Stellar Rooftop Photography! How to use slow sync and drag the shutter for a moving effect! by Zack Smith

Musician Peyton McMahon amongst the skyscrapers of New Orleans. ©Zack Smith Photography. My exposure here is 1/2" shutter speed while moving my camera from right to left. f2.8, and my flash was on a stand to the right my camera set at 1/8 power pointed at Peyton.

Musician Peyton McMahon amongst the skyscrapers of New Orleans. ©Zack Smith Photography. My exposure here is 1/2" shutter speed while moving my camera from right to left. f2.8, and my flash was on a stand to the right my camera set at 1/8 power pointed at Peyton.

What is Slow Sync and how can I do it?

With so many photography terms used to describe certain techniques and tricks, it's hard to know how to navigate and learn new skills. I hope today's How To Tuesday can dispel some of the myths behind one of the coolest, and easiest photography techniques out there. Slow sync refers to using a slow shutter speed in conjunction with firing your camera flash, usually is low ambient light situations. You will often see websites talking about Rear Sync, and Rear Curtain Sync. These are features that alot of newer Digital SLR, point and shoots, and even older cameras have as an auto feature. Here I will tell you how to manually do this yourself, taking the guesswork out of the process and allowing you to use the Slow Sync Flash method in many situations!

Breaking down slow sync, what does it mean?

Slow is describing the slow (or longer) amount of time the shutter is left open and Sync is describing the flash firing during the time the shutter is open, allowing the light to sync with the shutter and then expose on your camera sensor. Combine those two features, and what you have is a longer shutter speed exposing in lower light situations, sometimes creating motion, and your flash exposing your subject oftentimes "freezing" it amongst the moving backgrounds. 

Using the slow sync technique, you can create stylistic "movement" in your images which can showcase an even more intimate depth to your image and subject story. As I have always said, we are telling stories of our subject in a 2D world while they exist in 3D. How do we create depth where there is none? Creating depth is easy with using shallow depth of field by selecting wider apertures (lower aperture numbers) and select rules of composition like Converging Lines. Slow sync with flash is another great way to create that depth.

What do I set my camera to for slow sync?

While every situation will be different, you can take these steps to work towards success. As with any experimentation with a new photography technique you must use the advantage you have: image playback! Make sure you set your camera to show your exposure (Canon: Info, Nikon: display) so you can make the adjustments to shutter and aperture independently. 

First you must be in Manual Exposure so you can set your ISO, aperture, and shutter speed independently. Make sure you are in an environment with a background that's interesting, but not too bright. You want to be shooting at twilight, dusk, or a low lit situation. Your background MUST be subtly brighter than the light on your subject. These scenes are found at night outdoor weddings. sunsets, and like my rooftop scene of Peyton. Start by setting your ISO to 800, set your shutter speed to 1" (one second) and your aperture wide open to the widest aperture available. I like to start here because when I take the photo, I can then dissect what is wrong, and just change ONE variable (shutter, f-stop, etc...). I usually start with my flash on manual settings, and at 1/8th power. 

I set my auto focus point to the middle spot focus, that being the most effective one in low light situations.

PRO TIP: if your subject is right in front of you, select the default Auto Focus mode which selects the "closest object" and is very effective in low light!

Here I will do a test shot:

If my subject is too bright and over exposed, I'll turn down the power of my flash and do another test shot until i get it right.

If my background is too dark i will open up my shutter to longer, like 2" and do a test shot. If I find my subject is getting blurry, then that means I need to increase my ISO. This way our background is going to get more exposure, and we can make adjustments to our flash after.

Keep in mind we will always be adjusting our aperture, shutterspeed, ISO, or flash output. But once you do this a few times, you will get the hang of it. I hope that by  using my starting exposure settings you will get Slow Sync Portraiture in a flash! Got success? Post a link and share it in the Comments below!

 

 

 

Satchmo Summerfest Photo Gallery 2017 Day 3 by Zack Smith

Satchmo Summerfest rolls despite the standing water and soggy shoes.

Satchmo Summerfest rolls despite the standing water and soggy shoes.

Anyone in New Orleans knows "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show".....and one severe storm event, only gives us another reason to parade when the sun comes back out. This is the constant reality here, we live here because we love it despite our geographical location from June to November. Storms, floods, and hurricanes are just another monkey on our back during these months but the show must go on. 

There is nothing like a post storm second line in New Orleans, it's like a rebirth, a second chance.

Satchmo Summerfest had to close early on Saturday but on Sunday, the St. Augustine Church opening day mass went on as scheduled, as did the second line led by the Treme Brass Band and the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club. I hope you enjoy the images below, I know I am behind on captions..they are still rolling in...just like this parade.

Underexposed: A Celebration of Regional Photography in New Orleans by Zack Smith

Very cool to see so many amazing photographers participating in tomorrow's Underexposed event at the U.S. Mint. Check out all the galleries here, but come by tomorrow at 2:30 to see the work in person and meet the image makers. I know for a fact that many photographers will be making prints to bring and show, some for the first time in public. Come welcome and support the art of the print and beauty of photography in New Orleans.

Read More

New Orleans Solar Eclipse Gallery and Photography Meet Up by Zack Smith

Things were looking up at Lafayette Square in New Orleans viewing the Solar Eclipse. ©ZSP

Things were looking up at Lafayette Square in New Orleans viewing the Solar Eclipse. ©ZSP

What a wonderful feeling of community today during the solar eclipse! Although New Orleans did not get a total eclipse, this rare celestial event brought out around 250 long lunch breakers young and old. There were so many people outside sitting in circles, laughing, hugging and clapping. When's the next one?

I had more fun passing out eclipse glasses and letting people borrow my prism than you can imagine. I saw some amazing photographs of the sun, and even more awesome DIY viewing boxes! The New Orleans creative spirit shone through well before the solar eclipse began with locals assembling at Lafayette Square Park in the Central Business District. Pinhole cardboard boxes, pinhole paper plates, and even the young couple holding their hands together viewing the eclipse's ground shadow. 

Our Solar Eclipse Photography Meet Up Made The News!

http://www.wwltv.com/news/local/photographers-attempt-to-capture-eclipse/466173816

Click to enlarge the photo gallery below and share the link if you like the pics!

Satchmo Summerfest 2017 Day 1 Photo Gallery by Zack Smith

Satchmo Fest makes it fun to learn about the man and the music that make New Orleans so special: Louis Armstrong and Jazz.

Desmond Venable of the Red Wolf Brass Band performs at 2017 Satchmo Fest at the U.S. Mint.

Desmond Venable of the Red Wolf Brass Band performs at 2017 Satchmo Fest at the U.S. Mint.

The moments and the magic were abound despite the wet conditions at this year's Satchmo Summerfest at the U.S. Mint in New Orleans. I always look forward to photographing this music festival for so many reasons.

Dancers old and young get down to the music at Satchmo Fest.

Dancers old and young get down to the music at Satchmo Fest.

Satchmo Fest is not a large festival, it actually takes place all within the confines of the U.S. Mint in the SE corner of the French Quarter, hosting two music stages and one indoor symposium area on the third floor.  All within this three day festival you have access and easy options of great New Orleans food and drink. What makes this festival special is that you also have access to the best of the best in scholars and musicians knowledgable in the music and history of the festival's namesake: Louis Armstrong. 

I hope you enjoy this gallery of DAY 1 of Satchmo Summerfest...stay tuned for Day 2 !

 

 

How to Organize Your Photography for a Portfolio Presentation by Zack Smith

Zack Smith and Jennifer Shaw presenting "How To Prepare Your Photography Portfolio" to the New Orleans Photo Alliance on August 8, 2017

Zack Smith and Jennifer Shaw presenting "How To Prepare Your Photography Portfolio" to the New Orleans Photo Alliance on August 8, 2017

I was honored to speak to about 20 New Orleans photographers this week on the steps needed to create your best photography portfolio for exhibition and presentation. I spoke on a few topics I feel are important and then photographer Jennifer Shaw presented her well researched information on crafting your artist statement. Here are some highlights from our talk and critique.

A portfolio is a collection of images that you bring together to show a body of work. You can create a portfolio for several reasons.

+Gallery Inclusion for a Fine Art show

+Prospective Client like an Ad Agency

+Wedding or Portrait Client, and more

Here's an example of two of my portfolios and how I present them. I also added my "leave behind" and branding materials!

Here's an example of two of my portfolios and how I present them. I also added my "leave behind" and branding materials!

Always include your best work. This collection of work should easily show your creative style, technical proficiency, and be to the point. Your portfolio should be tailored towards the job you want and appeal to the client’s creative vision.

+What kind of work does the gallery, agency, or creative team look for?

+Research each of your target’s website, past exhibition and client roster

+Practice empathy - put yourself in your client’s shoes - what are they thinking?

Your passion for what you do will be evident in the collection of your best work. The way

you carry yourself and speak on your work will show confidence in your vision and art. Your portfolio should be presented in both the best way to showcase the work collected and it should meet submission guidelines for your client/gallery etc.

+How does the gallery or agency take submission? Most will have this clear on their website. Can’t find it? Pick up the phone and give them a call. Phones are great.

+Do they accept Digital or Print submissions? Do they return your physical portfolio?

+Ask how to follow up? Consider you’re not the only one with the great idea to send your work!

Photographing the Solar Eclipse in New Orleans by Zack Smith

For viewing and photographing the Solar Eclipse in New Orleans, you'll need some special gear!

For viewing and photographing the Solar Eclipse in New Orleans, you'll need some special gear!

Just imagine all of the wonderful photographs that will be taken during this solar eclipse, the first in 99 years that can be seen in some capacity from coast to coast. I think we as a New Orleans photography community need to step up and represent how our images are made and show em how we do it! That's why I am organizing a Solar Eclipse Photo Meet Up where we can view and photograph the solar eclipse together! In this post we'll talk about the gear needed and how we can SAFELY view and document the eclipse.

11:30 Lafayette Square, New Orleans is where I will be!

From noon to 3pm on Monday, August 21st you will be able to view the solar eclipse in New Orleans. While we won't be able to view a 100% totality event we will be able to see %75-%80 of a solar eclipse, which is pretty damn cool. There are safe ways to view and photograph the solar eclipse in New Orleans and I hope to help you also figure out creative ways to document this event is well. It is great if you can capture such a wonderful event on record, but doing it with creativity and style is where we want to be. Please read this post fully and share, but MEETUP with me at Lafayette Square at 11:30 on Monday, August 21st to shoot and view. Follow the links to buy your own gear but i'll have a few glasses for you.

 

Where will sun will be at noon in New Orleans?

The best app I have for this is The Photographers Ephemerus and SUN CALC (see here) and can be downloaded for iphone and android. This app helps me figure out the best spot to be in during special moon events like the supermoon, and now the solar eclipse. Here is a screenshot from 12pm on Monday, August 21st in New Orleans from both apps.

solar-eclipse-new-orleans

Photographing the Solar Eclipse needs to be done with special equipment.  Lens filters are always required to view and photograph the eclipse. We need to protect our own eyes too!.Telescopes, binoculars, and cameras need solar filters for two reasons: to protect them from intense sunlight and to ensure that you don't accidentally look at the Sun through an unfiltered instrument.

Our challenge is to obtain a set of photographs that captures these fleeting phenomena. During the total phase, all solar filters must be removed. This is because the sun’s corona has a surface brightness a million times fainter than the sun’s visible disk or photosphere, so photographs of the corona must be made without a filter. Furthermore, it is completely safe to view the totally eclipsed sun directly with the naked eye. No filters are needed, and in fact, they would completely hide the view. (SOURCE:  NIKONUSA)

Never look at the sun without  approved solar filtration over your eyes. Permanent, irreversible eye damage and/or blindness can result in seconds. Never point your camera into the sun without an approved solar filter over your camera lens(es). Not using a solar filter at eclipse magnifications will ruin your camera in seconds. Never improvise, modify or use general photography neutral density filters. When it comes to solar filters, you have several options: filter sheet, screw-on front filter, or a solar filter that mounts between the camera and lens on an interchangeable-lens setup.

GLASSES - LINK HERE, and HERE at BH Photo

SOLAR FILTERS for PHOTOGRAPHY - BH PHOTO

(Source - Great article from B&H - https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/how-photograph-solar-eclipse )

The best strategy is to choose one aperture and bracket the exposures over a range of shutter speeds from 1/1000 second to 1 second. You should rehearse the actions of setting up the camera and adjusting exposures because it is common for photographers to become easily distracted when viewing this phase of the solar eclipse, so much so that you forget to make pictures.

Use live view or an electronic viewfinder for the “what you see is what you get” advantage. It is also safer for your eyes to NOT be looking through an optical finder if you ignored my advice about securely mounting a filter.

Check out Mr. Eclipse's Solar Exposure Guide here - this looks really confusing but the more you read it, makes total sense. You are going to be constantly opening either your shutter speed, aperture, or ND filter as the sun reaches totality (thus decreasing in intensity) but then stopping down again as it moves out of totality (having to put our glasses on again)

This map shows the path of Totality of the Solar Eclipse (SOURCE: www.timeanddate.com)

This map shows the path of Totality of the Solar Eclipse (SOURCE: www.timeanddate.com)

Solar eclipses may be viewed and photographed but you need to take safety into account. You can photograph a solar eclipse with any type of camera, but the longer the focal length of the lens (at least 300mm) the larger the images of the sun you’ll be able to make. Purchasing an Extender for your telephoto is key, but 300mm should be a good start. If you can get 400mm, or even 600mm you will be getting closer!.

One great way to tell the story is to get wide, and silhouette the crowd, silhouette buildings that tell a more creative story of an eclipse. Why shoot real close to the sun when you can make it more interesting with the world around you?

Learning Prism Photography in the Swamps and Streets of New Orleans by Zack Smith

Lost Bayou Ramblers through the crystal ball. Prism photography in New Orleans!

Lost Bayou Ramblers through the crystal ball. Prism photography in New Orleans!

As a photographer do you ever get stuck in a creative rut? Creative gridlock happens to me more often than I care to admit, but luckily I found my new muse to get the ideas running full speed again. I discovered prism photography by happenstance one day while on Instagram when I ran across a post from a photography acquaintance who I shot last years Voodoo Fest with, C3 shooter Katrina Barber. She showed a post using a prism she made, and it ignited one of those infectious Google Search Time Warps where I was searching and researching Google on prism photography, prisms, and photographers who use prisms. I found so much great inspiration in those searches, and I came away with buying a set of old school original prisms from Amlong Crystals. 

Yes, you probably recognize this type of prism from physics class in grade school.  Did you know that when held up to your lens you can not only project the full spectrum of light into your lens but reflect anything within a 180 degree radius into your lens? Creative rut be damned! I also bought a Crystal Sphere set as well and have been experimenting with that. As in our Prisms are sometimes used for the internal reflection at the surfaces rather than for dispersion. If light inside the prism hits one of the surfaces at a sufficiently steep angle, total internal reflection occurs and all of the light is reflected. This makes a prism a useful substitute for a mirror in some situations. Does this make you want to walk the streets of New Orleans with one of these? Me too!

Whenever I get my hands on a new way of seeing, like a prism for photography, I immediately take to the street and the swamps of Louisiana to try it out. What better environment to get out of your creative rut than New Orleans! 

Street walking documentary in New Orleans with prism photography

zack-smith-photography-prism-new-orleans-street

There are so many variations you can make to your composition by the way you hold the prism to your lens. I suggest (and many other prism photographers) to use at least a 50mm, or something close to that so you can cover the full front of the lens and focal length with your prism. In most cases I was using the cylindrical prism held horizontally in front of the lens. I was holding it directly up to the UV filter so I could balance and stabilize the prism. This I found very hard to do, because you only have so many hands to hold the camera stable, hold the prism stable, and create a good composition at the same time. This was a challenge, but I managed. 

I wasn't pointing the camera at this guy, but the prism allowed me to have him in the frame!

I wasn't pointing the camera at this guy, but the prism allowed me to have him in the frame!

Prism photography of musicians in the sweaty swamps of New Orleans' Couterie Forest

As you all know me by now, or are just learning, I shoot ALOT of New Orleans and Louisiana musicians. Being a musician most of my life, it's the circle of people I have been around the longest and can effectively communicate their visual needs and creative ideas with ease. One of the longest relationships I've had in this manner is with the Lafayette based Lost Bayou Ramblers. I have been photographing this band's promotional photography since 2000 and anytime they need new imagery for an album release, new member add, or a big gig - they call me. I am very grateful to have this relationship because these guys let me get as creative and "out there" as I want. There's a certain trust afforded here, and I am thankful for that...because I get to use prisms!

This is a great crystal ball i purchased from Amlong as well. Prism photography on point!

This is a great crystal ball i purchased from Amlong as well. Prism photography on point!

Here i am reflecting the palmetto on the ground into the prism, and into my lens.

Here i am reflecting the palmetto on the ground into the prism, and into my lens.

All Images ©Zack Smith Photography and may not be used, but this post can be shared! Just copy the link and give credit!

New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau May 2017 Guide Cover by Zack Smith

It was a delight to see my images on the cover of the National Travel and Tourism Week guide for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. At the end of 2016 I began a wonderful working relationship with the CVB and the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation providing stock photography and creating new content for their ongoing campaigns. The images above are a mix of French Quarter Fest photographs with new produced photo shoots featuring Preservation Hall Jazz Band and many others. It is the ultimate job for me where I get to tell the story of the city I love working with the talented musicians, artists, and service industry workers that make this city the reason why we love it.

GALLERY: Chalmette High Cultural Arts Center presents: The Little Mermaid by Zack Smith

When 16 hour rehearsal days payoff...

zack-smith-photography-performance-chalmette-high-cultural-arts-center-little-mermaid

Once again the crew, musicians, and above all the kids (performers and artists) performed to the top of their ability at this year's rendition of The Little Mermaid. It is truly a sight to see the amount of talent up on one stage and down the road in St. Bernard Parish. Every note by the live orchestra, every tap of dance, vibrato and libretto was done by a kid and some as young as six years old. The Cassar family lived up to expectations once again and delivered a body of work that the kids of The Performing Arts Academy exploded with energy and gusto on the stage. I'll let the rest of this review continue in images.

SEE 2016's Beauty and the Beast Gallery HERE!

SUBSCRIBE TO MY Newsletter for Photography Workshops and more HERE

CLICK THE PHOTO TO ENLARGE and ENJOY!

PROGRESS at Pecha Kucha New Orleans June 29th, 2017 by Zack Smith

"So - I had been there, and I know what it’s like to have a grand idea that was mine and mine alone grow from the spark of inspiration. I know what it’s like to drop all reason, lose the concept of time and rush to create, only to have no tools construct, no foundation to begin the structure..." quote from Zack at Pecha Kucha Night New Orleans, June 29th, 2017

Pecha Kucha New Orleans allowed me to gain insight on my own photography and I am grateful.

zack-smith-new-orleans-photographer-pecha-kucha-nola-2017

"Progress is knowing that you just showed someone that the story of them Is the most important factor in their success as a visual communicator…" - PK NOLA 6/29/17

I was recently asked to participate as a presenter at Pecha Kucha Night New Orleans (check them out HERE)and I jumped at the chance to show my photographs and speak on a the topic of Progress. My version of progress is different than most might think. For me it's not "forward progression" or "momentum" that defines PROGRESS. Progress is something that is attained inside the self, inside the community, inside the heart and mind. I'd like to share my speech and images here. I will send a link to the video when it's posted.

I’ve always loved a good story. My dad told stories so well you didn’t know what was real and what was true but it was all story, and you loved it. As a visual communicator, I love a good story more now that I get to tell the story of others. It is a challenge but i love what I do. I get to read in between the lines of dreams and emotions and pull the story from someone’s head and heart and show it to them.

Amanda Helm rides ashore a Mississippi River tree. ©Zack Smith 2012

Amanda Helm rides ashore a Mississippi River tree. ©Zack Smith 2012

So my story over the last 15 years I has sounded like a skipping record to myself, repeating these photographic philosophies I have made to help those that want to learn how to see like the camera sees.

“Shoot for the Wall”

“Intention in Capture vs Purpose in Presentation”

“Know the Why in each Exposure and find the Story”

“We don’t take snapshots, we make great photographs”

“Be a Student of Light”

Progress for me is seeing someone in the act of learning and seeing their mind in the awe of grasping a new concept. Owning it, and finally GETTING IT. There’s no greater feeling than seeing that light bulb go off in someone’s head…It starts as an ember glow, a hint of hope, a silent gasp that erupts into a confident creative tool that is sharp and ready to use

James Singleton on his front porch Bayou St. John New Orleans, LA. ©Zack Smith Photography

James Singleton on his front porch Bayou St. John New Orleans, LA. ©Zack Smith Photography

Not until I learned how to intentionally practice empathy and truly put myself in someone else’s confused, inquisitive, and thirsty mind did I see how to relate the concept of shutter speed, aperture, and focal length, Rear sync, shutter drag, bokeh, key light, rim light, chiaroscuro, and perspective as it relates to learning photography.

But at one time, I had no fucking clue. I only knew that my words needed the visual. I HAD to make photographs and I still do believe that this is my calling, why I was born or put here on this earth. 

So - I had been there, so I know what it’s like to have a grand idea that was mine and mine alone grow from the spark of inspiration. I know what it’s like to drop all reason, lose the concept of time and rush to create, only to have no tools construct, no foundation to begin the structure.

I remember what it was like to be driven and to drive your life not knowing where the hell you were going. I was mentoring with any photographer that would take me on assisting in the field, the darkroom, and even discussion the how’s and why’s of a particular photo. I was driven by the thirst for knowledge and the passion for growth. I sacrificed much, taking the only bathroom in my college apartment and turning it into a chemical darkroom to learn how to process film and print. I learned by doing, i learned by messing up, roll after roll after roll of film hanging in my apartment bathtub on clothespins and string

Ashlee Michot in her Field of Mary's, Arnaudville, LA ©Zack Smith Photography

Ashlee Michot in her Field of Mary's, Arnaudville, LA ©Zack Smith Photography

Teaching photograpy for me was a way to constantly remind myself that I came from the same place as so many inquiring minds and creative souls that don’t know where they’re going but don’t care, as long as there’s a story to be told, and photographed to be put on a wall.

So I kept teaching, putting myself in their shoes and in the process I was in turn learning the life lessons myself as I was watching and teaching others. I started to take my own advice to go inward in my own creative self and for me progress didn’t mean Upward, Onward and Some sort of success ….

It meant Inward, Soul, Heart, Self

Nick Slie in Lake Verrett swamp. ©Zack Smith Photography

Nick Slie in Lake Verrett swamp. ©Zack Smith Photography

“Shoot for the Wall” -

 

Means to make every composition count - own every mm of space on that piece of film or sensor and make your foreground, background, and subject make sense. We only put our best images on a wall...so why not shoot w/ the intention of making a print.

 

“Intention in Capture / Purpose in Presentation”

 

To make a great photograph we must know the WHY - why are we choosing this subject, in this place, with this light? Is this the moment of capture or is there a better one? Have we studied our environment, have we lived a day in our subjects shoes, do we know if the rays of of a backlit sun could provide better depth?....We must be students of our subjects and masters of it’s light.

 

Through teaching others I have realized that Progress isn’t about what new piece of gear you own, how many clients you have, who you photographed where and “if they Tweeted about it using your name and OMG i have 5 new followers!!”

Progress isn’t about being #1, being the best, or at the top of your game

Progress isn’t ONWARD UPWARD FORWARD

Progress is feeling a connection inside to another human being.

Progress is being confident in the tools of your own creativity.

Progress is knowing that you just showed someone that the story of them Is the most important factor in their success as a visual communicator as their story will be the fuel to find their “WHY” to shoot for their WALL.

 

Creating Dynamic Portraits in an Inspirational Space: The New Orleans Airlift Music Box Series by Zack Smith

Selfie 101: Your backgrounds and your subjects are equally important! 

Selfie 101: Your backgrounds and your subjects are equally important! 

To me, there are some simple rules that dictate how to make a great portrait. No, it doesn't involve someone famous or strikingly good looking. Maybe in the early stages of one's portrait photography journey it's easy to make good photographs of good looking people, posing, preening, and playing for the camera. You pop off a couple of strobes and WALAH! you have a portrait. For me it's always been much more of a process, but still very simple. 

To make a great portrait you must have Engagement and Environment.

I recently had both of those rules come true in so many ways during my recent collaboration with the folks at The Music Box in New Orleans. I went to the creators of New Orleans Airlift to float my idea of creating one of a kind dynamic portraits of the musical collaborations that took place at their one of a kind venue. The idea was to feature each musical structure and environment as a background story to accompany a portrait of each artist that played there. Lucky for me, every artist that performed this season was down for the idea, and always willing to bring their most creative spirit to each session. As most of you know, this kind of creative spirit is alive and well in New Orleans!

Each portrait I did was based on having a different background featuring the amazing musical structures built at The Music Box. I have sincere and great gratitude for all the creators of this art and Delaney, Taylor, Jay and Leah for making this dream a reality. Without their guidance, continued support, and organization this project would not have happened...

Each portrait session we did had to be done right after the last soundcheck and before the doors opened for the first performance. As you may guess, this very very small tiny window of time is an extremely high pressure stressful time for all parties: sound men turning nobs and fixing monitors, musicians running around trying to put on costumes while testing microphones, organizers setting up frantically while waiting for the dozens to hundreds of people lined up in the 9th Ward neighborhood to be let it. And then there was me...running around with two lights in hand, testing my strobes, composing my scenes and reading and adjusting for the quickly changing ambient light. Yeah, it's about 30 minutes of hustle for 5 minutes of shooting if I am lucky! This is really what being a photographer in New Orleans is all about for me: Creativity Under Pressure! (More BLOG posts on this topic here: Creativity Under Pressure, and Creativity and Diversification in Photography Business )

Learn How to Make Dynamic Portraits like the ones in my series! JOIN my Upcoming Workshop in New Orleans - Art of the Photographic Portrait at The Music Box - Saturday, August 19th

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE!

The structures at the Music Box are fully functional art and music installations.

The structures at the Music Box are fully functional art and music installations.

The user must stand inside this piece, hold the rope...sway and move to the chimes.

The user must stand inside this piece, hold the rope...sway and move to the chimes.

Each installation gives me ideas to create a unique environment for my subject. I had Taylor help me navigate the pulleys and wires of this piece to install one of my radio transmitted strobes which I gelled orange for the Norah Jones/Tank and the Bangas shoot.

Each installation gives me ideas to create a unique environment for my subject. I had Taylor help me navigate the pulleys and wires of this piece to install one of my radio transmitted strobes which I gelled orange for the Norah Jones/Tank and the Bangas shoot.

Photographer Lemar Arceneaux and I trying to figure out if this mirror could add some dynamics and depth to the image. It didn't..and we moved on!

Photographer Lemar Arceneaux and I trying to figure out if this mirror could add some dynamics and depth to the image. It didn't..and we moved on!

If you haven't been to The Music Box, then it might be hard to know what I am talking about so I will show you in photos...but first: Each background you see, each structure in each portrait...is able to be played. Yes, played by a musician or a performer, or the wind and the rain. The art pieces are drums, sound machines, rotating dual speak phone booths, wind chimes, and much much more. The music that is made at The Music Box is like no other music made anywhere else. 

I had both elements of a great portrait - the Environment of The Music Box and the Engagement of the artists there to collaborate. I hope you enjoy, and I URGE YOU to visit The New Orleans Airlift's website to see their upcoming events and attend a performance. It will change the way you look at how music can be made AND enjoyed. I was honored to be able to work with each artists performing at the Music Box as they gave me their time (which was in short supply) and especially their honest, collaborative, engagement. 

One of our first shoots was with Gogol Bordello and New Orleans band Debauch. I really only had 5 minutes to setup, not even knowing if the band would even have time to pose. Lucky for me they had exactly 60 seconds. 

One of our first shoots was with Gogol Bordello and New Orleans band Debauch. I really only had 5 minutes to setup, not even knowing if the band would even have time to pose. Lucky for me they had exactly 60 seconds. 

Lost Bayou Ramblers, Langhorn Slim, Rickie Lee Jones and Spider Stacy serenade the Music Box...

Lost Bayou Ramblers, Langhorn Slim, Rickie Lee Jones and Spider Stacy serenade the Music Box...

Rickie Lee Jones uses the pay phone on site to sing through it's dual spinning speakers...

Rickie Lee Jones uses the pay phone on site to sing through it's dual spinning speakers...

Norah Jones collaborated with New Orleans group Tank and the Bangas for a very special evening. You can see here, I used my backlight to create a warm glow amidst the cool twilight night.

Norah Jones collaborated with New Orleans group Tank and the Bangas for a very special evening. You can see here, I used my backlight to create a warm glow amidst the cool twilight night.

Bonnie "Prince" Billy performed with the Roots of Music and just watching him direct and perform and rehearse with a show time energy was amazing.

Bonnie "Prince" Billy performed with the Roots of Music and just watching him direct and perform and rehearse with a show time energy was amazing.

New Orleans' Roots of Music

New Orleans' Roots of Music

The Roots of Music at The Music Box

The Roots of Music at The Music Box

Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Tredafilka, The Bitchin Bajas, and Roots of Music pose in yet another epic symmetry at the Music Box!

Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Tredafilka, The Bitchin Bajas, and Roots of Music pose in yet another epic symmetry at the Music Box!

Mike Dillon brought his New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium to the Music Box which featured Simon Berz, Mark Southerland, Clint Maedgen, Tiffany Lamson, Andrew Bohren, Brian Haas and many more!

Mike Dillon brought his New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium to the Music Box which featured Simon Berz, Mark Southerland, Clint Maedgen, Tiffany Lamson, Andrew Bohren, Brian Haas and many more!

Having known and photographed Mike Dillon for a few years, I was comfortable getting to the rehearsal early and documenting them up close. I was also able to setup earlier to do individual portraits, something I had never done until this show. It had been suggested to me by Jay Pennington of the New Orleans Airlift. Now it's something I do each show...thanks Jay!

Having known and photographed Mike Dillon for a few years, I was comfortable getting to the rehearsal early and documenting them up close. I was also able to setup earlier to do individual portraits, something I had never done until this show. It had been suggested to me by Jay Pennington of the New Orleans Airlift. Now it's something I do each show...thanks Jay!

Drummer Paul Thidbodeax drums high in the trees.

Drummer Paul Thidbodeax drums high in the trees.

Tiffany Lamson of GIVERS rehearses with Mike Dillon's NOPRPC.

Tiffany Lamson of GIVERS rehearses with Mike Dillon's NOPRPC.

BEFORE......Music Box Installation

BEFORE......Music Box Installation

AFTER - with Dustan Louque! I decided to crop those images above to show you how I approach each setting at The Music Box. First i find the right installation and decide if it makes  a good background. I then experiment with some lighting, then add the subject! ENVIRONMENT + ENGAGEMENT - THERE YOU HAVE IT!

AFTER - with Dustan Louque! I decided to crop those images above to show you how I approach each setting at The Music Box. First i find the right installation and decide if it makes  a good background. I then experiment with some lighting, then add the subject! ENVIRONMENT + ENGAGEMENT - THERE YOU HAVE IT!

ANOTHER epic group portrait at The Music Box! Dustan Louque presented "Dub Down Babylon" which featured Layla McCalla, Nels Cline, Blato Zlato and many more...

ANOTHER epic group portrait at The Music Box! Dustan Louque presented "Dub Down Babylon" which featured Layla McCalla, Nels Cline, Blato Zlato and many more...

Preservation Hall Jazz Band pose in the setting sun of the last show at the Music Box this season...till next season!

Preservation Hall Jazz Band pose in the setting sun of the last show at the Music Box this season...till next season!

 

A little bit about New Orleans Airlift, taken from their site:

New Orleans Airlift is an artist-driven initiative that collaborates and creates alongside the artists and communities they support.

Airlift was founded in 2008 by musician and artist manager Jay Pennington and Delaney Martin, a multi-media installation artist, as a response to the unparalleled destruction of Hurricane Katrina and its devastating aftermath which left local artists, like all New Orleanians, struggling for their lives and livelihoods. Jay and Delaney recognized a need for new audiences who could support these artists as they rebuilt their city. They dreamt up a one-time project that took city artists to Berlin and called it The New Orleans Airlift after the Berlin Airlift of WWII. Other exchange projects that used an import/export model and a multidisciplinary approach soon followed and the name stuck.

Airlift programming highlights the city's underground art and under-the-radar artists, transporting the dynamic street culture, living folk culture and growing contemporary arts scene of New Orleans to far-flung locations around the world for exhibitions, workshops, festivals, performances, and collaborative projects. Airlift also brings influential artists from abroad to participate in collaborative endeavors with local artists in this special community. They believe that collaboration between artists and across communities shares resources, empowers learning and unites disparate groups in common and powerful goals.

"New Orleans is the last great bastion of living folk culture in the United states. Airlift projects honor tradition alongside innovation, leading our artists, culture and communities in meaningful new directions."

The Energy and the Images that are Jazz Fest and Beyond - Photo Gallery by Zack Smith

Amidst the crowds and logos and branding there is magic, mystery and tons of moments during Jazz Fest in New Orleans, Louisiana. ©Zack Smith Photography 2017

Amidst the crowds and logos and branding there is magic, mystery and tons of moments during Jazz Fest in New Orleans, Louisiana. ©Zack Smith Photography 2017

Jazz Fest means so much to so many people and I hope you enjoy this photo gallery of what it means to me as an observer of the inside scoop and witness to the tantalizing fringe.The name "Jazz Fest" (all caps of course, Amen.) in New Orleans is now synonymous with an over reaching 24 hour a day, 10 day work week of music, moments, and more music. During the fairgrounds portion of this music marathon, the Mid City/Bayou St. John neighborhood gets over run with daytime wafting decibels. At night, the countless clubs, bars, and faubourg haunts carry multiple musical acts and sunrise shows to be remembered and soon dubbed "legendary". But what happens during these watershed moments are the hours spent in recording studios, rehearsal halls, and off the beaten path venues that makes Jazz Fest legendary. Musicians flock to New Orleans to play a gig or two, or ten but you can find them recording in local studios and taking part in very non-traditional music happenings around town.

During the course of this years Jazz Fest Season I had the pleasure of photographing for a different department at Jazz Fest thus finding new moments and new angles for what I thought was an overshot fest. I was wrong. There are so many undiscovered views that uncover themselves when looked at with new eyes. Photographing the world around us with a fresh set of eyes, a new perspective, can often lead to new discoveries. 

As part of my ongoing portrait series at The New Orleans Airlift Music Box, I was able to photograph Mike Dillon's New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium and Dustan Louque's Dub Down Babylon, all with amazing performers and special guests. During this festival season I was also asked to document an epic recording session from local transplant blues man, Seth Walker. The session was done at The Music Shed and featured the legendary New Orleans drummer Johnny Vidacovich, New York jazz organist John Medeski, and bassist Myles Weeks.

I hope you enjoy this gallery from 10 days of festival life, love, and magic moments!

ALL IMAGES ©Zack Smith Photography and may not be used outside of this gallery. If you like the images, share the gallery! If you're in the image, send me an email! zack@zacksmith.com

At the ceremonial sound of the bell, the Fairgrounds opens at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival as crowds race to claim their coveted spot on the lawn.

At the ceremonial sound of the bell, the Fairgrounds opens at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival as crowds race to claim their coveted spot on the lawn.

Yvonne Grant dances to Jonathan Batiste and Stay Human at her first Jazz Fest

Yvonne Grant dances to Jonathan Batiste and Stay Human at her first Jazz Fest

Visiting country Cuba brought many musicians to Jazz Fest, Conga Los Hoyos was an amazing percussion group that played and marched many times.

Visiting country Cuba brought many musicians to Jazz Fest, Conga Los Hoyos was an amazing percussion group that played and marched many times.

Visiting country Cuba brought many musicians to Jazz Fest, Conga Los Hoyos was an amazing percussion group that played and marched many times.

Visiting country Cuba brought many musicians to Jazz Fest, Conga Los Hoyos was an amazing percussion group that played and marched many times.

Big Chief Juan Pardo and the Golden Comanche Indians backstage at the Jazz and Heritage Stage on Friday, April 28th

Big Chief Juan Pardo and the Golden Comanche Indians backstage at the Jazz and Heritage Stage on Friday, April 28th

I documented the progression of muralist Roberto Guerra Hechaverria as he painted in a mural near the Cuba Pavillion.

I documented the progression of muralist Roberto Guerra Hechaverria as he painted in a mural near the Cuba Pavillion.

Muralist Roberto Guerra Hechaverria painting at Jazz Fest 2017.

Muralist Roberto Guerra Hechaverria painting at Jazz Fest 2017.

New Orleans muralist and poster artist BMike, Brandon Odums,  poses in front of his original painting of New Orleans musician Jonathan Batiste.

New Orleans muralist and poster artist BMike, Brandon Odums,  poses in front of his original painting of New Orleans musician Jonathan Batiste.

Decisions, decisions, decisions. The Cubes tell all...

Decisions, decisions, decisions. The Cubes tell all...

Dance where you can, under the stars or under the trees. 

Dance where you can, under the stars or under the trees. 

The Original Big 9 Social Aid and Pleasure Club march with The Chosen Ones Brass Band through the pathways of Jazz Fest.

The Original Big 9 Social Aid and Pleasure Club march with The Chosen Ones Brass Band through the pathways of Jazz Fest.

The Original Big 9 Social Aid and Pleasure Club march with The Chosen Ones Brass Band through the pathways of Jazz Fest.

The Original Big 9 Social Aid and Pleasure Club march with The Chosen Ones Brass Band through the pathways of Jazz Fest.

The Original Big 9 Social Aid and Pleasure Club march with The Chosen Ones Brass Band through the pathways of Jazz Fest.

The Original Big 9 Social Aid and Pleasure Club march with The Chosen Ones Brass Band through the pathways of Jazz Fest.

zack-smith-jazz-fest-food-cuba
Muralist Roberto Guerra Hechaverria continues his mural at Jazz Fest 2017.

Muralist Roberto Guerra Hechaverria continues his mural at Jazz Fest 2017.

Roberto Guerra Hechaverria continues his mural...

Roberto Guerra Hechaverria continues his mural...

Members of the Uptown Swingers SAPC prepare backstage at the Economy Hall tent on Saturday, April 29th.

Members of the Uptown Swingers SAPC prepare backstage at the Economy Hall tent on Saturday, April 29th.

Jonathan Batiste and Stay Human perform on the Acura Stage.

Jonathan Batiste and Stay Human perform on the Acura Stage.

Participants rush into the Gentilly entrance of Jazz Fest on Saturday, April 29th. I achieved this effect by using a 4 stop neutral density filter which allowed me to choose a longer shutter speed but not overexpose the images. I used a tripod as well.

Participants rush into the Gentilly entrance of Jazz Fest on Saturday, April 29th. I achieved this effect by using a 4 stop neutral density filter which allowed me to choose a longer shutter speed but not overexpose the images. I used a tripod as well.

MUSIC BOX PORTRAITS: An ongoing Story

Take a short break from Jazz Fest and enjoy some Portraits from the Music Box. I have been documenting every artist that has been featured at the New Orleans Airlift's new home in the 9th Ward. Each group that comes through, I coordinate with them to create unique portraits which feature the amazing artistry of Music Box Village and the personalities of the musicians. The goal is to create a unique document of the special collaborations of music, sculpture, and moments.

Tiff Lamson of GIVERS performs with Mike Dillon's New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium (MDsNOPRPC) at The New Orleans Airlift's Music Box Village.

Tiff Lamson of GIVERS performs with Mike Dillon's New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium (MDsNOPRPC) at The New Orleans Airlift's Music Box Village.

Band leader MIke Dillon directs and plays w/ the NOPRPC at The Music Box

Band leader MIke Dillon directs and plays w/ the NOPRPC at The Music Box

Mark Southerland at The Music Box playing the telephone...yes, it plays.

Mark Southerland at The Music Box playing the telephone...yes, it plays.

Clint Maedgen sings as Mike D shows his famous evil face on vibes...

Clint Maedgen sings as Mike D shows his famous evil face on vibes...

Behold: The musicians of Mike Dillon's New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium: Tiff Lamson, Brian Haas, Simon Berz, Paul Thibodeaux, Mark Southerland, Mike Dillon, Andre Bohren, Clint Maedgen, Steven Montalvo, Otto Schrang and much much more!

 

Dustan Louque's DUB DOWN BABYLON featuring Nels Cline

The Dub Down Babylon musicians at the Music Box

The Dub Down Babylon musicians at the Music Box

Dustan is an old friend, and when asked if he could do a portrait with a gas mask, i said yes before he finished his sentence!

Dustan is an old friend, and when asked if he could do a portrait with a gas mask, i said yes before he finished his sentence!

I had never met or photographed Nels Cline of Wilco, and it was an honor to meet and shoot this gentle soul!

I had never met or photographed Nels Cline of Wilco, and it was an honor to meet and shoot this gentle soul!

I have enjoyed Leyla McCalla's voice and music for so long, thank you AGAIN to the Music Box for bringing this portrait of a wonderful human together...

I have enjoyed Leyla McCalla's voice and music for so long, thank you AGAIN to the Music Box for bringing this portrait of a wonderful human together...

Blato Zlato, Margaret Hebert, Rob Cambre, Eric Heigle, Josh Werner, and Simon Berz round out the Dub Down Babylon set!

seth Walker Recording Session feat: John Medeski, Johnny Vidacovich and Myles Weeks at The music Shed Studios!

Engineer and producer Ben Lorio with John Medeski, Myles Weeks, Seth Walker and Johnny Vidacovich

Engineer and producer Ben Lorio with John Medeski, Myles Weeks, Seth Walker and Johnny Vidacovich

Seth Walker and John Medeski

Seth Walker and John Medeski

Johnny Vidacovich and Seth Walker

Johnny Vidacovich and Seth Walker

John Medeski - I had never photographed Mr. Medeski outside of a live show setting, and this was a truly unique moment to watch this master at work!

John Medeski - I had never photographed Mr. Medeski outside of a live show setting, and this was a truly unique moment to watch this master at work!

Watching another master at work - Mr. Johnny Vidacovich. Here Seth and Myles listen as Johnny explains the difference between horizontal and vertical rhythm. Yes, we went there.

Watching another master at work - Mr. Johnny Vidacovich. Here Seth and Myles listen as Johnny explains the difference between horizontal and vertical rhythm. Yes, we went there.

Myles Weeks

Myles Weeks

Back to Jazz Fest! Images from Friday, May 5th

FINISHED!

FINISHED!

Musician Jason Marsalis sits out on stage right during a solo by his keyboard player at the Jazz Tent.

Musician Jason Marsalis sits out on stage right during a solo by his keyboard player at the Jazz Tent.

Dancers do their thing, all day long, at the Fais Do Do stage at Jazz Fest. 

Dancers do their thing, all day long, at the Fais Do Do stage at Jazz Fest. 

Musicians Tiffany Lamson and Kelli Jones-Savoy step out at the Fais Do Do stage for some Cajun and Zydeco good times.

Musicians Tiffany Lamson and Kelli Jones-Savoy step out at the Fais Do Do stage for some Cajun and Zydeco good times.

Musician Jon Gross post show at Economy Hall!

Musician Jon Gross post show at Economy Hall!

Nathan Williams of Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas GET DOWN all the way down at the Fais Do Do stage!

Nathan Williams of Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas GET DOWN all the way down at the Fais Do Do stage!

New Generation Brass Band with Lady and Men Rollers and Scene Boosters SAPC

New Generation Brass Band with Lady and Men Rollers and Scene Boosters SAPC

New Generation Brass Band with Lady and Men Rollers and Scene Boosters SAPC

New Generation Brass Band with Lady and Men Rollers and Scene Boosters SAPC

The Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club at Jazz Fest 2017

The Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club at Jazz Fest 2017

The Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club at Jazz Fest 2017

The Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club at Jazz Fest 2017

Trumpet and Keyboard player Michael Girardot performs over a sea of people at the Acura Stage of Jazz Fest 2017

Trumpet and Keyboard player Michael Girardot performs over a sea of people at the Acura Stage of Jazz Fest 2017

zack-smith-photography-jazz-fest-new-orleans-photographer
Trap and net maker Kernis Huval from Sunset, LA

Trap and net maker Kernis Huval from Sunset, LA

Big Chief Juan Pardo and Big Queen Anndrea Y. Pardo of the Golden Comanches march on Jazz Fest

Big Chief Juan Pardo and Big Queen Anndrea Y. Pardo of the Golden Comanches march on Jazz Fest

"Build Your Brand" Content Creation, SEO Marketing, and Finding Your Philosophy as an Entrepreneur by Zack Smith

Thank you to the "Grow St. Bernard" class at the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundations series. I enjoyed talking about "Build Your Brand" using high quality content and SEO marketing! PHOTO: SBEDF/Grow St. Bernard

Thank you to the "Grow St. Bernard" class at the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundations series. I enjoyed talking about "Build Your Brand" using high quality content and SEO marketing! PHOTO: SBEDF/Grow St. Bernard

I was recently honored with the opportunity to talk to a wonderful group of St. Bernard Parish business owners and entrepreneurs as part of the Grow St. Bernard initiative. 

Grow St. Bernard, a new seminar series, is from the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation and the St. Bernard Chamber, and it offers professional insight on a variety of topics important to emerging and growing businesses.  The educational series encourages business owners and professionals to turn information into action; and participants will benefit from learning and sharing with the cohort of small businesses.  The 2017 series includes presentations, panels, and workshops from notable guest speakers on everything from business planning to marketing and beyond. 

I was so happy when they asked me to present on "Build Your Brand" and talk about the ways I have incorporated my brand and marketing philosophy into how I use social media and my website to drive traffic and generate leads and followers.

Did you know St. Bernard Parish is home to one of the highest percentage of locally owned businesses in the Greater New Orleans region? Another reason why I love living in Louisiana! Grow St. Bernard is an effort developed to provide business owners and professionals with the practical skills necessary to grow their company with limited resources and staffing.  Participants who complete the program will gain valuable knowledge of current trends and best practices for operating a business successfully.  Participation is open to all individuals regardless of location or occupation.  Love this, and I loved every minute of talking with business owners about why quality content is essential in promoting and marketing their businesses brand, products, and services.

If you or your business would like One on One Consulting, Visual Content Strategy Development, or specific Photographic needs - CLICK HERE!

The May 2nd group from Grow St. Bernard! PHOTO SBDEF/Grow St. Bernard

The May 2nd group from Grow St. Bernard! PHOTO SBDEF/Grow St. Bernard

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!

Zack

 

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 (www.sarrahdanziger.com) 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!

zack-smith-photography-natural-light-tutorial-window-light-workshop
zack-smith-photography-natural-light-tutorial-window-light-workshop
zack-smith-photography-natural-light-tutorial-window-light-workshop-depth-of-field
Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 8.48.56 PM.png

 

 

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

zack-smith-photography-techiniques-workshops-new-orleans-new-digital-camera

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!