This was a three-day online class given by professional photographer Joe McNally through CreativeLive. During its live recording on April 5-7, 2017, and briefly afterwards, it was streamed free of charge over the internet.
I took April 5th off work to watch the whole first day of live recording, and then I also caught segments of what I missed on April 6-7 during rebroadcasts that were made available without charge on April 8-9. The URL that I used to access this class is here.
This class was very comprehensive, covering, at some level, most every aspect of professional photography. It included a live audience of professional photographers attending the class, and there was also a CreativeLive moderator who relayed questions from what was reported to be over 15,000 people participating in the course over the internet.
The class chronicled, through many examples, much of Mr. McNally’s professional career (Some of his past work would have to be described as “extreme photography.”). And for many of his examples, Mr. McNally described both how he achieved the resulting images, and how he, or his team, handled the business aspects of getting paid for it. In addition, he narrated as he conducted multiple on-location photo shoots to demonstrate his techniques, using models and members of the attending audience as his subjects.
This class is a virtual brain-dump from a highly acclaimed professional photographer. It would be valuable for many of those now pursuing, and especially for those who may be considering, photography as a career. I am indebted to Sharon Natoli, a professional photographer in Greenbelt, Maryland, for referring me to this class.
Where my personal emphasis has been on using photography to inspire people to higher performance, Mr. McNally’s focus seems to be on using images to grab people’s attention by evoking memories and the emotions that come with them. He seemed to be saying that the trick is to figure out how, with a single image, you can tell an entire story. He sees the camera as a “visa”, that allows him into the lives of others so he can learn their stories, and it is through photography that he communicates those stories to others.
In regards to evoking memories and emotions, Mr. McNally gave as examples the works of Gordon Parks, Alfred Eisenstaedt, W. Eugene Smith, and Rick Smolan, among others, in addition to the photo essays of LIFE magazine.
“You have to be in love with the sound of the shutter. You have to be happy at that moment.” – Joe McNally
“It is a visually tired world. Grab their eyeballs.” – Joe McNally
2. Attracting Interest in Your Work
Mr. McNally points out that, because companies now feel the need to have an ongoing presence on social media, they have to support that presence with an ongoing stream of new content. Therefore, in order to market themselves, photographers should consider developing skills in videography as well. In many cases, companies will be interested in creating Behind The Scenes (BTS) video footage for some event or activity.
In working with larger companies, photographers will frequently have to interface with an Art Director, who defines the layout and specifications for the company’s photographic needs. Then, the Art Director may also enlist the help of an Art Buyer, who identifies and makes arrangements with prospective photographers, and screens their proposals.
Mr. McNally recommended that photographers post their work in Instagram, and he noted that if your Instagram feed is consistent, it can almost act as your agent, in how it attracts interest in your work.
He also mentioned Wonderful Machine as being a fee-based photgrapher referral service. From their website, they describe themselves as “a production company with a network of 700 photographers around the world”.
An Art Director or Art Buyer may expect prospective photographers to respond to requests for bid with what is referred to as a Treatment, which describes the work that will be done, and the critical skills and equipment that will be applied to complete it (e.g., “This job calls for the photographer to be …”).
Another tool is a Mood Board, which is a collage composed of images and text that is used to communicate a general idea of the topic that you were given.
3. Making it Profitable
In regards to setting fees, he pointed out that Photo District News (or American Photo) once reported on the business practices and fees for photographers. He said that he was struck by the variability in how photographic work is costed across the country.
Mr. McNally’s office manager described various aspects of photography contracts. She described the term “Work for Hire” in a contract as being equivalent to the term “buyout”, which is in effect a “transfer of copyright” from the photographer to the client. This means that the photographer no longer owns the photos, and they can’t use them for any purpose, including advertising on their web site, or other marketing/promotion uses.
During the Critique portion of the class, one member of the audience described the business arrangement for one of his sample images as being “TFP”. At the time on Wikipedia, this was described as “Time for Print“, which is an arrangement between a model and a photographer whereby the photographer agrees to provide the model with an agreed-to number of prints of the best photographs from the session, together with a limited license to use those pictures, in return for the model’s time for the photo shoot.
Mr. McNally described the American Society for Media Photographers (ASMP) as being an organization that is dedicated to keeping photographers safe in their business practices.
He also referred to John Harrington, as a source for books that discuss copyright law as it applies to photography.
Mr. McNally emphasized the importance of passive income (royalties) from past work (stock photography), suggesting that you should “Know the value of your archive.”.
Mr. McNally mentioned several times that CreativeLive would make files listing the equipment that he uses available to the registrants for the class. I believe this may just be for those who pay for the class.
He also mentioned that in planning, he sometimes enlists the support of “prop stylists”, “hair, makeup, and wardrobe” specialists, and even animal and baby “wranglers”.
He noted that one of the key skills in contract photography is problem-solving, pointing out that photographers have to be good at coping with uncertainties associated with clients, locations, and weather.
“Project confidence and serenity.” – Joe McNally
“When your subject’s eyes go glassy, the shoot is over.” – Joe McNally
He noted that a contracted photograph has an intended purpose, and that purpose is defined by the client [i.e., You may have to save room in the image for text.].
He noted that the Profoto B1 studio strobe can be triggered by the Nikon radio flash system (This may require an external radio trigger.).
He noted that his First Assistant is typically responsible for ensuring the availability of equipment. He uses a checklist both for packing and repacking.
He mentioned that he uses PhotoShelter to store photos online, but that they also publish useful guides for photographers.
He also mentioned Production Paradise, but I’m not sure what role they perform.
He also mentioned a LinkedIn “Location Scout group”.
In regards to photographic techniques, Mr. McNally highlighted the use of lighting to focus attention. In preparation for each shoot, he performs what he referred to as a “Location Assessment”, where he considers the features, and in particular, the ambient lighting provided by the location.
“You are responsible for every pixel.” – Joe McNally