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Lighting, Logistics, and Strategies for a Life in Photography

Lesson 25 of 39

Shoot: Athlete Portrait

Joe McNally

Lighting, Logistics, and Strategies for a Life in Photography

Joe McNally

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Lesson Info

25. Shoot: Athlete Portrait


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

Shoot: Athlete Portrait

Alright, come a little closer to me now if you don't mind. Cool, alright, yeah, right about there. Now what I'd like you to do is maybe spread your stance out a little bit. Okay, put your hands on your hips maybe and just kinda tip your back like, ugh, phew, that was a heck of a workout. Okay, something like that. Now let's go up and over her with that. Now can I get some smoke wrangling please? Smoke going up towards here? Yes please if you don't mind, thank you very much. Now this smoke machine is a hazer. It's not a party fogger. It's a hazer, it should emit just a constant sort of thin vapor into the air. What happens with smoke machines is that you hit the button then they go (imitates smoke machine) and they vomit this dollop of smoke. It's like somebody had a large breakfast and then went running and then just vomited a whole bunch of stuff onto your set. Just to be kind of graphically pleasing about it. So you don't want that to happen. A little bit of haze could be kind of...

nice for this. Everything's pointing on her. Cool. Alright, cool, now I've got the box in the picture but that's not the worst thing in the world. A little more pitch and a little more height if you don't mind, Andrew. Absolutely. When I get ready, I want her super drenched, okay. You're there, you're on the same wave length, yep? Yep. Yep. Yeah, I can just do a little bit of this. (spritzing) Alright. Did we ice the water beforehand? (laughs) Just to give the model a swell surprise. Let me know if the box is still in when you frame up and I'll move it if we need it. Got to be higher. Got to be higher? Yep. Cool, cool, cool. Alright, we're getting there. The grid. Sorry? Is there a grid in that? Yeah, there Was a grid in that? Okay, well what's the power on that, please, is that A? It's A.0, yeah it's A. Okay, alright so I can talk to that light. I'm gonna put two stops in it. I'm pushing, I'm pushing these lights. That's a B1, right? Yep. Just made it. What do you think of that light? It's great, it's great. Just make sure the chin is keyed up a little bit. Yeah, it's got to key up. Alright, smoke please. Had to warm up. (laughs) Take it, Ken. Smoke please. Uh, Joe, we're not ready for smoke yet. I'm just actually over here having a smoke myself. I'll get back to you on that when the machine feels like delivering. In reference to the light, we have a grid inside of it and that's why if you saw me kind of checking behind our model here, we're just making sure that this grid is hitting our subject in a key space. If we're not positioning the model in the right spot, we are not going to get, obviously, not get the right light. So this grid is very specific so we need to be able to position that and that's why you see us kind of judging where that is. Arms. (laughs) Sweater. We have smoke! We have smoke. We have smoke, alright. Here we go, here we go. More or less. Okay, perfect, you're good, you're good, you're good. Step off, here we go. Ken, redirect the smoke towards the wall, please. Away from the model, towards the wall. (camera shutters) Okay, angle it up if you don't mind. Let's see If we can get a little, Brad, is Brad out in the street? Yeah, what do you need? Okay, let's just ... Maybe if somebody could get a tri-flip kind of thing and we'll kind of push the smoke a little higher, that'd be awesome. Okay. Alright, here we go, beautiful. Back off a little bit, Cali, please, thank you. Nice, good look sweet, good look. Okay, there we go, stay with it now, stay with it. I can't shoot too fast because I am maxed on those packs outside. They will not like me if I try to over shoot them. Okay, lets ... Do we have a volume control on that hazer? Yeah, turn it up or down? Give me just a little bit more and then let's shut it down. Alright. Okay, alright. (laughs) Are we finally rolling that on the files? Yeah we're up, yeah we're up. Here we go, good, cool, nice. Exhaustion, I am done, God almighty. (camera shuttering) Now I'm using two different kinds of light sources here. Outside I'm using really massive lights. B4s is one thousand watt seconds. Bang, a lot of light, two of em out there. They're just about getting the job done of coming through the windows. This is a B1, max of 500 watt seconds. I am maxed on that light, it's got a grid on it. So the grid is chewing up some of the potential of that light so I'm right on the edge of making this work but I don't know if anybody's in there seeing stuff. It's actually looking pretty decent. Very cool. You know, okay, here we go. Nice. Alright. (laughs) Alright, let's kick it in again. Let's kick it in again, let's smoke it up! Alright? Let's just let it rip, here we go sweet. Alright, good expressions, exhaustion, intensity. Okay, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, nice. Nice. Cool, alright, let's kill the smoke. Now, Cali, could you go over that direction and blow it back this way please? (laughs) There we go, nice, nice, nice. Okay, back off a bit, Cali please, thank you. It's amazing, to your eye the smoke doesn't look that thick. To the light< it actually does look pretty thick. Alright, there you go. Beautiful, beautiful. Now I'll tell you what, eyes at me, eyes at me. Can you open your eyes? I can't. Alright, dab her a little bit so she can open her eyes. Now that's a little too distorted, you have to be careful of that. You alright? Okay, angle your left shoulder towards me. Okay, are you alright? Are you dying here? I'm a little teary but it's okay. A little teary's not a bad thing. Okay, that leg back, this shoulder this way. Cool, right in there, okay, and look at me like really strong like Nike ad kind of like Olympic athlete kind of expression, cool. Good, alright. Andrew, let's bring this down please. Let me know if you need ... I'm making that move because there's not enough light in her eyes right now. Okay, cool. (camera shutters) Alright, chin up just a little bit. (camera shutters) I'm thinking I like the full length better. I like the full length better. Yeah totally. Yep. That's more strong. Alright, but you gotta try that, right? You can't just sit like a houes plant and wrap away picture after picture. Okay, you doing okay now, you alright? I'm good. (laughs) I don't know if it's about that. Tell her she looks okay. You look nice. No, you do, you look perfect, you look perfect. Cool. Yep, you look absolutely perfect. Now go back up, closed eyes, beautiful. A little too much, come back down, there you go, there you go. Nice, exhaustion, exhaustion. Okay, cool, cool, cool. Now you've got kind of this kickier hip. I want your legs kind of, that's it, really strong, really straight, powerful. Okay, okay. Super hero stuff. Nice, okay cool. (camera shutters) Maybe switch up a little bit too, no hands on hips. Maybe something a little more. Okay, yeah maybe just drop your hands. Okay and there you go, good, good, nice. Maybe like a stretch. (camera shutters) Okay, nice, nice. Try hands over your head kind of like post work out stretch kind of thing. Nice, remember your light source is up above you. (camera shutters) Cool, good look, good look. (camera shutters) Cool. Yep, you could try that, nice. Just move around a little bit, that's cool but remember the light source is up above. Cool, nice, nice, nice. Alright. Maybe try one horizontal as well real quick. Alright. That thing is flat all that shit. I mean, yeah, it doesn't have to be a 24. Maybe like a 35 or something. (camera shutters) Cool. Beautiful, hold that, hold that. Nice, nice, nice, stay with me, nice. Okay, way to go Ken. Alright and now last one, hands on hip and up again, exhausted, last, last. Alright.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

“The best picture is your next picture. If you start to believe that you've already shot your best picture or you start patting yourself on the back at any level, you might as well hang it up.”
Joe McNally

Learn from an award-winning, 30-year photography veteran.

Meet Joe McNally, known world-wide as one of the top, technically excellent photographers of his generation. His clients have included FedEx, Sony, ESPN, Adidas, and Land’s End; and his work has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, LIFE, and Sports Illustrated.

The legendary and down-to-earth Joe will show you how to create stories with light and harness the skills every photographer needs for success.

Capture pictures that resonate

Getting clients to trust your creative vision and technical skill takes hard work and time to develop. You need to prove that you're not only passionate but that you've got the skills to pull off an amazing photo, no matter the scenario with your mastery of tools and control of light.

Create a life in photography

You know deep down that you want to work for yourself and grow your client roster. Don’t let the fear of making photography your full time gig stop you from making progress. Joe McNally knows firsthand that you can’t settle for nice pictures to make it in this business. Commit to learning the technical elements as well as the contractual lingo so you can focus on creating images that resonate while growing a business that is built for a career and life in photography.

From this exclusive on-location and in-studio shoot:

  • See how you can work with light to capture the story of your subject and surroundings
  • Learn to use multiple flash units to create various moods and looks
  • Gain confidence by understanding contracts and relationship management with clients
  • Learn posing and communication techniques when working with a model, client or even a large group of people.

What students are saying:
“Joe is an incredible instructor and and even more amazing person. After taking this class, I've shifted my entire perspective on what I want to do with my life in photography and I am ready to advance to the next level. Joe and his team opened the doors to their business to us and answered so many questions about the nuts and bolts of their inner workings. This class is a must have for every photographer.”

Don’t settle for good enough.
Grow your confidence by gaining the knowledge and skills to create or style photos that resonate. With the technical know-how and professionalism, you CAN shoot in any scenario for any client, and make the leap to becoming a full time photographer.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Joe McNally Gear List

McNally Lighting Diagrams

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



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!