So what does Joe know? Well… apparently a hell of a lot. Joe McNally is standing pretty solid on a high perch as far as career photographers go. I have to be truthful that while attending his seminar yesterday in the city of “Brotherly Love” I never really thought I was going to learn what I learned and what I learned had very little to do with camera settings or editing. Now you may ask the question; how could you not learn something from Joe McNally? And rightfully so, however I have sat though hours of his online courses and read his books, even seen him many times on the Grid Show (Kelby TV), but there was truly something that reached out and grabbed me yesterday. We as photographers know “it is all about the light,” I know you’ve heard that so many times before and if you know me you know I cringe every time I hear a cliché. But yesterday something “clicked” and another door opened. There are those times in life when things just click and all the sudden we feel a little smarter than just a moment before. Kind of like when you learned to wipe your feet before you enter the house. Remember… you wiped your feet walked in the door and mom didn’t swat you in the head, see you just got smarter. Then there was that time you wanted to learn how to use the “manual” mode on the camera and… ta da, one day it hit you. So that’s what happened yesterday, I was sitting there watching this guy work his craft and a door just opened in my mind and there was all this information and ideas about how to & why to light a scene. I already know how to use lights and softboxes and “the larger the source to softer the light” and yada yada yada… But this was beyond all that basic lighting.
Mr. McNally started of his day off by taking the stage and kind of… well kind of slow. I mean most times when you go to a seminar and it is not the first stop on the tour the speaker/teacher has his chops honed and gets right into it and they know exactly what they’re going to say almost word for word though out the whole day. But Joe did not come off that way at all., rather it felt like he was speaking from the heart and speaking to the questions and needs of this crowd of people specifically. Yes when he was talking about his history and showing his own photos you could feel he was moving right along with the show so-to-speak. However it was very interesting watching Joe pull people out of the crowd and start shooting with them. Then he steps it up and has his assistant start throwing speedlites around the room and adding gels… and then comes the technical problems with the lights (boy we’ve all been there). Joe just takes it all in stride, just rolling with the flow.
Then he really picks up the pace and looks to the back of the room and there is a window… A window? Why is there a window in an inside room of a convention hall? But it was there and Joe was going to use it. So he picks a young lady out of the crowd who was wearing and almost 18% gray sweater (how funny), he puts her in the window and then in pure 100% Joe McNally fashion he starts shooting light through the window using diffusion and adding gelled speedlites in the background. Not everything he did was good or even great, but some of it was spectacular and as you know you only need that “one good shot” and you never show the bad ones. To see and feel his thought process was truly an amazing thing, although I felt bad for the photographers who were there that never shoot people, they were kind of lost. The boy to my right was a 100% Landscape photographer and he’s just bored to death.
So yes it clicked and oddly enough the name of Joe’s tour is “The Moment It Clicks,” how ironic. I walked away with a better sense of knowing how “to look at a face and know to light it not by gender, but more by the size and shape.” I know that might not make too much sense to some, but that is the only way I can describe it. I also came away with a better sense of how to “creatively” light a scene, whereas before I would just light a scene to make it seem correct to the human mind/eye and I realize now that I was lacking in creativity by lighting something just to make it seem correct. Again I’m not sure if my word makes sense here, but that is the only way I can convey what I’m thinking. This now gives me fuel for thought and ideas for my next project whatever it may be. And as I’m writing this post a local model/singer just called and needs some fresh images for her website so we need to plan a shoot. Ah sometimes life is just too easy.
Thanks for reading.