This months Rangerfinder Magazine had a wonderful article about me:  Here is the link:




Or click on the PDF file,   it will take a minute or two to come into view.   160.pdf


profile: Zave Smith

a passion




Zave Smith, a commercial photographer based

in Philadelphia, PA, has been in the business

for over 20 years—long enough to see a variety

of stylistic revolutions, countless changes in the market

and incredible advances in technology. What has

remained constant, however, is the importance of creativity

and personal vision in his long-term success as

a photographer. Without this, says Zave, you’re always

chasing the latest fashion and always lagging behind.

“It’s like playing pin the tail on the donkey,” he laughs,

“but not only are you blindfolded, the donkey is also


Even on a good day, staying your own course in a

world of opinionated clients, viewers and peers can

be a challenge. For people who make their careers in

photography, the situation is significantly exacerbated

by the need to remain fresh and innovative over the

course of several decades. “For those of us who have

walked life’s road a bit and built our professional identity

on earlier successes, we have a vested interest in

keeping our reputation,” says Zave. “The crowds yell

out to us, ‘Sing “Satisfaction” again.’ How do we stop

each creative answer from being in the same key? Bank

accounts, credit cards, kids in school and a reputation

to keep intact. How do we stop thinking about the soles

of our shoes?” Zave has a few answers.

Be Fearless

It’s one thing to be innovative and creative at 20, but

how do you maintain this same level of vitality and relevance

as the decades roll by? You do it by being fearless.

“Fear is the emotion that stops us in our tracks,” Zave

says. “Fear freezes the mind and builds walls around the

soul. The bumps and scars of a creative life teach us to

be careful, but being careful is the death of creativity.”

Control Your Environment

Controlling your mind can be difficult, especially

when it comes to conquering those knee-jerk fear

reactions. Controlling your environment, says Zave, is

actually much easier. “Nothing influences me like the

people who surround me,” he says. “Positive, energized

and giving people fill my inner circle. Whiners, braggers

and the selfish are kept at bay. On the set, I want

to free my mind to focus on what is in front of my

camera and not worry about what is happening behind

it. Once in a while during a shoot, I look around and

the number of people behind me startles me. I have

forgotten that they are there. I can do this because I

know that they are paying attention to their areas of

responsibility, freeing me to concentrate on mine.”

Zave has also learned to streamline his studio environment

so that areas not directly involved in picturemaking

take up less of his time. This helps him avoid

spending undue amounts of time on minutiae.

Do the Work

Potentially creative moments arise all the time, not

just during sessions, but if you’re holding the television

remote instead of your camera, chances are you’ll miss

them. “One of the pleasures of being a photographer is

that our creative life is not client-dependent,” Zave says.

by Michelle Perkins


“For example, my shooting schedule does not vary that greatly

between the times when the studio is busy with clients and those

times in between. I am constantly shooting and exploring my

visual world.”

Find a Fresh Direction

“I am a big believer in the power of the trash can,” says Zave.

“Even good ideas, if they are not working toward my current goals,

need to be put aside.” If something is not working, Zave suggests

getting up and walking away from the problem at hand. This can

free you to seek out the answers by using a different approach,

getting past the one that has you stuck. “The pressure to make the

day’s numbers can give a lot of energy to a set, but I believe that

this numbers game can lead to making pictures that show instead

of say something,” he says. “Chasing the day’s shot list forces us to

see with our head instead of our eyes.”

Focus on Emotions

“For me, inspiration can come from a model,” Zave says. “I will meet

someone at a casting and find their look, and more importantly their

personality, captivating. I will then develop shooting scripts around

what intrigues me about them. The script ideas often come from my

day-to-day life. I then set the scene and let the talent act it out. It is during

this acting that I seem to catch the spark of life.”

Zave has another handy tip for catching this spark: He has his

subjects “play the scene” from several different points of view. “If I

am after a romantic couple, I will also have the couple act as if they

are angry, mad, contemplative or bored,” he says. “By swinging

back and forth through different emotions, they will often reach

a truer sense of their feelings. Most of our emotions have many

shades, many sides—they are complicated. Powerful photography

has that sense of the complicated nature of our emotional lives.”

Work is Slow? Time to Grow!

It’s the nature of the photography business: There are busy times

and slow times. While the busy times provide a clear sense of purpose,

the slow times can be breeding grounds for self-doubt—a

real creativity crusher. “These are the times when you recall the

parental voices echoing something about going to medical school

like your brother,” says Zave.

What’s important to remember, he notes, is that we get to

choose which mind games we will play. “Instead of listening to all

those dark tapes in the back of your head, ask, ‘What if?’ ” he says.

“What if I called on a company I never talked to before? What if I

offered different services to my present client base?”

Zave pursues other creativity-affirming options as well. “One of

my favorite activities is to take elements from a recent assignment

and re-explore them to see what other visual possibilities might be

there,” he says.

“I have found that each of my slow periods has forced me

to reexamine what I do and how I do it,” he adds. “Each slow

period has enabled me to grow and reach to the next level of

my career. Sounds strange, but I would not be as successful

as I am if I had always been busy. Those times of unrestricted,

undefined exploration are sometimes just the thing we need to

recharge our creative juices.”

Find Your Passion

Photographers often strive to be perfect,

but Zave thinks that finding your passion

is much more important than complex

lighting or flawless posing. “It wasn’t until

I gave myself permission to let my personal

passions enter my professional work that

my career truly blossomed,” he says. On

a shoot Zave notes that it’s easy to get so

focused on what the client is saying that you

lose sight of why you were hired in the first

place—the visual sense you can bring to

the expression of their concept. “My most

successful shoots,” he says, “are those where

I listen to myself as much as to the client. A

true collaboration.”

To see more of Zave Smith’s images,

visit http://www.zavesmith.com. And be

sure to check out his blog, full of inspiring

reflections on photography, at


Michelle Perkins is a professional writer, designer and

image retoucher. She has written for PC Photo and

is the author of Beginner’s Guide to Adobe Photoshop,

The Practical Guide to Digital Imaging,

Color Correction and Enhancement with Adobe

Photoshop, and her latest book, Professional Portrait

Lighting: Techniques and Images from Master Photographers

(all from Amherst Media).This months Rangerfinder Magazine had a wonderful article about me:  Here is the link:http://www.rangefindermag.com/magazine/Nov07/160.pdf Enjoy!  


About Zave Smith

Commercial Photography for Advertising.
This entry was posted in Ad Age, advertising, Advertising Week, African American, Art, Art & Design, beauty, Commercial Photography, corbis, Creativity, digital photography, Getty Images, Jupiter Images, Jupiter Media, kids at a park, kids having fun, lifestyle photography, Micro Stock, modeling, Photography., portraits, rangefinder, Seeing, stock photography, teachers, Uncategorized, zave smith. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s