Lighting Whisperers: Eric Stoner & Joe McNally at Depth of Field 2023


Like good acting—and skilled retouching—masterful lighting is an accomplished skill that should remain mostly unseen. This is the takeaway from our conversations with two great lighting whisperers, Canon technical advisor Eric Stoner and Nikon Ambassador Joe McNally. We sat down with both of these experts earlier this year at B&H's 2023 Depth of Field Conference.

Above photograph © Joe McNally

Our first guest is Eric Stoner, a Canon technical advisor who specializes in creating portraits with Speedlites and colored gels. He offers insights about the high degree of control these tools provide, describing how adding colored gels boosts creative improvisation and heightens impact. We also discuss the technological advances of the past 20 years, while reflecting on how great photography still hinges on learning the craft and connecting with your subjects.

Stoner used 5 Speedlites and red/blue gels to match the subject’s super…
An old barn easily accepted red gels, while the blue window light was…
Turning clouds to sun is easy when using a CTO (color temperature…
Matching colored gels to your subject’s wardrobe can be challenging,…
Eric Stoner instructing a workshop
Lit by 4 red-gelled Speedlites, Stoner focused one non-gelled snooted…
Stoner used butterfly lighting from high and above the subject, right…
The key to using gels is keeping the “white” light illuminating the…
This subject was lit with just two Speedlites, gelled red and blue…
Eric Stoner

After a break, Nikon Ambassador Joe McNally discusses his mission to light photographs in a way that provides an unfettered experience for the viewer. In addition, we explore his long and successful career as a working professional, from his formative years as a LIFE magazine staff photographer to the recent exhibition of those very same images in a fine art gallery. Stay to the end to learn about his latest book The Real Deal, which he wrote during COVID, and hear about his busy schedule of international workshops.

“GOWN IN THE WIND” Wearing a gown styled by a top Beijing fashion…
“CAMERAS IN THE SKY” Aerial view of three open cockpit planes, shot…
“NANCY & HER HORSE AT SUNSET” Co-Founder of Horses for Heroes Nancy De…
“LOUIE” Studio portrait of firefighter Louie Cacchioli, from Faces of…
“PEGASUS” The pilotless X47A drone on the runway at China Lake at NAS…
Joe McNally headshot
Joe McNally

Guests: Eric Stoner & Joe McNally

Episode Timeline:

  • 1:33: Eric Stoner discusses the control and efficiency of working with Canon Speedlites, plus the impact of color saturation when adding gels.
  • 4:30: Bouncing Speedlites and working with modifiers for a large light look.
  • 6:54: Taking photography to the next level by combining artificial lighting with natural light and controlling each element independently.
  • 11:35: Technology advances of the past 20 years have changed everything we do: From Vivitar 283 Thyristors to the release of Canon Speedlites with built-in radio transmission, and beyond.
  • 17:37: Technology has come a long way, but the greatest gear in the world doesn't help if you don't learn the craft.
  • 27:14: Episode Break
  • 28:06: Joe McNally's Webinar Making Something Out of Nothing, plus his workshop Hard Light, Soft Light, Fashion Light, and the wide range of effects from available light to high end production work.
  • 31:00: Identifying the boundary between using a small on-camera flash or large studio lights and power packs for more f-stop and greater control.
  • 32:22: The Monroe Gallery exhibition of McNally's best photos, his early career as the last staff photographer in the history of LIFE magazine, and his experience as a jack of all trades.
  • 39:29: McNally's pandemic book project: The Real Deal: Field Notes from the Life of a Working Photographer.
  • 41:56: News about Joe McNally's upcoming international workshops.

Guest Bios:

Eric Stoner has been a professional photographer for more than 33 years, and a Canon photography instructor for the past decade and a half. His work as a Technical Advisor at Canon USA supports a range of educational projects, concentrating on live and virtual educational programing research and development. Stoner understands real world photographic situations and how to handle them, but more importantly, he teaches students how to deal with them, with a relaxed teaching style that allows students to retain the most information possible.

Joe McNally is an internationally acclaimed, award-winning photographer and filmmaker whose prolific career includes assignments in 70 countries. As both a Nikon Ambassador and a Capture One Ambassador, McNally is masterful at lighting and known for his large-scale production work. His work is regularly cited in social media surveys as a source of inspiration, and industry leadership. His vast storytelling experience stems from assignments for legendary publications such as LIFE and National Geographic. McNally's photography is represented by the Monroe Gallery of Santa Fe, and his prints are in numerous museum collections. As part of his teaching activities, McNally conducts frequent workshops in a wide range of international locations.

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Host: Allan Weitz

Senior Creative Producer: Jill Waterman

Senior Producer: Mike Weinstein

Executive Producer: Yermy Weiss

Editorial Director: Shawn C Steiner