McClanahan Studio Blog » McClanahan Studio | Your Premier Iowa Wedding, Senior, and Commercial Photographer | Award-Winning Iowa Photographers | Senior Pictures Des Moines | Des Moines Photographers

Masthead header

Hello Photographers!

Later this month we will be very involved teaching and sharing alongside the best in the industry at Imaging USA in Nashville Feb 1-3. If you’ve never been to Imaging before, it’s our favorite networking and learning event of the year. Thousands of photographers from around the globe congregate to geek out, share, shoot, eat, drink and be merry! This is the only educational event we will be teaching at in 2015If you’re serious about photography this event is an amazing catalyst for growth and we would encourage you to consider going even if you have no interest in our classes!

We’ll be teaching a series of hands-on pre convention classes with live photoshoots and a platform class. Here’s’ the info:

Hands On Photography: Relevant Senior Portraiture

January 31

Separate registration required for pre-convention classes.

In this interactive class, Dan and Alex McClanahan will show you how they photograph Seniors on location. Forget about your studio set ups and the boring backdrops; it’s time to create portraits that really showcase this milestone moment!

Learn how to scout the best location, find great light and interesting backgrounds. Explore how to blend strobe and constant light for the perfect result. Dan and Alex also share how they interact with their clients to establish rapport and a level of comfort; this will help you capture the emotion and expression you want, while your subjects still look natural. You’ll also discuss the poses that work well and how to not just take a picture but tell a story with your image.

Dan and Alex have a unique, quirky style that allows them and their clients to have fun, yet still apply the technical knowledge that results in outstanding images. Learn how you can do it too! Here are some examples of the in-camera location lighting we’ll be demonstrating:

How to Rock Weddings

February 1, 5:00 PM – 6:15 PM

Taught by Dan and Alex McClanahan, M.Photog.

Sponsored by Miller’s Professional Imaging

Dan and Alex will walk you through a complete wedding day and show you how they direct and light each section of the day to make it look perfect despite such obstacles as rain, ugly churches, dark receptions and an array of other hindrances. They will share how they work together as complimentary shooters to create a cohesive story that is emotionally gripping, laugh-out-loud fun, and inclusive of every important detail. Lastly they will give you tips for album design—the ultimate medium for showcasing your wedding work!

Dan and Alex will cover:

  • art direction to create a compelling story
  • go-to shots every wedding needs
  • lighting techniques for tricky scenarios
  • utilizing two shooters for efficiency and variety
  • album design tips

Here are some recent wedding images that demonstrate what we’ll be sharing: 


PPA is letting us give away FREE expo passes that will get you into the trade show (which is enormous), but won’t get you into classes. If you live near Nashville and want to partake in the social/networking aspect of Imaging, you can register for a free expo pass here:  Use code: TSC2015

See you in Nashville!

-Dan and Alex

  • Cara Williams - January 11, 2015 - 6:28 pm

    Can’t wait! I’ll be there and I’m signed up! (Although they wouldn’t let me sign up for all 3….) LOL! I tried :)ReplyCancel

It’s always tough to give a good answer when people ask us “what do you do?” The answer is complicated. We laugh. We play. We elicit beauty. We manipulate light. We create heirlooms. We hang out in a gnarly old building. We adventure. We push boundaries. We never stop learning.

Recently we teamed up with our good friend Rob and made a video that sums up these things and more. We hope you like it:

The video is permanently hosted on our home page. If you like the song, it’s called “We Came Alive” by Benjamin Dunn!

Warning: This post is geeky and goes in depth about photographic competition. We won’t be offended if you skip straight to the pictures:)

We recently got our results back from the Professional Photographer’s of America‘s IPC (International Print Competition)! IPC is like the Super Bowl for photographers with thousands of competitors from across the globe. It’s the final culmination of competition that begins at the state level, moves on to the district level, and finale’s with IPC. Basically it works like this: every photographer enters a maximum of 4 prints or albums which are scored on a scale from 0-100 according to 12 elements by a panel of expert judges. Images that earn an 80 or above are given a “merit” and enter the PPA General Collection, which only a small percentage of images earn. Merit images are then re-judged to see if they are deemed worthy of being in PPA’s “Loan Collection,” which only a small percentage of merited images obtain. If a photographer is able to merit all 4 of their entries, they are named a coveted PPA “Photographer of the Year.” There are different designations of “Photographer of the Year” according to how many of an artist’s merit images are selected for the Loan Collection.

PPA initiated a second branch of the competition called “Master Artist” which is basically a competition of photoshop skills where the artist includes their source files alongside their image so the judges can gauge how complicated their task was and see how creative they were with what they had to work with. A photographer can enter 4 images in Master Artist beyond the 4 that they enter in regular print competition. Complicated, eh!? But for photographers IPC is one of the most exciting and nerve-wracking events of the year!

This year both of us (Dan and Alex) entered IPC’s regular print competition and Dan additionally entered Master Artist. Overall we did well! Alex merited 3/4 of her images and Loaned 1 of them. Dan merited 3/4 and Loaned all 3. He also merited 4/4 in his MA case and Loaned 2 of them, earning him a PPA “Gold Photographer of the Year” designation! This is his 3rd time in 4 years earning a Photographer of the Year designation. Not too shabby for a couple of Iowa kids! If you’ve read this far, you are very patient and we thank you for taking an interest in our work! Enjoy viewing our 2014 images:

Dan’s Print Case

“Basking in Love’s Light”

PPA Loan Collection

Bride and groom portrait lounged on the rocky Oregon coast with an epic sunset behind. Des Moines Photographer McClanahan Studio photographed this image. Destination wedding. Photo was selected for the 2014 PPA Loan Collection.

“Soaring to Victory”

PPA Loan Collection

Ames high school senior Erin Lehman jumps her competition horse at dusk with a look of determination on her face. This strobist image accentuates the horse

“Letting Him Go”

PPA Loan Collection

A Des Moines bride lays on a rock in the ocean and watches her veil wash back and forth in the tide. Destination wedding photographed in Oregon by Iowa Wedding Photographer of the Year McClanahan Studio. West coast wedding, dramatic sunrise portrait was selected for the 2014 PPA Loan Collection.

“Pipe Dreams”

Didn’t merit, but we still love this image of local legend Marcus Savage

Ames skating legend Marcus Savage poses for a photograph by Dan McClanahan that is composited into a west coast skate park with stadium lights and sunset. Marcus has a great skater fro!

Alex’s Print Case

“Media Slave”

PPA General Collection

Ames beauty Maggie Doyle sits upon a throne constructed from VHS tape to be photographed by Des Moines Photographer McClanahan Studio. Image is a metaphor about the impact media has on our subconscious minds in American culture. Photo was chosen for the 2014 PPA General Collection.

“Rustic Rendezvous”

Didn’t merit, but we love this image and made a decorative print of it for our building!

Portrait of Eric and Ellie Whillhoit perched in the hayloft of an old barn at Willhoit farms. Engagement portrait showcasing a meaningful location and a quiet moment between sweethearts. Backlit and toned in a vintage fashion that matches the mood of the image. Captured by Des Moines Photographer Alex McClanahan.

“Rachel & Jared”

Milwaukee Wedding. PPA Loan Collection. This also won the top wedding award in Iowa and was the highest scoring album in our 10 state district!

“Lia & Björn”

Seattle Wedding. PPA General Collection

Dan’s Master Artist Case

“Living in Our Own Little World”

PPA Loan Collection

Dan and Alex McClanahan

“Keeping Her Grounded”

PPA General Collection

Composite engagement photo by Des Moines photographer McClanahan Studio showing Mark and Valentina Looney having a symbolic moment on a backpacking trip in the southwest. Valentina is reaching for a butterfly not noticing the cliff

“The Perfect Storm”

PPA General Collection

Iowa State Cyclone Women

“The Winning Moment”

PPA Loan Collection

Des Moines Photographer Dan McClanahan created this poster for Iowa State Cyclone Men

  • ben pool - September 11, 2014 - 12:11 pm

    You are the best. Your work is always on an incredibly high level. Keep inspiring others.ReplyCancel

Greetings Ames! We are excited to be participating in the Main Street Cultural District’s Music Walk this Thursday, September 11 from 5-8pm. We will be hosting live music by one of our favorite artists Lane Jahn (AKA angel voice). Lane is also a local jewelry designer and you can check out his stuff here! To top off the event, Dan will be photographing a tintype headshot of everybody that stops by and posting them on our Facebook page (and they will look something like this):

Dan and Alex McClanahan pose for Tintype photographs to demonstrate what they will be shooting at Music Walk in downtown Ames on September 11

If you’ve never met us or visited our gallery before, we would love to meet you! We’re located right accross from the Ames Public Library at 210 5th St, and to make it easier for you, here’s what the place looks like from the outside:

McClanahan Studio, 210 5th St Ames IA, from the exterior with a sun flare peeking over the corner of the building

Here’s the inside (though currently we don’t have a Christmas tree):

McClanahan Studio gallery interior at Christmas time

See you thursday!

L e t ' s   B e   F r i e n d s
R e v i e w s