Behind the Lens: In-Depth Portfolio Reviews, with Joe McNally and Scott Kelby By Joe McNally

2 hr 43 min

Join Joe and Scott for an evening of no-holds-barred portfolio critiques, stories, and laughs. Joe graciously provides his expert, constructive insights to help beginners and experienced shooters alike improve their portfolio. More experienced photographers often get to a point where takeaways and suggestions are rare. Joe’s unique way of seeing into photographs, coupled with his years of experience, and absolutely entertaining delivery style, makes this live night at the Tampa Improv a must watch class for any photographer.

Video transcripts available with a subscription.

Scott introduces Joe to the stage and kicks off the evening with a discussion on the importance of having a good editor of your work.
You will never be in the room to defend your photographs after you send them out into the world. Be open to the critique and learn how to internalize the voice of the editor.
A member of the audience comes on stage for the first live portfolio review followed by a set of blind critiques.
Following a set of blind critiques Joe is joined by John V. for the next live portfolio review.
Joe finishes John's portfolio review with more stories and insight before taking a break.
Fresh from the break Joe and Scott move through a new series of blind critiques punctuated more of Joe's fantastic perspective on photography.
Joe has a way of looking into a photograph and seeing things that few people can. Each critique is an opportunity for learning for all.
Joe's ability to improvise as a photographer serves him well as a critical reviewer.
In this segment Joe provides live critiques to two photographers, Stephanie R. and Eric W., and shares more insight into his way of looking at photographs.
Joe wraps up Eric's portfolio review and then moves into a new set of blind critiques.
With each portfolio reviewed we gain a deeper appreciation for how to approach our own photographic journey.
Joe wraps up the critiques and the evening with a final live portfolio review.
Joe answers questions from the audience about his personal style.
Profile photo of Joe McNally

Meet your instructors

Joe McNally


Joe McNally is an internationally acclaimed photographer whose career has spanned 30 years and included assignments in over 50 countries. He has shot cover stories for TIME, Newsweek, Fortune, New York, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, and Men's Journal. He has been at various times in his career a contract photog...

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  1. Profile photo of aquelah aquelah

    This course was awesome, and I could watch portfolio critiques by Joe all day! Kelby must have fixed the audio because I didn’t have any problems with the production, other than the transitions between sections were sometimes off with a small amount of content missing.

    I understand another poster’s comment about the portfolios that were reviewed – there were a lot of bad pictures and a lot of marginal ones, but as examples of what’s good and what’s not good, they worked for me – especially because I’ve got a huge portfolio of all kinds of photos that I’m trying to cull down to develop my published portfolio. The samples Joe analyzed helped me not only in terms of culling my portfolio, but also in terms of thinking differently about my staging and lighting of shoots, and experimenting more with lighting.

    If there’s one thing I’d like to see in future Kelby courses it’s more of this kind of analysis – Joe’s feedback is spot on – even what he classifies as his ‘opinions’ are great points of reference to work from – especially if you’re just starting out. It would be great if instructors could do similar analyses of people’s editing techniques (pre-post editing photos), lighting, staging, and critique different types of photography (landscape, portraiture, travel, etc.) which would be of great value to photographers who are struggling with specific issues.

    Great job Joe and Scott!

  2. Profile photo of

    Loved hearing Joe’s stories about his early mentors, and how it helped when he got over their negative comments and worked to improve those areas. Wish I could have attended, but know already that I am more of a snap shooter, and have been too lazy to stick around and wait for the right moment. Not sure why the audio is so low? Use audio meters and keep tabs on the audio levels, or raise the audio level uniformly with the software available out there in post production. Thanks for your training videos!

  3. Profile photo of huthphoto huthphoto

    I gave the Kelby folks a shout and VERY quickly they reposted the Nancy segment… if you missed it, go back now and check it out.
    Thanks to Scott for imagining such a great concept, and for Joe’s brutal honesty. I learned so much for this program (and I’m a 25 year pro) and my son, who’s coming up through the ranks, will be watching it next!

  4. Profile photo of brucekletz brucekletz

    trying to rent Joe McNally Behind the Lens. Web page says it has been added to my cart, but my cart shows up empty. HELP.

    1. Profile photo of Aaron Westgate Aaron Westgate

      The issue regarding the course rental has been resolved.

      We apologize for the inconvenience.

      -KelbyOne Web Dept

  5. Profile photo of

    Great class, but a bit frustrating with the edit i think when the sections are cut in the middle of it. nancy’s and Jen”s video also cut on grimes like picture….It is either edited or may be something wrong with my connection..

  6. Profile photo of akallamd akallamd

    I’m wondering the same thing… what happened to Nancy’s segment?

  7. Profile photo of joaonc joaonc

    What happened to the Nancy Lester video? Has 13 secs and then moves on to the next lesson where she’s leaving the stage.

  8. Profile photo of andrea_maupin andrea_maupin

    I’m in the middle of watching this and getting a lot of great insight. However, I just hit “Lesson 7–Nancy L Portfolio Review” and it almost immediately jumps to lesson 8. So, I’d really like to be able to view her review and hear Joe’s comments as I find them very helpful when he interacts with the photographer. Anyway, great interview, so far! Thank you!

  9. Profile photo of Stephen Kane Stephen Kane

    Fantastic and so valuable. Not that anyone else can be Joe McNally, the personality, but it would be nice to see the same format applied to other photography specialties; Joe himself acknowledged that images without people just don’t quite do it for him, and that leaves out a wide range of possible work and learning.

  10. Profile photo of Joseph Melee Joseph Melee

    I learned more watching this course than any other course in Kelby One.

  11. Profile photo of Joe McNally Joe McNally

    Hi gang….First off many thanks to the Kelby crew for pulling off the evening. It was amazing to walk in to this really comfortable place and it felt a lot like I was sitting down with a bunch of friends in a living room. I did try to be direct and honest, but also tried to offer a lifeline, or a path, where someone could build on a certain aspect of a photo that was successful or approaching success. It was fun, and Scott always keeps the ship sailing in the right direction with his questions and stewardship. I tend to get a little scatter brained and riff in all sorts of ways.

    Many thanks for the comments above, and as always I take them to heart and try for the next round to be better…..

  12. Profile photo of John Webb John Webb

    What can I say? Just pure magic!

  13. Profile photo of Vivian Bedoya Vivian Bedoya

    Wonderful presentation even with all of the drawbacks other people have mentioned. Joe McNally’s critiques were insightful, his stories delightful and his personality terrific. I was left wanting more!

  14. Profile photo of Brent Connell Brent Connell

    after weeks of hearing this hyped on The Grid I was keen to see this. I felt at times like Joe was critiquing my work directly! loved his rhythm and voices and stories etc etc, Finally my hats off to the photographers who submitted their work for both blind and live critiques, they are very courageous.

  15. Profile photo of alessandro.ghersi alessandro.ghersi

    Great class, the end is very bad.

  16. Profile photo of sullinator07 sullinator07

    Where is this happening and how can I score a seat?

  17. Profile photo of Crockett Crockett

    Great advice from Joe. Strange way to end a program !!!

  18. Profile photo of Jack Jack

    Watching this video brought back many memories of the atmosphere associated with sitting in coffee houses and listening to singers, poets and other. I would have loved to have been one of the attendees at this brilliant session with Joe. I concur with most of the comments submitted with the exception of the one expressing concern about quality of images. Joe dealt with these images amazingly well driving home the difference between snapshot and photograph. It was a terrific video but might have benefited from avoidance of the abrupt ending.

    Hopefully KelbOne will continue with this series having, as previously suggested, others such as Joel Grimes offering insights.

    Thank you Joe…

  19. Profile photo of PMGrambo PMGrambo

    I love listening to Joe Mcnally. This should be a weekly show. Fantasticly insightful. More!!

  20. Profile photo of

    He was rough, but totally honest. And he gave great feedback on most everything he slammed. All the books and videos in the world wont help too much if you cant get honest feedback and what you are doing right and wrong.

  21. Profile photo of pcarbonell pcarbonell

    From a content perspective, this course was outstanding. Joe’s experience is beyond vast, his insight is brilliant and his ability to tell a story is outstanding. The course excelled in both its ability to inform and entertain. I could at a bar with a few beers and listen to Joe tell stories for hours on end.
    But I was a little disappointed with the quality of the production overall. I’ve watched a bunch of the courses and I’ve always been impressed with how polished and well produced they all are. This course fell well short of that in my opinion.
    Several chapters ended in the middle of a critique. Though they did pick up where they left off in the following chapter, I thought it was rather clumsy edited. Several of the chapters are named for the person being critiqued but their critique started in the previous chapter.
    I also watch The Grid religiously and was very excited to watch this series, especially since Scott kept talking about how the crowd gave Joe a standing ovation at the end of the night. Unfortunately the final chapter ends with him finishing a critique. No closing statements, no thanks, no standing ovation.
    So much like Joe describes the difference between impactful images and bad shots, this course provides a wealth of information but unfortunately left me a bit disappointed due to the lack of attention to details in the editing.

  22. Profile photo of WayneMitcheltree WayneMitcheltree

    Any time with Joe is quality Time and well spent. To hear his insight on what makes a photo work is valuable for anyone. It is an opportunity to gain from experience and expertise that many do not have. Time well spent.

  23. Profile photo of Alexander Küken Alexander Küken

    A wonderful new class. You can get so much out of this reviews. I would love to see more of this kind, like a whole “Behind the lens” series. And if I may make a wish: Something like this, dedicated just to composites would be awesome, with Glyn Dewis or Joel Grimes making the review.

  24. Profile photo of

    When I signed up fot Kelby One this it exactly what I was looking for. Once I Heard that his course was coming I kept bugging asking when it would be avail able to watch. Most courses here and on other websites like this you watch a couple of the 10+ videos then move on. i sat through the entirty of this course. More please more.

  25. Profile photo of ironman ironman

    Joe McNally is the most engaging photographer I have every listened to!!!! This was a pleasure to watch, he was interesting, charming, funny and very informative.

  26. Profile photo of Cheryl McGregor Cheryl McGregor

    Very interesting, informative, and educational. My only fault with the course is that I could barely hear some of the conversations even with my internal and external sound boosted to the max.

  27. Profile photo of Erika Weber Erika Weber

    Wow! I almost deleted the email about this Behind the Lens episode. I just did not think I had the time to view it. I learned so much. Thank you! I appreciated Joe’s honesty and how he has made plenty of mistakes and learned from them. I learned how to improve my own photography by watching the critiques. I feel energized and motivated to look at my images as a whole to find my path/ my passion. And, to remember to slow down and become a part of the situation to find the story. Thank you!

  28. Profile photo of Amy Amy

    My favorite KelbyOne class so far, hands down!

  29. Profile photo of Richard L. Richard L.

    I watched the interview with Joe McNally. I was very disappointed in many of the photos that were chosen for the portfolio review. I am not a professional photographer but even I know many of those photos were no good. Here you had a chance to really “pick his brain” but not with bad photos. You should have used good or great photos and seen how Joe would have made them even better. That would have been interesting for all of us. Very disappointed in the 2 hours I spent watching the interview. Some of Joe’s comments were a little off key but his insight and advice was very good.

  30. Profile photo of

    Thats probably the most interesting video I have ever seen with Joe McNally. We all give way to much emphasis on tech, we all should work more on light and emotions.

  31. Profile photo of Mike Anatra Mike Anatra

    Thank you Joe! I became a better photographer today.

  32. Profile photo of James James

    This was a great presentation, it actually kept my interest for the entire time. Joe is fantastic and the critiques provided a host of valuable information. Everyone that tunes into and/or participates in “The Grid” Blind Critiques would benefit from this class. The only thing that surprised me was the abrupt ending, other than that it was time worth spent.

  33. Profile photo of senorwafflez senorwafflez

    Volume is very low? Sometimes it’s very hard to hear what they are saying.

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