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Shoot Set Up: Corporate Headshots

Lesson 18 from: Lighting, Logistics, and Strategies for a Life in Photography

Joe McNally

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Lesson Info

18. Shoot Set Up: Corporate Headshots


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 Set Up: Corporate Headshots

I'm gonna shoot available light. I'm gonna shoot a quick available light portrait. It'll be lovely. We'll use a couple of fill boards, et cetera, and then we're gonna move into an area where we start to show the dimensions of the room, and when I do that, and I bring Britney, who's our lovely model, who's gonna be our corporate persona in front of the lens here. When I do that and I bring her into this other area, I'm actually gonna be having her face away from the light. So, available light is a beautiful, beautiful thing. As long as you accommodate it, in terms of direction and quality and closeness and strength and all that sorta stuff, and there are times that you wanna go against the flow of the available light. And so, we are going to examine both possibilities here and see, you know, where we go. Okay. And I echo, you know, what Kenna, this may be a first, you know that I'm, you know, absolutely agreeing with you in the last couple of days. (laughs) No, no, we're fine. (off-scre...

en laughing) But, you know, the tether tool stuff is great, and just the gear that' I'm using...there's gonna be a pdf that kinda sorts all this stuff out, and I'll just do a little, kind of personal thing, you know, and it maybe runs counter a lot of popular sentiment. You know, a lot of camera equipment gets bought at the big shops, you know...Amazon and stuff like that. It's all fine and good, but I really am a big, devoted fan of your local camera store, and the people behind the counters are incredibly knowledgeable. I have been business with Adorama Camera for many years, and I'll just give a shout-out to my, my bud, my camera consigliere, Jeff Snyder. J-S-N-Y-D-E-R at Adorama dot com. He's a good shooter, a good friend, and if you need any sort of real knowledgeable insight about the kinda stuff you can put together here, Jeff is my go-to guy, so I just do a little, kinda, it's a personal thing for me that I see camera stores, you know, kinda fold in their tents all over the country, and they're just such a wonderful, good, amazing resource for a photographer, and so, when you go over the top and order from Amazon, I get it; I totally get it, but, you know, it's a personal thing for me. I've kinda grown up with a relationship with a camera store. Quick aside. Anyway, okay. Um... Alright, so it's a pretty cool room, let's face it. So, here's where you operate, what is it, the Hippocratic Oath that doctors take? Do no harm. Okay, so that's the first thing I'm gonna try to observe here as a photographer. Try not to screw this up, because it's actually kinda cool just on the face of it, so if I'm presented and I have strategies for, I'm presented with a situation like this, strategies for doing this, and doing it efficiently. If I have wonderful, available light, I'm gonna grab it, because available light is available, right? And I can put Britney right over, sit her in a chair, and rattle off 100 frames of her in less than five minutes. And then I'm like, okay, cool. So if the electricity blows or there's, you know, they come in and say, "We have to cut the shoot short" or she has an emergency conference to go to or something like that, and she's out the door, I know I got something in the bag. Right? And that's when I look and if I have good picture already in the first few minutes of the shoot, I'll sometimes look at Kali and say we're fat. Okay, we are fat. Alright, we've got a good sort of initial set of exposures, take a breath. Now we push, okay, but if something goes wrong, and we have to curtail all of our efforts here, I know I got something in the bag. So I move pretty quickly, especially in a corporate shoot, because, you know, a scenario with a, you know, mister or missus important, you know, one of the, one of the, you know, titans of industry. All these folks are extremely pressurized. They don't have that much time. They want...the pictures to them, generally speaking, generally speaking are a pain in the butt, okay, for them to do. It's kind of an added thing, okay, how long, and what is it gonna take me, all that sort of stuff. They're very insecure a lot of them, you know, they maybe, you know, they're worried about their image and all that sorta stuff. And it makes for an uncomfortable potential relationship for the brief time that you have it. Okay, so, best thing to do is be efficient. Get it done. So, Britney doesn't have the ability to leave right now, I mean she does, basically, but she's committed to us, so that's one worry off the table. I know she's gonna stick with me. So, we can kinda pace our way through this. So, first thing again, always, always, always location assessment. Um, what does this place look like, you know? It's kind of industrial, got some cool windows, and all of the pictures, and that sort of stuff. So, the flow of the light is this way. So, why don't I start and work with the flow of the light. And the reason I'm starting this here... I was originally gonna start over there, immediately work against the light, but I saw Britney over on the set over here, kind of sitting there, in kind of this perfect, sort of, corp-she looks, positively in charge sitting there. And I just kinda picked up on that and maybe she's not feeling that way, but I, visually recognize, from a distance like, she looks great, right there. So, why don't I take a chair similar to the one that she is in; I'm gonna swing it around here. Actually, we can just take a chair from here. We don't have to swing anything around here. Alright. (chair rolling) Britney, can I ask you to come on the set?

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