The single most amazing photography book I’ve ever read is just a few weeks away from being published. It’s Joe McNally’s, The Moment it Clicks: Photographer Secrets from one of the world’s best shooters (Published by New Riders), and I can tell you, without a doubt, I’ve learned more about the art and craft of photography, from this one book, than any book I’ve read to date. Period! It’s just that good.
NOTE: Nikon has posted a special page where you can watch a short video clip on how Joe created some of the amazing images from the book, and Joe shares some amazing insights into what the book is all about—it’s incredibly inspiratinoal, and you’ve gotta check it out. Click here to watch it online.
Joe McNally, whose celebrated work has graced the pages of Sports Illustrated, Time, and National Geographic (to name a few), is amazing yet different because it actually blends 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 and how-to books.
Now, I will tell you; It’s not really a book for beginners. It’s really aimed at serious photographers who want to learn what it takes to move to an entirely new level of thinking, of shooting, and making images that really captivate the viewer. It’s not really a how-to book (though it has a strong how-to element), and it’s not about camera settings (although he shares them for most images in the book), instead it’s a book about being a better photographer; about what it takes to “get the shot” (and how to get it), and how to start thinking differently about your work.
Here’s how the book came about, what makes it different, and why it’s going to be the book of the year for 2008; The Moment It Clicks was born during a digital photography workshop up in Vermont. We were up there shooting fall color, and it was the opening night of the workshop (I was there as a guest instructor, along with my best buddy Dave Moser), and after the other instructors had given their presentations (including legendary wildlife photographer Moose Peterson, and Landscape photography hot shot Laurie Excell), McNally takes the stage to finish off the night with his presentation.
So Dave and I are sitting in the back, and McNally kicks into high gear. Joe is one of the most captivating public speakers you’ll ever meet, and the whole class is ooohing and ahhhhing each time a new image comes up, and he’s got us laughing out loud one moment, and in tears the next. But Joe’s not just showing off his work—he’s a brilliant teacher and he’s tossing out these incredible little nuggets—the tricks of the trade—the real “meat and potatoes” stuff and we’re all hanging on every word (and scribbling notes as fast as we can write).
Every time Joe starts a sentence with, “An Editor at Time once told me…” or “My Editor at National Geographic one said…” we all grab our pens because we know another nugget is coming our way. At one point, Joe is talking about lighting people on location, and he gets to that point where he says, “An editor once told me…(I won’t spoil it for you here), and then he shared something so simple—it was just one sentence—but my buddy Dave and I both looked at each other, and got these huge grins, because at that moment—it clicked. At that moment, a concept I’d read entire books on, just suddenly and almost magically all made so much sense. It all came together, at once. It was “the moment it clicked.”
When the class was over, Dave and I were just blown away—it was all we could talk about. At one point, I looked at Dave said “Ya know, if all I took away from this workshop were Joe’s amazing one-liner nuggets—it would be absolutely worth the $795 I paid for this workshop, because I learned more about photography in that one hour than I had in the past three years.” Dave couldn’t have agreed more.
The next morning Dave and I were both still reeling from what we had learned, and I said to Dave, “I would pay anything for a book of just Joe’s little nuggets—just those one liners,” and that’s when it hit me¬; I’ve got to talk Joe into doing that book. Dave was all over it, and we started brainstorming on exactly what that book would look like.
What I really wanted to do was take what Joe does live, and transfer it to paper, because it all works so brilliantly together. For example, in Joe’s class, he throws out a nugget, and then bam—a photo appears on screen that so perfectly illustrates what he’s talking about that it bowls you over. Then he illustrates how he got the shot (and teaches the class how to get a shot like this of their own). It’s a clever three-pronged approach, and I don’t know if he does it that way consciously or not, but it really packs a punch. I wanted that same effect in book—a three-pronged approach, a triangle of learning, that would be unlike any other photography or teaching book out there.
After our dusk shoot that night, I sat down with Joe and convinced him that this was the book he had to write. I told him how his quote and images had totally connected with Dave and I, and how he needed to share his gift for teaching, and his amazing images, with more than just the incredibly fortunate 20 people at this workshop. He needed to take it to the next level, and basically here’s what I said: “Picture a two-page spread, and on the left page is one of your quotes. One of those “An Editor once told me…” stories that breaks it down the bare bones. Then, on the facing page is the image you use in class to bring that story home—to ‘seal the deal’ in their minds, and then we’ll tell “the back story.” The story of how it all came about; what happened at the shoot, and how the reader can get the same type of shot—just like you do in class.”
By the time I was done with my pitch, we had a deal, and “The Moment it Clicks” is what was born that day during that rainy and wonderful Vermont workshop.
So, that’s a little history on how the book came to be, and hopefully this gives you a little glimpse into an amazing book. One that teaches you concepts you never thought you’d grasp, that challenges you to try things you never thought you would; one that takes you places you’ve always wanted to shoot, and uncovers a side of professional photography that is as funny as it is fascinating. Click here to preorder it on Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com. You will absolutely love it.