Spicy Thai or street tacos… or ice cream… or maybe breakfast burritos. Skinny dude’s gotta eat, I like food!
Ireland, where I lived for 6 months in college and have family heritage. Also Iceland, which I’ve visited once and I am dying to go back.
I’m less of a fancy hotel guy and more of a local experience guy. Give me a local B&B with a talkative owner over a 5 star hotel any day.
In my life, my most re-read series is probably the Ender’s Game series. The movie was terrible in comparison, so don’t judge my choice by that.
Dan McClanahan became a photographer in 2009 with the goal of creating a fresh alternative to traditional photography in his market. His quest was so successful that his work quickly made waves in the photo industry with multiple Grand Imaging Awards, WPPI awards, magazine features and becoming one of the youngest photographers on record to receive all three photography degrees bestowed by PPA.
Dan has given back to the photography community as an educator, teaching numerous times at Imaging USA, SYNC, After Dark Education, PhotoVision and several smaller events. He owns and operates McClanahan Studio with his best friend and beautiful wife, Alex, and splits his time between advertising photography and modern high school senior photography.
The couple lives and works in a 12k sq/ft historic building they renovated and share with nine tenants. Outside of work, Dan is a small town Iowa introvert that loves Jesus, his family, punk rock drumming and strong coffee.
-Did you always want to be a professional photographer?
No, I didn’t discover a love for the craft until I was almost done with college and took an elective photography class. It was love at first click and I haven’t looked back!
-What words best describe your style of photography?
I’d say ‘fresh’. Consciously it’s a mix of technical excellence and subject authenticity. There’s a fine line in portraiture between pushing technical complexity and keeping a connection with your subject. My commercial work tends to have vibrant colour palettes and shapely lighting, though I’ve been exploring different styles recently.
-What is your typical camera setup on a shoot?
Canon cameras and lenses mixed with Sigma Art lenses. Paul Buff lighting in studio and Profoto lighting on location. For a portrait shoot, I just carry a Domke bag with basic lenses. For some commercial jobs, without nearby rental houses, I fly with 5 oversized bags of gear!
-How do you attract new clients?
I try to exceed expectations on every job and let word of mouth do it for me. I also attract clients due to the quality and progressive nature of imagery. In my market, I get a lot of work due to my technical prowess, specifically with lighting. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s like the Field of Dreams quote, “If you build it, they will come.”
-How do you go about building trust with your subjects? How does this influence the final image?
The energy and confidence you exude come back to you. I just try to radiate a trustworthy vibe and do everything I can conversationally to make my subjects feel at ease. It’s really easy to spot a guarded look vs an authentic look, and everybody has a ‘deflector shield’ towards cameras that needs to be de-activated to get them to look their best.
-What is your post-production workflow like?
Capture 1 for tethering (on commercial shoots only), Lightroom and Photoshop for image processing and finishing. All of my compositing is done in Photoshop. I back RAWS up to a Drobo system and also back finished files up online.
-What is your dream project?
I’m more of a ‘make the most of what you’re given’ guy so I actually haven’t given this idea too much thought. My gut answer is to get involved in conceptual advertising work with larger brands. Nike would be amazing.
-What is your approach to posing and directing your subjects?
Every human has their own unique body language and I’ve found over-posing tends to kill that. I like to make people comfortable so they look natural, and then micro-adjust things they are doing that are imperfect (hands, jawline, etc).
-What is your biggest resource in relation to technical knowledge and how long did it take you to master your technique?
For me it has been the network of friends I’ve made through the Professional Photographers of America. They offer some great resources and conferences, but the real benefit of membership comes from engaging and befriending colleagues with similar goals that push you. Also competing in their International Print Competition has shown me a lot of the flaws in my work and helped me substantially in my pursuit of excellence.
-What was the best career advice you were ever given?
Don’t let professional ambition and commitment grow so big that it buries the most important things in life. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in work and success that marriages and home life fall apart. Anybody can be excellent at anything if they commit enough time to it, but at what cost? Striking an appropriate work/life balance is clutch, especially in this industry.