April 8, 2008

Photo Book Reviews


In our attempt to expand the valuable content we offer on the TWIP blog, I want to announce a new feature today. Book reviews.

In addition to our Audible pick of the week for audio books available from our sponsor Audible, we’re going to be providing reviews on photo books here on the blog.

And we’re not just providing reviews – we’re providing reviews by the best in the business; Conrad J. Obregon is one of the top reviewers on Amazon. His reviews are always entertaining, informative and never biased.

We’re excited to announce that he’s now an official part of the TWIP team.

To kick off this new feature, we’ve asked Conrad for his review of Joe McNally’s latest book – The Moment it Clicks. And this is very timely since the author will be our guest on the next episode of TWIP.

So without further introduction – here’s Conrad doing his stuff.

The Moment if Clicks by Joe McNally – New Riders
Review by Conrad J. Obregon

Picture this. You meet one of the world’s great photographers in a bar. He has a stack of pictures with him from his portfolio. As you go through the pictures, he talks about them, about the people in the photographs, and how he made each of them. About a third of the way through you realize that when he talks about the technical details he talks mostly about the lighting, and you are sorry you didn’t pick up on that right from the beginning, but now you listen avidly to try to learn his lighting techniques.

Then, about two-thirds of the way through, he stops talking about the lighting, and starts meandering about the photo editors he knew, and how he may have sacrificed some of his family life to be a photographer, and how he came up through the ranks, and that’s interesting too.

When Joe McNally talks about lighting a picture of James Brown, or Sophia Loren, or Larry Tisch, the techniques he uses seem to be ones you could use. But when he talks about getting a bunch of masks from the Smithsonian to shoot Michelle Pfeiffer, or five full length mirrors set up on the field for a picture of shortstop Ozzie Smith, or using 10 or 15 2400 watt lights to light fielder Eric Davis, you may hope that you can at least get inspiration because you are never going to have that kind of equipment, or if you are, then to quote McNally, “you don’t need my advice”. And don’t take a peek at McNally’s equipment until you come to that page in normal reading or you may decide the book is not for you.

If you are looking for instruction, it’s here amongst the stories, even if it’s delivered in a non-structured sort of way. I haven’t invested in a dozen Speedotrons, but after reading this book, I did decide to upgrade my umbrella to a couple of softboxes. On the other hand if you are interested in looking at a portfolio of great pictures, McNally has them. And if you like to listen to photographers tell stories about photography, often at their own expense, you’ll probably love this book.

Other then the lighting there is little of a technical nature here. There’s nothing about exposure, or depth of field or Photoshop. I am certain that the people that talked the author into writing this book loved the stories and the way they were told and how they related back occasionally to transforming a vision into an image by using equipment. McNally’s personality comes through. Whether this is the way for you to learn some lighting tricks will depend on what you feel about winnowing them out of the stories and pictures. On the other hand, Joe McNally is a great guy to have a drink with.

Join the conversation! 9 Comments

  1. I finished the book about 2 weeks ago. it is just brilliant and a must have for all interested in photography and maybe mcnally. wonderful photos with great stories and good advice and howtos.
    I have to agree with Conrad J. Obregon that it is limited in what it teaches you… so it is not an alround photography course, but it is McNallys specialty I think and an important and interesting field. I definatley would say, no one will regret the buy.

    Scott and Alex… you should try to get Joe McNally on the show some time!!!

    Teymur .:icedsoul:.

  2. Um Teymur perhaps you should re-read our post. Joe is our scheduled guest next week.

  3. I wish I had read a review like this before laying out the cash for the book. I basically bought the book on the gushing comments by Scott Kelby. I’ve since learned that Scott K is the cross referencing champ for his own interests in photography and all things Adobe. More power to him really. But all his buddies and their works are the “greatest”.
    Though it has been touted as the book everyone wished they’d read years ago for all it’s techniques, it is definitely not about technique. That is unless you already are a long way down the road in lighting. It was almost useless to me, an intermediate, who sticks mainly to natural light. But McNally is a charming guy with loads of name dropping experiences. Even though many of the images are spectacular my expectations weren’t met.

  4. dang… sorry about that Scott… completly missed it.

  5. I had the great pleasure of meeting Joe McNally at the DLWS workshop in Moab, UT, last month. He is a genius with “available” light. His book is fantastic and inspirational. There is tremendous technical insight if you read carefully. If you can only buy one photography book this decade, this is the one. I have read it half a dozen times and still can’t believe how good it is.

  6. Good, not great. That’s my take on the book.
    Fun stories and great images (I’m always a sucker for sports photos) but there’s not a whole bunch that will make me a better photographer tomorrow.
    I know that wasn’t the intent, but for some reason I guess that I expected more…

    With that, I’m looking forward to the next podcast!

  7. @Cotton & @Scotty – I couldn’t agree more. I was fired up as well due to Scott Kelby’s ravings, only to leave the book on a sticky Starbucks table, disappointed. Thank you for pointing this out to the twipians… there are far better photog books out there (including Kelby’s) that should be touted as such. I understand why Mr. Kelby shouted to the hill tops about McNally’s offering (he published it) but he deff lost some street cred with me and my merry band of hooligans. I’m not an author, nor a good photographer (as I believe Leo once said so eloquently, “I’ll never be a good photographer, and I’m OK with that) – I’m a consumer… and I don’t think it’s too much to ask for quality stuff… oh and Mr. Bourne – chalk the cast’s/flickr groups success up to Mr. Lindsay – my man Alejandro rocks the dump!!!!

  8. Okay Mark I guess the rest of us will go home and tell Alex he’s got the ball :)

  9. LOI!! probably should have proofed the way that last statement came off :) wasn’t inferring that Alex did all the work… I’m juss sayin’ :)

    Thank you for all the hard work and insight. [m]

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