Zack Smith Photography

Point and Shoot Review: Canon G7x "Looking for Patterns and Reflections on a Walk in the French Quarter of New Orleans" by Zack Smith Photography

Today I will review the Canon G7x point and shoot and how I use it for my personal and professional documentation

I have started to take my Canon G7x out with me wherever I go. Don't get me wrong, I like my iPhone 6 because of it's pocket-ability and quality, but the control I get in exposure, quality, and depth can't be beat with the G7x. It took me a few outings with the camera before I could manipulate the features and dials without looking, and the quick key FUNCTION/SET button is an easy "go to" access point to many features you'll be changing such as: White Balance, ISO, bracketing, self-timer, ND Filter, and Resolution.

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I love the Touch Screen Auto Focus feature and use it often. I can set up my compositions with one hand, and use my finger to tap on the subject for a quick focus, then shoot. The screen is very sensitive and accurate, and not to mention super bright. In the photo above I was able to frame the composition as I wanted it, and instead of "focus and recompose", I could just "Touch and Shoot" by touching the sign with one finger, and depressing the shutter with the other.

Another feature I love about this camera, and one of the main reasons I bought this model, is the fast 1.8 aperture lens. At the camera's widest focal length (8.8cm/24mm) you can access the 1.8 aperture and all it's soft depth of field glory but as you zoom in, the aperture will stop down all the way to 2.8. NOT BAD THOUGH! I was able to utilize this feature in conjunction with the Touch Point AF on these following images. The camera was having a hard time auto focusing on the reflections in the distance and focusing on the glass pane or the metal panel instead. Here's where Touch AF comes in handy!

I could touch my finger on the exact reflection I wanted! With so many lines and contrast, my cameras AF didn't know what to do until I told it!

I could touch my finger on the exact reflection I wanted! With so many lines and contrast, my cameras AF didn't know what to do until I told it!

Here's another example of the lovely shallow depth and Touch AF

Here's another example of the lovely shallow depth and Touch AF

The Canon G7x also has built in WiFi and an app for smartphones which allows me to send my full res (or downsized) image straight over to my phone! I love this feature when I am out on location posting to my Instagram, Facebook, or this very blog! This feature is VERY EASY to use! Take a look at this Gallery from my Walk in the French Quarter on Sunday, Canon G7x at my side...

Aside from being able to manually control Shutter Speed and Aperture, the Canon G7x has some really cool built in features and presets such as: Night Scene, Stars (which is great for Star Trails see my post from Akumal, Mexico!) Macro, Fish-Eye, Miniature, and Toy Effect. Here I show the last three effects on a cool star light we have -

All in all, I love the Canon G7x size, usability for both manual and auto features, and it's durability was a nice bonus feature. The design and look of the G7x is sleek and fits my hand perfectly. 

I also love how small the camera is, and how it allows me to walk around and be personable with people while I am documenting the world. Lugging around a big camera can be daunting, but also distracting to people you meet. Having this small powerful camera on my allows me to be myself and meet people but at the same time take high quality photos to help other people get the word out! I shot these photos from New Orleans' Super Sunday 2016 as I walked around meeting the food vendors and getting to know their menus! OH...and the G7x also has a Flip Screen to take your best well composed selfie!

HOW TO TUESDAY #11 - The Anatomy of an Advertising Photoshoot: Why Client Meetings, Location Scouting, and Prep Work is so Important. Part 2 of 2 by Zack Smith Photography

In HOW TO TUESDAY #9 we talked about how important it was to have face to face meetings with clients. I feel that no matter how large or small the client or how small or grand the budget may be it is so important to use face to face meetings as your #1 fact finding mission that will set the vibe of the entire shoot. Take a quick read of HTT#9 and then come back to this post when you are ready to move on to Part 2 - Location Scouting and Prep Work.

As we learned in HTT#9 I was working with the New Orleans ad agency Peter Mayer on a new portrait photography campaign for Hancock Bank on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. At our first meeting I found out we would be shooting at locations already picked out by the agency and their client, but unfamiliar to me. The locations were very specific: The Friendship Tree on the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Park Campus and a lighthouse at the new Gulfport marina. I had never been to these locations and were unfamiliar about the surroundings, parking, accessibility, and if any permits were required. Luckily the agency had already taken care of the permitting, but it was up to me to visit the locations to determine a few Key Components When Location Scouting to insure a successful shoot:

1. Finding the Best Light - doing some prep work on sun direction will help even before you leave the house. Plugging in each location's address in Google Maps will tell the you the orientation of your location. From here you can even get an idea of some possible Backgrounds using the Streetview option. (more on Backgrounds later...) Using the LightTrac app on your smartphone will tell you the direction of light at your location at any time of day. It helps to notice the direction of light at each Magic Hour - Sunrise and Sunset. (Click the link for tips on Natural Light and Strobe Portraits in HTT#5) These are your ideal shooting times if you can make it work. 

2. See it for Yourself - the absolute best thing you can do after mapping out the Best Light for each location is to get in the car and hit the road to see these locations with your eyes and through the lens. By doing this you can put yourself in the right position and in the best light with the perfect lens before all the hustle and bustle happens on shoot day.

+ for my shoot with Peter Mayer, I was able to visit each location at both Magic Hours of Sunrise and Sunset. This provided me with first hand experience of what my light looked light, what backgrounds were available for each portrait, and it put me in a good position to figure out shoot logistics like travel time, gear load out options, and where the closest coffee shop was :)

+ I have a little tactic I call getting the Real Background. When I am location scouting for portraits I like to focus where my subject will be so that the background will appear as it should when someone is in front of it. Shooting a sharp and in focus background does nothing for you or the agency you are working with if you don't have a softer option to show what it will actually look like when your subject is in front of you.

3. The Walk-Around - When I have taken a few shots of the #1 Location, I always do a 360 degree turn, and then walk around the entire location just to be sure I am not missing anything. This is a great tactic to get you thinking out of the box and not just what's on the paper. I often find my best locations here as I can get outside the bubble and relax my mind. (hint hint, click for HTT#7 on this very subject!)

SHOOT DAY

We started the day at sunrise at the Lighthouse shooting to the West since the sunrise was in a perfect position to illuminate our subject and the structure evenly. We only added some hair light (Paul C Buff White Lightning 800x) and a large softbox for some fill light (White Lightning 1600x) but let the soft rising sun do the rest.

Here's the Peter Mayer team as stand-in's for a possible shot. Notice the dedication!

Here's the Peter Mayer team as stand-in's for a possible shot. Notice the dedication!

Here's the final shot with final editing treatment.

Here's the final shot with final editing treatment.

Here is the location we ended up using. The sun was rising just behind us with a warm glow, but to the West was our perfect soft blue light we could control!

Here is the location we ended up using. The sun was rising just behind us with a warm glow, but to the West was our perfect soft blue light we could control!

We ended the day with the low setting sun behind our subject at the College. We had to use a 4'x4' diffusion panel to shade our subject mostly to keep her comfortable but also to shield her from the direct sunlight. Controlling the ambient light in any outdoor portrait shoot is your most important element since it provides your background light source. You can only do so much to control your Subject Light Source but not alot can be done to control your Background Light Source if your background is big and especially far away. One great way to keep your Background Light in check is to shoot in times where the sun is lower in the horizon: Magic Hour Morning and Magic Hour Afternoon. ( I can't say that enough!)

I used the bird to act as a stand-in.

I used the bird to act as a stand-in.

Here is the location the client ended up choosing, which was actually not on the initial location list. This was found doing my Walk-Around.

Here is the location the client ended up choosing, which was actually not on the initial location list. This was found doing my Walk-Around.

Note: I did put a full power 1600w strobe right on the eagle in the background to give it some more detail. You can see the difference in these two images.

Note: I did put a full power 1600w strobe right on the eagle in the background to give it some more detail. You can see the difference in these two images.

Notice this image is out of focus.

Notice this image is out of focus.

This is not the Friendship Tree, but a much cleaner and open tree across the street that we ended up using for a second shot.

This is not the Friendship Tree, but a much cleaner and open tree across the street that we ended up using for a second shot.

There you have it. There are so many components to organizing, scheduling, and executing a comfortable and creative photoshoot. While many of these tasks even by themselves may seem daunting, by working on them one at a time and adding them slowly to your repertoire you will soon have your tool belt full of helpful techniques and tips for any shoot. Make sure you SIGN UP for my mailing list on the HOMEPAGE to get How To Tuesday in your INBOX! 

Take advantage of these short days and low sun! Shoot for the Wall!

Zack

 

 

How To Tuesday #10 - Taking Your Own Photo Medicine by Zack Smith Photography

First off - you guys will have to wait untill next Tuesday for Part 2 of "Anatomy of an Advertising Photoshoot" as I am still on a vacation and couldn't get it out in time. But I am happy to share that How To Tuesday really does work! 

I am able to really take my advice and get outside of my comfort zones of amenities and habits. After being able to disconnect fully from my work-life I felt immediately at ease. Bringing only my Canon G7x on this trip I was able to simplify my "camera eye" and go for very specific shots.  

Helen in Downtown Tulum

Helen in Downtown Tulum

a beach goer keeps her fire going on the Tulum beach

a beach goer keeps her fire going on the Tulum beach

I am eagerly awaiting being in the more colonial and less touristy areas of the Yucatan Penninsula... 

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Photo Set: Allen Toussaint Memorial Services. Orpheum Theatre, New Orleans, LA Friday, November 20th by Zack Smith Photography

I was honored to be able to photograph a moving send off to a wonderful man on November 20th, 2015. I have photographed many New Orleans 2nd Lines and events but no other memorial service had more passion, love, and deep emotions such as the memorial service for New Orleans icon, Allen Toussaint, at the Orpheum Theatre. I present to you my favorite images. Big thanks to Festival Productions for having me to document the services.

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:

PORTRAITS / EVENTS / FESTIVALS / PROJECTS / WORKSHOPS / WEDDINGS

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!

 

Of a New Orleans Second Line, Funerals, and Street Photography Papparazzi, My Life as a Witness by Zack Smith Photography

A musician holds his trombone as close as he does the Allen Toussaint memorial program book. 11/20/15 ©Zack Smith Photography

A musician holds his trombone as close as he does the Allen Toussaint memorial program book. 11/20/15 ©Zack Smith Photography

As I was about to head out the door this morning I remembered I had such a strange dream last night. We were at the funeral for a still living New Orleans music legend and I was going to say some words. Now let me get this straight - I did not personally know this person but for some reason they asked me to say some parting words. When the moderator soon called my name as "Alex" to come up and talk, I smiled, as people do call me that sometimes ( there's also Josh and Max, but more on that later). As I got up to speak, I saw a who's who of New Orleans musicians I had photographed over the years looking on and I got kind of nervous. I rarely get nervous for speaking, but on occasions where I am not prepared I do get quite anxious. 

As I got up to talk I realized that what I had to say only lasted a short while, and the rest of my speech became papers and papers of photography workshop notes, items not relevant to my crowd or the occasion. Just then my step mother walks up and says in a few subtle words, to "wrap it up" and I did.

So what does it mean? I don't know. I think it's the spirit land telling me to hustle on getting these Allen Toussaint Memorial images done so I can share them with the world in a proper way. After so many opportunities I still feel awkward shooting a New Orleans funeral. Ernie K Doe, Antoinette K-Doe, Tootie Montana, Uncle Lionel, have all been attended and shot by me but never in a good comfort zone. Rarely have I personally known the person, and on the occasions that I did, taking out and shoving my camera in front of someone to take a picture of the casket is the last thing I want to do. I saw so much of this attitude and aggressiveness at the Toussaint memorial: people arguing about someone "being in their spot" or "too close to my camera". Even though I was documenting the event for the producers of the memorial and the Toussaint family, I never felt the need to mark my territory or stake my claim on the asphalt for the good shot. 

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At times I felt fine just where I was because that's where I needed to be. I saw that day not as an event we were watching but a shared communion of the grace Mr. Toussaint left behind. His message and his magic have helped us live the stories we could only live in New Orleans as the soundtracks to our lives. His kindness and smile will be missed but his music is alive.

HOW TO TUESDAY'S #3 - Tis the Season! Portrait Lighting Made Easy: Photograph great portraits in any situation! by Zack Smith Photography

Hello everyone! I first want to apologize for getting your edition of "HOW TO TUESDAY'S" out so late. I had a two day job this week that had me up early and working late. I will do better next week getting this to your inbox before noon so you can get started shooting.

Portrait Lighting Made Easy - Studio on the Geaux Holiday style!

Getting the family portrait right this month can be as crucial as how long to keep the oyster dressing in the oven. Whether you are about to shoot your own family holiday card photos or have been deemed "Thanksgiving Photographer", then this Zack Smith Photography HOW TO TUESDAY photo technique is for you. 

All you aspiring photographers out there will find these following techniques helpful as well as you begin to book more head shots and portrait commissions to round out your growing business. 

If you remember last weeks HTT on "Letting the Subject set the Settings", you can start setting your camera up for any portrait shoot before the situation arises. But let's make our starting point real easy and find a shaded area where the SUBJECT is in the SAME LIGHT as the BACKGROUND. This easy tip can help you get an even exposure throughout your shot so that there will be little editing of your RAW files and you will be able to see your end result pretty much straight out of the camera.

                                                

                                                

By choosing a shallow depth of field (f 3.5, f 2.8 and lower) you can blur out the background and make the viewers eyes go right to your subject. Let's look at a few more from my archives. Remember : SAME LIGHT ON SUBJECT AND BACKGROUND

                                                          

                                                          

                                                                                 

                                                                                 

You can use that same technique and apply it to portraits in the direct sun, making sure your subject is still in the SAME light as your BACKGROUND...

                                                             

                                                             

I guarantee these simple techniques will assist you out in your holiday portrait photography duties. Remember the key to ultimately SEE like your camera sees is to hit the street and practice these techniques. That's it for this week!

Keep Shooting for the Wall!

Zack

"While I was away..." My photography life during the production of My Louisiana Muse didn't just sit back and watch... by Zack Smith Photography

During the last month and half my time (and my life!) had been occupied by the My Louisiana Muse project, but that didn’t mean my commercial work had slowed down. In fact, I have never been busier with work that thankfully feeds the soul and challenges my abilities.

Stills I shot for Live Nation to promote their Bold Sphere Music Series at Champions Square. Getting to photograph the 610 Stompers is ALWAYS a trip...

Stills I shot for Live Nation to promote their Bold Sphere Music Series at Champions Square. Getting to photograph the 610 Stompers is ALWAYS a trip...

New Orleans Burlesque superstar Trixie Minx for the Bold Sphere Music at Champions Square. 

New Orleans Burlesque superstar Trixie Minx for the Bold Sphere Music at Champions Square. 

I was looking forward to shooting the still photography campaign for the Bold Sphere Music series at Champions Square for Live Nation. There were 10 "local famous" folks to shoot from 8p-12am at the venue and everyone was eager to get started. You really do count your blessings when you get to photograph Trixie Minx, the 610 Stompers, chef Alon Shaya, Fleurty Girl and Demo Diva and it never feels like "work"...We even had a live band on stage rocking the entire shoot! Big shout out to the Cardinal Sons!

I got to document local artist "BMike"  Brandan Odums  (Project BE originator) as he constructed a beautiful mural in New Orleans East. Client: RUSH Card/LaundryService

I got to document local artist "BMike" Brandan Odums (Project BE originator) as he constructed a beautiful mural in New Orleans East. Client: RUSH Card/LaundryService

A still from "BMike" and his "Peace Wall" installation in New Orleans East. Client: RUSH Card/LaundryService

A still from "BMike" and his "Peace Wall" installation in New Orleans East. Client: RUSH Card/LaundryService

I photographed Bmike and his crew for 4 days in early September. His crew consisted of friends, family, and well wishers who came by to help paint base colors, play tracks from their new records, and just hang out to support. The wall turned out beautifully despite the midnight taggers and unrelenting rain and heat. Click HERE for more images from this shoot for RUSH Card and Laundry Service.

Press day unveil for the "Peace Wall" by local artist Brandan "Bmike" Odums. Client: RUSH Card/LaundryService

Press day unveil for the "Peace Wall" by local artist Brandan "Bmike" Odums. Client: RUSH Card/LaundryService

The pristinely renovated Orpheum Theatre on Opening Night, September 17th 2015. 

The pristinely renovated Orpheum Theatre on Opening Night, September 17th 2015. 

I was hired by the  Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra  to document the evening concert at the Orpheum. This was their first time playing there since 2005 and Katrina.

I was hired by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra to document the evening concert at the Orpheum. This was their first time playing there since 2005 and Katrina.

Words were hard to describe the feelings that night. People tried to explain their feelings and express the longing, joy, and comfort they had in being "home"...but when the music began the story became clear: The LPO was finally home.

Words were hard to describe the feelings that night. People tried to explain their feelings and express the longing, joy, and comfort they had in being "home"...but when the music began the story became clear: The LPO was finally home.

I was honored to have been there to shoot the opening night events, but was really proud to see the documentary I co-produced with Elephant Quilt Productions for the LPO's 25th Anniversary. You can watch it on my YOUTUBE Channel HERE.

The Last "P" in the 3 P's of My Louisiana Muse: Poverty Point by Zack Smith Photography

Our surroundings have a powerful effect on our day to day lives and this ongoing relationship has been documented by artists to help explain our connections. Poets, painters, and photographers have long used Louisiana’s coast and her plains as their muse, drawing inspiration from her flowing waters and her changing coast line.

With "My Louisiana Muse" I aim to produce fine art portraits of these very artists surrounded by their inspirations, dreams, and muse. I want to bring together the lineage of Muse, Inspiration, and Art. I am honored to have some help with this project by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation Community Partnership Grant which will help me with supplies and operating costs. Thank you! This grant is a direct effect of how Jazz Fest can directly help Louisiana artists like me!

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Creativity in Diversification - Zack Smith speaking at LEH, Cultural Vistas Talk by Zack Smith Photography

Tommy Michot and his son, Louis, play the song "Valse de Meche Perdu" (The Lost Bayou Waltz) in the backyard of Tommy's father's house.

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