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The Moment It Clicks

Feb 12

In Thoughts at 10:06am

The Moment It Clicks Cover

There’s this book… It’s called The Moment It Clicks.

The book in question has been rattling around in my head for years. (I figured I’d better write all this down before I forget it and start wandering through my days engaging in a regimen of limited physical activity and a carefully monitored diet of soft foods.)

I figure photographers are like trees. As we get older in this business, we grow rings. We trace our path year after year, and where we have been and how we grow is in fact written down, on our minds and our bodies, even if we are unaware.

It’s like a secret tattooing that one can only see in a certain light. All of that experience, heartache, toil and joy, inscribes itself on us, indelibly. Sometimes the writing comes easy, in flowing, effortless script. Other times, the messages we bear are angry, as if written by a graffiti artist with a can of screaming red paint. Sometimes it is done slowly, painfully, like a fourth grader with a penknife, scratching his name on his desk, just so future classes will know… I sat here. I thought, worked, goofed off, ogled the little red haired girl, made myself a nuisance…all right here. Remember me. Our pictures are our scribbles and scratches, both on ourselves and on the world around us. Take a look, if you please, take a look. And remember.

[More after the jump]

I have always loved Ani DiFranco’s music. Her song “Both Hands,” is an ode to desperate lovers, writing graffiti on each other’s bodies insistently, passionately, using both hands. Other tenants listen to the swan song of their love through the air shaft. When they are done, the story of how much they loved and how hard they tried is written all over the bedroom walls of their tiny apartment, and they move out and move on. Then the landlord comes up, and… paints over it all.

Aha! The landlord can’t do that to us. We’re photographers, and the pictures we are writing will stick around, like footprints in concrete. Tough to get rid of. Impossible to paint over. A picture lasts. Because in a frenetically moving world, it is still.Isn’t it an amazing thing that in a world that only wants to move faster, we are trying to make things still? How quaint. Recalcitrant sons of bitches, us photographers. We don’t go with the flow. No wonder we’re such a pain in the ass.

So I wrote this book, and in the preface, I write down why I wrote it…

“What you see on these pages is not about a particular place, people, time, or cause. It’s not about one type of picture or another. It’s not about sportsmen or fashion models or war or politics or the news of the day.

It’s about being a photographer.

It’s about the sheer joy of clicking the shutter…repeatedly! The sweet sound of the shutter and the explosion that occurs in your head and your heart when you make the shot. The deal is the shot, you know. You make the picture and you know something just froze solid in a shifting world. Something stabilized, for all time. You just hung your hat on a moment that otherwise would be gone forever, and now you can go back and take a look at that moment, be it amazing or ordinary, any time you want.

It’s about your eye in the camera as the light hits just right. It’s about the slight turn of your subject’s face that speaks the truth. It’s about holding your breath as you shoot. It’s about the nerves, the joy, and the terror of wondering if you got it. And then dancing about, punching holes in the air when you know you do. It’s about… the moment it clicks.”

The thing is, it disappeared from the shelves almost immediately. Sorry for that. Book publishing is not an exact science, so publishers are always cautious in their numbers for a first run. I can tell you this, though. They are scrambling on the second run, and printing about 25,000 as we speak. It should hit the stores again within a couple of weeks.To all who have commented, blogged, or just sent me an attaboy email, many thanks. The book seems to resonate a bit with folks, and I am very grateful and humbled.

Mentioned in this post:
The Moment It Clicks

Nick says:

on February 12, 2008 at 10:30 am

Lucky I got my shipping notice from Amazon today it seems

kathy towe says:

on February 12, 2008 at 10:50 am

Thank you for your book it is GREAT. I am a grannie that has taken up photography — I love it — the most fun I have ever had. My dream is to go on one of the DLWS — I will have to make sure you are on the one I attend …someday that is (saving money). But the book is totally awesome — I will read it many times.
thanks kathy towe

Tom says:

on February 12, 2008 at 11:19 am

I LOVE the book Joe! I’m recommending all to all my photography-inclined friends.

Josh says:

on February 12, 2008 at 11:54 am

Yeah, I took delivery of it from Amazon yesterday and read the first chapter last night. David over at Strobist was dead on – it’s full of gems and just radiates with personality, which makes it very easy to read. It’s inspiring. Thanks for writing it.

James Garland says:

on February 12, 2008 at 11:54 am

This is by far one of the best books that I’ve read in a long time. It’s almost like having Joe sitting right in front of you and shooting the breeze about everything photography. I hope there will be another book in the future… but for now, I am extremely happy. Thanks Joe for all the insight into your life as a photographer. You Rock!

Jim Taylor says:

on February 12, 2008 at 12:16 pm


PShorten says:

on February 12, 2008 at 12:29 pm

Funny, this blog coming out today. Got my copy from Amazon yesterday and just started reading it last night. Looks like we’re in for a big storm – nice to know I’m heading home to hot cocoa and a GOOD book! Thanks Joe!

William Chinn says:

on February 12, 2008 at 12:33 pm

Once you have the book, don’t forget the bonus pdf material (a complete new chapter) . Information can be found on how to get it on the page after the Table of Contents: “Da Premise” . I’m deliberately being vague because you can get it without buying the book once you know how. If you like the book, the new chapter is more of the same. Due to the pictures (14 pages), it does take awhile to download. If you have dial-up, buy a 6 pack for someone who has broadband.

Once again, thanks for all of the pearls of wisdom and experience. Do you have Volume 2 to write?

Shawn says:

on February 12, 2008 at 12:46 pm

Thank you for writing this book, Joe. It really is one of the best, and definitely the most readable, of any photography book I own. A must-read for any photographer!

Michael says:

on February 12, 2008 at 1:16 pm

It was really cool getting to meet you at DLWS Yellowstone. I just wanted to say that the book is awesome! I’ve already read it twice. Thank you for sharing your experiences and the tips and tricks with all of us amateurs.

barry says:

on February 12, 2008 at 1:35 pm

I pre-ordered from Amazon blind based on Scott Kelby’s recommendation on his blog, and received mine last week. Already proclaimed the best photography book about photography in this millenium, and I doubt many will disagree.

I suspect your publishers should be flogged for not paying attention to Scott! Heck, Amazon was linking your book to Scott’s Digital Photography volume 2, and that book shot to the top of the charts overnight!

One thing, though – perhaps I missed it in the book. Did you ever explain how you did the cover shot?

Billy Mitchell says:

on February 12, 2008 at 1:37 pm

Joe, I married my little red haried girl. Glad I got the book before they were gone. I remember you working on it at Cape Cod. Thanks.

Frank Hott says:

on February 12, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Amazon is delivering your book and Scott Kelby’s Digital Photography 2 book (ordered through your link….hope it brings you more money). The internet is wonderful isn’t it? Here I am, sending an email to Joe McNally, a friend introduced to me by another friend, Scott. Remarkable isn’t it, how the internet weaves together people who may never meet in person, but who can communicate with and admire other people? You will have innumerable friends from the internet – do me, you, and Scott Kelby a favor will you? Give him a hug from both of us for the good work you both do.

Dan Francis says:

on February 12, 2008 at 2:05 pm

Your book will be in my hands “The moment” I get off work! I had to wait all weekend because it’s being shipped by Barnes& But tonight I’ll have it! I Can’t wait; I’ve only heard good things about it.

Great piece of writing on today’s blog also. I’m glad you decided to create a blog as photography blogs are the first thing I read before I start my day of work. What the Duck, Kelby, Ziser, and now McNally! I love to learn about photography, and again I can’t wait to read and re-read your book.

Keep up the good work!


scott neumyer says:

on February 12, 2008 at 2:17 pm

I got mine! It’s a great book and easily one of the most enjoyable and informative photography books I’ve ever read.

Great work, sir!

david duChemin says:

on February 12, 2008 at 2:26 pm

Quote of the year: “Recalcitrant sons of bitches, us photographers. We don’t go with the flow. No wonder we’re such a pain in the ass.”

I’m anxiously awaiting my copy of the book, hoping it arrives before my flight to Mongolia for a ten-day assignment. All that time on planes and desperately hoping you’re there with me – in book-form – on those flights, Joe. Congrats on the success of the book and thanks, in advance, for sharing so openly and candidly.

You may now return to your recalcitrance.

Rick says:

on February 12, 2008 at 2:58 pm

I got mine in Monday’s mail……can’t wait to crack the seal. Looks like a GREAT read!

Teymur Madjderey says:

on February 12, 2008 at 3:22 pm

I am very much looking forward to get my hands on this one!

One question though, is it going to be released in Germany too by any chance? Or do I have to order it via

best regards

MG Van Drunen says:

on February 12, 2008 at 3:57 pm

I received the book from Amazon 2 two days ago and have read it from cover to cover. I’m starting over from page one, so as to more completely absorb the lessons (about the technique and, almost more importantly, the human emotion involved in making meaningful pictures) contained in your book.

“The Moment It Clicks” is very inspirational. Thanks for sharing your experience and thanks to Strobist for informing me about the book.

Tom Marriage says:

on February 12, 2008 at 4:55 pm


Just finished your book & it was fantastic. Informative, inspirational, funny as hell and hit home a lot of times. I put it up there with “Shooter” by Kennerly. I have read that book numerous times & I’m sure I will do the same with yours. Thanks for sharing with all of us.

Love the blog. A daily stop to see if anything new is posted. Also look forward to more from you at Kelby Training.


Paul Michael Kane says:

on February 12, 2008 at 6:13 pm

I’ve said it elsewhere and I’ll say it again . . . this book is fantastic. Before this, I always prefered shooting natural light . . . now I am giving me SB-800 a good workout!!

Paul Michael Kane

Marshalll says:

on February 12, 2008 at 6:18 pm

Well now I’m going to feel bad for recommending to a room full of 25 photographers that they go out and get it RIGHT NOW.

Ok, I don’t feel that bad about it…

albert says:

on February 12, 2008 at 6:45 pm

I don’t have the book yet, as soon as the pay check comes in, but I love the post. The words are alive.

Michael S. says:

on February 12, 2008 at 8:28 pm

I am savoring the book slowly, taking small sips and enjoying, like a fine wine!

Jermaine Beckley says:

on February 12, 2008 at 8:33 pm

I’m glad I pre-ordered mine! This is one of the best if not THE best book on photography I have ever read. (not done with it yet) Very funny lines too…I especially like the one on the Munchkins! I was literally laughing out loud so hard even before the sentence was finished! I may just have to order another just to keep it fresh looking for years to come. Hope to meet you one day in a seminar or other. Great blog too!

"Magic" Michael Albany says:

on February 12, 2008 at 9:14 pm


I don’t respond to blogs often, I don’t write to authors, I don’t like to write. I like to shoot.

I was first turned on to who you actually were with the Nikon CLS DVD. I had seen your work and was impressed but didn’t know anything but your name and your work. Now I am getting to know you through your book. I look forward to any seminar or talk you ever do in Philadelphia. I will be there.

Joe, you have nailed it. You have nailed the feeling of shooting, the trepidation of wondering if you got the shot, and the joy “The Moment It Clicks”. You have nailed my feelings, thoughts and fears.

I haven’t finished the book yet because I am savoring every word, every thought and every shot. The book you put together comes once in a lifetime; a book that not only speaks to you but screams!

If I don’t shoot better after reading your book I am a moron. You are getting me back in touch with the love of shooting. After too many weddings and too many corporate shots I am back in touch with the love of the shutter, it makes me shiver to click that shutter. (bad I know, but I said I am not a writer!)

Keep this blog up. I check it every day. You are the motivation that is taking me from part time pro to full time. You have re-motivated me and got the blood pumping again. I may never be as successful as you have been, but be damned sure I will be as passionate.

David is right. it is the quote of the year. Recalcitrant SOBs we always have been and always will be.

Check out my site if you want. I always am willing to accept a pointer or two, after all I am reading your book!

Keep shooting.

Andy Poupart says:

on February 12, 2008 at 11:48 pm

I preordered from Amazon and got my copy last Thursday. I’ve been working my way through the book since then. It’s a great read and I know I’m gonna revisit parts of it over and over. Thanks for writing it. And, like and earlier commenter, I hope to attend a DLWS one of these days.

Really enjoying the blog, too. Thanks!

Aaron Humphreys says:

on February 12, 2008 at 11:56 pm

I received my copy yesterday and I couldn’t put it down. Wonderful. Insightful, funny, touching… I can go on and on.

I’ve been to Photoshop World – Las Vegas, the past couple years and was fortunate enough to go on the pre-conference Safari in 2006 with Joe, Moose Peterson, Laurie Excell and Vincent Versace. What a great learning experience and one of the best times I’ve had behind the lens.

Joe’s sessions at the conference are always a highlight. Reading this book reminds me of the great time I have hearing Joe speak and is a great reference and inspiration.

I read many good photography books each year but few, if any inspire and entertain like this one. It should be required reading for someone considering photography as a profession and at the top of the list for anyone who is passionate about photography.

Angel Burns says:

on February 13, 2008 at 12:58 am

I am inspired and unable to sleep for the visions put before me! Joe, you’re some kinda wonderful. :)
Your book was ‘da BOMB’ and though I raced to finish it, I was sad when it was over. Thank goodness you started this blog and I get the pleasure to tell you immediately how appreciative I am for the sharing . Must feel great to look back on time, as you mention above, and have tangible evidence of your own hopes, dreams, good intentions. Now, you’re a Mighty Mentor, gracious enough to let us in on your process. Keep truckin’! And bless you.
warm hugs from an awestruck Angel

Jonathan Ryan says:

on February 13, 2008 at 3:11 am

[quote]It’s about the sheer joy of clicking the shutter…repeatedly! The sweet sound of the shutter and the explosion that occurs in your head and your heart when you make the shot.[/quote]

Yes! That’s it. Now I know I have to read your book 😉

And you cost me more money too because I just checked out Ani Difranco on iTunes so I’ll be buying that soon too…..

Expensive this photography lark, isn’t it?

ShaolinTiger says:

on February 13, 2008 at 5:38 am

Get some over here to Malaysia and let me know when you do and which shop so I can pick one up :)

David Long says:

on February 13, 2008 at 6:43 am

Got it, read it, loved it! Hopefully enough will sink through my thick skull to make some difference. If not, I can always read it another 100 or so times. Thanks for an awesome book!

Pete says:

on February 13, 2008 at 9:44 am

I had seen TMIC mentioned on strobist, thought it sounded interesting, but I was kinda surprised to find it on the shelf at the local Borders on Monday. I took it home and basically “chugged” it that evening. I’ve already started in on a more reasonable and deeper reading, and I know that I’ll be delving back into on a regular basis. Thanks for sharing so many great tips, stories, and techniques. I’m trying to raise the level of my photography and your book is helping in ways I won’t understand for a while.

Lloyd says:

on February 13, 2008 at 10:49 am

Got it, love it, recommend it!!! Can’t thank you enough.

Kevin Erskine says:

on February 13, 2008 at 10:50 am

Got the book, spent all day reading it and loved it. The pictures were so good and I must admit quite intimidating. It certainly shows how far I have to go to even get a couple of pictures of your quality.

Don Robinson says:

on February 13, 2008 at 10:53 am

I received my copy the other day from Amazon (boxed and in top notch shape). While there is more information and inspiration than we received at the DLWS in Traverse City, it is great to have a printed copy of the details used to capture various scenes. Now I don’t have to rack my aged brain trying to remember the volumes of information imparted at the workshop. Thanks for your efforts to get this work into print.

David Robertson says:

on February 13, 2008 at 11:04 am

I had the great pleasure of going on a DLWS trip to the Coastal Redwoods in 2006 and watch Joe use VAL in the forest (read the book to discover the meaning of a VAL). In less than five minutes, he turned a forgettable image into something special. He also did an impromptu studio shoot of Moose Peterson for an upcoming Wacom tablet ad. If I learned in a lifetime what Joe has already forgotten about lighting, I would be very talented in that regard. I asked him during that workshop when he was going to write a book about lighting and he said as soon as he could find the time. Well, we are all blessed by the fact that he found the time. What you read in that book (I finished mine last night) is fully reflective of Joe as a person: open, sharing, approachable, down to earth, supremely talented and a great guy. If you do nothing else as a photographer, take the time to get to know his work and take one of his workshops. You can’t help but emerge a better photographer.

Stan says:

on February 13, 2008 at 3:14 pm

Just received the book last night from Indigo and I love it! I’m just beginning my career as a photographer and this book contains so many useful tips and hints that I don’t think I could’ve gotten anywhere else. Thanks, Joe, for putting all this great information down

Michael Early says:

on February 13, 2008 at 5:31 pm

Joe, really enjoyed the book — so much so that I went back and bought a second copy for a real good photo buddy and gave it to him!

Thanks for an enjoyable read, some reinforcement of some existing concepts, and a lot of new things to try.

Lloyd Eldredge says:

on February 13, 2008 at 9:43 pm

Here is a picture of the book from after I finished reading it:

M Hartong says:

on February 13, 2008 at 11:23 pm

I put hands on a copy at a store, then also placed an order at Amazon after being very impressed. Cant wait to share with others when I finally get it. It’s somewhere between here and there… Great Job Joe! Cant wait to really dig in, as I’ve always been a great fan of your work.
Had to shoot volleyball (ladies 40-50ish) the other day and was picturing water polo in my head and smiling to myself.

Merv says:

on February 14, 2008 at 7:41 am

The book is superb! Got it yesterday from amazon, finished it late last night. Everything about it is super. It’s great to have it light enough to enjoy reading, and enough information to understand the shot.

When’s the next one coming out?

M Hartong says:

on February 18, 2008 at 7:30 pm

Only one problem reading this book – I only ordered 1 copy. And it’s really hard to give it to the husband so he can read why I’m laughing hysterically and cant stop!
Great Stuff Joe! Pat Scott on the head for me for twisting your arm to write it! Great design, format, humor & insight! We’re ordering a few copies for various fellow photofiles we know & love.
Watch out for those rocks! Remind me to tell you about the swan on the highway someday. Same sorta thing! If you ever want to pop into the Ohio News Photogs Convention, ….

Doug Campbell says:

on February 19, 2008 at 7:24 pm


Although I am a nature photographer I have been a fan of your work for a long time. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts and skills with the rest of us. The book is truly inspirational and the least expensive photographic education I’ve had!

Bas Thijssen says:

on February 20, 2008 at 4:38 pm


As a tv cameraman in the studio I’m dealing with light every day. But after reading your book I’ll see different things. Most of the time I don’t like photos with flash but things have chanced now.
You’re a great inspiration and I hope you’ll stay in this scene for many years from now….

(Hilversum, The Netherlands)

John Feil says:

on February 24, 2008 at 3:06 am

My copy arrived in Australia on Friday while I was out of town. I went into work to collect it on Saturday and I have skimmed through the content. I have been inspired to try some of the ideas already. Congratulations on a producing an interesting read. I particularly like the lighter, story telling, writing style. It is not a crime or romance novel (pleasingly) but it is no textbook either.

mungkey says:

on February 27, 2008 at 9:14 am

Great book. Hoping to get a copy soon. =)

Nick Fancher says:

on March 28, 2008 at 2:27 pm

Thank you for sharing so much of what you have learned over the years. My favorite images are the portraits of Ozzie Smith and Bruce Dalrymple. It is easy to get comfortable in what I do with my camera and flash. I may even start to think I am one of the best photographers around. It is humbling yet somehow comforting and definitely awesome to be cut down to size by a BRILLIANT image like these I mentioned. I never even thought to set my white balance to the opposite and compensate with a gelled flash. THANK YOU. And your humor and honesty keeps me quickly turning the page. I pick up your book every chance I get and often find myself making opportunities happen to the neglect of my obligations. This has got to be the most helpful photography book I have ever owned. I love your blog too.

Thank you again. God bless.

-Nick Fancher

Darin Tawney says:

on April 30, 2011 at 7:31 pm

I have really learned new things by your blog. One other thing I would really like to say is the fact that newer personal computer os’s often allow much more memory to be used, but they in addition demand more storage simply to work. If a person’s computer is not able to handle a lot more memory plus the newest program requires that storage increase, it can be the time to shop for a new Laptop or computer. Thanks

StewartLynne says:

on May 9, 2011 at 10:04 pm

I went into work to collect it on Saturday and I have skimmed through the content. I have been inspired to try some of the ideas already. Congratulations on a producing an interesting read. I particularly like the lighter, story telling, writing style. It is not a crime or romance novel (pleasingly) but it is no textbook either.

Brian says:

on October 21, 2011 at 11:49 am

Hey Joe, I just wanted to let you know how much I love this book. I am writing a blog post this week about my favourite photography books and this is right at the top of the list. Many thanks, Brian

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