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!:



Voodoo Fest 2016: Only the Best! Festival Photo Gallery from Zack Smith by Zack Smith


Voodoo Fest Photographers Never Had it So Good in 2016. 

Voodoo Fest 2016: A festival photographers dream? Low sun backlit dusty scenes during day and fog drenched textures at night. 2016 was a year in contrast for the Voodoo Music+Arts Experience where last year saw a cancelled day and sloggy conditions, while this last week was a blue sky paradise.  I haven't shot Voodoo Fest in any official capacity since that amazing October in 2005 when I shot for Antigravity. The city was still reeling from Hurricane Katrina, but the festival organizers made the show happen anyway. 

About one week before the festival, Voodoo organizers called me up and asked if I'd shoot this year with the C3 team, the same photo team that shoots Austin City Limits, Lollapalooza and much much more. I was stoked, how could I say no? I have been so lucky as a music festival photographer in New Orleans to have deep ties to the 3 most amazing festivals in the city: French Quarter Festival, Jazz Fest, and now Voodoo Fest. I count my blessing...and I also count my steps:

Oct 28th - 20,626 steps

Oct 29th - 16,512 steps

Oct 30th - 7,480

As you can see, the first day of Voodoo I was finding my way, covering alot of ground and getting the feel of the fest. By the third day I was running less in circles and more A->B. 

Enjoy my favorite festival photographs from this years Voodoo Music+Arts Experience!

If you enjoy these photos and want to learn more about how to photograph a festival like this - you should take my How to Photograph French Quarter Fest in April 2017 - learn more CLICK HERE!

Enjoy the gallery below featuring Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Puscifer, Leon, and much much more!

How To Tuesday #40 : Lightroom Video Tutorial "Two Exposure Photo Merge" by Zack Smith

It's often impossible to capture every detail we see with our eyes in one exposure in the camera. Lightroom's "photo merge" and compositing is a game changer when you want that accurate exposure value representation.

We have all been there before: you find yourself in front of a beautiful blazing sunrise with a cool complimenting cloud cover. The middle and foreground swoop towards you in an underexposed but soft gradation of tones. You snap an exposure but you can't get all the components of the picture in one exposure. You either blow out the highlights, or underexpose the shadows! What do you do?

The foreground looks great...but the sun and clouds are overexposed!

The foreground looks great...but the sun and clouds are overexposed!

The sun and clouds look great, but the foreground is underexposed!

The sun and clouds look great, but the foreground is underexposed!

Back in the old days of film you had to bring with you a few extra bags and hip pouches of polarizers, neutral density filters, graduated filters and more just to get the most out of a difficult landscape exposure. Have no fear, we now have Lightroom

Take a few minutes and watch me combine these two images shot at Crescent Park in New Orleans on my recent "Sunrise: Sunset Photography Workshop"

New E-commerce store photography for New Orleans Tourism site! by Zack Smith

Did you know the City of New Orleans has merch? No, not merchandise like mardi gras beads, hurricane cups from Pat O's or hangovers. The city's creative side offers stuff like T-shirts, tricentennial pins, and tote bags and I was honored to photograph the collection for their new e-commerce site. In doing so, I was able to recruit some good friends and meet some new young models in shooting a few days of studio and location portrait photography. As usual, I rented studio space at my favorite place in town - NOLA Spaces on Toledano St.

Being able to work with friends in a low stress environment creating content for the City of New Orleans?? Pinch me I am still dreaming. This is a dream job for me, it really is. Actually the last 6 months have been so busy for my business and the same time fueling my creative site in the most balancing way. It's hard to keep up this blog with current content with all the stuff going on. I will try my best to keep you in the loop..but for now - the City Of New Orleans online store is open - click on the photo below to come in!

Open Call! Jazz Fest Volunteer Photographers 2017! by Zack Smith

Ever wanted to photograph Jazz Fest from the inside? This great experience is awaiting your submission!!! I highly recommend any photographer I have taught to get your portfolio together and submit now!

Jazz Fest Volunteer Photographer Program 2017


The Volunteer Photographer Program is a community outreach project of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s Archive. The mission of the program is to provide documentation of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell for the Foundation Archive. This documentation goes beyond the stages and music to include the “internal culture” of Jazz Fest- the food, art, culture and people who attend the festival. These other aspects are crucial in making Jazz Fest an annual success. 


The program joins photographers, from a variety of backgrounds, with the Festival and Archive to provide the unique experience of photographing the world renowned New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Volunteer Photographers must be at least 18 years of age.

 Dates: April 28-30 and May 4-7, 2017

Festival Location: Fair Grounds Race Course, 1751 Gentilly Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70119


Applicant categories:

  • Student
  • Amateur
  • Professional

Position Description & Requirements

Volunteer Photographers must be able to manage and edit hundreds or even thousands of digital images and understand that the work of photographing the Jazz Fest is physically demanding. Photographers often walk many miles a day around the Fair Grounds Race Course and are responsible for their own photography gear. There can often be a variety of weather conditions - rain (lots of mud) or shine (lots of dust) and in potentially *very* hot weather.

 Selected volunteer photographers are responsible for providing the Archive with the images taken at the festival. Without all submissions there will be an historical gap in the documentation of the 2017 festival. Any photographer who does not submit their images will not be in good standing with the Foundation. 

 Juried Process

A three-person jury of photographers will select photographers based on the following criteria:

  • Artistic Merit (75%)
  • Experience photographing live cultural events and/or professional reliability (25%)

 How to Apply
Set up a profile at The application can be found in the Call For Entry listings under “New Orleans Jazz Fest Volunteer Photographers” beginning Saturday October 15, 2016 and the deadline to apply is Sunday, November 27, 2016. Direct all questions to

No more than 150 applications can be accepted.

ALL Inquiries can be directed to:

Rachel E. Lyons, Archivist

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation
901 Toulouse St.
New Orleans LA 70112


That time I got to photograph inside the hippest office in downtown New Orleans? by Zack Smith

You know when you visit an office or a home a few times and you really really want to photograph inside it but all the photographing is usually done outside the house?

Each set of portraits were done in locations around Peter Mayer's modern yet rustic office.

Each set of portraits were done in locations around Peter Mayer's modern yet rustic office.

Well, I got to photograph inside the house. Well, the office that is. A few months back I had the pleasure of photographing staff portraits of the Peter Mayer ad and marketing firm in New Orleans, LA. They have just finished their new website and wanted new staff portraits to populate the new site. (check their new website HERE

The Peter Mayer agency has been at the industry forefront since 1967, right here in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

Peter Mayer is one of those old school/new school types of agencies. They understand the history of the power of pen and image and understand the current trends enough to create lasting brands. We know this, well, because they have been on the industry forefront since 1967, operating right out of New Orleans, Louisiana. I had the pleasure of meeting and photographing Peter Mayer and his two sons, Josh and Mark for New Orleans Magazine back in 2007 (you can see that pic on their site here - PHOTO)


Over the last few years I have been lucky to work with them on a number of client jobs. Working with the teams from Peter Mayer is always a creative and collaborative experience for me as I learn so much every time I work with them. So, I was truly honored that they asked me to photograph their staff portraits - at their office! As I might have mentioned before, every time I walk into their office there is a different background that pops out waiting to be photographed. A dark corner, a silver-light lit atrium all begging for their closeup...Their office is rustic yet sleek, modern yet classic in style and vibe. It's the ultimate studio. And it was mine for two days...


Each of these portraits you see here were taken in 4 different areas of their office. We used a similar, often exact, light setup as to try and maintain the feel of the shots as a whole even though we changed location. This was difficult to do at times, so we always had the camera tethering to Lightroom (click for past Blog on Tethering) and then to a 38" monitor so we could see what we were getting. Being able to tether your workflow, including the preset Black and White filter, and project the finals while you are shooting proved very useful here!

I look forward to more photo shoots with Peter Mayer, and it has been a delight to see how many recognizable brands, images, and moments that were created right there in that office on Camp St. Happy to be in that #....




Understanding the characteristics of light is understanding photography - You must always be a Student of Light! by Zack Smith

This weekend I was a Student of Light...

This past weekend I was a student. A student of light and all those light hunters that came b4.

This past weekend I was a student. A student of light and all those light hunters that came b4.

Understanding the characteristics of light is to understand photography. If we are travelers, we can be in tune with our subject and surroundings anywhere we go but if we do not know the light we are lost. We must always be aware of the natural light and tune in to it's tones, hues, and it's warmth.

You must always be a student of the light. Always studying, listening, learning...


I love documenting place when I travel. Upon arriving to a new city I am always trying to tap into it's quality of light at any given moment. That quality of light will lead me to the tones, angles, and colors that are best represented by that light. Sometimes I arrive at dawn and the low light greets the street like a warm whip, and I am quick to spy my shots. I know this light won't last long...

Harsh Light, Sunset and Sunrise Warmth, City Shadows are all Attitudes of Light...


Harsh mid-day light is not ideal for portraits, but some trees, shrubbery, and flat roofed houses create a contrast not seen in the low sun hours of dawn and dusk. As I walk around I am noticing the characteristics of the light on different textures, patterns, and topography as it relates to the specific town or area I am in. Each area of the world has it's own Light Attitude "the way light interacts with its' environment, specific to place"...I am noticing shadows harsh and shadows soft. I am noticing the way the light makes me feel - I am studying the light as in each new place I am always a student.


Come be a student with me as we learn the Light Attitude of Crescent Park this weekend, October 15th at 6am and again at 6pm. Visit the link to learn more -

For now, enjoy this light study I did over the weekend in Cayucos, CA. Such amazing Light Attitude! I saw such extreme variations and gradations in color and light while i was there...What a wonderful place! After talking with a local watercolor artist there, I was backed up by his comments that the latitude of light has such a high range! I knew it! Attitude AND Latitude! Go figure...



"Between the Shutterclick" Great Photography is Listening, Learning, and being Present. by Zack Smith

Most probably my first photographic portrait c.1983, Lafayette, LA

Most probably my first photographic portrait c.1983, Lafayette, LA

As I grow older in life I am blessed to have the hindsight to remember what was so important to me at different phases of my photographic career. I can clearly remember my Bright White Light phaseIn the fall of 1997 I realized that the camera could tell the stories I saw with my eyes better than the pen to page. For the next few years all I wanted to do was take pictures. I carried my Canon AE-1 around my shoulder everywhere I went and raised it to my eye in the most natural reaction to the moments in front of me.

The passion and the drive was there but the technical mastery was not. 

You must know the rules before you break them: Learning the technical side of Photography; Summer 2000.

For the first few years I was winging it, faking it to make it, but I wasn't making the stride I felt I needed to be in total control. I worked my ass off for a year: 4am-12p graphics operator for a TV station, 3p-5p cross country coach at my old high school then 7-11p at Semolina's. Yeah, I did that for a year while saving money for a summer course at Rocky Mountain School of Photography where I could block out the noise of life and immerse myself in nothing but the craft and mastery of my new muse. It had to be done.

The next six or so years I continued to follow the pull of live music in New Orleans, photographing the clubs every night. The Dragon's Den, House Of Blues, Tipitina's, DBA, The Shim Sham Club, The Matador, and the Dixie Brewery were a few of the clubs I'd frequent to witness the energy of music. I never left the house with out my Nikon n90s and the only 3 lenses I owned: 24mm f2.8, 50 f1.8, 85mm 1.8. They were with me at all times - laid out on the big monitor at Tipitina's... lens caps and back caps strewn everywhere as I followed the music where it went.

The most important thing to me was to shoot as much as I could, make relationships with as many bands and musicians and promoters as I could. I brought my portfolios over to every club showing them what I could do. Did I care there was no money in doing what I was doing? Absolutely not - it was all for a higher power, a calling, a vision. I HAD to photograph, I HAD to not miss a single show, second line, or funeral. I went to them all....

As a young photographer in New Orleans, photography for me was answering a higher power, a calling, a vision. I HAD to photograph, I could NOT miss a show, a second line, or a funeral. The camera led me and I followed...

After years of photographing in New Orleans, I had attained so many of the things I had dreamed of. Bands were calling me to do their album covers, EPK's, website content. Organizers and promoters were hiring me to shoot their events, and even The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and French Quarter Fest called to hire me on as staff photographer. 

At this time I was feeling the pull of portraiture and the stories of the eyes, the weight of the soul.

I could tell I was losing interest in being an "observer" and wanted to be a "director" because I started dreaming scenes in my head. Scenes that could only accomplished in very controlled, but creative, environments. I started putting up backdrops on street corners, bringing my lights to parties, gatherings, and festivals like Festival Acadiens, Voodoo Fest, Chaz Fest and more just to have the opportunity to work with different types people. For me then, it was all about finding people's comfort zones, the best versions of themselves... from total strangers to great friends. The challenge for me was the mystery and the great reward as I was asked to be an "observer" AND a "director".

For me now, being a good photographer has less to do with the camera than ever before.

In the last few months I have really relied on my abilities to listen, really listen, to my clients visual needs. I need to be present with my subject and learn as much as I can about them. I need to do my research online and my intuitive research as a listener. As a photographer and visual communicator I am asked more for my insight and input on how images should feel and represent my client and how they are integrated into their brand. I am thinking less and less about the buttons and apertures and more about what questions to ask my subject to get the best out of them, their best. I am reading books on philosophy and brand identity, I am learning how to find new ways of teaching and communicating photographic principles. It's a new way for me, but change is how it's always been. Change is hard at first but always brings forth new life. 

The most important thing for me is to be right sided in my own life, mind, and heart. Oh, and listen...always listen.