Professional Photography on a Budget: The 5k Challenge, with Zack Arias

Join Zack Arias as he sets out a challenge to show what can be done on a budget of $5,000.

What could you do photographically with five thousand dollars? Join Zack Arias as he sets out a challenge to show what can be done on a budget of $5,000. Zack does everything from buying the camera gear to covering his expenses for a weekend of travel in New York City, and even hiring a photo editor to sit down and help him edit his photos down to a tight new body of work. At the end of the project he’ll have new gear, an interesting experience, a new portfolio, and money left over to do it again.

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Course Lessons:

Lesson 1: Introduction (Duration 05:28)

Zack introduces the concept for the class, how it came about, and what will be covered in the rest of the class.

Lesson 2: The Gear (Duration 07:45)

It's not all about the gear, but you will need some. Zack breaks down his gear for this adventure, what it cost, and why he chose it.

Lesson 3: Getting to New York (Duration 04:05)

New York can be an accessible destination to do on a budget. There's always a lot to see and places to go.

Lesson 4: Times Square (Duration 08:24)

Times Square is Zack's starting place of choice to get his head in the right space for shooting in New York.

Lesson 5: What Am I looking For? (Duration 14:51)

When you give yourself an assignment for a project like this you need to define what it is that you are looking for before you head out to shoot.

Lesson 6: Finding Character (Duration 14:29)

As you seek out backgrounds, characters, and light you will need strategies for making contact and a whole lot of patience.

Lesson 7: Night Time (Duration 09:06)

The city comes alive at night and there are still many opportunities for street portraits. You may want to bring along some additional light.

Lesson 8: Central Park (Duration 11:36)

Day 2 of the project finds Zack shooting in and around Central Park.

Lesson 9: Working with a Photo Editor (Duration 14:41)

Zack invested a portion of his budget to hire a photo editor to help him create a cohesive body of work from this project. An outside perspective from a professional photo editor can give you an objective opinion of your work.

Lesson 10: Choosing the Stronger Image (Duration 12:19)

Editing is a fluid process that can change based on other image choices that you make.

Lesson 11: Finding Ways to Stand Out (Duration 06:06)

Sometimes your editing process can be improved by making a small print of each photo so that you can arrange them, hang them on the wall, pass them around, and experience your work in a physical way.

Lesson 12: Making the Final Edit (Duration 16:11)

A portfolio should show a variety in the images, a visible connection between the photographer and the subjects, and a sense of the environment in which it all takes place.

Meet Your Instructor: Zack Arias

Zack Arias is an editorial and commercial photographer based in Atlanta, GA. Zack has been working in the music industry for the past seven years. He is now branching into…

77 Comments

  1. An excellent, insightful and practical treatise on street photography covering both ends from the budgeting to the approach and the reasoning behind this art. What was particularly insightful for me was the interview and consult with the photo editor. What I gleaned from this segment was that it is important to tell the story and to shoot hot, but to edit cold.

  2. I really enjoyed this course. I'm fairly new to photography and suffer from "GAS". In the future I'll spend more time thinking about lighting and composition to tell a story than acquiring more expensive gear.

  3. Fantastic interaction with Stella. I love the tension as Zak and Stella went back and forth. The real, raw and priceless insight I gained from watching. I opted to replace a college certificate in photography for Kelby training. Saved $2400 and have the best of the best as my instructors and used the savings to buy new camera gear! Thanks again.

  4. Man, just when I thought I was beginning to understand photography you guys throw this class at me, lol! Great class and great work, Zack. It's very inspiring!

  5. I think the parts with the photo editor are very valuable information and pretty unique in online photography study. Really an eye opener for me and would love to see more like it. I also thought it was great to see how Zack approached people and talked them into taking their portraits. One of the strongest bits was when he asked a stranger to hold the umbrella while he was photographing another stranger. Game on!

  6. What a fabulous intro and the whole course held my interest as promised...did not want it to end. Thank you all for this unique look into a gifted photographer's journey towards creating a photo book, insight for selecting photos, and the unbiased critiquing by a famous editor. Pure gold.

  7. This course makes me wanna go out and approach people on the streets of my own hometown in Belem, Brazil. The great thing is that you learn along the way with Zack and then also with the consultant's feedback of his work. Amazing! I'm already watching for the second time.

  8. Wow, Zack. What an eye opener. My personal perspective changed concerning the equipment used verses the approach to the composition because of this tutorial. I knew in my heart the the equipment doesn't make the picture, the person behind the equipment does. Your journey through the streets of NYC confirms it. The photo editor was so informative, concise and, unexpectedly practical. The pressure that you felt at the beginning must be the tingling of great things to come because this presentation was top notch. Please do more tutorials here on Kelby Training.

  9. For me this is Zack at his best - right among your very top videos. I know about all the stuff Zack said, but it made me do a deep rethink about equipment and approach. The consultant's thoughts (Stella Kramer) on the portfolio selections were very useful. She kept it to her point of view and didn't try to make her thoughts the only right selections. Thanks to all who made this work.

  10. Wonderful class, as always, from Zack. What I wasn't expecting, but for which I'll be eternally grateful, is the segment with Stella Kramer. Fantastic idea, to have the insight of a photo editor and one, who is quite obviously passionate about her gift. Seems like Stella would make a perfect choice for an interview?

  11. I learned a lot from this video. I think it got real interesting when they started to discuss the images. It would have been nice to see the finished "book" at the end.

  12. For a budding Pro, this is a great course as although we believe its about the images, subject etc we all buy into the hype that gear matters... I think I will stick with my gear and work on my photos more and when I hit a wall with what I can do with my gear to improve my photos then I will look at better gear. Thanks for the great course!

  13. Zack is just awesome. I loved this course and loved the fact that we got to walk along with him on the streets of NYC and hear his thought-process. It totally helps to be reminded that it's "not about the gear" but instead about the moments, the composition, the subject, the lighting. And the whole segment with the Photo Editor at the end was like an added bonus! Loved hearing her thought process and why she'd choose one photo over another. That's always so hard for me to narrow down my own work. Thanks, Zack!!

  14. I've watched a number of these videos and they are all great, but I must say this one felt like it was worth the subscription fee by itself. Aside from being really talented, Zack is so real and honest that he makes this stuff seem really doable. The sessions with the photo editor were also brilliant. Well done.

  15. The course was far beyond the expectation, because show a bunch of aproaches to photograph on the streets. The participation of Stella Kramer was an welcome sugestion. The points discussed so far is very important to learn how to edit the body of work. Very nice presentation and information about Zack and street photography as a unique point of view!

  16. Zack is the guy you want to come into your photography universe as soon as you realize photography is your passion. With his wise guidance you can avoid the concern about gear, keeping up with other photographers and get right at making better images by using your mind not your wallet---you can't buy your way into great photos. I only wish I would have found him earlier in my photographic journey. I would be a better photographer with less gear, less debt and a better portfolio.

  17. Excellent view into what it takes to be a "street" photographer. The feedback from the photo editor was extremely valuable and greatly enhanced the course.

  18. Hi. I've seen a lot of classes here, but this is one of the very best pieces of advise here. And given the quality of classes, that means a lot. Highly recommended. Apart from the budget topic it contains great inshights regarding street photography, communication skills and editing. Thanks a lot and congrats to all involved. Cheers Mattes

  19. I'm writing this comment immediately following watching this series. I have to say, can we nickname Stella as "Stellar"? Every word of advice she gave was exactly that. Zack, as always, you rock. Thank you for doing this and thank you Kelby team for providing THE BEST training for photography (from a technical, inspirational, and business standpoint) on the internet.

  20. Great presentation and very enlightening. To be able to listen to an editor talk to you about what they are looking for is the bonus. Thanks Zack ...

  21. You think you've seen the best of the best on Kelby Training and Zack quietly shows us how to reboot and think again. Step by step through New York we see the magic slowly come to together. As the photos begin to blow us away and he's reaching rock stardom, we cut away to the editing. Then along comes Stella and we travel to a even higher plateau. Awesome!

  22. This was thought provoking and inspiring. I wish I could thank Zack not just for making me think about what's "real", but for having the generosity and courage to allow us in close. It was so comforting to see that even the accomplished ones have doubts and get nervous as part of the process. It's clear that his genuine interest in people is what makes his pictures so compelling. That's one of the things which he brings to his art. I know this was about photography, but it applies to everything. The value in what we create and do is affected by what we bring to it.

  23. Just finished watching Zack Arias!! Fantastic! Added it to my favourites as I will watch his again for sure. The way he sees things amazes me and helped me to look at scenes differently. I now love Street photography and can't wait to do more! Stella is amazing and her viewpoint has made me see things differently! Zack and Stella's " It's not about the gear " Is so true but we need to hear it! Thanks so much for this course Kelby Training!! Bring on more Zack!!! A course by Stella would be awesome!!!

  24. A superb class that gives the viewer golden nuggets from start to finish. I love how Zack portrayed just how nervous he was before he took the first portrait to where he ended up. A completely different insight when the photo editor was introduced to the key message its not all about the gear. Looking forward to more classes from Zack.

  25. This idea of a photo editor appraising the image is superb. Gave us a lot to think about. I especially picked up on the variety of viewpoints that make an interesting collection. I just bet most of my images are from one distance, one height. Must alter my technique,

  26. The "Photo Editor" stole the show! What a smart, observant, and thought provoking analysis of how we should go about the business of taking photos. I recommend looking at the last three video segments first and then looking at the beginning of the course. It will make the entire course better to digest!

  27. This was a wonderful video for someone like me who wants to do street photography but is afraid to step out there. Thanks Zack! I especially appreciated the photo editor session which were also very informative.

  28. I loved this video - particularly the editing session. I don't know if anyone from Kelby responds to these, but I would love to know: - Did someone from the video crew follow along behind to get photo releases from the subjects? Surely you would need releases to be able to actually use the images commercially, even if only for the commercial purpose of this video. - I'm surprised that Zack almost never showed the subject hid/her shot on the back of the camera. Similarly, there was no exchange about getting them a copy of the shot. It didn't seem to matter, but wouldn't it have been a nice touch to give the subject that feedback/gift? Thanks for the great video.

  29. Awesome course. Zack inspires me to go out and do street portraits. I like his honesty about how sometimes he just cannot get the shot he was looking for and how sometimes it is just not working and it’s time to call it a day. I really liked the lessons with Stella and Zack’s interaction with her. I would like to see much more with Stella or someone like her. She gave us insights and points of view that photographers really need to hear.

  30. Zack's apparent ease with his subjects really comes through in the pictures in spite of his admission to nervousness. The insight from the consultant editor put the final star on this class. The point of the class was hammered home when you initially asked if Stella knew, or even cared what equipment was used. I just wish I could have seen the final portfolio of this expedition to NY

  31. I love watching Zack...his demeanor and layed back attitude is just charming...and Stella provides great insight and now a different way to view my work as a whole...I do have one question though Zack...did your subjects sign a model release ? Love to see more from Zack...he is a rock star

  32. PLEASE bring back Stella in more future videos!!! I found it SO valuable to get that second outside perspective on the images taken. I really love watching professionals at work, and hearing their thoughts and process as they go through taking pictures. Especially with regards to their feelings of insecurity. It really helps seeing Zack talk about his confidence level, and how he goes about overcoming his initial anxieties. It would also be great to know how Stella uses lightroom in her photo editing. How does she go about using tags, stars, selecting the photos, etc? Lightroom provides a lot of tools for organizing photos, but I think what I really need to see is how someone like her uses them in her work.

  33. Wow, what a phenomenal course. I felt a case of “GAS” coming on, but no more after watching Zack show us, with his usual honesty and straight talk, that you can create brilliant images with the most minimal gear. There are so many gems in this course, so many simple, practical, tips. And the photo editing session with Stella was, well, stellar; I was hanging on her every word. Thank you Zack and Kelby Training!

  34. I've been a member for many years and believe this is the first time I've left a comment. Great work Zack Arias made in this tutorials (love his style), it opened my eyes to how to become a better Photographer. It's not about the equipment it's about seeing things, good work. Would like to see more of his work and Stella Kramer (the creative consultant), please include her for future tutorials.

  35. Zack, I would love to hang out with you! You brought a realness to your presentation. It was like you sharing a portrait of your self in the process. You are an inspiration. Thank you!

  36. What an excellent, insightful, thought provoking class. Truly has to be one of the best I've viewed on Kelby Training. Zack has a real gift for presenting his thoughts in a easy going, irreverent, but relevant manner. The inclusion of Stella Kramer's gear agnostic photo editing thought process really helped to bring home the message.

  37. LOVE THIS COURSE!!! Zack has a real easy going style that draws you into what he is doing and this makes it very easy to absorb every element of the class! Thanks

  38. This course is absolutely fabulous. The session with the photo editor should be expanded, or each of her quotes placed on the top of every photo page in existence. My favorite "What makes you a photographer is not your gear". I need to have this stitched on my credit card!

  39. Fantastic course! The first part was really helpful and full of tips and great ideas, and the second part - what a surprise! Thank you so much for sharing this! Please more from Zack and Stella!!!

  40. This course is a triple-play home run. 1) It shows not just the behind the scenes how to be successful in a particular type of photography but some of the pitfalls and frustrations. We forget that for every great work in any medium, the artist of the past put in years of practice, observation, and experimentation. Unless he is particularly noteworthy, and then usually no longer in this world, do we see the sketchbooks, negatives, diaries, letters, private and unpublished works which show the complete creative process. 2) The editorial consultation was worth a fortune and hopefully will be the basis for a future "Grid" episode. 3) The concept of working with a limited budget and minimal equipment was well done. Using tons of the best/most expensive/latest/ equipment and gadgetry, lots of lighting, professional models, stylists, etc. are impractical for almost everyone one these days of no longer unlimited budgets even if working for "Fortune 500"s. Zack Arias: Thank you for being so open in showing the true frustrations of obtaining even a good shot and particularly in how to search for a great one.

  41. To quote Zack, "that was awesome!" I really like his work and his style, even though it's not the type of images I take but I think how he formulates his ideas and visions could almost be used in all aspects of photography. I love the edit part as well, great insight!! I also like seeing Zack in his world, what he is like, how he acts, etc. He truely is a talent and also seems like just one of the guys he shoots on the street.

  42. Thanks Zac, a fantastice course. The time with Stella was such a great learning experience. I also loved your honesty about the ups and downs of the project. Totally wonderful, I cannot wait for the next course!

  43. Zack, this is a very significant contribution toward making better photography. I love the unscripted approach. Thanks for sharing your experience and insights to this type of photography. I also like the added value that Stella provided. Outstanding instruction.

  44. Excellent!! I learned a lot and found out that a significant amount of my old pics are not garbage. Furthermore, I have a better idea of what and how to shoot the things I really love shooting. Thanks Guys!

  45. One of my favorite videos by a photographer that I respect and enjoy a lot. We all have a tendency to get GAS, (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) from time to time. Zack presents a great prospective on what photography is truly about, about our subjects. I'll watch this whole class several times and will get something new each time.

  46. This is one of the more thoughtful classes I have seen. I would actually categorize as "Philosophy" (in the best sense of the word, not as a criticism). Great work. Can we see some more of this?

  47. My favorite part of this course was the segment with Stella, the photo editor. Sometimes, in trying to get all of the technical elements of a photo correct, we forget how important it is for the photo to tell a story. I'd love to see more from Stella on Kelby Training.

  48. This course reminded me why I love to photograph! My work was so much better before I thought I had to have great gear and get technical with my shooting. Yes, I love what I have learned and it has improved my images, but I began shooting because I loved telling stories and envoking emotion with my images. Thanks Zack and Stella for reinspiring me to JUST SHOOT what I love, how I love...be me, not who I think "the people" want me to be. I've survived this far in my life with the bottom of the barrell in gear and everything else...it's all I needed before and it's all I need now. My eyes and my heart will get me by regardless of my gear :)

  49. Please take the time to view this video. What I did not like about this course was no technical information was given. Such as f/stops shutter speeds HOWEVER that is what I love about this video. I find myself feeling i need to use the same gears as Scott Kelby (one day) but now I understand it WILL NOT MAKE ME A BETTER PHOTOGRAPHER! Use or Refurbish gear will work at a fraction of the cost. In the end its me and my vision not the camera. Please take the time and view this video. Thanks Zack and the crew for taking the time to shoot this in NYC.

  50. Awesome class...just hit me over the head again - equipment doesn't matter. I won Zack's book on Kelby and it has the same feel of just plain conversation and simple wisdom(s). Free yourself to interact and create. Love, love, love!

  51. The wisdom from this course will travel a lifetime. Zack is as down to earth as one could get. Please do more sessions with photo editors. Thanks for the great experience.

  52. Threw out the years I've watched a lot of photography courses on line. By far this has to be the best, most well rounded and informative course I've ever watched. Zack has touched on a lot of the same subjects before in other on-line tutorials but he nailed it with this one. Not only does Zack give great technical advise but the way he lets the viewer in on his own fears and anxieties makes you feel like you're not the only one who ever has that type of self doubt. Stella at the end was the icing on the cake. She had such a unique perspective, far removed from the usual mindset of a photographer. She could have her own course (something to think about KT).

  53. This was just amazing and, as said before, very inspiring. I have a question that i've had for a long time, in which ways can you use these photos without a signed release agreement? Let's say I travel to a foreign country and I do lots of portraits and I don't have a signed release from each one of these people. Do I have the right to use these photos for anything I want? For what I know, stock websites are not going to accept them. Thank you in advance and keep up with the great work

  54. Probably one of the best workshops on Kelby Training. The honesty of Zack shone through, his ability to explain his fears, worries and concerns were there for all to see. His ability to connect with people and enjoy there company was evident and added to the great images produced. The session with the photo editor was priceless. What a great learning resource from Kelby and Co. Coventry UK

  55. The best.... the latter part especially with the Photo editor. Emphasis on relationships, composition, and less glory to the equipment. How refreshing. And I didn't have to suffer through looking at a bunch of urban models that all look the same to learn something.

  56. See and hearing Zack's fears, anxieties, worries, perceived failures and successes in the moment was very insightful. Good to know it's not just me. Hearing his thoughts juxtaposed to Stella's editing view was also terrific. It's great to have a class that makes the gear and technical aspects insignificant. There should be more classes like this where we get to experience the in the moment stresses of creating photographs.

  57. This is a nice course. I do have to wonder though if the people were so open to being photographed since he had the camera men around him as well. It made them feel like they were being a part of something good as opposed to some random person asking for a photo. Also I have to wonder he didn't get a model release for any of them (on camera anyway) so how can the images be used on a training course which is being used for profit? I am probably wrong but I thought you would need a release. Also I think a lot of people hear the term model release and they all the sudden think I gotta be compensated. I may give this a shot around my local town before taking a hike to NYC and try it.

  58. Jeepers. Zack is one of those people who just wins. He does a great job of describing the doubts he has inside his head (read as: the doubts we all have) and uses that to simply rise above and kick arse. That's it... this guy just wins.

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