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Shooting a ‘Character Portrait’ with Joe McNally and Daniel Norton


Here’s a 17-minute video from Adorama that takes you behind-the-scenes on a “character” portrait shoot with photographers Joe McNally and Daniel Norton. The goal is light the subject in a way that emphasizes what the photographer sees in the person.

McNally is shooting with a Nikon D850 in square-format, opting for a wide-angle lens at first. He then moves on to using a 105mm lens for a tighter crop. He’s also using a large, diffused light with a white table reflecting light upwards and a large diffuser overhead. The black background allows her to stand out in the frame, and the black dress keeps the viewer’s attention on the face.

“She was a quiet persona, which complimented the soft diffused light,” says McNally. “The square format is a more formal format, coming from age-old cameras that we grew up with.

“The fact that we have so much resolution in the D850 allows us to manipulate it and think differently.”

Here’s one of the portraits that resulted from the shoot: