Every day I want to be better. I want to wrangle light more majestically. I continue to train, study and practice every single week. One of the most influential photographers I've learned from has been Joe McNally. Internationally acclaimed National Geographic photographer for 30 years and counting! He's grizzled, intuitive, hard hitting and hilarious. Joe recently taught lighting & studio management for 3 days on Creative Live to an audience of over 16k students. Students were encouraged to submit photos with the possibility that it would be selected for Joe to critique. I figured it was a very long shot, but it would be a dream come true for one of mine to be selected.
Well guess what--this portrait above made the cut for his critique!! I about fell out of my chair!! Not only that, but his opening words were like honey to my creative soul because it was literally the only photo he had such praise for. He discussed my portrait for over 3 minutes...I won't bore you with the whole technical critique but I did excerpt the first 45 seconds because I'm about jumping out of my skin in excitement that I was given this opportunity!
I was mesmerized watching Joe in a critique a few years ago. I could barely scribble down fast enough some of the jewels he was sharing. I've shared some of Joe's gold nuggets and several of his portraits below.
Photo above a humorous stab at Joe being critiqued by his Nat Geo editor years ago. He shared this to encourage every serious photographer to step up to the whipping post to improve their craft.
“What are you trying to do with your camera, you are trying to arrest someone’s eye, even for a split second…..even 2 or 3 sec you’ve done your job…because the world is full of visual cacophony. It is a non stop stream of visual garage that we are surrounded by. We are swimming thru it every single day …for you to isolate something, be entranced, enchanted, moved, then you have done your job as a photographer and that's a bloody hard thing to do.” Joe McNally
"When you ask somebody to get in front of your camera, you are asking them to take a very palpable risk…it's a very vulnerable thing to do to be in front of someone’s lens. I firmly believe as photographer we have to be equally at risk. You have to let your emotions become involved with the process…you have to expose yourself…you have to make a bond with that person that you are going to sweat blood and tears to make them look good… so your ass has gotta be on the line because they aren't feeling it out there if you are just standing there going click. You start working with them, moving with them, getting involved with them...they will feel that something special might come out of this." McNally
"You gotta push, push, push…Digital makes us too nice, instantaneous confirmation…10-12 frames and we think we are done. What did film do? It produced inside the head and heart of every photographer a neurotic anxiety. You would not let you subject go until you had beat the shit out of them, not physically but emotionally, you wouldn’t let go becayse you had to be like a dog with a bone…."
"Getting paid for something you love to do is not the same thing as running a business."