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Photo Critique

Lesson 35 from: Lighting, Logistics, and Strategies for a Life in Photography

Joe McNally

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Lesson Info

35. Photo Critique

Next Lesson: Q&A


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

Photo Critique

Okay, critiques. Yeah, you need a voice outside your head. You need another set of eyes. I think photographers who have gone off the rails, historically speaking, like really big, important photographers, I won't name names or anything like that, are people who they've gone into certain valleys in their work and part of that is because they got nobody in their ear except a bunch of people telling them their work is great. You know, oh you're fabulous, you're fabulous. You're not fabulous all the time. You're just not. So, critique is very valuable. I have had the benefit of having been critiqued by many really powerful good editors. As a young photographer coming up, I did go through the school of hard knocks. I had my film thrown at me, I was cursed, I was, you know, I mean this was like before there was a human resources department, kind of expressions of anger and this and that to your malfeasance with a camera and I was guilty as charged many times. So the critique aspect of photog...

raphy is really a valuable one. You need somebody to retain perspective about who you are and relate it to your life, talk to you about the expression that you're currently on, photographically, visually, all those kinds of things. So, I will offer just this, I don't know, disclaimer though right up front. This is just my opinion and opinions in photography, as we know, are not universal. Some people are gonna love it. If we put a slide up here and poll the class, half the class would be like oh fabulous, other half eh, you know. Whatever, nothing is gonna be universal in terms of the reaction to your photograph. So just get used to that. When you throw something out on the Internet, remember this too. Essentially when you put something out there and you publish it, even though it might not be completely true, what you're feeling, but when you put it out there it's almost like an announcement saying okay, this is me and this is the best I could do at this particular moment and that's vulnerable and people react to it as they see fit and they'll say the darnedest thing about your photograph, sometimes not pleasant, sometimes not good news. All that sort of stuff can happen. It's a very public art and craft that we engage in and it has to be de facto. I mean nobody wants to shoot pictures and then put them in a drawer and never show them to anybody. You want a reaction. You want somebody to engage with you. That's presumably a big reason why we do this. We are compelled to tell our story, the people, the surroundings that we're involved in. We're compelled to tell other people's stories. We're interested in other people's lives. I've always said, I've said this a million times. One of the biggest pieces of equipment that you can have in your camera bag is your sense of curiosity. It propels you forward. How do things work? Who are these people? What are they like? What's their lives like? What do they believe? How do they make a living? What's going on? All that sort of stuff and it's a very, it's I mentioned it already, you know, a camera's like a visa. You are able to enter into strange worlds and worlds that are not common to you and it's a wonderful, wonderful thing. So and then you express that out to other people and you're hopefully enlightening, informing, educating, all those kinds of things and sometimes we fail, sometimes we stop short of actually getting that completely cohesive message that we want out into the world. So hence critiques, people shaping and guiding our vision. That's my long-time friend and editor at the National Geographic telling me what to think. Okay, I've shown this before. We have a very twisted shared sense of humor. Bill was my editor on many National Geographic stories and he's a very good editor, very visually attuned and also very honest. He's one of my closest friends. He's very capable of taking his friend hat off, putting his editor hat on and telling me I sucked, okay, and that is something you want from an editor. You want an editor to be dispassionate about your work because you are passionate about it, hence you are inclined to think of it in perhaps rosier terms than someone else might. So a good visually-astute editor will be an amazing gift in your life because they don't care what you went through. They really don't, especially on a professional level. They paid you money, like yeah, tell your story walking, okay, what are the pictures that you're giving me, okay. Anybody see that movie Trainwreck? You know, Tilda Swinton is this really nasty editor. She's British, she's a marvelous actress and the lead character, Amy Schumer, was telling her about her life and she just, "Oh," she goes, "is this like a one-woman show? "Because I haven't got a ticket." You know, you know. It's very funny. It's like yeah, editors really aren't, they don't care, they don't care. They want the results and Bill has oftentimes looked at me and he's said to me like yeah, I know, like you really worked hard, but this picture doesn't have what you're telling me was going on. I mean the impact that you're describing to me, that you're telling oh it was amazing, I climbed up this. None of that's in your photograph. None of that informational, emotional impact is hitting me. Okay, so classic Jay Maisel critique. Everybody knows Jay's name, his work, et cetera, his best Brooklyn speak. You know, he'll look at you and goes "Obviously you were moved to shoot this picture." He goes "So my question to you is why am I not moved?" You know, and that's a very powerful question, okay, because that's what we're trying to do, we're trying to move people. We're trying to get them wake them up out of their visual sleep. Like everybody's kinda (moans) ooh wow, okay, alright. So critiquing is part of the business and as I say, I'm gonna express opinions here. They are just my opinions. They are not necessarily the opinions of the management. Okay, you could walk Chase Jarvis in here and he might love everything. He might be like "Oh wow." I don't know, I'm not like that. I'm gonna tell you honestly what I think and I'm sure he would too, but we might have, if you walked him in here right now, we stood side by side, we'd have different opinions I'm sure about a lot of stuff. It just is. So take this not necessarily with a grain of salt, as my mother used to say, but take it on advisory. Okay, this is not my opinion if I look at you and say I don't think this works, it's not the end of the world. It just means that I don't think it works and take it as you would. There might be snippets, pieces of wisdom in there that might prove useful and nothing I say today will be incorporated into your visual aesthetic immediately either. Maybe it'll reverb down the road a bit, okay. I've had things that where editors told me many years ago. John Loengard at Life Magazine told me "If you want something to look interesting, "don't light all of it." That stayed with me my whole career. Mel Scott at Life Magazine, his advice to me going out on assignment was "Surprise me." That has stayed with me, okay. What can I do out here that is surprising? Surprise is a powerful thing and John's so, he's been my mentor for many years and John is so visually acute. He's an older man now. I brought him my first book, The Moment It Clicks, and he was the editor on a couple of pictures that were in that book, one of which was Leonard Bernstein at the piano, at the age of 70 composing at his piano and it's a lovely picture, it really is and he was my editor on that story and he ran it and published it in Life and he went through the book, as he tends to, like this, almost flipping pages, flipping pages and I am like (gasps). I'm just about losing it in the chair doing a flop sweat as he just kind of quickly goes through the book. He puts it down and goes "Oh, that's nice. "You cropped Bernstein." I was like oh god! Oh no! (sighs) In a split second as he had thumbed through the pages, he picked up on the fact that the production elements of that book, the dimensions of it required me to crop a little bit of the Bernstein picture. But he did say "But I also see that you used Steve Martin "and there's a tilt to it in this book "that I like better than the way we used it in Life." And he gave me the book back and he goes "Good." He goes "Start thinking about the book "you're gonna leave behind." This was like 10 years ago. I'm like really? (laughs) I'm going does that mean I'm gonna die soon? You know, so critiques can be formidable. All right. "Don't be afraid of mistakes. "They will always be with you, "whenever you put a camera to your eye." Just get used to it. Just gonna happen. You will make mistakes and I said, always, you've seen me make mistakes for the last three days. Whatever, you know. I mean, it is, it just is, right? And there's days I have such a bad day in the field. I've said this 1,000 times. At the end of the day, I just look at myself and say it's a good thing I wasn't a brain surgeon today 'cause that patient's never gonna play the piano again 'cause I had a bad day. All right, all right. So here we are. Somebody has to start and it happens to be Bob. All right, okay, all right. All right. Talk to me, Bob. Commission? Something you just wanted to do? Is she a friend? Neither. This was a couple of us got together and hired her. We had known about this location. This is up in La Conner, which is about oh 40 miles north of here, and we wanted to take her out into this field at sunset and try and get a series of images for stock of just a single young woman out in a field by herself at sunset. Okay. Okay. This was actually there's a series of images that go with this, but this one has to stand alone. The idea was to kind of just show a loneliness, okay, in a very nice environment. Okay, all right, sounds good. Sounds good. All right, couple of good things, right. Lovely quality of light, right, excellent quality of light. Rule of thirds is astutely observed, right. There she is. Rule of thirds, actually as we all know, goes horizontally and vertically, right. So you've got a banding effect up in here, which actually you could construe to be a little bit of rule of thirds as well. Some of these kinds of stripes here are powerful compositionally. She's placed well, highlights are well managed, all of that stuff is going on and she does look very appropriately sort of romantically inclined to be a young lady in field. She's dressed in a white sort of gown type of dress and all of that and she's looking presumably wistfully off at the setting sun. All those things are good things. Okay, what is... And also too you compositionally, again, you just did well. If this very strong line up in here matched the top of her head, that would be a bad thing. So you dropped her below. So she's clean in that regard. There's nothing bisecting there, which is a good thing. So all of that is positive. Does it move me? Does it? No, not really. I don't know who she is. I don't know why she's really standing in the field. I have no real information about her. I can't see her face. All of that, you say you have a series. So you're just showing one picture here. So some of the criticism I might offer on some of these pictures might be slightly unfair in the sense that like but yes, but yes and I've done that myself too. You know, I mean life is not fair to photographers. You're standing there kicking the carpet in front of your editor and going yeah but, yeah but, yeah but. They don't care about yeah buts. So I'm just gonna comment on the isolated instance of this image and for me it is kinda stocky in terms of the way it feels. There's not a lot of emotional impact. You could put it on a greeting card or something like that and this is it's pretty and that's as far as I would go and if that's your objective for that day, then you succeeded extremely well. It's a really well composed and there's a lovely quality of light. The angle of the light and the golden quality of it is all works together and there's also the design elements, all the, you know, there's nothing not to like about it in the compositional sense. So when you look at it, you go oh, that's nice. Next. It doesn't involve me, in other words, it doesn't pull me in and doesn't intrigue me on any level. Okay. Okay. (giggles) Did you hear that? Remember I said something about an audible. When this came up, people just went kinda (burbles). Little burble. You know, that was a burble. So and I think it's fun too, right? It's the baby is there and that's presumably probably like grandma I guess up there and it's just kind of a sweet moment. There's compositionally, would I like for grandma's head to be entirely in the frame. Would I like this to not be that? Would I like to complete that circle maybe a tiny bit and just kind of finish this off. The... Would I like to maybe see a tiny bit more of this young lady? Possibly, but you're not gonna tell the kid to do that. All that sort of stuff I think is minor, minor tweaks. What gets me past and makes me enjoy the photograph is the simple humanity of it. Little bit of humor, little bit of of the moment kind of like visit to grandma's house or something like that and a nice observation. Okay and I think actually the black and white works real well here 'cause the black and white becomes evocative for me for newspapers. When I started my career, newspapers only published black and white photographs. So that has a little bit of an evocation to me that I really enjoy just personally. Okay. Danny, where are you, Danny? Over here. Studio shot presumably. Yeah. Okay. This is primarily just beauty work. A lot of times when I do sort of personal creative work it's to play around or test something new out. In this instance, it was two new strip boxes I had gotten along with some gels and actually some new strobes, which I had forgotten the power cords to. So this was actually used with a half a roll of Gaffer's tape and two flash guns. So. Okay. All right, so one strip, one strip. Right. Okay. Warm gel, blue gel, or Tungsten balance, or just a-- Blue gel straws. So yeah, all right. So positive stuff about that obviously is that the mix of, as we've seen, warm and cool colors are a positive thing. The blue side of this looks a little ethereal and that is, and the positioning of the light is quite well, the way it comes right down. You know, she is actually, I don't know if I could have done that. That's pretty like surgical the way that comes down there. Very nicely done on that for sure. She's looking off. I mean, you could apply this picture to any number of things. Is it... A movie poster or something like that or some actress in distress in a spy movie or I have an active imagination like that. I think the limited depth of field looks like you're shooting really wide open here. You've got critical sharpness here and then it fades very, very quickly. Probably a good thing as well. So and the simplicity of the necklace and all of that kind of works for it. Again, this... I always look for relationships and that's gonna be impossible to really define and discern by single images coming up. Hopefully what this does for you is it advances you and it has a relationship to other work that you're trying to do and that becomes a series or something like that. Maybe it goes beyond and you get another subject and you use different colors, right, and then you have this, then it becomes, this is not that strong all on its own. It's good, but it's not great, okay. Pictures gather strength in series. A pretty good picture linked together with a series of other pictures that work with it then become more of a formidable whole. So maybe, maybe there's a way that you go from here into experimenting with gels and other aspects of the body or face or portraiture and this is the start of a good road for you. And that's actually what it was, it's a jump off to what I'm putting together a series, getting more people together and getting kind of the gels necessary in which to create a series using different color palettes like that, so. Okay, alright. See, I know that. I knew he was doing that. (laughs) No, but I think as an attempt control of light, color palette, attitude, depth of field, all those kinds of things are working well for you. It's a good, at this point, exercise. Hopefully it fills out from here. Okay. All right. Cameraosity. Should I be saying that name? Sure. Okay, Cameraosity. Okay, all right. All right, cool. So that person is not, the person who shot this is not in the studio with us. So obviously there's a mood to this. Very, very powerful kind of curve and shape to this gentleman's face and body, the musculature, everything else, the cigarette obviously. This is much nicer than that as a shape, as a wafting shape and control of light is pretty decent all across the board. Again, without having conversation, I don't know exactly where this is going. Is it part of a series? Is it ultimately going to point me in the direction of telling a story? I'm not sure. Right now, I can comment on the fact that's a pretty well done studio shot and this is a good subject. He's got intrigue, he's got charisma, there's a richness to and also obviously he's unabashed, right. He's got this kind of form that is being shown here that's quite powerful. All right. So this is Cliff. Yes. All right. So again, is this a commission, Cliff, or? No-- Test shot? I was actually, when I switched over from doing kind of MMA fighters and thought last year I was gonna get into fashion, I was doing this shot. But when I was going out, my wife used to always be one step ahead of me, like saying "Come here, I found this great location." So I got over there really quick and I looked around and I thought well that's kind of an interesting shape. So I took her out over here and did this shot because I liked the composition of the trees. Appropriately, you used long lens, I would, what was your lens on this? I think that was an 85. 85, really? Yeah. Okay, all right. Reasonable. It feels a little longer, but 85, probably a fast 'cause the tree is seriously out of focus. Would you like it better if the tree were sharper? Or do you like the out of focus nature of the tree? Probably out of focus. Yeah, I think the out of focus works in this instance. It gives you something to kind of meander through. Design wise, it works quite well, right? The aspects of the foliage and everything kind of, he found this space that she could live on sort of a non-compete basis. So this is good framework for her. Nicely done on that level. The headdress is pretty wild. The stocky nature of it competes a bit with the tree branches up in here just a little bit, it gets a little bit messy up in here, but this is, was this a prop? Did she have-- It was a headpiece that a designer I used. Okay, all right, yeah. But it's very, again, it's very... Elvish, is that? Elfish, kind of woodland creature in the forest sort of thing, flowers and trees and all that sort of stuff. Has a very nice airy feel. The printing and the black and white I think work for it. It would not work so well if it was heavier in tone. So all of that, good observance of presumably natural light and overall well balanced photograph. So keep working like this. Keep going after it. Keep getting your wife to go find you locations. (laughs) Okay, all right. Alex Z. All right. So... All right. Looks like a bit like a bicycle shop or a motorcycle shop or something like that. Something like that, okay. The fact that I'm sort of unsure about it is an immediate impediment, okay. I don't think it's a badly done photographs. It's reasonably well lit. You can tell from the shadows, et cetera, light is coming here, pushing this way. Not a particularly advantageous environment to shoot and you have to shoot here, okay, you have to shoot here, but if I had my druthers and I suspect perhaps this photographer might have had his or her druthers, Alex could be a man or a woman, the... I would find another location. The custom paint box back in here ain't working for me. Everything's sharp. Lots of bits and pieces all over the place and maybe that's the feel of where you're trying to go, but face it, this ain't Geppetto's workshop. It isn't charming on any level, okay. So and the light itself is fairly charmless. It's just kind of boom, it's there and the graphics and dynamics of it. Also here, I would have to say the coming across this could potentially be a good idea, but that is too out of focus. It draws my attention and it puts up a fence that I have a hard time getting past, right. Foreground, middle ground, background. You have to anchor your foreground and that's perhaps an instinct this photographer was feeling, but the fact of the busyness of it and the out of focus, kind of blobby nature of it draws me down and draws me away from what is the central aspect of the picture and the central aspect of the picture here is in such a busy sort of charmless place that I ain't gonna stick with this. You know, so... Okay. Dylan. (chuckles) Talk to me, Dylan. This is part of a personal project series, underwater dancers. This is actually my wife, who is also a tribal belly dancer. Wow. So we have done two series at our pool, a dozen different dancers, local makeup stylist, Kristina, did all the makeup on all the girls for us. So yeah, playing around with light under water, off-camera strobes, things like that, available light with the pool light behind her, that sort of thing. Available light with the pool light behind her. Okay, all right. Did everybody immediately understand this was underwater? No. That's a problem. I think you're too close to her. And the idea of shooting underwater is the idea to convey the languid kind of aspects, the romance, the beauty of, and these are dancers? Mm hmm. Yeah, (sighs) you're on to something. Okay, you're definitely on to something. You have local resources, you have a pool, okay. you have a makeup artist. Now, it's up to you to execute at camera and pull back, I think, a little bit. I think you're just too close to her and I think you need to get the flotation aspects of the water into the photograph to introduce hopefully what you're going for, which is the more dreamlike aspects of things, especially the exotic makeup, okay. Her hair and the way it is right now looks like she's standing in a studio. You want to let loose that hair. Are you familiar with the work of Howard Schatz? Yes. Okay, so you might want to take a look at. Howard became determined to work underwater a great deal. He has a whole section of his life and efforts directed to photographing people underwater. So I think the... The major incumbent thing, I think you're on to something, Dylan, I think this could be a good path, I think it could be ultimately an excellent expression for you, especially if you're working as a photographer, you can find beauty underwater, you can find this and in your local market this could be a wonderful spur to eventually creating a show. That's also a potentially wonderful thing you can do in a local market. I used to live in a small town in Connecticut and I would go in for my coffee at the local Starbucks and there was a local photographer who had a show up there for like a year of their work and advertising themselves and stuff like that and every time I walk in there, I be like, yeah, give me a coffee. I mean, I'm competitive, I'm like that's a really good idea and it's like I didn't think of this and I'm almost certain it got him work. So if you constructed a beautiful set of photographs of these languid underwater dancing women, I think it could be absolutely phenomenal. But right here, right now, you're way too close, you're depriving me of the enjoyment of the potential of that pool and being underwater. Okay? This is Chris Cheek. Okay. (sighs) All right. Potentially, I'm gonna make a guess, maybe kind of a fashion picture or something like that. Would you guys surmise that to be? The gloves, the huge sunglasses, the obviously care was paid to the hairstyle, kind of maybe a fashiony kind of purse. I'm not sure. So... Yeah. You know, I'm intrigued. I would like to like it better than I do. The kind of monochromatic palette of it is a little bit rough for me to actually sort her out. Lot of backlight in this picture. Maybe not enough light on her for me to get intrigued with her face, et cetera, and maybe that's just the mood of it, but that the photographer's trying to create. All of that stuff, the pieces of this, there's a variety of things that are very, very positive in terms of staging and location and all that sort of stuff, but I think it stops short of really intriguing you. Again, it could be a piece of a series, maybe, looks like maybe a diner or something like that. Diners are fabulous, right. I would love to do more work in diners. I just enjoy them as locations. If you were to create a fashion series with a series of diners, then you're starting to cook I think a little bit. But the looking out, the angle is intriguing, but it also lets in the door some couple of negative things like that muddy earth outside. Ain't exactly all that attractive, especially if you're aiming in a fashiony direction. You want the light to be more alive, you want her to be more alive, you want some sort of sumptuous or vibrant nature to the quality of light and this whole picture recedes for me, recedes. All right, Foughty. Okay. All right, lovely emotional moment. Very, very sweet. And I love the interplay of the hands, right. The way her and there's a very powerful, triangles are a very powerful thing graphically in a photograph and there's a couple of things, triangle here, elbow here, the way that the knees are bent, all that sort of stuff, the way her hair comes down, comes around, comes back up. There's a little circle of design that's created within this photograph that kind of keeps you involved in here. I would have worked this a bit tighter because I'm not sure what the lens is that's being used, but the lady in the picture might not be happy with you at this particular moment 'cause those distortion in those legs are probably not what she is seeking from you as a photographer. So I might've gone back with an 85 millimeter lens and really just stopped the picture around in here. Also too, the wide angle nature of this allows all the wrinkles in the backdrop to come forward and that's not good. They're too close to the background, first of all. I don't know if it's possible to avoid that. I don't know how big this photographer's studio is. But you draw your, I will beg, borrow, and steal every inch of distance I can get to get my subjects, generally speaking, away from backgrounds. That way I control the background independently of the way I control the foreground. I control the background with via f-stop and also the way I light it. Here, it's all of a piece. It just is. There's no way to avoid that background being a measure of interference in my enjoyment of this photograph. So I think it needs to be tighter, longer lens, pull it forward. The moment that the... The tough thing about this picture is that this is the harder part of it, right, and he did that well. The emotionality of the picture is nice. All the other stuff is easy to correct and he kinda messed that up, right. Josh. Where are you? There you are. This was I was hired to shoot a boxing match. This is like five years ago in a phase where I put my name on everything. But it was just really tough lighting. It was really low lighting. The whole ring is being held up with folding tables 'cause it started falling and I was just trying my best to capture them without blur. So you're resorting to high ISO and that kind of stuff going on, yeah. I mean, it's not a bad boxing shot. I put it in the realm of okay. The glove going out of the frame creates a highlight up in here that's probably not the best thing in the world to have happen, but there's good activity, all that sort of stuff. It's a good start. It's a good chipaway. If boxing is a milieu you want to explore, that is a very cool thing. I mean, boxers are just, I mean there's legendary pictures out there of boxers, right, and the charisma of somebody like Muhammad Ali was a magnet for photographers over the course of time. But in the realm of boxing photography, it also means that when you get involved there you're also putting your stuff up again photographs that are burned into people's memories, I listed Ali and people like that. So the... This bears work, right, and it could be a good start. If it's something local and accessible to you, I would bite right into this if you're passionate about it. This is the kind of thing that's a story. This you're presenting me a single picture 'cause that's the kind of venue that we're in, but this is the kind of thing that is perfect for a photographic story, the sweat, the blood, the tears, the details, the old boxing gloves, the laces, the shoes, the locker rooms, the, you say this thing is held up by folding tables, I can't imagine what the locker room looks like. Show me that. Show me afterwards where the guy is bleeding on a towel in a dilapidated locker room that's got a garbage can and a broken locker in it. That's the life I want to see. See that's the thing about photographers. We, as photographers, we can go to these shows, spectacles, athletic events and stand on the sidelines and make pictures and that's fantastic stuff. There's beautiful, wonderful sports photography being done every minute as we speak and that's fantastic. But the thing about it is, like if you go to a, say here, see all those people. They're seeing what you're showing me. So you go someplace else and show me what I can't see. For a $10 ticket, I can see this. Go behind the scenes with those boxers and show me the life. That I can't see. That would be a great mission. So. All right. MD Welch out of Reno, Nevada. Oh my god. MD is actually, I'll have a confession to make here, MD and I are friends. I've known him for awhile and excellent photographer based in Reno and he comes down every once in awhile, helps us out on Vegas job and he sent this in. What do you guys think of this? Yeah. Okay, no stop, please. No, stop, stop. Everybody calm down, calm down. I think it's well done. Little bit of a blue inflection there to some of the light that he's created here. This is a lovely subject. I mean, this lady's got hair that you can really kind of like play with. I mean this is a lovely subject and the formality of the suit, the tuxedo, et cetera, counterpoint to her femininity, little things. This is where you're working by yourself, you bypass the fact that the tie is tweaked a little bit, those kinds of things all impact you a little bit, but I think overall the light is really nice and the fact of the look away and that kind of forest of hair coming down to her eyes and all of that works pretty well. Simple and clean. All right, Nick. Ah, this is you, Nick. Okay. First thing I'm noticing is on the screen it's much lower res copy that's pulled off my Instagram, so it's kind of suffering compression and that it's been low res to like 1080. So I'm a little iffy about that and the colors don't seem exactly right to me at the moment. It will never be right. The weak link of all digital, in many ways, is projection. You craft it to look the way you want it to look on your machine that's color balanced and polished every day and then somebody throws it onto something like this, which is generally a ballparked color balance. So, you know. That's why I don't get too wired up about it. Yeah, it's just that's an image that I'm quite fond of. So seeing it and not exactly the way it's shown on like even my phone and stuff like that. So, you know. Just so you all know, this monitor is actually color balanced for what people are seeing through the camera itself. So it does look different than what people see at home. Just FYI. (Joe sighs) All right, there we go, there we go. That little bit made me a little iffy right away. So you're close to this image, why? I don't know, I just I really, it was an overcast day. I shoot all natural light, which is part of why I wanted to come to this class. I want to learn how to use flash better. It was an overcast day, so I was able to shoot in bright sunlight and throw the background really dark, which is something I don't usually, I'm not usually able to do and I love that look and it's like that dreamy out of focus and I'm really big on head shots and portraits and I just, I like the little expression and stuff like that, little nuances. Well she's a lovely, lovely subject. Is this a commission? Was she paying you or? No, this was a TFP with a local model who I worked with. It was just I messaged her and I was, this was when I was first actually getting started, this was one of my first shots that I was really like wow, I'm creating work that I am really proud of at this moment. It was one of the like I kinda consider this part of where I elevated my work to the next level. Okay, all right. Well I think that's all reasonable stuff. Nice portrait, right? Simple and clean. The shape of the hair is quite lovely. The out-of-focus background is nicely handled. The intensity of the eyes, the open soft quality of light, the simplicity of the wardrobe, all of that, there's nothing to not like about this. I suspect she was very happy. Yes. Yeah, that's a beautiful thing, right? When your client or your commission or your subject is happy with the photograph, that's a good day and as you've gone forward I'm sure you've made other people happy with your head shots and now you're getting paid for them. It's part of your work process. So... There is almost nothing to not like about this basically. It's simple, clean, well-designed, good, strong head shot. Okay and head shots, as you know, I mean you've had Peter Hurley up here, head shots are a big deal. He's actually a huge inspiration to me. Really? Yeah, he and Danny Diamond are two of my favorites. Okay, all right. So what is your next step here, Nick? Are you gonna start to bring people into the studio and start to light a little bit? Or are you still kind of feeling like you're gonna be out there waiting for a cloudy day? Right now I'm in a small, tiny one-bedroom apartment. My lease is up in July. So I'm gonna be moving into a place where I can have a studio set up. I'm gonna start shooting studio and one of the things I realize is I need to buy a flash, a portable flash to start using outdoors so I can get that look when it's not overcast and like I said, that's the thing I wanted from taking this class from you is to learn how to do that and get that look on location without relying on let's hope for a cloudy day in Sacramento, which is notorious for clear blue skies. Yeah, yeah and you're gonna be basing-- Yeah, that's definitely part of the next step and I'm also looking to reach out to some clothing designers from San Francisco, LA, stuff like that, start shooting for them 'cause fashion is the other side of what I like to do. Okay, all right. Well this is a fine thing to show as a representative effort at a head shot. Very clean, very simple, well done. Not much else. I mean, it's a piece unto itself. There's not really a hair out of place, nor is there a misplaced highlight or anything like that. All right, so nice job. Phillip. Okay. All right. Oh, man. I tell you, you are doing here, Phillip, what I have done for many, many years and that is to bring expensive electronics into a body of water, which can have certain ramifications if you're not careful. But overall, pretty dramatic sunset shot. Water is great to work with as a background 'cause why? If this was just kinda green grass or something in the background, see how much darker the trees are, he would be just floating. Plus he's got a black wetsuit on, so he would just be a floating head sort of in the middle of nowhere. The water obviously picks up the highlights from the sky and retains a certain level and value of detail and dimension and that is extremely helpful. Is this the ideal background for a shot like this? Probably not, okay, and now given that I'm sure there weren't that many choices. Is this what's going on? I have some back story for you, Joe. I figured that was as much. As soon as I said something. So this would be Phillip chiming in. So, Phillip. Okay, so this is a young triathlete. His name is Patrick and it's shot in Poland with a speed light and an 80 centimeter Octa. That's the back story that I have for you. That's all I got. All right. None of which either augments or diminishes kind of what I've already said. Obviously there's some sort of soft box involved. You can see the highlight in the goggles there and it is off the camera left, he is in the water, photographer's with him. Again, I don't think it's the best of backgrounds, but and being in Poland doesn't mitigate that. It just it is what it is and overall I think there's an inherent drama to the shot, which is good. That kind of galvanizes. When this came up, it was pretty different from like, for instance, the pretty head, we just saw a pretty head shot and now we see this kind of gritty sort of sunsetty thing in the water. Did that like all of the sudden go oh, all right, yeah? This is a little, this is a different scenario, not maybe an eminently predictable scenario to have flash in the water with a triathlete, et cetera. Is it well done? Yeah, yeah, it's fine. But is it... Does it transcend? Will it stay with me? Does it have the power of memory? No, it would have to have different components and a different body of water perhaps and a different bit of a background, et cetera. It's not that it's a bad background. It's just that it's... You want the environment that you're photographing this amazing athlete in to be a bit wilder, more evocative. Gabe. Oh, did you have, Bob, did you have a question? Go for it. Well, on that last image. He actually has the head on the right third going into the short side of the image. Would you potentially consider putting it on the right side so that he has somewhere to go? Yeah, that is an interesting debate that and I've been party to that a little bit 'cause a lot of my work, I have people looking off the frame. I was really grilled, schooled as a publications photographer to keep pertinent information out of the gutter, right. Especially with National Geographic being a perfect bound book, you don't get all that information. There's some of it tucked in there and if you came back with really seriously good information stuffed in the middle of the photograph, the art director could potentially be unhappy with you. But I don't have a problem with it. I might actually, it might be perhaps stronger, he's looking off, if he looked at camera. If he looked at camera, took his goggles and put them up here and had his arms all wet and above water, inflect his muscles and gave you a really intense training stare I think it would be a more compelling picture. But what you're suggesting, it would be hard to put him over here because then I don't know if this photographer has help or not or whether he's handholding that 80 centimeter soft box. If you put him over in here, then where's the soft box gonna live? If he's looking this way, you can't light him from here. So you've got a logistical set of problems there, especially if you're working by yourself. All right, Gabe. Looks like a logger. A lumber man. All right. What do you think? Pretty nice, right, pretty nice. I think it's actually maybe even a little bit tight. I might want to see a little more dimension. But it's cropped pretty well. You don't need to see the whole helmet, very kind of raw but good lighting and you know instantly, a lot of language being spoken here. Dirty T-shirt, plaid overshirt, kind of rough-hewn outdoor face, hard hat, logs, story in one picture. You know basically this is a working man and he's probably a logger. So that's a lot to just kind of get your arms around immediately and it's well done graphically. Nicely done. All right. Okay. So talk to me, Kaiko. Okay, so I started shifting my focus on food photography last year. So I started capturing some images of food, like one subject one month and in February last year I went to this place, non-profit organization that promote sustainable food in Woodinville here 45 minutes northeast from here and she was making amazing bread with just pure ingredients and I wanted to capture that. The challenge was that the stainless fridge in the back, I had a speed light in the camera left, but it'll bounce the light right back to her behind. So I was kind of struggled with that and... Yeah, this looks like natural light though because is there strong sunlight coming in through the window there? Yeah, yeah, so like I played around with it, but then at the end I'm like oh, I'll just keep... Natural. Yeah, okay. All right. Yeah, she's a good subject and this is a good activity to photograph. I think you've mitigated my enjoyment of the potential of this picture by having a lot of other stuff that's kind of competing with her. The shiny refrigerator, not a great thing. If you're going to include this, you might want to clean that up. That's not positive. These things are not positive, okay. The making of bread has been with us almost since the dawn of time and it's a very simple human activity that involves your head, your heart, and your hands. So my initial emotional reaction would be go for that, okay. She's a wonderful subject with the gray and the bonnet and all that sort of stuff. I might have been tempted to work, instead of against those windows, to work more with them because that background is killing you. It's kind of nuclear relative to her. There's not a lot going on in the foreground. It's relatively monochrome. So there isn't a spike of, she's not, I don't know, an Italian chef with tomato sauce and stuff, like some color that you can hang on to. This is all very monochrome. So I would have maybe come around and taken her apart, here, here, bread, that kind of thing and worked with the window light instead of against it. Not a bad effort, but there's potential here if you can go back. I don't know. Or you're a nice person, I'm sure you left her in... Oh go back and like-- Go back, see her again, yeah, yeah. I was like I need to back up to the-- Yeah, no, no, go back, try again. Yeah, yeah. (chuckles) Joe. Yes? I've got a little back story on this one as well. This one here? Okay, who is this? Jennifer Dideo. Yes and Jennifer says "I wanted to create a basketball "portrait for this high school senior "that would remind him of the hours of grit "and determination he poured into practices "to be the contributor that he has been "for his high school team." Okay. (muttering) Yeah, I instantly like this. It's a fabulous picture, yeah. Now... Interesting. Well, first of all, the kid's a great subject. Right, you think? Like he's got that kind of good, strong, youthful, athletic kind of look going on there, all that sort of stuff and there's some backlight going on you can see from either side. There's some backlight. Obviously you need that for the smoke, et cetera. I can see the flash potentially creeping in to the right-hand side of the picture there, just a tiny sliver of it. Not a big deal, but to be careful of stuff like that. The shoulder, the left shoulder, camera right shoulder is kinda blown out relative to the rest of the subject. So that impact of that flash needs to be better managed and the basket is there, the information is there, the intensity, I don't know if that's the way you wanted it, but his shirt not being tucked in, is that the image you want to present? Yeah, those are all small things. The overall, the picture to me resides right here and I might have been tempted to, see the separation here. This is where apple boxes help you or some sort of folding table or something like that. Elevate him, get your camera lower. It is sort of already a bit low, but low angle photography for athletes works because it makes them appear bigger than life. So it might be kind of cool to have that more powerfully linked, like a longer lens. Longer lens, also good for athletes 'cause it emphasizes and magnifies. So if you can pull those two elements together, the basket and the player, might be a potential solution. As this stands, it's pretty good. It's overall pretty good. There's a loss of control over here, all that sort of stuff and there's also white uniform, blonde kid, super white skin, white smoke. (moans) You might want to ask if maybe he could wear the travel uniform. Maybe it's a different color or something like that or there is a monochromatic aspect to this. So but overall I think it's pretty well done. A good subject and I'm sure he was pleased with it. I'm sure that the young man was pleased with this result and there is kind of a heroic nature to it for sure, for sure, but a couple of tweaks, a couple of fill-ups could make this really elevate it to a point where it really just jumps off the page at you. Okay, this is from Paul who says "First industrial type shoot project "done with all natural light "from two large windows 20 feet away. "Used tether from camera to tablet, "so did not have to look directly at the flash "from the welding and time camera firing better." Oh, so he's looking at his notebook, giving camera instructions to fire. Huh, I should have thought of that years ago. (chuckles) Wow. Okay. All right. Some of the design elements are well handled, the synchronicity of color. The yellow and the blue work pretty well. The girder work is kind of that monochrome and veering towards the cool side. There's a relationship there. With the uniform that the guy is wearing, all the stuff kind of works for us in this photograph, but overall it just is a picture of a welder guy. There's nothing about it that's gonna be absolutely memorable and shooting available light, again, this is not that, there's flash and there's available light and there's wonderful pictures in all genres, but the fact that you're shooting available light means, as we have already said, this whole thing is in the same exposure template. So the wall is actually sort of just as important as him in terms of exposure value. This bucket back here is not helping me either. You gotta clean that kind of stuff up. If you had put up a flash over here and isolated him with a hard raw flash that sort of mimicked the nature of hard light that would be produced by the weld, well then you're dropping this background down. Then you could actually take and maybe wash some blue or warm tones up those slats. Then you start to really elevate. Right now, the camera is a Xerox machine and it's not a bad picture, but it's never gonna be good. Okay, Tanya, this is you. All right. Lovely subject. Absolutely lovely subject. She's awesome. This was a fashion collaboration that I did actually just last month in Dallas. I have a friend who recently started her own head scarf line and my own personal project is to do a little bit more modest fashion, so it was like a good collaboration for both of us to be able to do. She's not a model. She's actually a good friend of mine who should be a model I think. So this was just out in available light. Just had her kind of pose. I tried to find nice neutral backgrounds obviously to highlight the head scarf, which was the main purpose for the photo originally. Sounds good. Well, I think the complementary color aspect of this, the neutrality of the background and the scarf works quite well. Anybody else agree with that? And also the simple shape. I mean the head scarf, scarves are beautiful on women in a fashion sense or whatever sense you want to photograph them in. It gives something else a splash of color, an element of design, all that sort of stuff, which is really, really kind of pretty and the fact is, yeah, your friend for not being a professional model is pulling this off really well. She's got presence, right. This is a lady who's comfortable in front of the camera, hands on hips, strong pose, kick over here, nice angles, triangles here. I'd lose the watch. But simple, good makeup. Does she do her own makeup? She does. Yeah, that's pretty good. And all of that stuff going on that I think really makes for just a simple clean portrait and if Tanya's aim is to get you to be involved in the beauty of the scarf, then she accomplished that because it's really the one thing that you end up looking at in the photograph. The dress is sort of non-committal, it's just there. The background, same thing. What's the element of distinction? The color and the scarf. So mission accomplished. Nice job. Okay. Can I tell you about this one, Joe? Sure. All right, this is from Rye Lynch and he's got a main light is a strip light with a grid. The fill light is a soft box and he's got some window lights, one speed light with a red gel and one with a CTB gel. Okay. Almost looks like a set, doesn't it? Mm hmm. Hmm. All right. This is Rye Lynch. Okay. Yeah, I think he's playing his cards well here. Okay, color palette is very pretty meticulous, the blue tonalities, the warm tones in the overhead hanging lamps, the luggage, the period aspects of the dress all speak to a lady in the '40s looking to get on a train or something like that, whatever it might be. Do you like the red? Mm I could probably live without the red, though it is a nice. Again, all of this up in here, very monochromatic, right, not a lot of differentiation there. So at the end of the day, probably the red is advisable. I'd have to think about that for a little while longer or actually had been there to sort of sort that out. But design elements, one thing he's done extremely well, especially with a vertical with a lot of lines in it, he's got that dialed in, okay. You get those lines going this way, it's just careless. So that's where your tripod, I'm sure, is your friend. All of this lines up quite well and her gesture is nice. The light on her is... Nothing, it's nothing lyrically beautiful, but it's very well managed, okay. (laughs) All right, talk to me, Tony. This is my twin brother. No, I'm just kidding, this is me. Let's see here, this is kind of an ironic picture for me because this is when I first moved to Seattle about a year ago and I had all these ideas, super excited, you want to do all these types of shoots and I don't have a huge network of friends, I don't have a lot of people that I know, I don't have a lot of courage yet to go and ask people to go on these crazy adventures with me. So this is me kind of poking fun of my situation and using design and color to play around. Okay. Maybe a little obsessive of John Keatley. So kind of in that time frame. All right, all right, yeah. Well as a wry observation of self, nice job. As a photograph to write home about, not so much. A sense of humor in photographs is a tough thing to come by and so this gives you a chuckle. You know, right, when it came up, outside of the fact that we know Tony a bit now, it still gives you kind of a chuckle 'cause it is very simplistic. Is there a significance to the pepper and salt or just-- It's just you're at dinner and there's nobody in the other chairs and I'm reading a book about how to make friends at a dinner where is there somebody, is that you at the dinner table or is that, you know. Right, okay, all right. Okay, yeah and I do appreciate certain design elements, the mimic of the checkerboard pattern and the brick is nicely done. The lines are very straight. Everything about the photograph is meticulous. Is that a stogie or something or you know? It's a guitar pick. I know, that was probably a little misplaced. I have kind of a habit of just chewing on them. Yeah, yeah. (laughs) And also, it's too flat here. It's just too flat. You're face is just there. If you really wanted a woebegone kind of like I don't know anybody to even have dinner with, you want to like pop your face and really magnify that emotion. Right now you just kind of recede and there's no vibrance to the quality of light on your face. All right. Good job though, good job. Poking fun at oneself is definitely a necessary thing in this day and age. Alrighty, so this is Ross. (sighs) Okay. Looks pretty much like a one-light picture and pretty well done. You have to be careful when you have somebody up against a surface or something like that 'cause maybe a feather of the soft box, pushing the soft box that way to feather this down would be advisable so that the brunt of the light is actually going past him and disappearing out there and there's more of a drop on him and not so much of a drop on here. Background is pretty well handled. Good time of day to be shooting. This natural light puts the little glint. Good subject, kind of strong face, chiseled sort of look, that kind of thing. Works well for this kind of light. Opens up questions as to who he is, is he an athlete, is he a marathoner or something like that, I don't know, but he looks like he good be, for instance. So simple clean one-light picture, that would be the one suggestion I would make, to push the light a little bit this way. You also, you might even... Well, you maybe not want to get closer to him, I don't know, I mean 'cause this is a good thing to include. You don't want to crop at an awkward place in his hands. But compositionally, this is all you need of these rocks. This is kind of wasted pixels in here. So, I'd maybe spin this a little bit and see if I could get more viable information or possibly get closer to him. Vince. All right. Okay, athlete portrait, presumably an athlete portrait. All right. I mean, this subject is a good subject. Good subject, powerful, physical, leaping, all that sort of stuff. I don't think you want to go to all this trouble to shoot and light this and leave him in cutoff jeans. That is a little bit of a disconnect for me. Why is he in? Now if you were just doing his portrait on the beach and he was doing kind of a here's all my muscles and kind of portrait on the beach, the cutoffs work fine. In this instance, it might be better to have him just with something really Spandexy and tight because you're obviously going for his musculature, so you might want to define that even a little bit more by getting rid of those kid of legging sort of things and going to just really tight workout shorts or something and then he's really kind of all locked in in terms of his musculature. The lighting here is kind of inconclusive to me. There is the evidence, obviously, of some backlight here, fingers, the rim here at the armpit, all that sort of stuff, light obviously also coming from the foreground and this is the strong part of it. His face is kind of going this way. The hand is a little bit, I'd love to see that hand maybe more extended or something like that. It's a little bit competitive with his face. So overall, nothing to absolutely complain about. Pretty reasonably done photograph, but I would keep working in this vein and try to, he's a good subject, to try to get something just a little more dynamic. The way he's cropped and sort of bunched in there with this kind of a move, I feel like he could do more perhaps. So, but overall without having the person here in the studio and knowing how he lit it and try to go about reordering the lighting a little bit. I do know this. That athletes tend to look, as I mentioned earlier, really good with strip lights and side lights. So if you had just two simple strip lights here on either side and he was leaping in between the two of them you'd really start to rock, I think, and you'd also be lighting his face better than as currently is. Well do you have any questions, first off? Was I unfair on any level, do you think, of assessing any of these photographs? No? Yeah. Yeah, it's hard because when you get involved in... Critiques elevate in terms of importance and how they might impact you when you actually sit with the person. If I'm gonna really do a serious critique of someone, one of the first questions I ask them is what role does photography occupy in your life? Are you a pro? Are you an enthusiastic amateur? Is this a weekend hobby? And honestly I modulate my criticism referencing that state for them. I'm not gonna savage somebody who just loves taking pictures on weekends and they got cameras because they want to photograph their grandchildren or they enjoy landscape photography or something like that. I gonna maybe push and pull in what hopefully could be construed as a positive direction and be as helpful as I possibly can. If someone has professional aspirations, then it gets a little more hardcore, right, because then you cross that line, then you're taking money from people and then that puts a whole different tilt to the whole thing and we all have our support system. I mean, Annie, god bless her, is very honest with me about my photography and she likes and does not like certain things that I do and she's honest about it and I really appreciate that. But a lot of us have our support system, right, around us. Oh honey, that's beautiful. That's really lovely. You should do this professionally. (chuckles) Okay, let's sit down and talk about it cause as you see, the act of being a professional photographer is a fairly involved act. There's a lot of things that, a lot of pistons that have to fire to make that happen and not the least of which, but photographic ability is a piece of a larger puzzle. It's not the whole enchilada. So, but if someone presents a portfolio and a continuum of work, then I can direct commentary more effectively because then when you have a portfolio of pictures, 10, 12, 20, whatever it is, then I start to see a window into the way you think. Classic editors that I grew up with, really powerful editors didn't want to see your portfolio. They didn't. I mean, they'd look through it, just pro forma, nice kid, nice kid, nice kid. All right, yeah, fine, whatever. But they weren't interested because that's your greatest hits, right. Everything's polished and bleed mounted and all that sort of stuff. Here's my stuff, yeah, look at that, all of that, yeah. What they wanted to see was your contact sheets and what an editor can discern from your contact sheets is the way you think with a camera in your hand. Did you zig when you shoulda zagged? Where did you lose control of the job? When did you step forward and get control of the job? All those things are very palpable in the way you look at those contact sheets and the same thing now as looking at a grid, say, on a screen at Photo Mechanic or something like that. Where was the breakpoint? When did this job actually turn a corner? Okay. The turning point for me, I think, was just like all of a sudden I abandoned the idea of turning the outside blue and I went back to a warm palette and let that light just start to inform the bar. Okay, sometime things happen. If you look at my grid from that day, it ain't pretty. It's not pretty at all. But what you do see in that grid is a certain level of consistency and tenacity and not letting it go, being a bit of a bulldog. So that's information that you can't glean from a single photograph. Is this photographer, Vince, who's done a pretty good job here, is he an athlete himself? Is this a commission? Is it paid for? Is he pursuing? Is this maybe a student and... A student athlete or something and his job is to photograph the football team for the spring catalog or whatever it might be? I'm just guessing here at this point. Or is this just a one-off? Where he pops in the air and all of that. Hmm, okay, I can inform myself or I can critique more intelligently if I start to get a larger picture out of it. But these were snippets, they were good snippets. In a way... Trust me, I've... I've had some work sent to me to do a group critique and I'm just like struggling to find something to say that isn't absolutely catastrophic emotionally and will lead the person to run from the room screaming. So, that did not happen today. All the work across the board, there was literally sort of nothing bad to say about anything. Okay, but neither was there something extraordinary to say about anything. So we are living right now in this middle zone and that is my... That would be the impetus I would give back to you from having observed these photographs. Keep going. Start to link pictures together. Okay, start to establish the fact that you can tell a story visually. There's an emotional resonance that links your work together, stylistically, graphically, in terms of color palette, in terms of emotion. How do you move the reader from point A to point B to point C to point D, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera? How do you actually get somebody involved with your viewpoint of the world? And it ain't from single shots like this. It just ain't, right, and I'm maybe selling your short. Maybe you have other bodies of work that would resonate more and we could talk about it more. But I saw this and this is what I have to react to. So I think that the greater good of this class collectively at the end of it is hopefully you propel yourselves back home with a sense of not only a little bit more information about business and the life and this and that, but also an overall sense that this is all of a piece and it fits with your life and your life informs it. That's why photography is a very hard thing to do. I mean, I'm not selling other occupations short because people really love what they do, they love being a nurse, they love the law, so they're involved in the legal system or whatever it might be and they might be really passionate about it, but... Choosing my words carefully here because there's certain like... You know... Level of imagination and sympathy for the human condition and thought process and your own inner self that get expressed through your photography and that's not necessarily true in every workplace. For some folks, it's a job. This is our life. It's there's no separating it. It's all of a piece. So you have to treat that carefully and understand that... Where am I going with this? Just in the sense that when you present your photographs you're really presenting an awful lot about who you are. So be careful with it and you have to craft it and keep working at it and working at it and this kind of, the Internet is filled with like good looking pictures, good looking one-offs. I went to a lighting workshop and the lights got set up and I knocked this out and it's a pretty picture. Mm and there's a lot of books about photography telling you how to light and how to do this and they're even so exacting they tell you how powerful the power pack is, it's 10 feet away from my subject and you don't want to copy that because then it's just a dupe of somebody else's work. Find what moves you and make it accessible. Try to find something around you you truly love. It could be your kid's soccer team. Volunteer to be the team photographer for a season and photograph those kids as they journey and don't worry about the technique so much, just worry about moments and those are, if I had to remember, you know the picture I remember here? The grandmother and the little girl reading the paper 'cause it's human moment. Everything else has already sort of faded in my head. I mean, I remember Bob's lady in the fields and all of that. I remember Cliff's lady with the headdress and the out-of-focus tree in front of her and all of that, Nick's head shot, Kaiko's baker, Tony's expression of whoa at that particular moment. Tanya had a lovely picture with the head scarf, all of that stuff. Dylan had a wonderful underwater picture, but it stopped short of being truly successful. All those things I sort of remember, but the picture that snaps to the front of my head is that and that was an available light snap. It wasn't a crafted or constructed photograph. So the power of memory is an elusive thing to chase as a photographer and I think that's where you need to keep thinking about that and one thing I would impart just in the way of informing self-critiques is to get involved in the field in the sense of read some books and I don't mean like The Moment It Clicks or stuff like that. That's all helpful and handy. Scott Kelby's got wonderful books about how to do this and how to do that. Go back and find really resonate photography. Okay. Go and buy the great photo essays of Life. Does anybody here know the name W. Eugene Smith? Leonard McCombe, okay, The Private Life of Gwyned Filling, Working Girl and one of the best photo essays ever made, Eugene Smith, Spanish Village, Nurse Midwife Maude Callen, Country Doctor, Minamata, all that stuff that just, I mean that form's such a powerful impetus for me as a photographer. When I was a young photographer I looked at this work and I was astonished that people could do that. The work of Jim Stanfield. Go to the Magnum website. Start to get involved in people who have really created an archive of work that is the shoulders upon which we stand and when you find that kind of resonate sort of like wow moment when you look at a photograph and it's emotionally resonating with you, that can inform the direction that you might need to go in. The Internet is filled with, 500px has wonderful picture on it all over the place and that's fantastic and there's a lot of fantastical pictures out there that weren't so fantastic when they were shot. Just saying. There's been a process that has occurred. But the study work, Carl Mydans, Gordon Parks, Alfred Eisenstaedt, all these people, Alex Webb at Magnum. These people have devoted their lives to... This creation of an emotionally powerful body of work and that can really push you in a really positive direction. So I put that in the back of your head in terms of critiquing. I've critiqued on a fairly surface level here, composition, this and that, light, bomp bomp. (murmurs) Okay, critique yourselves on an emotional level. What do I really want to do as a photographer? What am I curious about? What will propel me forward? 'Cause if you're gonna do this professionally, understand there's gonna be far more valleys than there are peaks and that is something that occasionally really strong photograph is what becomes a sustaining force for you when you navigate those valleys.

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Joe McNally Gear List
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