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Production Team and Planning

Lesson 15 from: Lighting, Logistics, and Strategies for a Life in Photography

Joe McNally

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Lesson Info

15. Production Team and Planning


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

Production Team and Planning

Well, not to, you know, go over the top here, you know. We're a photo studio, you know. You know, we have our bumps and bruises and we've been up and down and sideways in this business. But one of the things that has been consistent about our studio is that is perennially, continuously a team effort. And this is kind of a special moment for me cause two people very dear to me are with me, and this is actually a first for Lynn. She's gotten past her, kind of, momentary dislike of me for doing this to her. (laughing) Lynn is very much a behind-the-scenes kind of person. By choice. Okay, by choice. And I totally respect that, but I felt like if we were going to speak of the business of photography, planning, production, and all those kinds of bits and pieces that need to attend the photographic process to keep you alive, cause let's face it. You need to get people to pay you money for you pictures so you can keep doing them. It's pretty straight forward, you know? So, and Lynn has bee...

n the heart and soul of that for us now for quite a long time. Quite a long time. Yes, and so it's very special to me that she's agreed to do this. This is the core team for our studio. Missing one very very important member. Annie is back home. My wife and also our director of social media and marketing, and that's a very crucial piece of the puzzle in terms of and we'll get into that too as, you know, creative live has got lots of classes on SEO and marketing and this and that. It's part and parcel of everything. I said it yesterday. Like it or not, we view ourselves as photographers. You're also a brand. And that brand needs to be marketed and shepherded and all of that. So, Lynn DelMastro is right next to me. I'm gonna turn it over to them in a minute just to introduce themselves and kinda give a little history about themselves. But, I will also introduce Michael Caley. He goes by Caley, that's how we know him. He is, you met him yesterday on the set. He's also a very dear person to my heart. We've been through a lot together out on the field. Trust me, as a photographer and assistant when you go in the field, you know right away whether you're gonna get along. (laughing) You know, like on the first job, right? Cause it's a bit of a marriage out there, you know, cause you see a lot of each other and if you get on each other's nerves, and some piece of the puzzle goes missing or something like that, it's like not a good day and you know that, you know, that's the last thing you need to travel with is a problem, right? So, you're focused on the job. You have to be relentlessly focused on the job. You have to have a road mate who will help you focus on the job. And he has the very largely thankless task, often times, of making my pictures look better. Suggest that, you saw him, suggest things on the set, you know, yesterday, you know, he steps forward. I encourage that. He has a younger set of eyes than I do. He has younger sensibilities. You know, the guys, the young guys who work with me sometimes, I'll blow a backlight into a swatch of hair. And they'll look at me and say dude that's so 80s. You know, and they're unabashed about that. And I take it, I'm fine about it, you know, because criticism is part of this business. So we do form inherently a good set of working parts. And Lynn handles... I don't know, would you call it the back of the house or the front of the house, you know. When the work comes in, you know, Lynn is the one to shape it, formulate it, put it into language that can be perceived as a contract, get that signed and declared so we know that we are officially good to go, and I can go into the field. So, I'll let them, as I say, dear, dear friends, but I'll let them each kind of introduce themselves and background. Over to you Lynn. Sure, hi. So a really condensed version of a very long career that's lead me into the last probably 25-26 years working with Joe. Prior to that, I worked as a graphic designer, art director, director of creative services, art buyer, photo rep, lots of different titles across the course of time, and then, again, fast forward version of this, met Joe all those years ago, and we've been working together ever since. My day-to-day with Joe is, it's really a lot of things. If you come to my desk, you'll see. So I have two monitors. My primary monitor has to do with running the business part of everything is through email so it's my email, it's my documents, it's contracts, it's everything. Then, every other week when I do payroll and pay bills and I go to accounts payable and receivable and I turn my desk this way, put my other hat on and now I'm, you know, HR, somewhere in between there. So it's a lot that I do, but all with, you know, tremendous amount of love for Joe and love for Caley. Yes. And we just have a great time working together. That's the only way you can do it. Just enjoy what you do. We're a small studio, you know. You can't have a personnel problem in a small studio. You all really gotta work together and really love each other. You really do. You do. As Joe said, I go by Caley. I've been Caley since I've probably been a pup. You know, military brat growing up, sports and all that, but I actually came to Joe early on, even before college, randomly through my mother, who I think is probably watching right now as well. She was a huge Joe McNally fan when I was growing up and had all his books and whatnot, amateur photographer. And so I always had these Joe McNally DVDs and books at my house, and like a lot of kids today, you know, you go to college and you're not really sure what you want to do. I was pre-med. Struggling with some stuff. And I just, was like I don't know, I just need 180... What can I do, and, you know, I had a camera from my mom. I had this McNally book. I was like why don't I just go to photo school? That's so random. So random. So I went to the Hallmark Institute of Photography base in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. And I went through this 10-month program. And I had... My whole life, if I ever wanted something, I was never like let me think about it, I was just like quick to react, so I actually called the studio immediately without anything to say or any idea what was gonna happen and I spoke to Lynn, and we had a good chat. You know, I introduced myself. Didn't ask for a job or anything, but Lynn said, just keep on the radar. You never know what could happen in this business. And, I don't know, 8 months later, and two or three phone calls a month, maybe, just to catch up. Politely persistent. Politely, yes. I tried not to be too annoying. Lynn and Joe had brought me in for an interview and yeah, seven years ago, I became an intern at the studio and yeah, I've been there since. Went through the ringer here, you know, intern, the new guy, third assistant, second assistant, first assistant. So, you know, we're very forthright in saying like paying your dues is important in this business. Especially from a young guy, I'm only 27, but I honestly say I wouldn't change anything and how it happens. A lot of people now are trying to throw themselves into industry and they're not really sure what they want to do, but the process leading up from when I started, when I was 20-21 years old, until now, just the growth period has been tremendous. So, yeah it's been a wild ride, as Joe said. It's kind of like a marriage on the road. We've had a good time with it, you know. Ups and downs for sure, but four... What are we at, four Valentine's Days together on the road. (laughing) Let's not get into it, Caley. It's been quite the process. So we always give each other a hard time but we are a true family in the studio and I love everybody to death here. So, background. So we are together. We are in this business. There's a lot of diar news out there about the photographic industry and there is no, I'm not here to debunk that and say everything is roses, absolutely. But, I will say this, I'm having more fun as a photographer now than I've ever had in my life. And people ask me, like wow, you know, it's so daunting and difficult to do rates and writes, etc. And there is a truism about all of that. But, the digital revolution that overtook all of us has also enabled a lot of potential prospects, especially for young photographers, that were not available to me. When I came up photographically, I needed to learn how to do one thing well and that was click the shutter. Make a good picture. Very simple, relatively speaking, process, you know. Now, young talent in this field has to be many many things. Have to be a producer, a digital artist, a graphic artist, a videographer, you have to know audio, you have to be like you're a one-person information and entertainment system unto yourself. You have to know how to design a website. You have to be able to, you know, relate to clients. You have to have speed of delivery. All those things that are incumbent on the marketplace now that are have accelerated, you know, absolutely accelerated. And one thing, just before I leave it, you know I've mentioned this a couple times, proposals. Especially any young photographers who are listening. One thing that people overlook for survival in this industry is oh he shoots well, he shoots this, he shoots that... I write a great deal. The ability to write coherent proposals and explain yourself well is paramount. Too many photographic graduates come out with an inability to actually articulate the absolute nature of what they're requesting from a client or to formulate a coherent response to a contract. Cause face it, you are facing off with as a lone individual business. We often times face off with enormous corporations that have armies of lawyers. And they're smart people. And all of that sort of stuff. We have to be equivalently off the mark, smart, coherent, and deliver what we say we will deliver, and a large part of that is being able to explain ourselves well. Lynn is amazing at the detailed nature of what she does. I don't go into the field today without an "i" dotted or a "t" crossed. Everything is done, okay. There's no gray area. If there's any gray area in any of the things that we do, it's because I introduced it. It's because, I've said to Lynn, look, let it go. It'll be okay, you know. I want to do this badly enough that just let it go. And, reluctantly, sometimes, you have done that. Cause Lynn is very much keep us on the rails and make sure we stay safe. So, and that I look to them to do, because I'm completely exposed. Somebody could burry us really really easily, you know, in paperwork or whatever it might be. So we are absolutely upfront, conscious of what enter into in terms of a business arrangement.

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