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Culling with Cali

Lesson 27 from: Lighting, Logistics, and Strategies for a Life in Photography

Joe McNally

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Lesson Info

27. 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

Culling with Cali

What I did earlier today is I pulled the pictures that we did yesterday in the bar and brought those down to about maybe 40- so that I could just go through some of the images with you, why I chose what I chose. Maybe some of them I also picked because they were building shots. We can just quick discuss them too, or joke and comment on those. I was also asked if I could take some of the pictures from today that we shot and pull them up. I'll just go through the editing process that I would take first to start, pull these two in, and then hopefully by the end of the 20 minutes here we can have a main select or three main selects from the two days. I don't know if you guys have used this program. Is anyone familiar with Photo Mechanic by chance? Couple of us? Alright. Photo Mechanic is actually fantastic. The way that we work, is we don't have a catalog or we don't have a Lightroom or anything like that. Once the take gets finished, and I didn't do the whole thing here because I don't ha...

ve time, generally speaking, this whole take would go onto a hard drive, multiple hard drives actually, those would go back to the studio and then I would upload them to our Rade System. From our Rade system I would start to pick and choose and pull pictures for Photoshop. But Photo Mechanic is a viewer, and you're going to see here is a grid like this. I have day one, and the yellow selects that I have right now are just my main ones that I had made for you guys to start. The way we do this is there's multiple color codes from all the numbers, three being orange, two being red, one being purple. I'll always start with the orange, just to say, "Hey these are Cali's selects, "I think these are the best shots. "Let's choose from these ones." I'll go through a couple of these build shots too. I pulled some from the beginning of the day. We started with that banister in the back. I like the light in these, so I'm pulling these for you guys to see. Here we started to bring the bar back in. Joe was messing around with the floor. And then we changed color. Starting to add in some kicker lights in the background, bringing up the light up front in his face here. The things that I'm looking at right now, okay, I know that these aren't the main shots, but if this was to be the main shot, what am I looking at? I'm looking at the ratio of light right now. I want to see that his face is lit well, I have detail in the background over here. The problem that I'm seeing is that I have maybe a little too much highlight over here, way too much shadow up here. I know that the start of this edit would be pretty difficult, so I'm going through. That's why I actually had to mention yesterday to Joe, I was like, "I think if you switched him over "to his banister, and we looked just at the bar, "we completely eliminate that "highlight section of the shot." That's when you turn him over here, more into the light and this is where I could start working more in terms of the selects. I think you had the watch come out too, was that you? I wanted it to come out, so somebody must've taken it because it was way too obvious in this photo. The watch is coming out. Once again, looking and seeing what the light's doing outside, how much detail do I have on the top here. You'll see this is where we started filling in the back bar here. I think Joe changed the color, yep. We talked about this whole section down here. This was a problem, so we started to incorporate some light, and then I remember we went from 5.6 to 1.4. This is where I knew that we kind of had the shot that we wanted. This is where Joe started to work more with Ryan at the end. Yeah, and it was at that point that I went up to him. I didn't want to fuss too much when Joe was still working out the shot, but then something that I had picked up on way early on, was that he had the one hand in like this, and one out like that. That just bothers me when someone does that cross handed thing. This would not be good. Get them out, Joe. If they're both under, or both over, but I mean over in a comfortable way, but when one is under and you just see this club wrist, This little nub right here? It's just not attractive. It's much more effective to have just both hands rested comfortably. That was just the changes that I made. The importance of having all of us on set, Lynn seeing things up. Joe and I would never have picked up on that. Yeah, yeah. (audience laughs) Right off the bat here, I know that I really enjoy this shot right here. Starting off, I would say just as a select I'm going to go orange on it. I'm going through and I'm just kind of like from the previous shot to the next shot, do I like this one more? What do I like more about it? See how the light kicks up on his face a bit more? It's a little more pleasing I would say. The thing is is that I'm still getting room under here so I know that I can work on the bottom of the picture. I know I have room to work on the top of the picture. This one I chose for that specific reason I just mentioned. He's so close to the bottom here, there's nothing that I can really do if I needed to work, turn, crop, anything like that, so I wouldn't make this one a select. These ones are pretty close, so I would just grab that as an orange. Little bit different look, his face is actually a little more filled in here. I would probably grab that one. Once again, too close to the bottom, too close to the side over here, cutting off elbow. This one's still pretty nice. I think it's enough room to work. Just from that first section, I'm going to exit out here. You'll see, we ended up from if I take this from the start of that shoot, to the very last picture of that shoot, about 144 images. I guess that's with JPEG RAW. We had it down to five. From this grouping of five, I would go through with Lynn and Joe. I would say, "Hey, these are the ones that I like." "I think that these work the best." "Which ones do you guys like?" Out of those ones, what would you guys say? That would be tough, I actually really like them all for a variety of different reasons. That's when you could go crazy. Right off the bat I would take this one out. Take it out because it's ... What would your reasons be? If I'm looking through them, I'm looking at the light on this one a lot. I really enjoy this shot. Then I go to that last one, and it's too filled. Absolutely, yes, yep, yep, yep. It's too filled. I wouldn't completely negate this shot, I would just turn it back yellow. Now we have what, four to work with? I don't know if I like his face as much filled that way. I kind of like him a little more turned. But I keep coming back to this one. I agree. I would say that one is probably the shot that I would choose as the final. For my druthers, what I struggled with all the way through the shooting was the highlight of that chandelier back in here, kind of coming out of his head. This is one of the frames that has it gone. That's what I'm looking at right now, the light. I like his expression here. Which one? This one, this select. But I also like his expression. He's got a very consistent set of expressions, he really does. That was the least of my worries, because I knew I had a good model in there. I'm just dealing with a lot of other kind of busy crap that's in the bar, you know? I was very aware that some of that stuff was coming out of his head, so I'm glad I got one where he actually blocks it. So, yeah. So this would be our purple. I would choose that as a purple, and I would take these other three that we knew that we really did enjoy and I would just command two, color those red. Now from the first iteration, we have a final select, three backups, and then a bunch of other ones we can work with. What did you refer to him as? Oh, the evil minister. The evil minister (laughs). Would you make a select from one of these, or do you want me to? No. Okay. Alright, so here we go. Once again, I just pulled shots so you guys can see, again, the walkthrough of where Joe started and where we ended. This is more of just an overview shot. As soon as we brought the light in, you can see how the room just completely changed. That was a good move on my part to light her nicely, but it also emphasized to me how tough that angle was going to ultimately become with those windows in the background as a design element. I knew I was kind of fighting City Hall at that point. This is when you started the change. Then I just jumped right into that one shot that we didn't realize it was going to come out that way. Which is cool, it was like a happy accident of the back. I started pulling just a bunch of those shots at the end. That's why I had Joe keep shooting. Even when he thought he was done, I was like, "If you wouldn't mind, shoot a couple more," for the purpose you'll see over here. He's shooting at F2. It's just nice to have those extra shots in case the critical sharpness is not there. He's shooting so quick that I'm not going to just, "Hey Joe, stop," every five seconds. I don't want to ruin the flow of the shoot. I'm going to let him shoot, and if there are some that are out of focus, we're just going to deal we're going to go at it again. I pulled these as well because you can see there's little things that I know Joe didn't like and this was one of them, was this bottle of Bitters in here so those are just things that you have to kind of remember after the fact too. Then this is where he changed over. I think you went to 24? I tried a 24, went back to 35. The shot didn't come together for me until I put that other light in, here. If you recall, the chairs were down because I like that element, but it meant I was shooting into the windows. Now the chairs break up the windows, and also give some atmosphere to the bar and break up those highlights in the background. That's when I had them put the chairs back up on the bar. I'll start doing my color selection from this point on because this was when we knew that we had the shot, or the type of shot that we wanted. Once again, looking at cropping and whatnot, this one, it's a little close to the edge, but me personally, I do like this shot, so I would probably just start by marking this one. Not so much her- No, the expression. I don't like the face there. She looks a little bored there. That's a maybe. Yeah, that's a maybe. Don't like the claw hand. No. Cali actually reminded me and I started to push her face in this direction. If you go back, see this little spot of light here? Oh yeah, on the cheek? That's coming from that. She loses it when she turns this way. He picked up on that. We brought her chin down. Unfortunately cropped in a little bit here. I do like the pose. I like the pose. There's a little room that I can still work with. It kind of is not so harsh that I can't work with it, so I'll mark that one. Don't like the mouth open there. What do you think? No. Lynn's very ... No, she's stunning, it's not about that. It's just about I look for poses that seem a little more natural and less modely, forced look. My eyes right here go to the hands in the front, first thing. I don't know if I would choose these for that. Yeah, let me go back down to the bottom here. Mm. Not so much. Yeah, hands cropped off, I don't know. I think there was one that we had already chosen that I really liked. That was my hand in there. I like that. I like that. I know, I was just going to say because that's not as posed. If you notice, my reaction was instantaneous. I just had a visceral reaction to it, boom. That's funny because that's not one that I initially marked as yellow. I just went back to the end of the shoot here. I was like maybe there's some extra ones that these two would like. It just goes to show, we all have different tastes. I almost like that one, go back. It was the one right after the one we ... Wait, maybe that was it. Yeah, her fingers are cut off here. Oh yeah. See, I wouldn't use any of these ones. Because of that. Because of that. They're all off the edge of the frame. There's something I almost like about that actually. Yeah, I agree too. That's nice. That's nice, yep. Yeah. I think this is when ... Yeah. If we go back to her, see how many we got, a total of seven selects out of that set. We'll go through again. I just like to go through quick. I just want to see what catches my eye. Honestly I think it's- There's a couple to eliminate already. What would you eliminate? Okay, keep going. I'm not a huge fan of that. Okay. I like her expression, but let's get rid of it- Or keep it as a ... I have it as a yellow. Yeah, there's something sweet about that. It's just a moment, she's not posing. Yeah, she exuberantly tried to follow my directions by giving ... I know, I know, I know. That's great. She's a youthful exuberant young lady, beautiful, lovely to work with, but it pushed it a little over the top. Let's go red on that one. This one? Mm-hmm. That's kind of sweet. And red on that one. Okay. I think that's kind of pretty. You don't like this one? I don't like that one. Because of her expression? It's almost like she's too aware of the camera. I feel like the smile is too broad, the lips are quite defined with the red lipstick. You like that? I kind of do, yeah. It's not toothy, but what do you think? Sorry, we have the craziest editing comments. But this is exactly what we do at the studio. Yeah. Obviously we're on the air here, and this young lady, you have to be- Oh but she's stunning, I'm saying. She's absolutely beautiful, so we're absolutely laudatory towards her, but she'll know herself when she sees the pictures. Professional models understand. They know, they know. There's a look and then there's a look. Then you want that select to be made properly because then that's what represents you out in the public eye. See, I like that. I could like that. I heard a couple yeahs in the audience too. Alright, we'll go with that one over that one. Yep. Alright, so let's see, we've got three red selects. Should we make one purple here? Yeah, let's pick one, let's go. No. Maybe. This is tough. That would probably be my select. I could go in a couple directions there. I like that. You like this one? I like that one. Yeah, I do as well. If this was a little lower, if your camera angle was a little lower here. That could be more of a winner. Yep. But, I don't know. And then we get to that, "Wow, I don't know." How about this- So far are you guys thinking that- What do you guys think- When we go through this process, are you saying, "Why did they get rid of that?" Or, "Yeah, I agree." Rock, paper, scissors. Yeah. What do you think, what's your favorite here? The middle one, two. Number two? This one? And number three, that one third. It's pretty ... Two or three. Alright, two or three? Alright who wants two? Let's see, show of hands. One, two, three ... Who wants three? Oh boy, that's caught, that's tough. We could have two favorites. Make that a purple. We'll do two. Interesting. Those would be our two selects from yesterday. Today we'll just go through really quick. This is the full take, so do you want to just go to the end of this in terms of time? Yeah, just pop up one of the available light pictures so people can see the quality of the available light. Is that where you went in close? When I went in closer. See how that's busy? This is 5.6 up in here. I think this is the available light This is 1.4 down in here, 1.4. It's very nice. It's soft, it's easy going. There's nothing special about it, but for a simple clean portrait of a corporate exec. Little bit of stuff going on in the background. Alright, and then we went through a progression here. Let's just pop up one of the ... This is with the Oxeia. See the five foot Octa is very smooth, really easygoing light. Okay? Then this is where we started to change up the room. Change it up, change it up. Let's keep going down. Yeah, you can see, this is when we started to put that light in here. See that highlight there? That was gone, and that needed that light. This was black. This was black. Could you go back to one where everything was blackness except her? There. Like this one? Yeah. Now we made a more intimate scene out of it by introducing the cool vibrating against the warmth. I also cautioned her to keep her finger below her lip. This is before we had the fill light in, on the hair, but that's where we brought it in. Now, this is going to sound a little bit awkward perhaps, but a shot like this, go ahead and pick it. This aint a piece of my soul here, it just aint. It's a nice picture, but you guys can run with it as far as I'm concerned because there's really no way that they're going to pick a bad picture of this. If she's looking this way or that, I'm not going to get into a fierce debate about this. Yeah, see I'm just going through now, and I'm already making red selects because at this point, like Joe said, it's not a part of his soul. It's like, okay I know that I'm going to be making maybe the final decision on which shot, due to a couple of reasons, and I'll just choose them. This is where we started this one. I might go with ... Once again, I'm just going to go pretty quick through these, make some selects. I like the full length. When I got closer to her- I know, it's funny. It's weird with a wide angle lens vertically, I'm always very careful. As soon as I came into her, I said, "No, not going to work." That's not bad. That's cool. Cali cautioned me, he said, "Do a couple horizontals." Just to have. That's nice, except there's somebody there. Is that a cameraman? No this is the smoke. That's the smoke (laughs). What's the last? I'm sorry, I already picked that last one. Go to the very last exposure. It's that one. It's that one, yeah. Thank you, Kenna, there you go. (Lynn laughs) In Photo Mechanic there's color class up here and it brings everything that I just chose to the top. On that last set there, we had 10 selects, so going through pretty quick. I told Joe too, I said I wasn't a huge fan of the arms on the hips, just for me thinking of an athlete or something. It just felt a little too posed, which is why I told him, I was like, "Maybe she can start stretching." For me, I think this might be one of my favorites. I do like that a lot. Just because she's a little more active. Maybe not so much that. That's actually kind of nice. Mark that as red. I was looking at this one, but this whole section right here it's looking like she's missing the whole arm. I do like the exuberance of her face. I do too, but I think in that case I think she needs her other arm to be more visible. Yep, I agree. That was the last one there. That's nice. Alright, so what have we got? We got three more here, let's see. Let's edit the office picture as well. Out of those three, I'd probably go with the last one here. I do really like that. There was one of the horizontals that really ... Like that. I'll mark that purple for you, Lynn. Okay. Okay, and so the office ones, we had three reds here that I had made before, just really quick. I'd go with the first one. I agree, that's probably my favorite as well. That's really nice, yeah. I'd make that purple, and those would be the selects.

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