Author Archives: Joe McNally

Go Where the Light Already Is


The Kentucky Headhunters are an amazing, down home, rockin’ band. They’re also a helluva nice bunch of guys. Super talented. Grammy winners. A country rock institution. And, when you walk into their headquarters, visually, you get smacked right between the eyes. You look around and your first thought in this chock-a-block room, seen above, is “I gotta shoot in here!”

And your second thought is, “How the hell am I gonna do that?”

It’s beautifully busy, this room. And it’s got reflective, glossy 8×10’s all over the place, polished guitars, and even some vinyl tacked to the wall of memories. You want to shoot it, but you also realize that if you put up some spiffy umbrella or big ass soft box you’re gonna step on the essential character of the place, not to mention create reflections everywhere.

So, I sat there and stared at it. You let the place speak to you. There was a window to the camera right side and a door to the camera left side. The light from these two sources was nice, just not plentiful. What if I put SB 910 units right where the light is anyway?

Which is, tried and true, what …

Continue Reading

Trump and Biden-Two Magazines, Two Approaches….

This is not a political blog, saints be praised. I talk about Group A, Channel 1, and stuff like that, not the results of the latest polls. But the life of a photographer is punctuated with encounters, large and small. And you make pictures of these encounters! That’s the job.



Trump for Newsweek, Biden for People. Different magazines, different approaches. Trump was a week long encounter, Biden just a day or so. Trump was in color, with lights and an assistant. Biden was by myself, no flash, working with window light. I’m a generalist, doing what the job requires, so I was comfortable with both approaches. The current, roiled political waters caused me to do a bit of an archive rummage, which was, well, interesting.


I think perhaps the stories, and the way I had to approach them, might have mirrored the men. Trump was in color, all glitz, powerhouse ego, and I did my requisite lighting and staging. Biden I met at the train station in Wilmington, and we shared a Metroliner to his Senate office. Shot B&W, available light, all day. Tiny bit of color by the windows in his office. The Trump days were often set up …

Continue Reading

Growing Up, Growing Old….


Photos courtesy of John Young

We all grow old, if we are fortunate. It’s a given, the aging process. We do not all grow up. That’s more of an optional condition.

Now, growing up in certain areas of your life—love, being a provider, being a parent, being responsible to others, being decent in the general conduct of your life—is a good thing.

But in terms of the exuberance with which one embraces one’s craft, i.e. the making of pictures, well, that’s another thing altogether. When you consider the happenstance of this profession, the up and down nature of it, the essential importance and simultaneous silliness of it, the inarticulate rush of unfettered enthusiasm we retain for the click of the shutter, and the desperate tumble we all make in the madcap pursuit of a very uncertain result—well, growing up doesn’t suit that particularly well at all.

For instance, sitting on your ass on a cold, cobblestoned street to make a picture of a ballerina on pointe in a place she would never actually do that, that’s not like getting on a conference call scheduled at 3pm. The whole non-sequitur, head-tilting nature of the photographic endeavor doesn’t completely jive with growing …

Continue Reading

So, What Happens In Vegas….

Doesn’t always stay in Vegas. Especially the silliness.

PhotoShop World, that anchor event in the photo calendar, always has a theme, wrapped in a mini-movie of purposefully dubious production values. This year riffed on Wayne’s World, with the redoubtable Scott Kelby doing a very convincing, capable Wayne and Corey Barker doing just a remarkablably loopy version of Garth Algar, Dana Carvey’s character. Corey is a wonderful artist and PhotoShop master. Who knew he could do goofy this well? Especially at this PSW, when he got inducted into the PhotoShop Hall of Fame? Especially with his mom in the audience?

Separated at birth?

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 6.31.36 PM


Anyway, it was good fun, for sure, and the typically accelerated potpourri of educational offerings and amusements that is the core of PSW. From Scott and Corey as the dynamically demented duo, to KelbyOne instructor Mia McCormick as the bombshell, to RC Concepcion as the Mexican shaman, to Roberto Valenzuela strumming romantically on the guitar… was, well, schwing!

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 11.01.49 AM

Vegas always represents, for me, an opportunity to shoot. At PSW this time around I showed a quick series I worked on last year, thematically referred to around here at the studio as “The Garage Guys.”  The below was …

Continue Reading

World Photo Day

Just passed. Like so many attempts I’ve made at pictures themselves in the course of my career, I missed it. But I ruminated about it on the plane today, and thought I’d at least publish a favorite photo on the blog today. A picture for the day after.


It is unpublished. Very typically, a large part of the story of a photographer’s life is written in those pictures that rarely, or never, see the light of day. That’s okay, really. The pictures that get run in big magazines become a communal experience, which is all to the good, and actually the point of shooting stories in the first place. But those quiet pictures that remain in the file cabinet are often mile markers, private tokens of a life behind the lens. Pictures, found someday, in a box in the attic. Pictures that have stories, and provoke a moment of quiet reverie.

I do not remember breathing when I saw the above. A young girl, blinded by a gunshot wound, “sees” a horse for the first time. Light filtered into the barn. There were people around. I recall asking that no one speak. And I remember the smell of the barn, …

Continue Reading

Fashion! NYC! TTL!

Profoto B1 and B2 - Bath House - NYC

We photogs are known to lavish attention on our gear, and ascribe to it virtually human qualities. “That’s a beautiful lens.” “That soft box makes gorgeous light.” Descriptions can be fevered, bordering on irrational, occasionally. I am guilty of this, just as almost everyone is who has labored as a photographer. At the end of the day, though, the things we use are tools, and like any job, you hopefully choose appropriately. Small, light and fast is often the mantra of an assignment. Very occasionally we get called on to do a heavier production job, and that requires a different set of tools. Like bigger, more powerful flash units. On certain jobs, let’s face it, size matters.

For me, light is light, whether it is generated by a Speedlight hotshoed to the camera or a power pack with a cord stuck in a wall. And anything in between, honestly. That would be car headlights, an open fire, a flash light, or of course, good old natural light, in whatever condition it arrives on your particular location. But on this recent job, I had feet in a couple of worlds. The needs of the job demanded I be fast, portable, and …

Continue Reading
Return to the top