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How to shoot prism photography: Prisming for Beginners in the Streets of New Orleans by Zack Smith

Do you want to learn how to use prisms for photography? Look no further

 

Before you read this NOTE! I will be bringing ALL OF MY PRISMS with me for the Mardi Gras Photography Workshop in New Orleans on Saturday, February 3rd. CLICK HERE to learn more and sign up!

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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 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 and some very new school prisms from Get Fractals.

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Prism photography is easy, just experiment!

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. Normally, prisms are sometimes used for the internal reflection at the surfaces rather than for dispersion. (duh!) If light inside the prism hits one of the surfaces at a sufficiently steep angle, total internal reflection occurs as all of the light is reflected. This makes a prism a useful substitute for a mirror in some situations. (did you know you can also use a mirror?) Does this make you want to walk the streets with one of these? Me too!

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For me, whenever I get my hands on a new way of seeing, like a prism for photography, I immediately take to the streets and the swamps of Louisiana to try it out. What better environment to get out of your creative rut!

Street Walking Documentary In New Orleans With Prism Photography

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.

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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!

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How to Use Prisms with Photography

But what exactly is prism photography? Prism photography, also known as prisming, uses a prism-shaped, clear object in conjunction with a camera lens to produce artistic distortions. Using a prism while photographing is relatively simple. You just have to twist the prism in front of your lenses to give the illusion of a curve or bend in your surroundings on your camera. It does take some practice, but using a prism works a lot better than using mirrors or photoshoot techniques because it actually looks pretty natural.

Most photographers prefer to use a wider lens between 24 mm and 50 mm. You should start by using a wider aperture to let light into the lens. You can expect to see things like rainbows, prism-shaped light flares, curves in your image, and so much more. Using a prism in your creative photoshoots can leave you or your client with breath-taking photos that will be great for your portfolio and their personal keepsake.

If you are eager to try and use a prism in your photography, you can purchase one for as little as $12 on Amazon. Be sure to get one that isn’t too big. Most photographers are happy with a 6-inch prism. Sometimes, you may find that your fingers are getting in the way of your shot. Move your fingers to a point on the prism where they aren’t visible. Just be cautious when you are photographing your subject and you will be fine.

6" Amlong Prism held vertical

6" Amlong Prism held vertical

6" Amlong Prism held vertical.

6" Amlong Prism held vertical.

6" Amlong Prism held vertical

6" Amlong Prism held vertical

Circular Sphere - Amlong

Circular Sphere - Amlong

Amlong 6" crystal prism held horizontally

Amlong 6" crystal prism held horizontally

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Get Fractal Filter Set

I was really able to control and master my prism photography with the set of "finger filter" prisms from Get Fractal. The set came in three and were housed in a pouch you can lock on your belt. I brought the filter set to photograph Satchmo Summerfest in New Orleans and was loving the way it made my portraits of musicians like no one else's. 

Jams seen through my fractal filter from Get Fractals. These filters allow you to have more control with the filter. So cool!

Jams seen through my fractal filter from Get Fractals. These filters allow you to have more control with the filter. So cool!

Pscyh-a-Tuba!!! Jon and Jason at French Quarter Fest shot through a Fractal Filter.

Pscyh-a-Tuba!!! Jon and Jason at French Quarter Fest shot through a Fractal Filter.

Dancin Man 504 - Birthday Boy shot in Prisms during Satchmo Fest in New Orleans!

Dancin Man 504 - Birthday Boy shot in Prisms during Satchmo Fest in New Orleans!

Freddie Lonzo photographed through my Fractal Filter Prism!

Freddie Lonzo photographed through my Fractal Filter Prism!

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

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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!

St. Charles Avenue sunrise and City Park Photo Gallery by Zack Smith

This last week I have been all over New Orleans photographing her most glamorous avenues and rich colorful green spaces. My first goal was to try and lock down a few key locations for a client I am shooting some marketing work for. In the midst of shooting location photographs I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time when the light was just perfect, and the players of this great city were in line. You all know when the angles come together, the people file in, the bell rings, and you know it's time to shoot? Well, it was one of those weeks...I hope you enjoy this photo gallery from City Park and St. Charles Avenue.

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No flowers here..but I had to add this image of a construction worker at Oretha Castle Haley. It's moments like these when I wish I had my camera on me at all times!!!

No flowers here..but I had to add this image of a construction worker at Oretha Castle Haley. It's moments like these when I wish I had my camera on me at all times!!!

Do Your Research, Learn Your Tools & Grow Your Business Keyword Research, Meta-Data, Google Analytics, & SEO - OOOh My Gawd! by Zack Smith



Learning & Relearning Your Tools


Very little is ever described as "typical" or "normal" when working full-time as a professional freelance photographer. The life of a photographer may seem far from hard work when you are given the freedom to truly enjoy your art form of creative expression when working behind the camera. However, the actual time spent behind the camera is minimal compared to the amount of time spent on scouting locations, pre/post production edits, answering emails/phone calls, marketing for new clients and managing social media. Due to the photography industry functioning on a day-to-day basis, we are faced with many challenges such as not often knowing ahead of time what days you will be working and how to plan each week accordingly to ensure everything gets done. In the end, I do feel as though I am one of the luck ones because I am right where I am supposed to be, doing what I love best and YES, in the magical city of New Orleans where I can just hit the streets and find inspiration.

Although life is great and my books are full, I have lacked in making time for the other important aspects of my business such as the time for "learning and relearning" my tools. To explain in further detail, photographers develop their own personal style of shooting that over time embeds into their lives creating a safe approach and comfort zone that becomes second nature. You can enjoy these "comfort zones" created along the way however, they do manifest. I find once these habits and traits become second nature, we rarely make the time to dip into the well for additional knowledge and opportunities that could be very insightful and invaluable to one's business


Case In Point

The inspiration behind this blog entry was introduced after taking the time to explore in more depth some of those "additional features" within my Canon 6D. It wasn't long after that I discovered a very valuable tool within the GPS feature that could be be of great use when scouting multiple locations for future photo shoots. Not only does this feature record exact pin point locations (when turned on), but also updates the GPS coordinates every few seconds.



                                                           
Tools In Action

I was recently in City Park scouting locations for a local musician's upcoming photo shoot. Thanks to the excellent communication from this particular musician regarding her desired needs for this photo, I was able to zone in on specific details which then led me to the perfect locations. As I began to get lost in City Park's beautiful Couturie Forest, I turned on my newly discovered GPS feature giving me the freedom to walk around aimlessly chasing the light...instead of chasing location points.

After a quick YouTube Tutorial on the GPS feature, I downloaded the photos to my Canon Utility App and was able to view all of the photos. Each photo had its own red dropped "pin" representing the specific location where the photo was taken. I realized very quickly that this feature was going to be helpful in more than one way. First, I no longer needed to be concerned geographically with location points and more importantly, was able to concentrate on the task at hand which was finding the perfect backgrounds & lighting for the upcoming photo shoot.





My Canon Utility Map of photos in the Couturie Forest at City Park





Musician Dayna Kurtz

For some of you, you probably already know that your camera or phone has this GPS feature! However, the GPS feature is just one representation of many other features available for you to use that possibly was either unknown and/or of no use to you before.

Our photography styles and approach gradually evolve and change over time bringing new tools and opportunities that enable a new level of sanity. With inspiring innovation and improved execution, the photography industry is always changing which means the tools in use are changing as well. Do yourself a favor and make time to "learn and relearn" your cameras tools. You too will discover one or many invaluable tools available that are ready to assist you on your next photo shoot!

If you found out something recently please share it with me here on this blog so we can help others!

SEO -OOOh My GAWD!!

Almost one month into 2015 and it feels very full..full of life, full of new beginnings and full of new frontiers. To start, I have moved into the final stages of completing my new website, Zack Smith Photography, and counting down until the final launch...stay tuned for upcoming announcements! The layout and structure for the website incorporates useful and information-rich content including new features such as direct links to my all of my social media, "Zack Smith Photography Blog", and "Zack Smith Photography Workshops" providing user-friendly navigation giving way to a more seamless overall experience. I will also be including access to an online gallery where select pieces of my work can be viewed and purchased directly. In the meantime, please keep in touch with my Facebook page - Zack Smith Photography for photography happenings and tips.

All of these changes have been made possible by the talented and creative, Tom Williams of Tomfoolery Design, the man behind the all of the magic who continues to work hard to make me look good. I've got to say thanks to you Tom for creating my new new brand identity….feels good.

BUT.... a good website is only “skin” deep…Luckily, I have been along side my inspiring wife as she diligently explores in more depth things such as branding, web presence, online marketing, and the overwhelming power behind what the internet can do for you. She has open my eyes up to new and exciting ways to promote my business including the HUGE potential for success. I learned that purty pictures will not get you clients and although i have great content through this blog (c.2006) there are so many other factors to consider when managing the online presence of your business.

Universe Calling. Hello?

Through all of this new information coming at us full speed, it is very hard to know what will work and if it will be useful in the end. One thing I have learned is that the Universe sometimes brings people into your life when you need them most. For example, Helen, my wife, recently was introduced to a new friend who ironically enough was in town for a conference to present on the subject of internet marketing/SEO. One can waste some time sifting through all the noise on the internet and rarely come in contact with one person who has all the valuable information needed to fully connect the dots. The following day, this new friend met with Helen to share some key information and help her with a better understanding of the overall picture. We are so thankful to our new friend and now absorbing all of his words of wisdom via his website, blog, and youtube videos. His name is Andy Crestodina and his stellar blog is Orbit Media. He continually updates his blog with relevant and insightful information on how to get your website and brand out there in the most rewarding way. The information he provides on such topics as “Creating Content for the Lead Generation Funnel” and “7Dead Ends on your Website” are revealing and challenging. Helen just started reading his book "Content Chemisty" which I obviously have to wait in line for but either way…I really urge you to check out Andy Crestodina! Good stuff folks. Needless to say, I've got a lot of work ahead but I've never been more ready…

Please stay tuned for the full launch of 2015 Zack Smith Photography Website coming soon to a location near you!