The book called The Moment It Clicks, by award-winning photographer Joe McNally, did not click with me, not at all. This book came with some good recommendations, so I bought it quickly. As soon as it arrived, I looked though all the pictures. To my disappointment, they were mostly uninspiring and rather boring. Not a good start for a photography book, but perhaps the writing was educational enough to redeem it… I was wrong again.
Now, I have no doubt that Joe McNally is an award-winning photographer but photography, like all art, is a matter of personal taste and our tastes differ a lot. It seems very hard to learn the art of photography from someone who has a completely different vision than yourself. That is why images in a photography book are so important: they convey the author’s style and vision. Writing is another art, yet it has more rules than photography. Unlike the rule-of-thirds, rules like grammar and spelling are not meant to be broken, yet Joe breaks them again and again. I mean, when the introduction is called Da Premise, it makes you doubt that you got the English version of the book!
Artificial is the best way to describe Joe’s photographs. Most of them feature a stiff subject in a context that seems overly set-up. The lighting though is far more disturbing. He uses so many lights and gels that the results scream “fake”, light seems to come out of nowhere and take on random colors. Now, even if you do like that particular look, most set-ups described in this book are beyond the reach of most photographers: a dozen or more lights (strobes, flashes and whatnots), sand-bagged stands, reflectors, redirectors, remote triggers and at least one assistant holding and moving stuff around.
The advice in this book is mostly about stating the obvious and it gets repeated over and over. Even the footnotes often read like deja-vue. In at least in five-places, the honeycomb spot grid is described with the exact same words. Same for ripping film and color-temperature-orange. Seems like he was being paid per-word! Speaking of words, I think he tries to be charming with his obviously poor spelling and grammar, but it just comes across as badly written.
In the end, this book is quite a fiasco. Poor photography, bad writing, repetitive advice and unaccessible set-ups all contribute to its failures. For better photography books, see Neocamera’s Book Review section. The Moment It Clicks did not make it there because I do not feel like I could recommend this book to anyone.