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Photographers FAQ

We receive a lot of emails from photographers with questions about what we do. This page is our effort to create a centralized “Answer HQ” to aid you in your photographic journey!

Philosophy on gear: Having professional equipment is a necessary responsibility if you’re a working professional (and we’re not gonna lie, it’s pretty awesome). You should have working gear + backups to be prepared for any situation. However, top-of-the-line equipment is NOT necessary to take awesome images if you’re a hobbyist or just getting started. Cameras and lenses are simply tools, and far more important than your gear is mastering your artistic vision. Like anything in life, you get what you pay for (meaning a $10k camera is definitely better than a $500 camera), but we hear too many photographers blaming their problems on their equipment (or lack thereof). We encourage you to use what you have to the fullest. Improving your artistry will get you 10x farther than improving your camera. Once you can consistently create great images the gear will come. We honed our chops early on with an 8mp Canon Rebel XT and some of those images remain our favorites to this day. Here’s a Rebel XT image of where we got engaged… we have a 60″ print of this on our wall and it looks fantastic despite the limited file size:


With that said, here’s a rundown of our professional gear:


Canon 5dmkIII – we each have one of these as our workhorse
Canon 24-70 2.8 – two of these. Most of the images you see were shot with one of these bad boys.
Canon 70-200 2.8 -two of these as well. For picking off intimate moments during wedding ceremonies while staying unobtrusive like a ninja:)
Canon 16-35 2.8
Sigma 50mm 1.4
Canon 85mm 1.2
Canon 35mm 1.4
Canon 100mm macro – this bad boy only has one job:  making rings look awesome!
Canon 15mm Fisheye
Canon 45mm Tilt Shift
Canon G11 – our camera for hiking and personal travel.  It’s point and shoot camera with full manual controls!!


Canon 600ex speedlights for location portrait work
Einsteins with RadioPopper JR’s for studio lighting and location commercial work
Larson reflectors and softboxes


27″ Apple iMacs with Wacom Tablets for our daily grind
15″ Macbook Pro for traveling
Photomechanic (ingesting and organizing)
Adobe Lightroom 4 (bulk of our culling and editing)
Adobe CS6 (Photoshop for complex images, InDesign and Illustrator for product and album design)

Other FAQ


Because of our quality-over-quantity workflow and frequent travel, our studio isn’t very conducive to internships. We are not offering any internships at this time, but if we decide to in the future we will publicize it on our blog and facebook page.


Dan fell in love with photography in 2008 and Alex joined the party when McClanahan Studio was created in 2009. Neither of us went to school for photography but Dan was a Journalism major and Alex was a Graphic Design major, so both paths led to photography naturally.


Yes! We own a historic commercial building in downtown Ames. The street level houses our gallery and viewing room and the upper level is an open loft used for shooting. Having a physical location helps us separate work life from home life and it allows us to give our clients a uniquely memorable experience! You can take a virtual tour of our storefront here.


Our boy Johnny Likens – he does outstanding work! He took our vision and gave it legs. Custom design is more expensive than templates, but it’s infinitely cooler and guarantees uniqueness.


What we do before we click the shutter is infinitely more important than what we do in Lightroom or Photoshop. We’re obsessed with color and we expose our images accordingly. Our style is all about lighting and exposure. We shoot in Manual and capture in RAW. We’re picky about either finding beautiful natural light or creating it artificially when necessary. Our out-of-camera images look pretty darn close to our finished product, and our post-processing is the icing on an already delicious cake. You can’t take a crappy image and Photoshop it to be good (trust me, we’ve tried), so we suggest practicing to develop the chops to capture great images out-of-camera. It will save you a LOT of time and give you much better results. If you need help with this, we suggest learning from a master in a hands-on workshop environment.


We do offer a very limited amount one-on-one workshops (full day hands-on at our studio), and business mentoring via Skype. If you’re interested in mentoring please contact the studio to discuss pricing and availability. We also teach at After Dark Education events. If you register for an After Dark event, make sure to use our super special “MAC” code to get discounted registration. We have experience teaching at state, regional and national conventions. If you want us to teach at your event, drop us a line and we’d be happy to talk with you!


Good question! In our day and age of information overload there’s a lot of crap to wade though. Here are the resources that have helped us the most:

-We are members of PPI and PPA – both have been invaluable resources to us as we’ve started our business. The network of experience is unparalleled.
After Dark is hands down our favorite educational event. The best instructors in the industry all in one place, teaching intimately small classes and helping you reach your specific goals. is an excellent web site for picking up lighting techniques.
The Business of Studio Photography (book) is an invaluable resource if you’re planning on shooting professionally. is our favorite industry blog
Adobe Classroom in a Book – books available for all Adobe software. We used the Photoshop CS2 book to develop our chops.

If for some reason you’re psyched and can’t get enough McClanahan, here are some links to interviews that we’ve done:
Go 4 Pro
121 Clicks
Drop It Modern

We’re also currently appearing on PhotoVision Video – if you become a subscriber you’ll be able to follow us around on several photoshoots.

Let us know if there’s anything you think should be added to the list and happy shooting!

  • JScott - May 25, 2011 - 7:51 am

    I am VERY impressed not only with your photography but with your ability to stay connected and close with your fans and colleagues in the photography world!

    Keep up the great work! You are truly pushing the photography envelope both here in Iowa and around the rest of the country! You are an inspiration to me and several other photographers I know!ReplyCancel

  • Doug Squires - May 25, 2011 - 11:01 am

    Very impressive, colorful images.
    I’m breaking into the Radio Popper world.
    Curious if you chose the RPs over Pocket Wizards because of the RFI issues with the 580EX or you thought them a better product overall & why?

  • dannymac - June 11, 2011 - 8:17 am

    Doug – sorry for the belated response. We chose Poppers over the new pocket wizards because I have several friends that have had horrible experiences with the Wizards (and have received poor customer support). The Poppers take a little while to get used to (using ETTL), but we’ve never had a problem with them. Also we’ve had a chance to meet the owners of the company a few times and they’re really cool people that are really pushing the envelope, and we like that.

    JScott – Thanks! It means a lot to hear that :)ReplyCancel

  • Ted Sandeen - July 2, 2011 - 6:57 pm

    Are there any upcoming events that the Mac. team will be hosting/teaching/or speaking at locally over anything industry related the rest of the year? Congrats on the most recent award btw!ReplyCancel

  • dannymac - July 6, 2011 - 7:29 am

    Ted – nothing official yet. We will announce if anything comes up!ReplyCancel

  • agne - April 2, 2014 - 7:19 pm

    I am so happy I found you on PhotoVisionVideo. I love your work!! I got excited and inspired! Thank you! You guys are amazing!!ReplyCancel

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