A day with Zack Arias

Zack Arias

If left to my own devices, I would probably be a perpetual student. But, I have a big kibble bill and must spend my 9 to 5 behind a desk.

Early in 2011, I saw the announcement that Zack Arias was coming to Portland and I knew at that instant this was one workshop I was not going to miss.

Hitting the streets

I first learned about Zack when he had a guest post on Scott Kelby’s blog. He made a video that really connected with me. I confess, I am a Zack Arias stalker. What I didn’t realize, the guy is a flipping energizer bunny that just keeps going.

One Light Workshop

We met Sunday night for a mixer, just a gathering to meet everyone. Zack hosted the workshop at Gabriel Boone’s studio on Portland’s east side. Admittedly, the call of the twilight is much stronger than a grip and grin so I bailed early so that I could run over to the Esplanade and shoot that. I felt a little guilty, but what a way to start an intense workshop, with an image of Portland’s skyline.

One Light Workshop

We gathered at 9:30 am and after grazing on bagels, coffee and juice we were hitting the books by 10 am. Zack covers a lot of ground in just a short time. It’s critical turf to cover, gear, exposure, modifiers, reciprocals, white balance. He does it well, he presents in a casual fashion taking the time to answer questions and his style includes a sense of humor to help ingrain the tiniest of details.

By 1:30 pm he was nearly done, but broke long enough to feed us. Thank gawd.

One Light Workshop

Shortly after 3 pm, our camera’s were in hand and we were hitting the streets. There was very little down time, and if it there was, we grabbed it because the energizer Zack was working two steps ahead of us, planning the next shots.

He brought in two incredible models, divided our group of 10 into two groups and kept us shooting the entire time.


My favorite time to shoot is just as the sun is going down, finally I have a handle on what to do. During the entire lecture portion lights kept going off and the dots started to connect. It was the best feeling, ever.


Using a grid

He walked us through a series of lighting set-ups and modifiers using just a single light at each set-up.

And then it got dark

Sometime between 9 and 9:30 pm, we all dragged our butts upstairs to probably some of the best pizza. Was it so good because we had just spent six hours learning, shooting and learning? Or was it just good pizza after an exhilarating day? I dare not answer the question.

On our own

But wait, there’s more. It didn’t end with pizza.

Just before 10 pm, Zack kicked all of his little fledglings out of the nest. He broke us up into three groups, gave us a light, a stand, a modifier and a pocket wizard and told us to spend the next hour making pictures of each other. It was up to each group to find the location and work through the lighting set-ups.

All alone

Portland is the best, we only had to walk around the block before the first doorway screamed “shoot me, shoot me.” Sadly, if Canon has one fault, it sucks in low light focus. With iPhones in hand, the model would hold their phone up close to their face in hopes that we could grab enough light to focus on.

Every break was appreciated

Windowsills became a great place for a moment to hang and contemplate the day. From 11 pm to midnight, we gathered once again. Zack became an open book, ready to answer all of the questions we could fire at him. At midnight, he was still going strong. Since I still had an hour drive ahead of me, I exited stage left feeling satisfied and wanting more.

One Light Workshop

Here’s the nitty gritty. My 15 hour day with Zack cost $800. He was the hostest with the mostest providing breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even if he hadn’t fed us, it was by far the very best workshop I have ever attended and believe me, I try to take in as many as I possibly can.

I walked out of the workshop feeling like I could finally tackle lighting on my own. I have the gear… a camera, a flash, a shoot through umbrella, a light stand and a pocketwizard. I didn’t come home feeling like I needed to buy anything to get started. Where I go from here is entirely up to me.

Rumor has it that he is retiring the One Light Workshop and is going to reconfigure his workshops into a basic workshop and a more advanced. Oh please, please bring them to Portland or I may be forced to travel.

Would I take this workshop again? In a heartbeat. Was it worth the money? He could have charged double this and it would be worth it. Would I recommend it? Two thumbs up and five stars.

Thanks for the best workshop ever Zack Arias.

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