Award-Winning Pro Joe McNally Explains How to Use Light so Photographs “Speak” to the Viewer

If you want to make photographs with impact, it’s important that they tell a story, and “speak” to the viewer. No matter how beautiful an image appears, if it doesn’t provoke an emotional response, you haven’t quite finished the job.

In the quick video below, internationally acclaimed pro Joe McNally explains how he uses light to create images that inspire and “speak” to those who view his work. He calls this approach “Language Photography,” and in this conversation with Marc Silber of Advancing Your Photography, McNally uses his spectacular photos to demonstrate how it’s done.

McNally’s technique reflects his acclaim as a masterful visual storyteller, and he’s worked his magic shooting editorial, commercial, and celebrity photos in nearly 70 countries across the globe. His two-minute discussion with Silber provides plenty of advice to help you up your game.

As you’ll see, the subtleties in the way light is used in a photograph, determines how a subject is described, your effectiveness in embellishing a scene, and the degree to which an image resonates with the viewer. Above all, the proper use of light creates a more visceral image that makes viewers feel as though they were present when you snapped the shutter.

Once you heed McNally’s advice and gain a bit of experience, you’ll begin to recognize great light when you see it. You can find more of McNally’s imagery on his website, and watch other interesting videos on the Advancing Your Photography YouTube channel.

And don’t miss our earlier stories in which McNally provides more tips on becoming a better visual storyteller and his tips on using multiple speedlights to capture eye-popping portraits.