2017 Year In Photos: New Places, Photographing Faces and Things I Said I Would Never Do / by Zack Smith

What's the big deal about babies, business headshots and and studios anyway?

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2017 has been a whirlwind of a year. A year of many firsts and falls and get backups. I never thought I would be shooting so many headshots, open a studio on Magazine Street and photograph thousands of images of a baby. Well, she is my baby.

I mean really, look at that angelic face, who wouldn't want to photograph her for, like, ever? Well I never thought I would be photographing kids, ever! In the last 6 months I have even worked with kids on New Orleans Tourism shoots, French Market Corporation shoots and photographing some friends kids. Never. Say. Never...

You can learn so much as a photographer by stepping outside of your comfort zone.

 In my line of work I get hired because I can provide for my client a consistent, structured, and creative result for their visual branding needs. This type of commercial photography takes alot time and energy spent talking and emailing about ideas, aesthetic, and how images will be used ad nauseam. I talk with my clients about lighting schemes, compositions, and the exact number of images produced and where how the deliverables will be implemented into their website and marketing materials. Needless to say there is a lot of control that goes into producing and photographing the type of work I do. There is absolutely NO controlling a kid. You just. got. to. BE. 

There are tricks to make kids smile, I just use patience. Or, have a kid and hang around for the magic.

With the birth of our daughter Vega, I went into full "dad mode" and have never looked back. I keep my family safe, practice unconditional love, and never ever have a camera further than 1 foot from my shutter finger. The faces and moments are far too many to record, but I am sure as hell giving it my best shot. I don't want to miss anything, and the odds are I will get some really really bad shots and a few great ones. As a professional photographer that does NOT specialize in newborn or kids or "tween" photography, I can't use this fatherly approach. I am totally fine with that. I have great respect for the newborn, kid, and family photographers out there who are blessed with the patience and wherewithal to coax the emotion out of a group of strangers.

There are tricks to make adults relax, and it's not saying "act natural" during a professional headshot.

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Oh, another thing I said I would never do? Professional business headshots. To me, in my up and coming days as a seeker of adventure and experience TTL (through the lens for those that know) I was dead set on letting the music and culture of my surroundings guide my creative muse as well as my business plan. What I did not realize was that I was possibly missing out on meeting passionate entrepreneurs and dedicated CEO's of New Orleans. I couldn't see the forest for the trees, especially stumbling through the 6th ward on a Sunday at 4:30pm, beer in one hand and camera in the other. Yeah, I was having a blast and finding my way and I wouldn't trade it for a moment. 

2017 has had more purpose infused in every shutter click and proposal sent.

I am photographing not only for me, but for my family, my daughter, and for my city. 2017 was the year I completed 10 produced day shoots with talent and 160 hours of events and festivals for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and New Orleans Tourism and Marketing. I photographed 15 new produced lifestyle photoshoots for Chase Bank's new branding and mobile app. 2017 had me in three different cities producing original lifestyle tourism photographs for Brand USA, our country's tourism agency. Again I was honored to be principal photographer for French Quarter Fest, Satchmo Fest, Bayou Country Superfest, three stellar music festivals in New Orleans. 

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In 2017 I took my business public. I opened my first photography studio on Magazine Street in New Orleans.

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In my 20th year of photographing the world around me and my 13th year of photography being my sole source of income - I bit the bullet and opened my studio. My dojo, my HQ, the new home of ideas and momentum.

Hanging a shingle on Magazine Street, opening my first brick and mortar studio when the world is my studio.

Since 1997 the world has been my studio. I have always enjoyed a natural curiosity and wonder about the qualities and effects of light. I love the low winter sun in the country and the high contrasty light of noon day sun in a downtown metropolis. Light has character and depth, and when combined with telling a story of a singular person or event the possibilities are endless. For me the impetus to open a studio had to do with the increasing amount of business headshots I was getting commissioned for and the need to have more space at home with our growing baby. Having an photography studio and office space afforded me the luxury of leaving the work "at work" and having the house be where the home and family were. I love it this way. I also am thankful of the path that brought me here as for 20 years I was and still am a student of light. I have the ability to make a studio anywhere - in a field, in an office, on a hill, in a swamp. I know light, I respect light, I am nothing with out it.

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My 2017 photography workshop series saw new moments and magic made. Photographers were born and snapshots were left in the dust.

This year was a year of rebirth for my photography workshop series, an ever evolving organism that I have curating since 2014. While I continue to host my staple workshops like Learn Digital Photography, Learn Lightroom and Photoshop, and Night Photography Workshop (formerly NOLA @ Night) I have added a few new ones. Workshops like Natural Light Photography Workshop held at Crescent Park and the Street Documentary Photography Worksop held in partnership with the French Market Corporation has allowed me to host new ideas that stem from my workshops. People have ideas of what they want to shoot and I figure out how to make it happen with the most impact for their knowledge and the community. 

 Photo by Stephen Barnes from the Street Documentary Workshop, 2017

Photo by Stephen Barnes from the Street Documentary Workshop, 2017

Even though there were so many new moments made in 2017, I still keep one foot in the swamp, one foot in the music, faces, and culture I love so much. Here are some more highlights from 2017. Stay in touch friends, more exciting things happening. Here is a little reward for reading - my 2018 Photography Workshops which are open for enrollment now!

 Sylvan Esso at The CIVIC Theatre in New Orleans @2017 Zack Smith Photography

Sylvan Esso at The CIVIC Theatre in New Orleans @2017 Zack Smith Photography

 Audubon Park Reflections, December 2017 - ©Zack Smith Photography

Audubon Park Reflections, December 2017 - ©Zack Smith Photography

 Tharrison and Voice on Royal Street. Image produced for New Orleans Tourism ©2017 Zack Smith

Tharrison and Voice on Royal Street. Image produced for New Orleans Tourism ©2017 Zack Smith