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Thanks to the Gang in London!

Jul 24

In Seminars & Workshops at 8:27am

Did a Kelby Tour stop in London on Friday, and honestly, it was a blast. Had good talent to work with on stage, and the audience couldn’t have been a nicer group of folks. They even stuck with me for one situation as I once again tilted at the TTL windmill with virtually no chance of success. But, I figure, hey, it ain’t my job when I’m up there to just do the “safe” thing. Failure is a form of progress, and photographically, a tremendous source of knowledge. Push the envelope. See what might happen.

Did I mention we had fun?


Anna Passey, trained as an actress, had many moods and faces. She was wonderful to work with.


This was her response to my request to project an illustrative mood for a story in a woman’s magazine about “Men Who Leave.” One shoot-through Lastolite all in one umbrella, off to camera left. One SB 900, no compensation, TTL.

Then I asked a very different face in the crowd to come up, and Jim graciously agreed. I told him he looked “professorial” to me, and he just rolled with it. We positioned the new 30″ Ezybox Hotshoe Soft box above him, and shot this.


If you notice though, his eyes are not really sparked. It’s nice light, true enough, but Jim has glasses and pretty deep set eyes, and I had to get something going to spark them just a touch, and snap up the feel of the light. I tried a snooted grid, made by Flashpoint, which, by the way, makes some terrific stuff for small flash. This one is cone shaped, and comes to a very small circle with a honey comb grid at the end to control the spill of light. Fits the face really well. Ran this second SB900 at minus three EV, with Drew hand holding it, camera left.


The difference is subtle, but it’s definitely effective. Drew has gotten to be a master at taking these small, spot light flashes and locating them. What he does is use the test button to repeatedly flash the person’s face, and get the sweet spot of the light just right. The above pic took about 4-5 minutes to shoot, and Jim was a great subject.

Then we went to town with Anna, using Quadras, one in a deep Octa overhead, and another in a smaller Octa just below her.


I told her she could do anything she wanted, and she, uh, embraced that opportunity.


The background is lit up with one SB900, running on SU-4 mode, and popping off the main set of Quadras. These two pix were shot at F8. But, given her exotic eyes, done by the wondrous makeup artist Katie Cousins, I decided to take a look at what a limited depth of field portrait might do.


Time for the 200mm f2! Without a doubt the sharpest telephoto lens I have ever used. The above was done TTL with a 3×6 Lastolite panel overhead of Anna, with 2 SB900 units firing through it, both in the same group. She is just about standing on the silver reflector material that comes with the skylite panel, and there are two SB900′s popping into that, both on manual, 1/128th power. This, by the way, was the identical setup for the first pic of this blog, the group of wonderful maniacs up top. The system followed me all the way, from f5.6 for the group, to f2 for Anna.

Then we switched up to the Quadras, trying min DOF with them. Great thing about these little puppies is that on “B” port, at min power, you can dump them through a sophisticated light shaper like the deep Octa at like, 8 watt seconds. The result is below.


This is just the overhead Octa. The combo of the two lights gave me too much power for f2, so we replaced the low light with a big silver Tri-grip, and we were done. Anna is giving me the eye here, but I still managed to crack her up every once in a while, just with my generally idiotic behavior.


Like I say, ya gotta have fun doing this, otherwise there’s no point to it, ’cause if you don’t have an absolute love affair with photography, it’s just too hard and frustrating to keep doing. I try to accept success and failure in equal and unequal measure, because if you stick with it, you know what the reward is?

You get to do it again. More tk…..

73 Responses to “Thanks to the Gang in London!”

Eileen Ludiwig says:

on July 24, 2010 at 8:34 am


Love reading your travels and blog post. Nice job with great explanation and thank you for being so human in your blog. Your personality invites everyone in.


Rick says:

on July 24, 2010 at 8:35 am

Bravo Joe it was a fantastic seminar. I learned so many little tricks but most importantly, BE TENACIOUS!

Dale says:

on July 24, 2010 at 8:40 am

I had a great time at the seminar! Was definitely worth the trip over from Brussels! Thanks for putting up the highlights on your blog!

Jason S says:

on July 24, 2010 at 8:42 am

A great day in Islington. Joe, you make it look so effortless, but have the grace to let us know truly how hard it is sometimes, and the continually experimental nature of what you were showing inspires. Anna was a great find too, I’d hire her in a heartbeat.

Patrick says:

on July 24, 2010 at 8:45 am

“Like I say, ya gotta have fun doing this, otherwise there’s no point to it, ’cause if you don’t have an absolute love affair with photography, it’s just too hard and frustrating to keep doing”. Great quote and so true. Joe you make learning photography fun and a little less frustrating. Thanks!

Nana Kofi says:

on July 24, 2010 at 8:45 am

Amazing as always :)
So… when are you coming to hold a workshop in Ghana?
Think about it and let me know :)



David Kelly says:

on July 24, 2010 at 9:27 am

Joe, glad to read you had a great time with us all in London yesterday – I enjoyed it too. Lots of great photo’s taken on the day but I really like the fun shot of Anna and her “bodyguards” growling (though not sure if that’s what David on the far left was actually doing at the time).

Thanks for all the tips & advice, and great to get to meet you in person at last.


Mike says:

on July 24, 2010 at 9:28 am

Thanks Joe – the best day yesterday !

Everything about it was well set-up and you, and the crew, rolled with everything the kit and the venue could throw at you.

Incredibly valuable, insightful, funny, fast-paced, exciting, packed with information, tips, techniques and work-arounds – and the best value seminar I have attended for a very very long time – and without a doubt the best ever technical one.

Thanks again

Ben Gould says:

on July 24, 2010 at 9:36 am

Love the blog post. I need to come to one of your workshops soon, come through Dallas.

Greg DT says:

on July 24, 2010 at 9:45 am

I thought the day was going to be good but didn’t appreciate just how exceptional the seminar was going to turn out to be. Even the free coffee was pretty drinkable ;-)

Watching as Joe (and the rest of us in spirit) battled with the “executive amongst the share-holders” set up was oddly the highlight of the day for me. I know Joe was having a nightmare with it, but as he talked through the problem, worked round the TTL failures and worked through the solution it was pure gold for all of us. Had we had a little more time it’s clear Joe would have worked his magic and nailed the shot (to be honest I thought the last picture of that set up was pretty damn good.)

Thanks for coming to London and have a safe trip back. Now I just have to work out how to get myself over to the US and onto one of the workshops.

Karl Bradley says:

on July 24, 2010 at 9:55 am

Joe, firstly really enjoyed the seminar. After reading so much about you, was great to see you in person.

Secondly, the TTL gremlins when you were shooting the model in the audience. I may have an idea why it went wrong. From what I saw, if you check the photos, I think you recomposed slightly and a fluorescent light came into the picture……

Craig Murphy says:

on July 24, 2010 at 10:02 am

I think the snooted grid on Jim makes all the difference. Great portrait.

Jason @ Replica Imaging says:

on July 24, 2010 at 10:26 am

Great to finally see you in action “in the flesh”!
Superb day all round from the venue and event planning though to the effort you and the crew put in to make it all understandable whilst keeping up the pace. Congrats to all involved.
Must say that one thing we commented on during the return journey was watching how you treat the crew, and especially how that pays back when things go “wrong”.
Drew was always step with you and even appeared to be doing a little mind reading at times.
As you said respect for everyone involved and keeping things positive is almost as important as the latest kit and choice of location.
Any plans to do some small group workshops in the UK anytime soon?
Best regards and thanks again

Graham Bridgeman-Clarke says:

on July 24, 2010 at 10:35 am

Joe, you ignited the spark to make us all have fun when photographing and to keep on till you get itright.

Nour El Refai says:

on July 24, 2010 at 10:44 am

I just love the over-under technique
In the shot with the lit background, I guess would be better if all was white, I think the degraded color from blue to white orient my eyes to the white area next to her face ! If it was all white, it won’t distract me like this and my eyes will be looking only on her face ! It is my humble opinion.
I love all the other shots with their dark backgrounds

Richard Danter says:

on July 24, 2010 at 10:44 am

Hey Joe,

It wasn’t just Anna you were cracking up yesterday! We all had a great time laughing and learning together.

Thanks for a great day,

Nick Redman says:

on July 24, 2010 at 11:41 am

Really enjoyed the day Joe . Loved the long throw shots at the end with the cross shadows. Definitely stealing that one ;-) come again soon. :-)

Richard O says:

on July 24, 2010 at 11:46 am

Thanks for such a great seminar! I learned loads and had a wicked time!!!

Denis B says:

on July 24, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Absolutely brilliant day. Was expecting Joe on his own with some local help and equipment but no. The whole crew was there with everything bar the kitchen sink! Professional to the last, packed with information and great fun too. It was great to see the shots evolving from start to finish and fantastic to meet the man himself eventually. Well worth the trip from Ireland.



Ingrid says:

on July 24, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Thank you for a thoroughly entertaining and informative seminar! It was particularly useful to see that the problems that occur with flash are quite normal, and like you said we just need to be tenacious.
The photographs you took on the day were fantastic. I learned so much.


Cheryl Johnson says:

on July 24, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Thank you for reviving my love of making special light :) Pls remind me of the name of the singer from the slideshow

Ingo Meckmann says:

on July 24, 2010 at 1:29 pm

It was a great seminar, I can just just recommend it to anyone who hasn’t experienced it yet. Something missing in above post is a picture of Joe in action, so here is one I took of him: http://www.flickr.com/photos/meckimac/4821180873/

Scott says:

on July 24, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Good fun day though I had enjoyed most of the early stuff in an online seminar before at Kelby Training. Always inspriring. Immensely enjoyable.

Fine live work – would love to have seen Anna jumping [with or without those heels] before the end…


Thank you.

Ezekiel says:

on July 24, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Hey Joe. It was wonderful to have a portrait taken by you. Please remind Drew to send me the photos so that I can show my grandchildren one day. Hope to see you again soon in the States next time around. tk

Richard Budd says:

on July 24, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Truly an amazing day, learning all about speedlight photography. What to use, when, how and why. The creative elements to the day were 100% – loved the high hands lit from the back of the room at 200 zoom power. Nuff said Joe! Massive thanks for a great day – I trust you guys get home safely and continue to do great things.

Sean says:

on July 24, 2010 at 2:35 pm

What refreshing… enjoyment of it all. After endlessly endless tech talk (which I love) and the pressure for perfection, your approach is equally finessed but fun and lighthearted.

Keep up the vision… for imagery (and life)

Sean Shimmel

Tony Meikle says:

on July 24, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Great show Joe! Plenty to think about with lots of inspirational content: Thanks!

Steve Lavelle says:

on July 24, 2010 at 2:55 pm

An Amazing experience…
If you are thinking “Should I go to one of these McNally gigs ?” – don’t hesitate, just book yourself on it. Joe’s talent is genuinely awesome to see at close range. He charmed, enthused and inspired that group of photogs, myself included – the energy level in the venue was TRULY phenomenal. Thanks mate !
(BTW He is also a Nice Guy, both polite and witty. In every break, he was patiently signing autographs, talking to the photogs and answering every question thrown at him.)
“The” photo Rock Star of our generation (I’m not on the Kelby/McNally payroll – honest!)

Ross MacLennan says:

on July 24, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Thanks Joe.
It was an honour to be there.
Way beyond expectations!

Tim Driver says:

on July 24, 2010 at 4:57 pm

I had a great day out Joe and learnt a load – Thanks for putting on such a well run show its nice to have slick presentation at some uk events


Trevor says:

on July 24, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Joe, This was the best photography seminar I have ever seen. It was fantastic to see you in action and see how you worked your way through problems in an experienced logical manner. I will take away the methods that you have shown and maybe try the CLS system some more. It was apity it all had to end at 5pm. I could have gone on watching and learning forever.
Thanks to you and your well drilled crew for a great day.
It is really good to see some of the pics you made published here too.
Anyone else thinking of going to one of Joe’s seminars or workshops should stop thinking and just do it!
Have a good trip home.

Gary White says:

on July 24, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Although yours was the name on the ticket, we all secretly know that Drew was the unsung star of the show.

I found your seminar really interesting for two reasons:

1. I have a newfound appreciation of the gridded snoot.
2. I can give up looking for a way of getting my on camera SB-900 to work autofocus assist when acting as a commander. I really need an assistant with a video light.

Great seminar.

Eric Muetterties says:

on July 25, 2010 at 1:49 am

Great stuff! I love the Sacramento, CA seminar. Can wait till the next one in the Bay Area. I am working on implementing what I have learned already from the seminar and Kelby vids.

Alan West says:

on July 25, 2010 at 3:33 am

Thanks Joe, had a blast on Friday. Learned a lot and met some cool people. Thoroughly enjoyed your method of tuition and sense of humour. Well done to all the team. Alan

Tom says:

on July 25, 2010 at 4:27 am

Joe, thanks for posting so many images from the day, it really helps to have a closer look at them. I’ve already commented on this in another post, but I want to echo what Greg said above. The shot with the guy in the audience was the most valuable part of the day for me too. That kind of thing is my daily battle and it was excellent to see you work through the problems. Please come back next year and get that beauty dish up on the stage before the time runs out. Either that or we will lock the doors and refuse to let you leave until midnight! Thanks again for a terrific day.

Geoff Penn says:

on July 25, 2010 at 4:56 am

Thanks for coming to London Joe; it was fascinating to watch that tenacious, dog-with-a-bone, ballsy approach to nailing the shot.
I learned so much not only about technique, but about attitude too.

Come back soon!

Bruce Cleghorn says:

on July 25, 2010 at 5:47 am

Hey Jo : What a top day. I knew I was coming along to learn a heck of a lot about working with flash, but I didn’t expect to have such a laugh whilst we did it. I was sure if it was Jow McNally or Billy Connoly up on stage at time. Looking forwards to putting everything into practice at my next studio shoot. Looking forwards to next year !!! ???

Dario Dusio says:

on July 25, 2010 at 6:58 am

Hey Joe!
Thanks to you and your crew for the wonderful seminar. What you teach is invaluable and seeing in first person how you approach a shooting session is a lot better than readin in the books :)
See ya!

Ian Mylam says:

on July 25, 2010 at 9:08 am

Joe, thank you so much for a fantastic day. It was inspirational, educational, and a whole lot of fun. Watching you work through the occasional TTL glitches and lighting problems to produce a great image was a revelation – ‘the light came on’ for me in a big way. In addition to being an amazing photographer you are brilliant teacher and presenter. Look forward to seeing you again whenever you are in the UK.

Chuck says:

on July 25, 2010 at 10:01 am

Doe Flashpoint have a website?


Chuck says:

on July 25, 2010 at 10:02 am

Does Flashpoint have a website?

Louis Pang says:

on July 25, 2010 at 10:56 am

Love affair with photography. ABSOLUTELY! I know what you mean…just finished teaching the last two days and banged out some shots I had never attempted before. This is such a cool adventure!

Richard Hales says:

on July 25, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Thanks for a great presentation, it was all very informative even when everything was going to hell-in-a-handcart! I assume the guy who asked about group shots won’t be ob your Christmas card list?
Only problem with the show was that i now really want an extra 10 SB900s and a 200mm f2, think the wife might divorce me if I succumb to the gear-lust.
I hope Drew & Adam had some time off to experience more of London than the interior of that dreary room, they certainly deserved it after all their hard work.

Joe McNally says:

on July 25, 2010 at 12:58 pm

oh they did;-) Trust me, they saw quite a bit more than the inside of a hotel room….

Dave says:

on July 25, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Hi Joe, thanks for a great seminar. Learnt so much throughout the day and loved your sense of humour. Perhaps the most important learning though was that you just have to keep on going to get the shot you want. This was a fabulous event, hope you come back to London sometime soon.

Coventry Bob says:

on July 25, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Joe the master arrived and with his great New York wit from the get go had us all mesmorised. He delivers with a passion which is not drowned out by f stops, shutter speeds and other techno babble – be tenacious was his message and he amply demonstrated that with his afternoon session. I have often stumped up my hard earned cash for events in the UK but this was excellent value which far exceeded anything I have attended before. This event was high powered with techies Drew and Andrew working their socks off to keep Joe on schedule – a great way to spend a day in London. Come on Scott (Kelby) let’s have more bookings for Joe and some of your other stars for 2011.
Thanks Joe you have given me lots to think about – I’m dusting down my speedlights as I type this…

Howard Pitkow says:

on July 25, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Joe thanks for this set of photos and set up details. I continue to learn and improve by reading your lighting set up information. I keep trying and maybe it’s viewing it on my iPad but I just can’t see the difference with the male model (Mr.professional) and Drews hand held flash to light his eyes. Can you point out the difference even though it’s subtle? Thank you!

Ian Pack says:

on July 25, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Hi Joe, thanks for a great day. Your enthusiasm and professionalism are infectious. It was good to see the process of creating a shot, warts and all. You have proved to many that creating images with flash can be a rocky road but well worth the journey.

Good luck and I can’t wait for your next UK gig.



Gary says:

on July 25, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Thanks for a very entertaining and informative day. Although a Canon shooter, I found it not too difficult to translate. The time flew by.

Paul Everest says:

on July 25, 2010 at 3:39 pm

London, Friday 23rd July 2010. I learned that I need more equipment, a couple of intuitive and talented lads to move it around, a couple of great models to work with, a great tutor and lots more time and patience. I loved every second of it.

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