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The Moment It Clicks: Photography Secrets from One of the World's Top Shooters 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 288 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0321544087
ISBN-10: 0321544080
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Joe McNally, one of the world's top pro digital photographers, whose celebrated work has graced the pages of Sports Illustrated, Time, and National Geographic (to name a few), breaks new ground by doing something no photography book has ever done-blending the rich, stunning images and elegant layout of a coffee-table book with the invaluable training, no-nonsense insights, and photography secrets usually found only in those rare, best-of-breed educational books.
When Joe's not on assignment for the biggest-name magazines and Fortune 500 clients, he's in the classroom teaching location lighting, environmental portraiture, and how to "get the shot" at workshops around the world. These on-location workshops are usually reserved for a handful of photographers each year, but now you can learn the same techniques that Joe shares in his seminars and lectures in a book that brings Joe's sessions to life.
What makes the book so unique is the "triangle of learning" where (1) Joe distills the concept down to one brief sentence. It usually starts with something like, "An editor at National Geographic once told me..." and then he shares one of those hard-earned tricks of the trade that you only get from spending a lifetime behind the lens. Then, (2) on the facing page is one of Joe's brilliant images that perfectly illustrates the technique (you'll recognize many of his photos from magazine covers). And (3) you get the inside story of how that shot was taken, including which equipment he used (lens, f/stop, lighting, accessories, etc.), along with the challenges that type of project brings, and how to set up a shot like that of your own.
This book also gives you something more. It inspires. It challenges. It informs. But perhaps most importantly, it will help you understand photography and the art of making great photos at a level you never thought possible. This book is packed with those "Ah ha!" moments-those clever insights that make it all come together for you. It brings you that wonderful moment when it suddenly all makes sense-that "moment it clicks."

About the Author

Joe McNally is an internationally acclaimed photographer, whose career has spanned 30 years and included assignments in over 50 countries. Although the majority of his career has been spent shooting for magazines such as Time, Sports Illustrated, and National Geographic, in the mid-1990s Joe served as Life magazine’s staff photographer, the first one in 23 years. He also has shot commercial assignments for Target, Nikon, and Sony, to name a few. Joe is a recipient of the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award and has been honored by Pictures of the Year International, World Press Photo, The Art Directors Club, American Photo, Communication Arts, and Graphis. He conducts numerous workshops around the world as part of his teaching activities. One of Joe’s most notable projects, Faces of Ground Zero — Giant Polaroid Collection, has become known as one of the most significant artistic responses to the tragedy at the World Trade Center.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: New Riders; 1 edition (February 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0321544080
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321544087
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 0.7 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (288 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Joe McNally is an internationally acclaimed American photographer and long-time photojournalist. From 1994 until 1998, he was LIFE magazine's staff photographer, the first one in 23 years. His most well known series is the "Faces of Ground Zero -- Portraits of the Heroes of September 11th", a collection of 246 giant Polaroid portraits shot in the Moby C Studio near Ground Zero in a three-week period shortly after 9/11. A large group of these historic, compelling life-size (9' x 4') photos were exhibited in seven cities in 2002, seen by almost a million people. The exhibit and the book, printed by LIFE, helped raise approximately $2 million for the 9/11-relief effort. This collection is considered by many museum and art professionals to be the most significant artistic endeavor to evolve to date from the 9/11 tragedy.

Some of McNally's other renowned photographic series include, "The Future of Flying," a 32-page cover story for National Geographic, published in December 2003, commemorating the centennial observance of the Wright Brothers' flight. Joe is a 20 year contributor to National Geographic, and this story was the first all digital shoot for the magazine. This issue was a National Magazine Award Finalist, and one of the magazine's most popular covers. He has shot cover stories for Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek, Geo, Fortune, New York, Business Week, LIFE and Men's Journal, among others.

McNally's advertising, marketing and promotional work includes FedEx, Nikon, Sony, Land's End, General Electric, MetLife, Bogen, Adidas, Kelby Media Group, Wildlife Conservation Society, and American Ballet Theatre.

In 2008, McNally published his critically acclaimed, award winning book, The Moment It Clicks, which has been touted as, "one foot on the coffee table and one foot in the classroom."

In 2009, McNally published his newest, much anticipated book, The Hotshoe Diaries. Just like its predecessor, it immediately cracked Amazon's top ten list of best sellers, within the first week of publication.

Joe McNally is known internationally for his ability to produce technically and logistically complex assignments with expert use of color and light. As part of his teaching activities, he conducts numerous workshops around the world.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Picture this. You meet one of the world's great photographers in a bar. He has a stack of pictures with him from his portfolio. As you go through the pictures, he talks about them, about the people in the photographs, and how he made each of them. About a third of the way through you realize that when he talks about the technical details he talks mostly about the lighting, and you are sorry you didn't pick up on that right from the beginning, but now you listen avidly to try to learn his lighting techniques.

Then, about two-thirds of the way through, he stops talking about the lighting, and starts meandering about the photo editors he knew, and how he may have sacrificed some of his family life to be a photographer, and how he came up through the ranks, and that's interesting too.

When Joe McNally talks about lighting a picture of James Brown, or Sophia Loren, or Larry Tisch, the techniques he uses seem to be ones you could use. But when he talks about getting a bunch of masks from the Smithsonian to shoot Michelle Pfeiffer, or five full length mirrors set up on the field for a picture of shortstop Ozzie Smith, or using 10 or 15 2400 watt lights to light fielder Eric Davis, you may hope that you can at least get inspiration because you are never going to have that kind of equipment, or if you are, then to quote McNally, "you don't need my advice". And don't take a peek at McNally's equipment until you come to that page in normal reading or you may decide the book is not for you.

If you are looking for instruction, it's here amongst the stories, even if it's delivered in a non-structured sort of way. I haven't invested in a dozen Speedotrons, but after reading this book, I did decide to upgrade my umbrella to a couple of softboxes.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am writing this review from the perspective of someone who is known as the "Eternal Optimist". I got the book for the purpose of gaining a serious insight into "how he did it" - kind of like Scott Kelby's How-to books - which by the way, are all very good.

When Joe McNally's photos are seen, one can only wonder, "how did he do that?", so naturally, we are all inclined to want to get our hands on his book, so we can reproduce his shots, and ultimately learn by doing.

Sadly, this book just doesn't come close to providing that end! Half the entire book is simply a full page of his glorious shots. The other half of the book is "supposed to be showing you how he did it".

Each photo is supposed to represent a single element that he wants to stress as the critical component necessary for that particular shot. But seriously, those glorious shots consist of a constellation of critical factors that can NOT be explained on the basis of one "hint" only.

Most of us are buying the book so that we can fully reproduce his shots, but this will never be accomplished by his book alone. Truly, he is providing only a "miniscule hint" as to the thought processes behind each shot. Some of the hints are useful, but the majority of the book simply represents the interesting story behind the shot, without providing much useful information as to how we can accomplish the same scenario.

After reading the book, one has to ask, Does Joe, himself not know how he got the shot? Or is he intentionally just trying to keep us all in the dark, hoping that we'll buy more of his books so that one day we'll come a little closer to a better understanding? Is he afraid that if he tells us too much we may all become his competitors?
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22 Comments 461 of 538 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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This book is written in such a way that photographers of every experience, style and age will gain huge value.
This is now my favorite book to date on photography.

My one line summary:

It will teach you "how to have a single photo tell a real story", with emotion and from different perspectives. In my opinion it is a must for amateurs through pros.


The books is written simply with no unexplained jargon. If the author mentions an industry word (e.g. Ripping Film), he goes on to explain what it means. You learn some of the industry street terms and get a feel for the authors experience shooting.

Every turn of the page has a compelling photo which is the subject of the lesson. Some lessons are technical such as how-to on lighting, while others are lessons on approach, demeanor or attitude.

The book is emotionally engaging. You want to put the book down and immediate try some of the approaches.

The author isn't demonstrating ego - this book is NOT about him! It's about the the world around him. You turn each page and learn how he captured an amazing picture of someone like James Brown, or how he found the real story in Augusta.

It will give you ideas on how to have a single photo tell a real story.


The only real complaint: This is a soft cover and Amazon shipped it in an envelope instead of a box. The edges of the cover got crimped a bit.

Feedback for the author:
I'd love for more - just simply put - I want the second volume. I'd love to figure out how to get this signed :)

This is a real gem and I would have loved it in perfect condition for my office desktop.

Great job to the author.
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The Moment It Clicks: Photography Secrets from One of the World's Top Shooters
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