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Team Criteria for Image Selection

Lesson 26 from: Lighting, Logistics, and Strategies for a Life in Photography

Joe McNally

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Lesson Info

26. Team Criteria for Image Selection

Next Lesson: Culling with Cali


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

Team Criteria for Image Selection

Now editing. We are a team again as editors. Cali does the first look. I really respect his thoughts, his vision. He calls. He shapes a take down into something that's manageable. Lynn and I also obviously especially the big takes have eyes on it. Why F16 on that last shot? Because I wanted to make the room dark and I didn't want to go into high speed. And because we can't do high speed with the B4s. Okay, they're beyond that capability. So, I went to Iso100, 250 or 200 the bit second at F to make the room dark to make it seem like it's a darkened environment and the only blast of light is coming from the fading sun. Alright, live shoot office. Picking the pictures. Editing one of the hardest tasks for many photographers. True enough, right? We are often times really lousy editors of our work. I actually don't sign on to that. For me, I'm actually a pretty good editor of my own work. You know. And I'm very dispassionate about my work. That's also incumbent on us as photographers. W...

e get emotionally involved in our work and say, "Oh, I really love that picture." And then it just goes downhill from there. You have to be hard hitting about your own work. You have to know what's good and know what's bad. So, team discussion. Lynn, what's on your checklist? This is Lynn's area of expression. She has amazing taste and style. Thank you Joe. (laughs) You do. I do look for things that are different than Joe and Cali. So for me I'm gonna zone in on, not that they don't pay attention to talent's expressions but I really look at that, body language and wardrobe malfunctions. Probably wardrobe malfunctions is the biggest thing that I'll look into more so than these guys will particularly. I'll notice if a collar's really backwards or underneath or something or a tie is off center. It could be any number of things actually. A bra strap showing, something. Especially if I wasn't at that shoot because I'm not at every shoot. So sometimes I'm seeing images for the first time and things that I may have caught had I been on set but for a variety of reasons I wasn't there. It's like okay now it's not too late but let's really hone in on what pictures work when we don't have to go into a lot of post to correct that. Unless there's one image that we all agree is the best image except that bra strap is showing or something's wrong and then we can fix that impost certainly. So, I will look for things like that and expressions. And it's also very subjective. You know we have our own taste of what we look for and that's what's a very interesting thing to see because often we'll come down to a couple of final images and Cali will be like, "I love that" and I'm like, "Uh." And then Joe is like my most favorite picture ever is not even in our mix at all. So then it really is a combination team again effort of what we come down to and what we think the client wants as well. And I think that's one of the things on your list. Yeah, we have to fulfill the mission. I mean, Cali looks for different things. Cali as I said earlier has younger eyes and different sensibilities. So, he looks for-- As I mentioned before critical sharpness and you guys can see. I go to the back of Joe's camera non stop making sure that everything is perfect in terms of that final shot or those final shots. Tech failure's, you know once again as I reiterated with that shot in the woods, did we lose the light in the background? You know, we have four lights back there, are three firing? So, that's one thing I'm really looking for. As Lynn just mentioned did we meet the objection of the client? You know it could be a cool picture but did we kind of facilitate their needs in this shot? So those kinds of things I'm looking for as well. You know we're all on the same page in terms of if this is like, you know the bra strap's showing. I don't always see but we come back to it. But you could too. Facial expressions, are eyes closed? Did we catch someone in the middle of a moment? And you'll see as we go through these pictures today. I probably go through them maybe a bit quicker than you guys might of your own work just because at this point I know what I'm looking for. Joe knows what we're-- All of us just know what we need to get, so to spend time on a single image and then look at it for awhile you're just wasting time in the studio. You know we have 1000 pictures or 2000 pictures coming back from a shoot. You know what the picture looks like that you want. Yeah. It goes back actually, I've been editing my own stuff for a long time. I used to edit on the light table, literally as big as this table. And it's funny how when you put all those chromes out there, you got 100 chromes out there, there's one or two or three that just speak to you. And you can see it just looking at the table. You can feel it. And also I'm behind the camera too and I can have a sense of like okay this is building, building that I need to go back to that picture. And it was valuable for me say in the Olympics because I was able. I'm on ethernet clipped into the system, so my images are being pipped immediately to my editor in a building a couple of miles away. So they don't know really what's going on 'cause they got multiple images coming in and I'm able to send them a text at that point like, "Look for this picture. It looks like the ping pong player's kissing the ball in the air." You know like this, something like that. So, I'm looking for light, gesture and color. I'm very, as you would imagine, very involved in the quality of lights, so that has to be very strong for me to gravitate towards the picture. And then I'm also looking for something odd, something different, a single scintilla of difference, something where an expression is like this or somebody just did this and closed their eyes or something like that, anything at all. Anything I can lay my hands on that might be a little bit different. And as far as the client objective as well I think depending on the shoot and whether or not a client is even on the location with us or at the studio with us. Sometimes they're not. Sometimes they just leave it up to us and then we send in the top or 12 or however many they've requested. A large group of selects that we'll send in and then leave it to them to make their final choices. On the other hand, sometimes we'll have an art director, an art buyer or the actual client themselves and a whole team of that side and then they're very vocal about what they want. And then you have a large monitor. The digital tech is set up with sometimes two large monitors and everyone's hovering over it to see the images sometimes as Joe's shooting them and sometimes it's after he raps a particular situation. And we're all looking at it and they're also deciding. And saying, "Well, they should be a little bit more over there. That's not exactly what we're ..." And then we go back and either do it again or maybe that situation wasn't working and Joe will make a suggestion because even though we start with a layout, sometimes the layout doesn't always translate to what Joe can actually do much better than what was in the layout. You know, the shot we showed you earlier for Epson, the thing that ran as an ad. Cali's up there. He did a great job because he had to shoot that sort of to a layout. And we're climbing around on this Girder work. So I'm pushing myself further and further out. He's like, "No, I think that'll work." I'm like, "Dude, it's gonna kind of have to work because I got no place else to go." So sometimes you try your best but the sketch in the studio doesn't always mesh up with the real world. So, retouching is as you see it. Pretty basic darkroom work. We are not a studio that gets called to do major manipulation. Okay so I did this, which was kind of a cool picture but a couple of people, there was speculation on the internet that filtered back 'cause you're out there and it goes out. "Oh, he must've replaced the sky. I'm sure he did this. I'm sure he did that." I'm like, "Dude, I didn't do any of that stuff." I mean, I'm flying in the plane. I'm flying ahead of him, so this is out of camera. That's the finished image. That's the two of them side by side. Contrast, lightening the ground a little bit, a little saturation in the sky. Sharpening the pilot's face because the smoke is accumulating on his windscreen. Basic darkroom work. Pretty much as you see it. So, the whole image just brightens basically. That's about it. So that's kind of what we do. The guts of the picture are in the camera as I come out of the plane. And it's lucky because I'm flying. I'm sitting ahead of him. I'm looking in rear view mirrors for those other planes. This is a 1424, so you know the sign on your rear view mirror of your car, those objects are actually much closer than they look. I mean, these guys are crawling right up the tailpipe of this other plane and then they hit smoke. I yell for smoke. They're all on radio. And then I start banging away on the camera that's over my head, which I'm driving with an infrared remote. It's a 1424. I'm ducking my head underneath of it. Making sure that I'm not in the picture. And then this is what we got. And I'm very happy with it. Very happy with it. And that was a very tricky shoot as well production wise 'cause when Joe dialed up that he wanted not only the biplanes 'cause that's 1-800-biplanes, let's just make that happen. But it's also he wanted smoke oil. I have them on speed dial. Smoke oil. I'm like, "Okay so let's get some smoke oil." But I was educated then in how to go about getting smoke oil. And the fact it doesn't last very long. So, every time Joe was firing off pictures and they were all speaking to each other to get that smoke oil out there. If he didn't nail the shot relatively soon that oil was gonna be gone and then we weren't gonna have anymore left. But I know what I know at this point. I stuck to my guns. And Lynn is amazing at this. I said, "Lynn." And she goes, "The smoke oil is expensive." I said, "Lynn it's a shot." You can't do without it. "I aint got the smoke. I got no shot." Imagine that picture with no smoke. So after awhile, you know you've been doing this a long time, you know what you know. I need smoke, gotta get smoke. Otherwise it's not worth doing.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

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