Digital Workflow

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


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.

Photography in the Lost and Found: Photographers..get a system now! How proper categorization of your work can lead to quicker dollars! by Zack Smith Photography

As a working professional photographer, proper organization of my digital files could make or break my next opportunity for income. I have learned this the hard way as I do most valuable lessons I hold dear!

SCENARIO A - Editor emails photographer (in this case, me) and asks if they have a certain file of Musician "A" performing at Music Festival "A" for a feature photo in an upcoming article. Job pays $$.

If you know anything about the current state of the editorial world where "we need this photo YESTERDAY" has quickly become "Can you REPLY to this email with SAID PHOTO?", and we think nothing of it. Photography acquisition has always been and still is the LAST segment to be put into editorial content, so when someone is looking for a photo, that means the deadline is looming and the copy editor has left for the day. As a freelance photographer you really have no time to spare in locating the image, checking the file names and rights, and sending the image over (if all checks out of course). BUT WHERE DID THE IMAGE GO!!! (that was me screaming)

Back in the film days finding an image (if you remembered to file it away) was easy. Walk over to the binder of Festival "A" from the year in question and by alphabetical order (or by day) find Musician "A", scan and send over. Well, yesteryears "yesterday" is now, RIGHT NOW!

Whatever post production software you use (Lightroom, Photoshop Suite, etc.) you must get with a program you can stick with and create a NEW HABIT OF ORDER. 

Above is my sample filing for any of my hard drives or cloud based storage. Most of my client work revolves around:


You have one of my main folders being PORTRAITS, and inside of it you have the person I photographed. Inside of that is a RAW folder where all of the RAW files go with their sidecars (.XMP files / metadata etc.), and along side of it are the different OUTPUT file types that are associated with any job. Sometime we'll have folders like PSD, RAW Select, or even TIFF. I like to keep my RAW folders separate so that I can always go back to the source files and edit out a different file at any time while my other folders remain untouched.

Whatever your system is, get one and stick with it!

Good Habits Create Good Muscle Memory!

While you are here..take a peek at my new E-COMMERCE Gallery where you can purchase prints and take some of my work home with you for the holidays. Order by December 15th and get your order in by December 24th!