Friday, November 21, 2008

Finish the Sentence...with Zack Arias

[cue the Rock n' Roll version of the familiar game show music]
"It's Friday, you guessed it, it's time once again to ask a well-known photographer, instructor or otherwise interesting person the same 10 questions and ask them to Finish the Sentence! This week we visit with.... Zack Arias.

Zack, please Finish the Sentence..."

My favorite photography accessory (lights, modifier, bag, tripod) is
My favorite photography accessory is my 50" Westcott Apollo softbox. The thing I love about Westcott's Apollo line of softboxes is that they do not require a speedring for setup. They pop open like an umbrella and I can use them with anything from a Nikon Speedlight to my Calumet lights. It is my favorite modifier.

Coming in a REAL close second is my ThinkTank Airport Security roller bag. I've had one for about a year now and have dragged that thing from sea to shining sea and it is still holding up like the day I bought it. It is the best bag I've ever owned.

I’ve learned the most from..
... assisting. I went to school and earned a 2 year degree in commercial photography that laid the foundation of the craft down for me but I learned the most from 4 years of assisting other photographers. Assisting is far more than loading film and schlepping bags. Well, back in the day (like, the 90's) I had to load film. Anyway, I learned so much about dealing with clients, building relationships with subjects, lighting from the studio to location, and how to pull off the job in less than perfect circumstances.

If I could go anywhere in the world it would be_____ because….
Belfast, Ireland. I have been fascinated with that city for since middle school. I remember reading a Rolling Stone article about Belfast years and years ago. I think Lou Reed was on the cover of that issue. I've wanted to go to Ireland since becoming a U2 fan in 1985 (back when they were GREAT!). Belfast though is the city of choice for me once I get over there. I mean, I want to see Dublin and all but for some reason, I'm really drawn to Belfast.

Dubai WAS on my top list of places to see but it looks as though I'll be out there for Gulf Photo Plus in March. I can't wait to see that city.

My most-used Photoshop add-on, plugin, action set (etc) is
I LOVE the healing brush / patch tool. My friend Hassel ( ) calls it the Jesus tool. The keyboard shortcut is J to get to it and it heals people. :)

I don't use actions unless I'm batching images for the web or other uses. Don't have any third party plugins. I am slightly interested in the Totally Rad Action set because my friend Marc ( ) just picked it up for the retouching action it has. He reports it is amazing. I would like a little something to help me out when retouching skin that doesn't make my subject's complexion look like a bar of soap.

About 95% of my images are deliverable out of Lightroom. I'm not trying to wear that like some manly ego inflating badge of honor or anything. It's just I try to capture in camera what I want in the final image. I look to Lightroom and Photoshop to let me control color, contrast, density, and maybe a slight little bit of sharpening. I also love a subtle "four corner burn" vignette. I go into PS to fine tune color casts that I can't quite nail in LR, clone / heal certain elements, and possibly tweak something in an images that I could not control in camera.

Like.... birds.

I was having to watch the dress, the hair, and the light on the shot above. After chimping a few shots I started to notice the birds circling in the background. I wanted to catch them in some interesting way. I caught a frame with a bird right off her pinky and one off her shoulder. The third bird in the background was in the wrong place. It was further away and against a lighter background so it didn't really stand out like the other two did.

I felt the overall composition had a triangular feel to it and I needed that third bird moved down to the lower right hand point of her dress. So I moved it in Photoshop because I'm nowhere near the ninja photographer I would like to be to get the shot with three birds exactly where I want them. That third bird is subtle right now. I love that I can go back to the shoot, grab another bird and add it in if I feel I need a stronger image of a bird there. It's a 60 second job to replace that. I'm going to keep it as is for now so it doesn't look as though I set all the birds in place. I'll also say that the Jesus tool came in handy to remove 4 other birds in the shot and a jogger on the beach.

I also have to decide if I love the one long piece of hair flying upward. Part of me loves it. Part of me hates it. The birds really make the shot for me. If I decide I do not like that piece of hair after seeing the test print for this shot I know that Photoshop will come to the rescue for me and I can simply remove it.

I love the fact that Photoshop
.. allows me to process and print without having to mix chemistry. :)

I love the ability to composite images, work in layers of imagery, and have a multitude of options from one image. I myself do not do a lot of compositing but when I see work like Chase Jarvis' recent Kung Fu master shoot, it makes me appreciate just how powerful of a tool we have in Photoshop.

I hate the fact that Photoshop
... makes photographers lazy and becomes a crutch to fix issues after the shoot that should have been dealt with at the time of taking the photo. When I assisted photographers we were shooting film and retouching in Photoshop (v 4.0 era). If you even hinted at "fixing" something later in Photoshop you'd get a pack of Polaroid thrown at your head!

These days I see far too many photographers relying on Photoshop to prop up mediocre photography. It is easy to add some splash to sub par image. We call it "polishing turds." :)

I want to see photographers coming into this industry work on their photography the moment the shutter fires and not their retouching skills to mask over mistakes made at capture.

If I could turn back the clock 10 years
I would have never ever, ever, ever used a credit card to start buying gear. That got me into some deep financial trouble. I bought way too much gear back then and got heavily into debt. All that debt came crashing down on me.

I would also have learned A LOT more about marketing.

In 10 years
I want to shoot a cover for Rolling Stone.

If I could give one piece of advice it would be
Be content with whatever gear you currently own and be diligent to stay out of debt. You don't need the best of the best. You don't have to upgrade every time a new camera body comes out. You don't have to have yet another lens when you already own a wide, normal, and telephoto. When you buy a new piece of equipment like a lens or a light modifier, spend at least three to six months using that piece of gear until you know it inside and out. Once you know it really well, then you are ready for your next piece. For instance... If you buy an 85mm lens, then shoot that lens until you know what it looks like before you even pull the camera to your face.

Your readers can find out more about me
... on my blog at

Ladies, Gentlemen, let's hear it for Zack Arias!
[Sounds more like a rock concert than game show music]

My name is Zack Arias and I am a full time editorial photographer.
My specialty is niched in press and publicity photography for the music industry. As my music work continues to expand nationally, my studio in Atlanta works within a wider spectrum of the entertainment industry producing headshots and fashion portfolios.
My first run at being a freelance photographer left me heavily in debt and placed my family on the edge of destruction. I came to a place in my career that required me to put the cameras down and take a “job.” After two years of leaving the cameras and selling them off to pay rent and fix beater cars, I was given a chance to come back as a second shooter for a friend of mine who shoots weddings. I took a D100 that he bought me, a 285 flash, an ample amount of faith, and quit my job at Kinkos in October of 2003. I was determined to do things differently this time around.
By God’s grace, I’ve built a strong and thriving business without going into a single dollar of debt! My minimalist approach to photography turned into a workshop in 2005 that I now teach nationwide. It has become so popular that dates for the workshop regularly sell out months in advance and the forum on my workshop site has nearly 1,000 registered users.


Dale Cruse said...

Moose is one of my favorites. Thanks for bringing us this interview, Dave!

Anonymous said...

Zack - your one piece of advice is right on. Especially in these tough economic times, we need to learn to appreciate and enjoy what we have. Reading online forums is a mixed blessing. Often we gain very helpful information, but we also often come to believe that our equipment is inadequate (despite having been completely happy until we read some online reviews or forums). (I love it when Scott Kelby says that he uses his Nikkor 18-200mm as his primary travel lens. If ever a fine lens has been thoroughly trashed online, it is the 18-200mm.)

Anonymous said...

Amen on the credit cards, brother Zack!. Thank you Dave Cross and thank you Zack!

Michael Warth said...

Great post!! Thanks Dave and Zack. I really appreciated the "debt" issue Zack; I shoot with an older Nikon D70s I purchased new the week it came out. I want a new D300 or D700 but every time I have money something else comes up. Reading your comments reminded me it is o.k. to be content with d70s - it is plenty of camera if one takes time with the shot and making it right "in camera."

Anonymous said...

"calls it the Jesus tool. The keyboard shortcut is J to get to it and it heals people. :)"

Oh my gawd this is funny ... and I now can remember the shortcut !! The "polishing turds" was a close second.

Thanks for gems. They're mine now too. :-)

Khara Plicanic said...

I love your Dave Ramsey ways.... rock on Zach! :)