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Kelby Tours, First Stop

Aug 3

In Seminars & Workshops at 6:00am

crowdSouth San Francisco Conference Center….shot by Drew Gurian, with a pano application on his Iphone. Cool……


Last week was quite a week. Brides, F-16’s, long drives, meetings, Google workshops, bunch of stuff. What was looming though, all week, creeping around the dimly lit alleyways of my brain, was my first date for Scott Kelby’s Touring seminar program. This was a first for them, in that it was not a PhotoShop type of post-production seminar, but an all day lighting class. It was a first for me in that I had never demonstrated lighting for 5 hours in front of over 700 people.

Live shoots for 5 hours! What could go wrong? Sheesh… The morning of, I thought I was gonna go in the bathroom and have a talk on the big white telephone. What if the flashes don’t fire? What if TTL don’t work too good? (That’d be a first:-) What if my fly is open all day? What if I inadvertantly use a colorful metaphor?

Worries faded immediately as I realized I was in a room of wonderful, enthusiastic, friendly folks. We were all in it together, right from the get go, and in fact they occasionally became my art directors as I talked my way through a shot. The athletic portrait above came about with 4 SB900 units, blue gelled, rim lighting Darius, and a warm gelled unit, Honl gridded, lighting his face in selective fashion.


Tight version of the amazing and engaging Darius, who was one of the most congenial people I have ever photographed while at the same time being one of the most physically imposing. This was our athlete shot, done in the same hour as the executive portrait. (I will say the athletic portrait generated more, ahh, enthusiasm I guess is the right word, amongst the women in the audience.


Point of this hour was show some “smooth” exec type light, and then another style of more electric kind of light, the kind I refer to as “bad ass middle linebacker ESPN cover light.”

We were also blessed with Brittany Ogle who is currently performing with the touring company staging Mel Brooks “The Producers,” in San Fran. In addition to being terrific in front of the lens, was an absolute hoot to work with. She coined the word of the day when I asked her how she was doing and she replied with a big thumbs up “Awesome!” The audience picked up on it, and before you knew it, we were all having an “awesome” time of it.


This was all in the first hour, when we worked one flash only. This SB unit is camera right, through a Tri-grip diffuser. Off camera solution. Also did an on camera flash demo where I went from shooting DMV portrait style to using the white seamless behind me into the light source by swiveling the head of the flash backwards and blending in the room light. Did a quick version on Auto white balance, and then compared that to a Preset solution.

brittany1For on camera flash….I like!!! (Working with Brittany didn’t hurt either.)

In the last hour, we drug out the big lights, specifically, Elinchrom Rangers. Had a blast with mixing an SB900 unit hair light with an overhead beauty dish and a softbox fill.


Then, we went to the Deep Octa, a fairly new light shaping tool from the Swiss light meisters at Elinchrom. This softbox is literally deeper than virtually any other of comparable size (which is not that big) and the depth of the box produces a rich, columnated and collected light, perfect for Darius. One light, and we were done.


Bunch of thanks you’s to make here. First to the Kelby folks, who are like family. And Jeff Leimbach, who wrangled all the staging and made the day work. Jeff Cable of Lexar came and all day I was able to throw Lexar straps, bags and even cards into the audience. Drew Gurian and San Fran based Alex Roach worked their butts off moving lights with minutes to spare. Brittany and Darius were “AWESOME!” And a huge thanks go to the crowd. Even though it was a big room, I felt like I was just with a bunch of friends, having some coffee and working out some pictures.

Speaking of friends, Moose, Sharon and Jake Peterson were in the audience. I thought they were in Alaska, shooting bears, and according to Moose’s blog, that was indeed where they were. But you never know where a Moose will roam, and sure enough, the Petersons waltzed right into the Google workshop on Thursday. Everybody knew about it but me, of course, which ain’t that hard cause I walk around in a daft daze most of the day, but I was literally floored. Such wonderful friends are hard to come by, I tell ya, and they were in the front row for the lighting seminar. Too close to the stage for me to not use Jake as a portrait subject….good guy, good photog. More tk….


Anil says:

on August 3, 2009 at 8:19 am

This is all so good …. brilliant stuff as always…and you make it look so simple [which I am sure it is NOT!].

Sara Churchill says:

on August 3, 2009 at 9:04 am

Love the male portrait in the business suit. Smart use of fill light and rim light to separate him from the dark background. Difficult shot but amazingly well executed. A great example for your students to learn from and duplicate.

Tim Limon says:

on August 3, 2009 at 9:19 am

Thank you so much for the excellent seminar. You covered a lot of ground, and your wit kept us laughing and made the day fly by! The shots came out wonderful and your explanations on lighting technique were clear and really helped demystify the process. Say thanks to your crew for me too!

Todd W says:

on August 3, 2009 at 9:34 am

Joe, every time I read your blog, I literally LOL! Sounds like it was a blast, wish I could have been there. Maybe Kelby can sneak you up for a lighting workshop in the Boston area. Keep up the great work!

David says:

on August 3, 2009 at 9:35 am

Sounds like you are having a love affair with the SF Bay Area, Joe. Great news for us local folks; hopefully, you’ll be conducting even more seminars out here in the future. I only wish I could have made it to this event, but $%&#!!, I picked the wrong time to be out of the country.

Lewis W says:

on August 3, 2009 at 9:37 am

You knocked it out of the park, Joe.

Becky says:

on August 3, 2009 at 10:29 am

Normally sitting in a large conference room with 700+ other people puts me into a stupor but this was so entertaining, great day Joe! Thanks to you and your staff and for a rockin’ good time, and all the incredible information.

Kurt Shoens says:

on August 3, 2009 at 11:14 am

I went to this seminar and would like to share a few observations. First, you’d never know this was the first time. Everything ran great and they handled the few little glitches quickly and gracefully.

Second, I don’t know how Joe can do this. The 5 hours of session is pretty much all Joe working, talking, and explaining. Two assistants and models for most of the time and occasionally some additional help to move stuff around. Plus Joe was available through all the breaks and lunch. The presentation was all pure high-energy McNally.

Third, the seminar is largely improvised. These are not pre-flighted sets that are assembled and shot. These are at most an idea with a starting point established during a break, then tweaked and tuned and sometimes completely changed during the presentation. You see every shot taken on enormous monitors. While you can understand Joe’s anxiety about performing this high wire act, he glides through it with great poise.

Fourth, I thought the seminar was pitched at the perfect level. I went with two other people, one I’m trying to nudge into off-camera lighting and another with much more experience than me. All 3 of us had a good time and learned things.

Finally, five hours of seminar might seem like a lot or a little. The time just flew by for me but I was worn out by the end, even though all I had to do was sit and watch.

Ranger 9 says:

on August 3, 2009 at 11:15 am

I’m still not quite fluent in McNalish. Anyone know what he means by “columnated” light? Does it mean the light stays together in a kind of cylindrical column?

I like the way the example shot looks, so I want to know what to call it…

Bruce Philpott says:

on August 3, 2009 at 11:20 am

Thanks for a terrific day of instructive, fun, Joe! I’ve read and enjoyed both of your books, and have been applying the techniques learned there, but seeing you in action, step by step was just fantastic!

If everything had been perfectly rehearsed (canned) each shot would’ve turned out just perfectly the first time… life’s not like that. Each time, you described what you were going to do and you said, “That’s what we’re going to TRY to do… let’s see what happens,” and then we got to watch you improve various aspects of the subjects’ lighting as you went along.

I also appreciated that you stayed pretty much within the same f-stop and shutter speed to demonstrate that it was the your lighting adjustments which were changing the resultiing photos.

I had high expectations of that SF seminar and you well exceeded them. You covered a lot of material in front of an audience of extremely varied photo experience (evidenced by some of the questions they asked you).

Thanks again!

Thomas Li says:

on August 3, 2009 at 11:27 am


Thank you for the seminar! I had read through your books to learn the techniques, but to see it live in practice was extremely helpful. It was a long seminar but you made it very entertaining and educational — I am eager to put some of the ideas in action myself.

Oh, and thanks for signing my copy of “The Moment it Clicks” and taking a photo with me. I really do appreciate it!


(a few photos from the seminar : )

Don France says:

on August 3, 2009 at 11:31 am

I was lucky enough to be there and thought it was an excellent seminar. It was amazing to watch you work through the adjustments to the lighting you made as you went through each of the different lighting scenarios. I thought it was extremely informing being able to see each shot and then see the result as you made adjustments. Your interaction with the models and audience kept the entire day entertaining as well as a great learning experience. I’d do this again if you come back to the Bay Area!

Shaycam says:

on August 3, 2009 at 11:32 am

I was there… it was “awesome” to say the least.

Charles Verghese says:

on August 3, 2009 at 11:35 am

Hi Joe!

Real interesting read and your photos never cease to inspire me to get up off my a*@#! and ‘Create’ a beautiful picture.

Wish I was there to again see you work and at work!


Blake says:

on August 3, 2009 at 11:41 am

Joe & team – I attended and this was an absolutely fantastic seminar! Fabulous to learn from you live and hope to repeat in more detail in the future. The range of lighting setups was a huge eye opener.

Nice job pulling it all together.


Daniel H Moreno says:

on August 3, 2009 at 11:51 am

I was never before in a lightning seminar this was my first experience, living in SSF, I was very excited the first time I heard that Joe was coming to my city, so I immediately went to online and save my seat… How was the seminar? One word : AWESOME!!!.
Keep them coming Joe…

Matt says:

on August 3, 2009 at 11:56 am

You said you used 4 SB900s for the first athletic shot with one of them Honl snooted and on his face. Was there one on his stomach? It looks to be lit with some white light.

Israel Z. says:

on August 3, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Awesome stuff!!

Paul Gill says:

on August 3, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Thanks for the GREAT lesson and experience last friday Joe. IT WAS AWESOME!!!

Duane Weikum says:

on August 3, 2009 at 1:49 pm

That was an “awesome” seminar Joe! Lots of great info presented with style…you kept us engaged and you kept us laughing!
-Duane Weikum

Robert Anderson says:

on August 3, 2009 at 2:40 pm

This was the best, most invigorating workshop I have ever attended! Fast, informative and fun. Joe kept us all thinking about how to make each shot better or different. It’s the ratios!
Great! Wish it had been a two-day event.

Steve says:

on August 3, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Holy crap. Awesome barely covers the emotion of the third pic of Brittany. She is an angel.

Ivan M says:

on August 3, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Great workshop, Joe. Really enjoyed your energy and all the learning.

Shelley Wright says:

on August 3, 2009 at 6:42 pm

Great workshop.. I really enjoyed the day it was well worth the 4 hour trip home.
Thanks again.

jacqueline m says:

on August 3, 2009 at 11:48 pm

That was a fantastic workshop, Joe. Not only did I learn a lot but your sense of humor and ease created a fun and wonderful experience. Can’t wait to take your next workshop.
Good-luck on the rest of your Kelby tour, I am sure the rest of the tour will be a knock out as well. Thanks for this detailed post of the event.
PS Thanks to Kelby for a non-photoshop tour…hope they do more photography wkshps as well as the photoshop events.

Awesome, Awesome!

Boston Photographer - MWynne says:

on August 4, 2009 at 7:56 am

Always cool to see what is going on at your seminars. I hope to be able to attend one in the future.

Ida Gamban says:

on August 4, 2009 at 1:39 pm

Thanks for the FANTASTIC workshop, Joe! I had been looking forward to your class for weeks and it was well worth it. (I took the day off from an ad agency to just to attend!) I loved the range of lighting set ups you showed–it was all very inspiring and informative. Thanks!!!

Arthur says:

on August 4, 2009 at 8:21 pm

Joe, you are the man. So much good stuff to see and learn, hope you get close to baltimore sometime soon.

Paul Ferradas says:

on August 5, 2009 at 5:51 pm

This was my first photography workshop ever. I gathered up some local photographers and we headed out bright and early to the event. I’m not a man of much sleep, when we finally took our seats I leaned over to my friend and told him to make sure he nudges me if I start to dose off. Thanks to Mr. McNally, I never felt a wink coming on. Joe made the entire day very entertaining which to me was very important from an instructor. I’ve been to seminars where the monotone voice of an instructor could put me to sleep even if I had plenty of rest the previous night. Joe has a great sense of humor that kept the entire place engaged with him at all times. He is a great speaker and a great photographer. Since this workshop, I have watched most of Joe’s videos on Kelby Training and bought his “Moment It Clicks” book. Thanks for a great workshop Joe!!

Paul Ferradas

Pat says:

on August 5, 2009 at 10:57 pm

Wonderful seminar. It was both entertaining and informative. Great job, I would never have realized this was the first in your series, if you hadn’t said so. I learned alot of valuable tips. The only down side is that you will cost me lots of money.

Eric says:

on August 6, 2009 at 11:09 am

What a huge workshop. Kinda sad I am having to miss things like this, but glad to at least know I might one day make something like this.

The lighting for the athlete is tops.

Bob DeChiara says:

on August 6, 2009 at 1:27 pm

You need to bring on of these seminars to Boston!!!


jakob says:

on August 7, 2009 at 5:56 pm

and switzerland…please Joe!

Steve S says:

on August 16, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Two words to describe this seminar.


Joe is a fabulous instructor, and entertainer. The format of the seminar was perfect, in that Joe would start each session with a real life photo “assignment”, and then show you how to make adjustments to work through the lighting bugs to produce a perfect final shot. It was very informative, and entertaining, watching Joe think and talk his way through each lighting challenge and solution.

The seminar ranks as one of the top seminars I have been to. I couldn’t wait to get home to try out the techniques demonstrated by Joe. B&H and Adorama should be giving Joe a commission for all the lighting equipment I know they sold in the days following the seminar.

Anxiously looking forward to a repeat performance.

Good job Kelby Training, and Joe!!!

– Steve S

Jim Goldstein says:

on August 17, 2009 at 3:33 pm

It was a great workshop and I learned a lot. Very inspiring in fact. Thanks for the “awesome” time. Also thanks for posting these example photos with some of the lighting info. They’re a great refresher in themselves.


Prakash Trivedi 'pk' says:

on September 8, 2009 at 4:16 pm


I just registered for the seminar in Washington DC. What do you recommend people bring? Would you be signing books? Is bringing camera a good idea? do you allow to record anything?

Looking forward to it :-)

Thank you,

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