Dancers in Flight with Beautiful Light By Joe McNally

43 min
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What do you get when you team up world class dancers with internationally acclaimed photographer Joe McNally? In a word, brilliance! Join Joe as he employs a series of lighting setups, from big flash to small, that demonstrate different ways of capturing the grace and beauty of these dancers in flight. From soft light to strong, Joe dives deep into the thinking that goes into each lighting decision as he grapples with the challenges each situation presents.

Video transcripts available with a subscription.

Join Joe on the set as he introduces the class and dives right into his process for creating a strong photograph of the first ballerina in a sculptural way with light.
With the ballerina on set it is time to start shooting, and Joe is courting disaster a little bit by mixing light sources, using a slow shutter speed, and capturing a moving subject.
Joe and his assistant create a huge softbox from six speedlights and a strip light from three more. The end result is motion stopping flash duration while still providing a big broad cover of light.
Time to put the speedlight setup from the previous lesson into action as the dancer leaps through the wall of rose petals. Joe follows up with an in-depth look at the lighting setup.
A new day and new dancers brings a change in lighting to a very sparse and elemental look to compliment the physicality of the dancers.
The last shoot of the day brings in a new dancer and a lighting change that frees up the dancer to create in the air. Joe wraps up the class with an overview of all the concepts that were covered.
Profile photo of Joe McNally

Meet your instructor

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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Join the Discussion
  1. Profile photo of oldmanwalking oldmanwalking

    Poetry. Artistry and genius. In front of and behind the camera. No sound, yet musical. —- Yes, please post my feedback

  2. Profile photo of AAbdelaziz AAbdelaziz

    Joe is incredibly generous with his character, insights and knowledge. Wonderful. —- Yes, please post my feedback

  3. Profile photo of Wilko58 Wilko58

    Really cool stuff. Very informative re the methodology & thinking behind the shoot. Thanks Joe —- Yes, please post my feedback

  4. Profile photo of Gary Dale Gary Dale

    Very informative! In the last two videos, Joe referred to the background as “white seamless”, however the white on the floor was much more shiny than my super white seamless. Was that some type of vinyl material, or something else? —- Yes, please post my feedback

  5. Profile photo of fondjo76 fondjo76

    I liked the concept of the flowers initially when i saw the photo of the dancer I was wondering how it was shot. I will apply this concept in my wedding photography.
    Great tutorial
    J.R Fondjo —- Yes, please post my feedback

  6. Profile photo of lillee lillee

    Amazing photos – color & lighting spot on —- Yes, please post my feedback

  7. Profile photo of Ross Ross

    A really good class, the lighting is simple (when Joe does it) but really brings the grace and style out of the dancers. A terrific tutorial —- Yes, please post my feedback

  8. Profile photo of cornwell03 cornwell03

    The master at work and teaching. —- Yes, please post my feedback

  9. Profile photo of Sundra Tanakoh Sundra Tanakoh

    Like a good essay, Joe tells you what he is going to do, he does it (shows you), and in his conclusion tells you what he just did, what you saw during the shoot and why there were some changes. It doesn’t get much any more perfect than that, as we see the photos as they are happening. This series illustrates how Joe sees and how he executes. Brilliant. —- Yes, please post my feedback

  10. Profile photo of vibrantshot vibrantshot

    Excellent video as always from Joe. Very informative and inspiring. Getting to see Joe’s thought process throughout the shoot is highly beneficial when trying to put things into practice. —- Yes, please post my feedback

  11. Profile photo of David Francis David Francis

    The review of pictures taken from the various lighting setups was a great addition to this course but maybe could have been shown during the final discussion of each setup Previous lighting courses would have been much improved with this addition. —- Yes, please post my feedback

  12. Profile photo of scottzinn scottzinn

    Good course. It’s interesting to contrast the shooting style of Joe to someone like Jeremy Cowart. Jeremy works for paying clients and got some many different looks in a short amount of time. Joe really worked the lighting setup, but didn’t produce as many different looks per setup. Great course. —- Yes, please post my feedback

  13. Profile photo of Jonathan Jonathan

    A stunning course. Really excited to talk to my dancers to arrange a shoot & give this a go. Lots of great advice from Joe as always. A huge thanks for putting this together. —- Yes, please post my feedback

  14. Profile photo of Ethel Valz Ethel Valz

    Wow! This was an incredible experience. Thanks, Joe!
    A lot of the info re multiple-multiple flash settings were over my head but I was mesmerized by your entire process. I love the way you think and the way you played with the light on those amazing dancers.
    It was obvious you were having fun and it was contagious. You covered almost every kind of light on those fantastic ripped muscles. You showed how to get the most out of the light placement, giving almost 3-dimensional depth to them.
    The only thing I was left craving was some shots mainly back lit leaving the dancers in silhouette with maybe a little outer glow. Maybe next time…
    Thanks for the lessons, Joe. You’re an inspirational coach. —- Yes, please post my feedback

  15. Profile photo of Peter Blyth Peter Blyth

    Pure photographic artistry! —- Yes, please post my feedback

  16. Profile photo of portraitsbydolores portraitsbydolores

    WOW! Is all I can say…….. —- Yes, please post my feedback

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