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Review: Photography Q & A: Real Questions. Real Answers by Zack Arias

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When it comes to photo education, the industry has adopted a lot of the ideas and practices of the self-help movement. Whether it’s in a book or at a big photo event, there are people that get you psyched up about making the choice to “live the dream” and to become a professional photographer.

Some of these people are sincere in their encouragements, while others seem more interested in pushing a product or a service. In any case, they tap into a desire that many people have to lead a more creative and satisfying life.

Zack Arias’ new book, Photography Q&A: Real Questions. Real Answers is a welcome alternative that provides a frank and brutally honest perspective on what it takes to go pro.

A successful music and portrait photographer based in Atlanta, Georgia, Arias produces a book that is partly compiled of responses to questions posed to him on his blog. He also includes new questions to help flesh out the idea behind transitioning from amateur to professional.  His responses are insightful, valuable and often laugh-out-loud funny.

Arias shares his own experience as a professional including his own failed first effort as a professional photographer. This provides readers some valuable recommends of what “not” to do when beginning a photographic career, which includes getting into debt, buying gear you don’t need and not getting model releases.

Arias’ willingness to be honest, especially about his professional and personal failures, provides a level of sincerity that is frequently missing in titles that promise you creative success and financial security.

In his responses, he makes it clear that there are few things as satisfying as earning a living from doing something that you love, but he also stresses that such success is a result of hard work and some honest self-assessment.

One of the most enjoyable things about this book is that Arias writes just the way he speaks. There is no pontificating here. The words read as if you were sitting across the table with him sharing a cup coffee or a beer, most probably the latter.

I heartily recommend this book for the aspiring or the fledgling professional photographer, but as Arias himself would suggest, it is going to come down to you taking action: making more and better photographs, networking, and marketing your work. All the valuable information found in this and other books means little if your time consists of arguing on photo forums, endlessly learning Photoshop skills and accumulating gear.

If you want to live the dream, get the book, read it and then get off your butt and do the work.

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