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Call Sheets and Production Logistics

Lesson 17 from: Lighting, Logistics, and Strategies for a Life in Photography

Joe McNally

Call Sheets and Production Logistics

Lesson 17 from: Lighting, Logistics, and Strategies for a Life in Photography

Joe McNally

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Lesson Info

17. Call Sheets and Production Logistics


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Location Assessment


Gear Overview


Direction and Wardrobe


Exploring Location and Available Light


Bar Owner: Setting the Scene


Shoot: Bar Owner


Shoot: Bar Owner, Evolving the Look


Lesson Info

Call Sheets and Production Logistics

Despite the scale of production, you still have to improvise. This is prior to Callie's time at the studio. I had to shoot the entire United States trampolining team for a 4-page gate-fold for Sports Illustrated, and I did not get the team until I was ready to shoot. And it was a week of preparation. So you have to improvise. This is just a silly little thing that I'm throwing in here that's kind of fun, this is an airport hanger in Texas. We're putting our lights up in here, we've got our man lifter back in here, but to test my lighting, everyday I would go to a flower shop. And this lady loved me, because she had this tiny little flower shop and everyday I would go in and get nine helium balloons, 'cause I worked with the coach, and I judged how far up the trampolinist would bounce off the trampoline and I floated balloons up there so I could put my highlights on them, and figure out where my lights were gonna go. And that's the actual production shot. And that comes out of camera, y...

a know? So anyway, photography is amazing. You find out what you were good at as a kid, now helps you make a living. Climbing things. (giggle) Many years ago, I climbed the antenna on the North tower of the World Trade Center, okay. I did it, I'll be honest about this. I kinda did it out of spite in a way. I'm a very competitive person, and there was one other photographer who had gotten up there and I was determined to get up there, I won't go into the details. But I did get up there. Easy picture to make. Tough picture to get to. Right? This is the light on top of the Empire State Building. I climbed it four times. I've got a pretty sizable scar on my head from the second climb, the strange life of a photographer. I was climbing too fast, and I put my head into a girder. And I climbed with a hard hat after that. But, I basically split the skin in my skull, I lost the use of my left eye. It just started flooding with blood. Keith, I was up there with another fellow, Keith, he reached over and goes, "Don't worry Joe, I'll fix you up." And he tied the cinch strap on my headlamp tighter. (chuckle) Great. I've got a tourniquet on my forehead. Which, didn't really help, and I didn't get a picture out of it, and I promised my kids I'd take them to Orlando that day, we had flights to Orlando, 'cause I'm climbing in the middle of the night. And I was not going to go to the hospital. So I came home, and my daughter Kaitlyn, who is, you know, my boy and my girl, she's pretty rough house kid, she sat with me on the plane, and kept pressure on it. And by the time I landed in Orlando, it had stopped bleeding. And that afternoon, I think I was on a roller coaster. (giggles) You were already on a roller coaster. So anyway, there's Tom again. That's 105 stories up on the Empire State Building. And then I did this, okay. At the top of the Bridge Khalifa. And it kind of went everywhere, okay. It was viral, just buzzed. It became the most viewed picture I ever shot in my career. Stemming from this, the Epsom company staged a social media campaign, and asked people to solicit their ideas to have me go shoot their idea for the Epsom Ad Campaign. Kind of a participatory social media thing, which we're all now familiar with because we live in the world of social media. So naturally, one of the ideas was have Joe go climb something. Shocking. So, here I am, again with Tom, who's my climbing guru. He's taught me how to do all this. And, Callie actually shot this picture. You did, right? Yeah. And, to get up onto this antenna, here we go. Over to Lynn. Well, this is an example of a call sheet. So there's a call sheet that I put out for every shoot, large or small, this doesn't look like there's a lot of information on it. This is one of the less involved information heavy call sheets, but again it's an example of where crew has to meet, what their call time is, address, what's happening next, logistics are kind of laid out. Sometimes you have a shoot on the day of. It's a very organic process, so you can't really lay out from minute to minute everything that's gonna happen. But, essentially, to even get to do the shoot on that tower, the tower in Boston, it was such a complicated feat. But this is exactly where I went into the Rolodex of who I know, and so, I was able to make a phone call to someone who then knew someone, and the name of that person was familiar to me, so I mentioned it actually to my husband, oddly, one night, and I said why do I know this name of the company, I'm sorry. And he said, well that's because that's where his friend Jeff used to work, and I said oh my God, you're kidding. Oh wow, that's great because now I can speak to that guy and mention his name, and maybe now if he knows him, now all of a sudden we'll have this like, oh wee! You know, so that's, you know, how that happened. He knew my husband's friend, and then he was so happy to help us, he was like, oh my God, you know Jeff? We love Jeff! And then the doors started to open. But then the doors opened to a more complicated process, which was the permissions and permitting and insurance that was required for Joe to do this climb was like, we had to have $8 million. Now we have a great insurance policy, but it's not $8 million. It's not your norm. So, I called our insurance broker and asked him, okay what can we do? How can we increase that? Because otherwise we're not gonna get to shoot at this building. And, he explained how to get that done. It's, you pay more. (laughter). You increase it. Big mystery. Oh okay, got it. So, we took out a bigger policy, and then we were able to basically do this. Can you estimate how many, the number of emails? Tons, oh, I keep folders on everything. And so my email folder, Callie... (laughter) He's like, folders? (laughter) I'm the lost organizer of the group, okay? I'm like the folder queen, so, I have a folder of all the emails surrounding this project. And honestly, as with many projects, but this one was so, the bureaucracy involved, um, I don't know, 200? I mean, it was just ridiculous. Back and forth, and this one, and sign off on that, and must get approval for this, and on and on. And thankfully Callie is physical adapt, because we're going up the tower here, and he shot, he had to shoot me shooting Tom. That was the nature of the campaign. It was called the shot of the shot. Finish strong. And that's the final, and Callie's... Little photograph. Credit is up in there. (laughter) And there's Tom, and there's me kind of leveraging my horizon line with my ropes. And flexing your tricep. Yeah, well. (laughter) It's a common occurrence in the studio. (laughter) Dillon, do you have a-- I do have a question. I shoot for a construction company in Buffalo, and they are also based in New York City. And I've been up in some buildings, not anywhere near how high you have, but I've been limited to stay 10 feet back from the scaffolding. I found out I can get a scaffolding license. Do you have anything like that, and would you have your client pay for that? Or would you take that on? Yes, well, no. I don't have a scaffolding license. Yes, if I had to go to school, the client would have to understand that's part of the process of me getting, being enabled. For Rio, for the Rio Olympics, they gave us a test if we were going to go up in the scaffolding to hang remote cameras. So we had to do a safety test and all of that. It was kind of a complicated procedure, Andy is probably watching so I'll be honest, she did almost all of the test. (laughter) For me, you know. And it turned out it was a moot point because I never climbed anything in Rio anyway. 'Cause all of the Rio cameras were all robots, and they were already all up there, so, I wasn't gonna climb. They're not gonna let anybody climb a stadium filled with 100,000 people and shoot pictures from up there. They just don't do it anymore. 'Cause you could conceivably drop something. So, and that's always the worry. That's why the insurance policy was so stringent on this. But now, going from that to a much safer more mundane perch, going from up there, to here. New York City, sort of like three stories up, on the fire escape, small flash, inside, Tungsten balance outside, a moody picture denoting the struggle of a young dancer in New York City. She's eating Ramen Noodles on the fire escape. My lights are inside, but, and this is the type of thing you could do with your neighbor's kid, you know? You absolutely could. But, that fire escape was attached to a loft. And I'll let Lynn try to explain this. Yeah, so I was like here we go again, he needs a fire escape in the city. There's tons of them. But not all with the angle that he wanted, not all that were gonna be accessible. We also needed to be able to stage from inside. We're not just gonna hang out and stage everything out on a fire escape. So we needed an interior to also shoot in, and to basically just have our base camp central set up in there, relatively small production in the sense that we had Joe, myself, hair makeup person, Callie, wardrobe, and the talent. So, it was like a relatively small crew. But then, I needed to find this location so I rely heavily on location scouts. Unless we absolutely know, oh that would be a great restaurant or outdoor park or something, but mostly I call location scouts. And they do an amazing job, and they have these libraries of images, and you can just go and view them. And say yes, I'd like to see this more. Then, what happened with this loft space, was Callie and I went to actually do a physical scout to actually see the space, you know, up close and make sure that everything was fine. So, we saw the space, it all worked out well. We sent Joe the images, he thought they would work really well, there were some issues with the fire escape. It wasn't entirely perfect of what he had in his mind, although in the end, he made an amazing photo. But, in dealing with the location scout, she sent me the disclaimers of the woman who owned the loft, and resides in the loft. It wasn't just a big empty space, she actually lives there, the woman had all these things that we had to make sure. One thing after another, how to use the restroom, the security, the cleaning, the wardrobe and hair and makeup can't go here, can't touch that, can't move this, can't move that, if you do move it, it has to go exactly back where it was. It was like oh, how are we really gonna manage our way through it, but we did. Went there, she was lovely. I was anticipating walking in and having this loft owner be this, like, you know, drill Sargent. Don't walk on that rug, don't go over there, you can't use that bathroom, go down to the bathroom in the restaurant downstairs, we didn't know what to make. She was fantastic, so lovely. And Joe was then able to really do what we needed to do while we were there. And, this is, that's the loft. That old battered corner there is the loft. And, to access that, Lynn had to go through all of this. It's a complicated world out there when you take a camera in hand. I never thought it would get to this place, right? When I was a kid and I was just like hey, let's go shoot some pictures. The first client I ever made in New York City, was up the Queensboro Bridge. I was a copy boy at the New York Daily News in 1976. And I was determined to climb the Queensboro Bridge 'cause they were repainting it. I walked up on the bridge, I met the painting crews, and I said, "Hey, I'm from The Daily News, I'm suppose "to go up with you guys today." And they said, "Alright, whatever." I didn't have a safety belt, not a shred of protection, I was pulling myself up on cables, slipping on wet paint, and I finally got to the top of the Queensboro Bridge. And I shot the job up there. And no body new about it, I wasn't assigned The Daily News, I wasn't a photographer of The Daily News. But I didn't completely lie. All I did was say I was from the New York Daily News. I didn't elaborate beyond that. They were like ah alright, whatever, you know? And I went up. Now, $8 million worth of insurance later, you can maybe, maybe, get access to some of this stuff. So large or small, like that job we just showed you here, this is all done small flash. You know, this is done, minimum amount of production, you know, gear, stuff. This is a six foot silk with three small flashes through it and a couple of skips off the floor, making it seem like there's soft light just similar to the windows. That's all we're trying to do, is make it look like it's not lit. This is one of those editorial pictures. I don't want you to say, "Oh wow, look at the drama "of the light." Here, obviously you know. There's not a tungsten lamp inside. Those are a couple of flashes with tungsten gels. And I'm able to balance the exposure from the inside to the outside. Here, I need for you to not see that I'm working hard to fill this light in. Alright. One thing, actually, I'm sorry to interrupt, but I think is an important point to make. Not every shoot has to be a big production. We do also shooting that we call gorilla style. Which is really, just go out there, and just shoot. Take a model, in fact part of that dancer series was Joe, Callie, and the Talent, went out into roaming streets in, where were you Coney Island or somewhere-- We went out on the subway to Coney Island. And it just, there was no big production, we didn't have hair and makeup and wardrobe involved and all of that. Just kind of went out there and did a shoot and found stuff that worked. But when we're dealing with end result images in mind that you want to really have be cohesive and have the look that you're hoping for, then you do have to put a lot of pieces of that puzzle together. And you're not gonna do that gorilla style necessarily. Because then you're inconveniencing potentially a lot of people. You have not only our crew, but the hair person, the makeup, the wardrobe stylist, you know the talent. You're bringing everyone together and gorilla doesn't always work that way. So that's when laying everything out really does make a difference and it does require pre-production to get you to that point. And I shoot off the cuff a great deal. Last week I was in Kentucky, I mentioned yesterday I went by myself with a small flash, and I set up in a shed, and I did a little studio. A series of portraits. And it was all done on a handshake. Lynn wasn't a part of that at all. So we range from large to small. The thing to remember is, again I mentioned yesterday. I enjoy time behind the camera. I don't like to be stagnant. Yeah, there are stretches of time where I don't shoot. We're in pre-production or there's work to be done in the studio or just not getting a lot of phone calls, or there isn't anything on the radar at that particular moment, and moments like that Callie, what do you do? We are pulling archive work as well. We're getting back to the basics in the studio. We're cleaning out the garage. There's another assistant that comes and works in our studio, Linda. And Joe I think might have mentioned her yesterday. Completely organizational buff. Definitely the side of me that I don't have. But, we're just getting things prepped for what's coming next, 'cause the last thing you want to do is have everything in the studio fall in limbo while you're off shooting, it's a constant process. Of like, let's get this stuff out to clients whether I'm editing pictures or going through some stuff which we'll go over later, to making sure our next pack I'm able to make it without any problems paid. Callie, you have the (mumbles) you know, all that's broken, sorry Joe. Stuff like that. Our gear, too, when it comes back from shoots, whether it's from Creative Live or whether it's from a client's shoots, stuff gets broken in the field, so when we get back, a lot of that time is dedicated to making sure everything going out for that next shoot is prepped and ready. A lot of organization, a lot of pulling archive work, a lot of getting stuff prepped for clients, the list can go on. Never a dull moment. Never a dull moment. No. For me, it's a 24/7 job, and for Annie. Because, we're home on the weekends and we find ourselves working, social media is this constant even flow. And we find ourselves putting our stuff out there. Lynn, understandable does not work on the weekends. But she kinda sorta does. I try not to, depends. And also, when she goes into production mode, she's in the office until 11 or 12:00 at night, routinely. I cannot do that. I am not a night person. I get up early in the morning, that's the only coherent time of the day for me. Prior to the day actually starting. But Lynn will work many, many hours to put this stuff together, even some simple stuff. 'Cause if you're gonna go out into the field with a camera in your hands, even if you're gonna do something simple, say, a set of senior portraits. Does anyone here do senior portraits? Okay, you know, you find locations, right? You access the young person's imagination. How would you like to be shot? What do you want out of this? All those kinds of things, and that translates into your Rolodex about how and where and why, and where' you're gonna put all those people, or this person. So, large and small. All of those details go into it. And, we are constantly thinking of ideas and then wrapping up from ideas we've just shot. Something, an example of something that got bigger, rather than smaller, this is a small flash job. This is an SB 5000, specifically dedicated to marketing the SB 5000 flash. Fun job to shoot. I came up with the idea of noir. It's not a new idea, obviously they've been making Noir movies for a long time. But, noir movie genre is very closely associated with the quality of light, and the style of character. And so, they said yes, go ahead. Well, I went to Lynn, and I said well, we need a city motel, kind of an era, kinda vintagey sort of motel. I'm sure you can find that in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey or Massachusets. No. Not at the time of year we wanted to shoot, let's put it that way. And not where it looked like the kind of place that we wouldn't even want to walk into. We actually had to create pictures there. So, again, lots of phone calls and networking later, led us to this amazing place in New Mexico. Same budget I would have worked with anyway. So, I still just tried to find a way to make it work, and we were able to. So we cast the talent out of New York. We had worked with Latisha the female model, we had not worked with Ryan before, our male model, but he was fantastic. They were both amazing. It was really just a terrific thing that got put together. But, Joe, you can talk about the actual shoot in this. Sure, let me ask you further about the models. Like, Ryan, what Lynn does used Casting Network? I used Casting Networks for this, yes. Which, to me, is a great resource because it's one stop shopping, so it's a directory. I just fill out a form online about what I'm looking for, it's not just one form, it's actually a very involved form, but I fill all that out, they put it out there to their entire network, so any models or other kinds of talent and agencies look at this feed that comes into their stream. And then if they have anyone that they feel is good for it, then they'll submit them. So, we already knew we wanted to work with Latisha. 'Cause she was sort of a given, having worked with her before, she was perfect for this. For the male talent, we didn't know. So, hundreds and hundreds of submissions. But, well, you can't see his face there. But, he was also perfect for this. And, yeah, it was basically my best resource was Casting Network. Which is, nationwide, so anybody could It's a good thing access. Use it, no matter what your budget is. Larger or small. It's wonderful. What Lynn does, which is wonderful, she'll get like, I don't know, 300, 500 submissions for the character. We call him the man in the shadows. It's a noir mystery, he's stalking her and follows her to New Mexico. And she's this elegant lady, and this picture was shot in the Blue Bar in the Algonquin Hotel in New York City, and we had to work early in the day there and get that done. The Blue Bar history is that John Barrymore used to live at the Algonquin when he was performing on Broadway. And they loved Mr. Barrymore so much that he went to the hotel owners and told them everybody looks better in blue light, I would like the bar to be blue. And ever since then, every light in this bar is blue. And they call it the Blue Bar, and it's very vintage and it's very evocative of the noir film period that you get a lot of murder mysteries out of. And this is two lights by the way. This, again, could not be simpler. It's done with the 24" Easybox Hot Shoe Soft Box. The one that you saw in play yesterday. That's over head of me at camera, and then there's a little cone of light, a little snoot, with a grid on it, (mimics popping sound) just popping a little bit of fill at her and that's it. Done deal, everything else is available Blue Bar light. And I have the camera on a tripod. I'm blending in all of that. The soft box overhead has a fabric grid on it, so it doesn't spread and start to pollute the light around the blue nature of the light around. Pretty simply done. Actually, absurdly simple in lots of ways. Two lights, TTL, and it was fantastic, you know. Just like, (finger snaps) done. I'm not talking about fantastic in the picture. Fantastic for me in experience at the camera because I was able to manipulate the picture into a zone that I liked, and I was basically just sitting at the camera dictating values of the lights. This, of course, is a little more complicated. This has got again, that soft box off the camera left, and all of that. Callie was not on this shoot. I did not have my regular crew (fake cries). Callie was on vacation. John was... John had already, yeah. He had left. He's taken another job in the meantime. Yeah, so I called Brad, my old first assistant who lives in Nashville. He met me in New Mexico and then we hired a local. So for me as a photographer, I had to two-step my way through this because I haven't got my regular crew. Which puts more work on me, more organization on me, because those guys don't know where all my stuff is packed. You know, like here Can and Brad are doing a great job, they're very energetic, they're very knowledgeable. But they need Callie to direct them because he knows where everything is to be efficient. So on a job like this, I'm kind of on my own a lot. In terms of I art directed this. Lynn was with me, so thankfully Lynn is working with Sam Brown to do the styling, that's very vintage clothing, I don't know anything about vintage clothing. That's where I say the team aspect. If you don't know something, you have to reach out to somebody who does know something about something. Clothing, period look, all that sort of stuff. He's in an old style jacket. That car, blessedly, belonged to the hotel, you know? And they couldn't have been nicer, it's the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico. That is really the middle of no place. AKA No Man's Land. Yeah, Route 66 though. Famous address, Route 66. And so, we working here. That's not the sun, that's a speed light outside there. Blasting through the window creating that, and there's a little snoot on her. So I built this little story. This isn't the whole story, but I built this little story. And there's when she really knows that she's in trouble. And this is done, she realizes this is a bad person who's followed her. He's looking at her in the rear view mirror. In the interior of the car is that little speed light box. The Speedlight Two box. And, in the back of the car the red glow on the floor there? That's not the tail lights. That's a red gelled SB 5000, banging on the floor, indicating that he might have his foot on the brakes. I'm a kid, I grew up on comic books. Red gels cool, this that, look in the mirror evil guy! She's at the door way (purrs) I mean, you know. (giggles) You just gotta think your way into it. Lynn is with me on this, so I'm very thankful for that because she's able to wrangle the talent, make sure that I don't have to worry about them. They're being taken care of. I don't have to worry about the soft drinks, or the caterer, actually did we have a caterer, I don't think... No, it wasn't quite that fancy. Wasn't that fancy. And there she is, trying to run away in the middle of the night in a storm. Okay, and I'm in the car with her. And she's being lit again with that soft box, and there's other kinds of lights going on outside. And it's raining. And it's raining, oh my God, I got so lucky with the rain. Oh no. Got so lucky with a garden hose, you know? I mean, this is operation cheapo cheapo! A couple of A Clamps, a C-stand, and a garden hose, and I just squeezed it with Gopher Tape so it'd become sort of a misty spray. And then we boomed it, and there I am over Latisha, you know, in the car looking, trying to look, and trying to get her situated. Got a little back light going with this. There's another speed light out on the street putting a red glow off the hood of the car. And that is bas, it's three speed lights and a garden hose. So, all of this planning and procedure went down to let's work by the seat of our pants here. And let's just come up with something that looks cool, and I'm literally, I'm gorilla art directing. 'Cause I don't have an art director out there with me. I'm coming up with this stuff right out of my head. And pushing and pulling things and making judgment calls. Question was from, from Dayju. Are there any other production resources, whether that's online or print, that you would recommend for people that are trying to put a shoot together. Point people in the right direction to get props, like you said, talent, anything else that might be needed. Yeah, there's a ton online and there's, I know there's Production Paradise, there are countless resources of information material. I think at this point, I just have them in my own brains and Rolodex, but there are definitely resources out there for people, for everything. Because at this point I've hired just about every skill set. There's prop stylists for table top stuff, there's prop stylists for large things like boats, there obviously hair, makeup, wardrobe, every potential skill you need to provide, baby wranglers, animal agents, animal wranglers. You name it, they are out there. And you can just build your own Rolodex once you have it. And count on those people over the course of time. One thing I also want to remember to say too that's important is, we understand and we're very aware of the fact that we have a team and it's a full-time team, not everyone has that. In fact, Joe didn't even have that before we got together. You did it on your own and had a freelance first assistant. You could hire people as you need to. You hire freelance first assistants. You can hire producers. If you have a shoot that comes up and it's outside your own wheelhouse of how to figure out how to estimate it or how to produce it or anything like that, you hire a freelance producer who would be very happy to work with you on that. You build it into your budget, obviously, that's something that you want to expense off to the client, but those resources are available to you as well. We realize not everyone has a full-time producer or studio manager or first assistant. It's the kind of thing you can get though. That's important. Aren't there groups of producers who share information on line-- Yeah, I mean there's LinkedIn, I'm on a producer's, in a producer's group, a location scout group, LinkedIn is also a very good resource for that, sure. We do have outside of the permanent team, we do have people as Lynn suggests or says, that we go back to on a regular basis. Like, we work with this one stylist who's terrific. She's done everything from like crazy, wild, hot couture, did I say that right, hot couture? To vintage clothing in New Mexico. So we have, the thing that Lynn mentioned earlier about working with people on a fair basis, it means that you do develop this constituency, and their first reaction when you call them, isn't one of terror. Like, oh God, I don't want to work with them again. No, they actively pitch in and try to help out, as best as they can, they're included or they can point us to people who can help us out. Yes, Dan? Failures are never fun to talk about of course, but have there ever been productions large or small, despite the best efforts of everybody involved, where you didn't quite walk away with what you expected? And how do you deal with those sort of, again, lack of a better term, failures? Failures, sure. Sure. Yeah, there have been pictures that I've come away with after putting a lot of time and effort into it, and I'm just kind of eh. Didn't completely work. Could be a question of talent, talent that I didn't connect with the talent. That could be my fault as well. And didn't get out of them what I wanted. Trying to think of a, there's been so many failures. Let me sort it out, Lord. There's also weather issues. If we're doing outside location, that is a failure that's on another level. That's outside of our control. But it's still, you walk away saying, this was our one chance to get this done, and then it started pouring rain. And that, you know, just like bombs everything out. Or heavy winds, or-- And some cases too, just depending on the intensity of the job, or I mean we even have to bill in weather days, which, you know, is extra money from the budget. But, it's something you have to keep in mind if you're shooting outside and it's a big deal job. You're not just gonna hope for the best, you know. Or you're gonna have a back up plan, and that's one thing as a younger photographer when I first started, that I learned, it's not just jump into this, and everything's gonna be okay. It's hope for the best, prepare for the worst kind of thing. Lynn builds into the contracts addendums, and we'll get into that tomorrow, weather delays. Also, like we have a testing scenario on a large production that we're doing next week in New York City. And that's the beginning of the road, we're testing and seeing if everything will work out. The shoot date is later on in April. Well, Lynn has to write into the contract for the talent, to block out that time. 'Cause it's a very specific young woman who is our talent for that day, and it is an utterly weather dependent shot, and if the weather goes South, Lynn has to have a caveat in the contract that says, we will have a weather day, and you will be available. And that is part of the arrangement we are making. Same thing with the production services that we're liaisoning with, and people are gonna supply, some of the props and stuff like that. This could be affected by weather, this is what will happen if it is affected by weather. That just protects you as the photographer. And, as, I'm a child basically. You may have sorted that out already. I just want to go. I just want to shoot pictures. And I'm like Lynn! And she's like I need to ask you this question. And sometimes I get really impatient too, 'cause I won't answer the question, and two days later she'll ask it again. She's very persistent. It's like we never did actually... I have to put you in a corner Joe, and get you to answer these questions for me, that way we will all stay safe in the field. 'Cause we are. We are all very enthusiastic or we'll run after a photograph. I've actually done stuff that's been absolutely monumentally stupid, and spent a bunch of money creating a photograph that ends up going absolutely no where. Because I just thought I needed to at that particular moment in time. Hopefully those efforts are few and far between. Hopefully what you do on your own assigning hook, and when you create a job for yourself, you have a plan in mind where you're hopefully leading to another job. Like the work I will show tomorrow, there's a self assignment that I've done with athletes in Las Vegas. Now I'm hoping, I've got my fingers crossed, I've got a tentative approval from a client, a magazine client, to possibly use those contacts I have, to express a larger story about athletic talent in Vegas: former Olympians, former National Champions, who are swimming and diving and stunting in Vegas. So, that investment I've made in my time, and effort, and curiosity, hopefully will pay off in a spread in a National Magazine. Hopefully. But it's like going to Vegas, sometimes. (chuckles) Play that roulette wheel.

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McNally Lighting Diagrams

Ratings and Reviews


What is there to say, this is a master at work. I feel like I owe Joe a hundred lunches for the information I’ve learned from him and used in jobs through the years. Personally I relate to his slightly self-deprecating style quite well. Joe’s a confident, supremely knowledgeable and incredibly experienced photographer who doesn’t need to wear that on his sleeve to get the point across. He is also clearly a great leader who has built a terrific team. I snap up everything of Joe’s I can find and use it as a library, where every time you watch you take away something new. Thanks Joe, you’re a legend and good on Creative Live for offering this wonderful and beautifully curated course.

ileana gonzales photography

When I saw the chance to learn from the great Joe McNally I jumped through the screen at the chance to be in the audience. It's one thing to see how a fantastic photographer works, thinks, composes and styles, but to get a behind the curtain view at the way his entire shop operates was truly amazing. By allowing us to see Lynn's processes and Cali's workflow it encouraged me to diversify before taking the plunge into the business side of photography. Truly an amazing team and an unforgettable learning experience.


Joe is fantastic! The wealth of information, experience and extraordinary talent he shares is invaluable! He's also a very engaging, humorous instructor who keeps an audience a part of the "discussion." Don't miss a Joe McNally class, seminar or workshop opportunity!

Student Work