ACC Notes from a talk by Joe McNally

Here's some notes and tips made while watching a video by famour photographer Joe McNally. This is mostly about portrait and flash photography.

General notes

  • The job of the photographer is to snag attention for more than the nanosecond of a passing glance.
  • The most important thing in your bag is your attitude.
  • You have to be in love with the sound of the shutter.
  • Don't worry about how people use or talk about your images. No matter what happens later, you have to be excited about that moment in the field.
  • Your camera is not a camera. It is a visa that gets you into people's lives.
  • At the end of the day, we're storytellers.
  • Cameras now do a lot of what the photographer used to do. Now, you must add greater value.
  • If you can cause people to tilt their head when viewing your photos, it shows you have intrigued them.
  • Pictures maybe trained seals. Have to jump through hoops for client. Eg. space for words.
  • Nowadays, clients know what they want and demand value.
  • The viewer of the picture is your customers.
  • Move the viewer along. Keep the eye moving. Keep the interest going.
  • Photography is one bit set of compromises.
  • Project confidence and serenity.
  • The camera is designed to carve detail out of anything.

Overall tips

  • Use tungsten white balance to get blue in daylight (eg window, open door) or white flash.
  • Put lights, even little lights, in various places to create good light everywhere. Points of interest. Balance.
  • Use gels to create coloured light.
  • Light the scene before the model turns up. Don't let them get bored [or paid to do nothing].
  • Catch them when they are energised. Wind them up and shoot away. Especially catch the peak moments of genius.
  • Watch for the switch in the subject's eyes as they turn off and go glassy. The shoot is then over.
  • Put a bare flash behind them to create a rim.
  • Video floodlights flatten the still picture.
  • Take test images.
  • The further you put the light from the subject, the more diffused it gets, bouncing off all kinds of things.
  • Patrol the edge of your frame. Watch for lights dragging your attention away.
  • You don't need a light meter when the camera's measurement is sufficient.
  • Kit: at least two cameras. Basic range of zooms (14-24, 24-70, 70-200). Weight and time considerations.

Location assessment

  • Walk around. Look. See. Notice architectural features. What is moveable and not. Obstructions. Texture. Places to put lights. Reflective surfaces (to use or avoid).
  • Turn off the lights and look around. Savour the light that exists in the room.
  • Where's the natural light? Clear things that are in the way.
  • Compose the set with what you have.
  • Access is everything. Sometimes you need signed permission.
  • What time do you have before the public turn up?
  • Sketch out the location with where all the lights, people and props are.
  • Sun is your friend or your enemy. Shape or use it.
  • Notice the fall of light on faces.

Shooting tips

  • Interior shooting: -2 flash. 1/25 sec. F5.6.
  • Flash straight on is like hitting them with a hammer. Though a little can help.
  • Use off-camera flash.
  • Little flash-mounted soft box is better than straight flash.
  • Shoot first for background without flash (changing speed). Then flash to light subject.
  • Set up with an assistant as model so you can bring the real model in fresh.
  • Bleed a little ambient light into your solution.
  • Keep trying different things.
  • Use gels. Double-gel for extra effect.
  • Watch what is happening to the background when you change settings, lights, etc.

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