One light, one man, one interesting journey
The story behind OneLight Workshop creator Zack Arias
By Jeff Kent
Editor At Large - Professional Photographer Magazine
For Zack Arias, the path to success has been an exercise in self-discovery. Like many teenagers, Arias had little to no direction during his initial college experience. In danger of failing out of the University of Georgia, the Atlanta native took a 100-level photography class in hopes of boosting his GPA. Something clicked. Arias’s professor noticed his talent and encouraged him to pursue photography as a career. It was the first time in his life that anyone had pushed Arias in a certain direction.
Despite his talent in photography, it would take Arias several more years of bouncing around, fading in and out of school, working different jobs, and road tripping around the country in a VW bus before he decided to get serious. He ultimately returned to school at a technical college, graduated with a 3.8 GPA in commercial photography, earned best portfolio in his class, and landed a national photographer of the year distinction from the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America.
Still, the gates of the photo Promised Land didn’t simply open. Pro photography is a tough field, and Arias would spend the next couple of years trying to find his niche. He worked a random assortment of jobs without ever really gaining a foothold. Then, in 2001, he left photography completely to deal with some personal issues. By 2003 Arias had sold all his equipment and was working at Kinko’s.
Lucky for Arias and lucky for the photo industry, some friends wouldn’t let him walk away. In October of 2003, Arias’s friend Marc Climie, a successful wedding photographer, convinced him to shoot some weddings with him. Around the same time, some of Arias’s musician friends invited him to photograph their band’s concert. Then another musician asked Arias to make some portraits of her for a press kit.
With those tiny toeholds, Arias decided to jump back into photography. He quit his job at Kinko’s and launched a fulltime career in music and wedding photography. The work, which involved a mix of photojournalism and commercial techniques, suited his style perfectly. Arias researched the Atlanta music scene and found a profitable niche doing promotional images and head shots for up-and-coming musicians. At the same time, Climie continued to hire him as a second shooter, packing Arias’s weekends with fast-paced wedding jobs. Before long, Arias had a full client roster, a jammed schedule and a rejuvenated career on a rapid upward trajectory.
As Arias’s reputation spread around the photo industry, he started to receive speaking requests. Three years ago, a group in Tampa asked him to give a presentation on location shooting techniques. Arias showed up with an old, beat-up Vivitar light and titled the seminar the “OneLight Workshop.” It was an instant success. Word of Arias’s simple yet insightful approach to location lighting raced across the industry, and workshop requests started pouring in. Last year, Arias visited eight cities and conducted 24 intensive workshops. The classes typically last 14 hours, cover loads of lighting nuts and bolts, and sell out within minutes of going on sale. To expand his teaching, Arias developed the OneLight DVD, which sold out its first run within a month.
For Arias, all of this demand and attention is still a bit awe-inspiring, especially considering the twisted road he took to such acclaim. Equally awe-inspiring is his schedule, which involves commercial shoots, a headshot business, music photography, teaching, hosting events at his new studio space and 15 weddings a year with Climie.
The key has been securing help from a talented group of people who handle the elements outside of Arias’s core expertise—the bookings, the scheduling, the logistical planning, the post production and the travel arrangements. “If I was trying to do it all on my own, which I was three years ago, I would be juggling too many balls and dropping all of them,” says Arias. “Back then, I was finding great success but not able to manage it. Having a reliable crew allows me to concentrate on my strong points: shooting, teaching and marketing my business. That, in turn, helps me appreciate what I enjoy most about my work: the people I work with. I get to work with creative people who admire what I do. We have a mutual admiration for each other. That’s the most rewarding part of it all.”
Zack on the web ::
Zack’s Blog :: www.zarias.com
Zack’s music photography :: www.zackarias.com
Zack’s UsedFilm Studios :: www.usedfilm.com
Zack shoots weddings for :: www.climie.com
Social :: twitter
Interviews with Zack :: F-Stop Beyond
:: Light Source