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Product Review: The Language Of Light by Joe McNally
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Product Review: The Language Of Light by Joe McNally

It's Joe McNally. It's a great lighting instructional DVD. Need we say more?

Joe McNally, who toured the United States this Winter and Spring and thrilled thousands on the Adorama-sponsored FlashBus Tour Workshop series, has just come out with a must-have DVD showing his unique spin on lighting.


If you attended one of Joe's workshops on the FlashBus tour, or have attended or other workshops he's given, you already know that he's an engaging presenter and a creative photographer who has a deep understanding of off-camera small flash photography, which he generously shares in his new DVD, The Language of Light, available at the Adorama price of $159.59, also known as the Big World of Small Flash.

In the two-DVD set, Joe starts out with a simple on-camera lighting setup and then builds on that, taking the flash off-camera, adding reflectors, additional lights, showing the effect on different backgrounds, and building up until he's lighting some fairly complex situations.

In disc 1, he starts with a basic, on-camera flash, then “brings it up a tick” by using multiple lights and V-flats. He shows how to use diffusion to control sunlight, umbrellas to block or modify light, the effects of various umbrellas and diffusers on shaping a model's face, and more. 

At the end of each shoot, the viewer is provided with exposure information and a diagram showing the positions of the camera, lights, photographer and model.


By disc 2, after photographing a dancer jumping and capturing her in mid-air, then photographing a small group, McNally leaves the studio and demonstrates different uses of flash in the real world—staring with an environmental portrait of a shoemaker, then a dramatically-lit group portrait of three basketball players (above), and dramatic shots of a skateboarder using flash and long exposure with both the skater and photographer in motion—a tricky shot! Finally, McNally photographs a large group—Ladder 6 of the New York Fire Department, firefighters he got to know during his post-9/11 Ground Zero photographic project. The challenge was to photograph a large group in open shadow with multiple flash; he only had about five minutes to make it fast, fun and accurate. Watch how he does it!


In addition to the individual lessons in each video (which runs about 1-2 hours per disc) there are bonus videos, which are packed with information and anecdotes. My favorite was a conversation between Joe McNally and his friend and mentor, the legendary John Loengard.

Joe McNally's strength is that he makes the technical aspects seem second nature as he focuses on putting his subjects at ease and uses his sense of humor to keep things loose on the set. If you are ready to take your flash photography skills up a tick or more, this DVD set is worth the cost. And if you enjoyed Joe on the
Adorama FlashBus tour, The Language of Light set is the perfect follow-up!

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