Tuesday Painterly Photo Art – Dan McClanahan

For this Tuesday edition of Painterly Photo Art I have Dan whose work I have admired for quite a while.

© Dan McclanahanDad Started It! This piece was photographed in my client’s garage, capturing each subject’s expression from a tripod and stacking them together in photoshop to create an ideal composition. The food was all real, but the background was manipulated to look like a dining room instead of a garage. © Dan McClanahan

© Dan McclanahanBefore images for Dad Started It.

Dan’s work is a mix of in-camera artistry using artificial lighting and photorealistic compositing, often with a fun and vibrant feel. He’s only been a shooter since the digital age, so progressive lighting and digital manipulation have always been a part of his work. Dan’s business is split between his portrait studio and commercial work, and you can see the influence of commercial lighting and sheen in his portrait work.

© Dan McClanahanSports Poster – Basketball © Dan McClanahan

© Dan McClanahanReference images for sports poster. © Dan McClanahan

“My inspiration is generally gleaned from my clients, so my concepts are a collaboration between me and them within the parameters set by their needs. My challenge is to see how technically interesting and creative I can get within those parameters. Beyond client work, I try to challenge myself a couple times per year to create something I have no idea how to pull off just to make myself learn how to do it. Our Christmas cards and my annual schedule poster for the Iowa State Cyclone basketball team are examples of this. Aside from being great learning experiences, these personal challenges generally reciprocate in the form of successful competition prints and great exposure for my brand. For example, the image above of the family having a food fight was commissioned by a mom that saw our crazy/fun Christmas cards and wanted something like that for her family. I’ll take it!

© Dan McClanahan

Commercial photography created by McClanahan Studio in Ames, IA. Des Moines photographers specializing in modern, creative imagery for marketing and advertising campaigns. Dan and Alex McClanahan create promotional photography throughout Iowa and all over the midwest.

© Dan McclanahanThe Dangerous Lure of Entertainment: This was a personal piece. I had a tenant that was a hoarder and left a lot of weird stuff behind when she moved out. I ended up building this set out of her possessions and visually portraying the danger of our culture’s over-addiction to entertainment. It’s something I have struggled with in the past, and I knew people that dropped out of college due to video game addiction. I set the scene in the early 90’s because VHS tape looks way cooler than DVD’s and it was fun to pull some of my childhood interests and possessions in as props. © Dan McClanahan

“I’m not adept at drawing or painting like many of my peers, so when I composite I tend to photograph my components with precise lighting to match the scene so that the layers come together naturally and don’t require much blending in photoshop. I tend to use shapely lighting setups that retain the full dynamic range of the subject while sculpting expressions and textures to look 3-dimensional in a way that is coherent to the scene. Rim lights and fill lights are often used in addition to a key light to create this look. Remember, it’s easy to add contrast in post-production, but it’s tough to fix a photo with blocked up blacks or blown out highlights.”

© dan mcclanahan photographyNewborn Mutant Ninja Turtle: I recently became a father and while we hired out our newborn photos to someone with much more expertise than myself, I still wanted to make a newborn portrait “Dan Style.” I mixed several favorites of my wife and me: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, crochet, my father’s glasses, my old boom box, and our favorite local pizza. I figure I better subject my daughter to all of my favorite childhood things in photos before she’s too old to object. © Dan Mcclanahan© Dan Mcclanahan

Before image. © Dan McClanahan

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 from Professional Photographers of America (PPA), Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (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 other events.

He owns and operates McClanahan Studio with his best friend and beautiful wife, Alex. He splits his time between advertising photography and high school senior photography. The couple live and work with their daughter in a twelve thousand square foot historic building they renovated and share with nine tenants.

Outside work Dan is a small town Iowa introvert that loves Jesus, his family, punk rock drumming and strong coffee.

See more of Dan’s work –


Dand and Alex will be hosting a photo retreat in June in Hawaii – for more details