Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Joe McNally Workshop Review

If you follow my Twitter (@MollieTobias) you will know that I was debating on whether to blog about the McNally workshop or how to shoot fireworks today. Well, since I really love you guys I decided to do both.

Here is the link to a really good article at DPS on shooting fireworks. It says pretty much everything that I would have said. I was a little unmotivated about the whole 4th of July thing this year since all of my friends are busy and it looks like I will be spending it solo (I know, my coolness oozes) but the article got me a little bit excited. Last year I did a lot of close up shots of the fireworks so this year I am going to try to scope out the area early and get more of a landscape feel with some context. Let you know how it goes.

On to the workshop!

We started out the day watching a brief (very) slideshow of Joe's work and introducing ourselves to the group. We them went right into observing Joe set up a small flash set up with Andrew (one of Joe's tech helpers) as the model. I don't have any pictures of that set up because at that point I was still being a little shy with the picture taking but you can see it at Joe's blog under the post "They're Back" (it's the first image).

Next, we moved on to working with the models. One of the things that was nice about working with models that I don't get a lot of normally is that an experienced model, like Jasmine (above) knows what poses make her look good so you don't have to do a lot of work in that regard. It is fun to have the pressure of posing taken off of you and if you are shooting some images purely for portfolio I recommend getting a professional model - as opposed to your bosses daughter - for exactly that reason. It lets you really focus on the set up and the timing it takes to get a good picture with the right expression, eyes open, etc.

One of the first things that I really noticed about the lighting set-ups was how close the light modifiers were to the models. In a shot like the one above of Nathalia there would be a gold reflector at bust level and a diffuser panel overhead literally centimeters out of frame for a close shot like this. Why? Because the closer your modifier is to the subject the more spread you get from the light coming through it which makes the light softer and gives it more wrap.

I know in theory that reflectors are a great tool, especially for fill, but I almost never use them because of the hassle of getting them positioned when working by yourself. Then I discovered the magic technique of throwing it down on the ground and bouncing a flash off of it to create fill. How much difference does it really make? Depends on the lighting situation, but in some cases pretty big. Here's the thing to remember - you are not trying to bounce the flash off of the reflector and angle it towards your subject. Just point it straight down at the reflector a few inches above it and go to town.

This shot is a very high key shot that you might think required a lot of flash power. It was actually shot available light only at a super high ISO 6400. I dialed up my exposure compensation to overexpose between one and two stops and the high ISO gave me a fast enough shutter speed to handhold and still get results like this. If you were to really blow it up there is a bit of noise in her skin tones but really pretty tolerable because of the high key nature of the image.

The whole workshop was set in studio type settings while I was there (though they did branch out and do some other stuff on subsequent days which really makes you want to be there everyday) but I still wanted to get some lifestyle type images. Lauren (above) is not a professional model, but she did a fabulous job. I will also go ahead and throw in here that this is the only image that I have posted that had any sort of post production work besides some minor cropping. All images are SOOC (straight out of camera) All that I did to this image was composite them together and add curves to blend the backgrounds.

We did some action shots with Nathalia and the best advice that I can give you for this is be prepared, shoot a little wider than necessary, and communicate with your model. I gave her a finger count down from 2 and then snapped the picture at zero.

This set up was pretty cool. There was a strobe was back down the hallway behind some plastic door flaps gelled read and a light gelled green coming in from a hallway to the left. Above Nathalia there is a large Octa and there is a gold reflector on the floor with a speedlight bounced off of it for fill. Almost every model set up, everyone in the class got a chance to shoot. You would each shoot between 3-6 frames so you had to be on your game with your timing, but once it was set up if you knew how to work your camera and could follow instructions (Joe would tell you what ISO, f-stop and shutter speed combination to use for each set up) it was pretty impossible to take bad pictures. One thing I also liked to see is that Joe doesn't just walk in there and nail it first time every time. It takes some experimenting for him to get it right too.

These two I really liked and were shot natural light next to a big bank of dirty windows. The top image was +1 EV and the second was as metered by the camera. No fill flash used in either case.

That's pretty much it. I had a great time and I feel it was totally worth it. Joe was great. He learned everyone's names - and used them - which I really appreciated. One thing that he emphasized was to learn the models names and communicate with them. They may do this for a living but they are still normal people and talking with them a bit about what you are doing or just chit chatting between frames helps them be relaxed and get you what you want. He also made a point of telling us that he is always sure to have a mixed group when working with models (men and women) and always asks before approaching or touching the models.

I'd be happy to field any questions if you guys have any. Have a good Wednesday!


Anonymous said...

Good review dude, just wanna ask - was that workshop free of charge, or how was possible for one to get there?I am not from Austria and found out just now Joe had been there so it's pity I've missed that, but I am curious.

Thank you


Mollie Tobias said...

Thank you for your comment. The workshop that I attended was the Dobbs Ferry workshop just outside New York City. It was not a free workshop, but considering that Joe McNally is one of the best out there and you get tons of shooting time and one on one I felt that the fee they charged was incredibly reasonable for what you got out of it. I follow Joe's blog so when I saw the workshop announced there I submitted my deposit and application right away and was fortunate enough to get a spot. Hope that answers your questions!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your respond. For some reason I was thinking it was a review of Joe's workshop in one of his European stops last month in Vienna of which I'd been reading before I browsed at your blog:)
And also your name was kinda confusing for me and since I wasn't your site, work and all, I thought you were male /I know a german guy Tobias - which is his first name/, so sorry for calling you dude:)
Thank you again and have a nice day!