.

In my 15 years of teaching photography and almost 20 years as a professional photographer, I feel that what we want most is to use the camera to see like we do - and in turn see like a lens does. We want replicate the visual feelings we have in our real life, and recreate them seamlessly and without hesitation in our photographic life.

Whether we post our images online, make books, or make prints - we want the photographic process to be second nature. There is a way to get there...

If you really want to see like your camera and allow your photographic life to become as second nature and as fluid as a smartphone swipe, you need to start making photographs EVERY DAY starting RIGHT NOW. They don't have to be works of art or even an image you love. Start by shooting around your house every day, and just the motions of turing the camera on, selecting apertures and spinning dials will be good for you.

Make sure you photograph with intention, purpose, and a clear goal in mind. OWN YOUR IMAGE!

What are you waiting for? Get out there and create your own reality and see your world they way you always have wanted. TTL....You can always SEARCH my blog (see, upper right hand corner?) for the content you want to read up on. Go ahead try me~

How to Photograph the Super Moon in New Orleans - November 14, 2016 by Zack Smith

Learn how to Photograph the NOLA Supermoon!

Learn how to Photograph the NOLA Supermoon!

Photographing the Full Moon is hard. It's bright, it's moving, and it's far far away...

There are some very simple tactics I can show you to photograph your best Full Moon ever. Back in 2014 I taught very fun workshop called "Shoot the Supermoon" and it was an amazing night. Together with about 10 New Orleans photographers we waited at the banks of the Mississippi River, cameras ready, for the blood red supermoon to rise. We were poised and prepared, we knew where it was coming from and when it would rise. It was only a matter of time. 

With some helpful smartphone apps, some 2x extenders and long lenses even YOU can successfully photograph a full moon.

On Novmeber 14th, 2014 the moon will RISE 5:38pm at 56.2º N/NE. You can open your COMPASS App and see where it will rise - I would suggest going to an area that has less light pollution (not downtown) and where your horizon is visible. (note: use the MOONRISE app and COMPASS app)

To be able to capture the moon at it's LARGEST it is best to photograph is CLOSE to the horizon. The rising moon that close to the horizon has a visual effect that makes it appear larger to us than it really is, and it is stunning!

If you want to get a FULL frame, or close to it, shot of the rising full moon on Monday I suggest you rent or purchase a 2x extender for your lens. A 300mm or 500mm lens will get very close, but if you don't have that lens, you can easily attach a 2x extender to any (canon or nikon etc) 70-200mm lens (which alot of folks have).

If you hurry, you can RENT a 2x extender from and they will ship it to you by Monday. Make sure you call them and note that you need it before nightfall.

For your EXPOSURE it is best to expose for the moon as the moon is reflecting the sun's bright light and will be brighter than you think! You may have to stop down to get more detail in the moon's craters, so I would suggest always stop down on your SHUTTER SPEED to allow you the possibility to hand hold if you do not have a tripod. If you have a tripod - USE IT!

For MORE INFO and EDITING tips go to my "Christmas Night Full Moon" Blog post from 2015 HERE!

ALSO! for easy to read images like this!: