Ames Photographer Makes Team USA for Third Consecutive Year

32 countries are participating in the highly anticipated international event co-founded by Professional Photographers of America 

[Ames, IA] – Ames photographer Dan McClanahan recently won a spot on Team USA at the 2019 World Photographic Cup, to be held April 8 in Drammen, Norway. 

McClanahan sporting his 2019 Team USA jacket.

McClanahan sporting his 2019 Team USA jacket.

McClanahan’s image, a client commission depicting a redneck family vacation, was selected to be part of Team USA by a national association composed of professional photographers. The team was officially announced at the Imaging USA 2019 convention and trade show’s Awards Night. The event was held Monday, January 21, in Atlanta, Georgia. 

McClanahan’s family portrait “Redneck Family Vacation.”

McClanahan’s family portrait “Redneck Family Vacation.”

“It’s a great honor to win a spot on Team USA,” said McClanahan. “It’s an amazing group to be a part of. I never imagined my work in Ames would reach such a wide audience. I push myself to be a better photographer each year in my community, to be recognized and given the chance to represent my country is just icing on the cake.” 

McClanahan runs McClanahan Studio in downtown Ames, photographing high quality portraits locally and advertising projects nationally. Last year he traveled Sydney, Australia, to help the United States bring home the World Cup with a bronze medal in the nature category. To see more of his work, visit

Team USA 2019 posing for a photograph at Imaging USA in Atlanta, GA.

Team USA 2019 posing for a photograph at Imaging USA in Atlanta, GA.

The World Photographic Cup, co-founded by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) and the Federation of European Photographers (FEP), features 32 countries who will square off in 2019. The national teams will be vying to take the cup from three-time winner and reigning champs Team USA. 

The World Photographic Cup's mission is to unite photographers in a spirit of friendship and cooperation. This year's list of registered countries spans from the Australia to the Netherlands to Malaysia and Spain. The full list of countries can be found at 

Each country’s team picks its own photographers and images to enter. Teams may submit up to three images in each of six categories: Portrait, Wedding, Commercial (including advertising, architecture, industrial, fashion), Illustrative/Digital Art, Reportage/Photojournalism and Landscape/Wildlife. Teams may choose to enter the images of a single photographer in multiple categories; no single photographer may have multiple images entered into a single category. 

Gold (1st), Silver (2nd), and Bronze (3rd) medals are awarded to the individual creator in each category. 

Teams are awarded points based on an aggregate score of the top ten placements in all categories. The World Photographic Cup is awarded to the national team that receives the highest overall score. 

The winner of the World Photographic Cup will be announced at the WPC Awards Ceremony in Drammen, Norway on April 8, 2019. For more information on the World Photographic Cup, and to view the finalist images from around the world, visit

McClanahan sporting his Team USA jacket.

McClanahan sporting his Team USA jacket.

Photogs: Learn from us at Imaging USA 2015!

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

A Day with McClanahan Studio

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!

2014 PPA Photographer of the Year!

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's muscles and shiny coat. Photographed in Ames, Iowa by Des Moines Photographer Dan McClanahan. Photo was selected for the 2014 PPA Loan Collection.

"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's infamous Christmas card inside a snow globe. She is putting the star on the tree from the top rung of a ladder and he is shoveling the ground, both filled with utopian happiness. Image by Des Moines photographer McClanahan Studio selected for the 2014 PPA Loan Collection. Composited elements included on the print to show the complexity of the project.

"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's edge and Mark is keeping her from falling off. Photograph selected for the 2014 PPA Loan Collection.

"The Perfect Storm"

PPA General Collection

Iowa State Cyclone Women's Basketball poster featuring hallie christofferson by Des Moines photographer Dan McClanahan. entitled "the perfect storm," the poster shows three seniors emerging from a storm cloud in action poses. Photo was selected for the 2014 PPA General Collection.

"The Winning Moment"

PPA Loan Collection

Des Moines Photographer Dan McClanahan created this poster for Iowa State Cyclone Men's Basketball  2014 season. Featuring Melvin Ejim, DeAndre Kane, Georges Niang executing a drive in Hilton Coliseum against a fictitious opponent. Composite image was selected for the 2014 PPA Loan Collection.

Get Serenaded and Immortalized during Music Walk Sept. 11

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!

The Freedom Rock

It's interesting how little connections we make can end up coming back to us down the road. Such is the case with myself and Maria Sorensen, who was a classmate of mine at Iowa State University and now runs Sorensen Studios with her husband Bubba – the muralist behind The Freedom Rock. I was excited when Maria and Bubba contacted me to create some imagery to promote The Freedom Rock Tour – their quest to paint a unique Freedom Rock in each of Iowa's 99 counties. Here's a portrait of Bubba, Maria and their daughter Indie: Family portrait of Maria, Bubba and Indie Sorensen in front of The Freedom Rock 2014 in Greenfield, Iowa. The main concept for our shoot was capturing an epic photograph showing a veteran of each military branch with The Freedom Rock to give visual context to its purpose. I should note there was originally a female officer lined up for the shoot that fell through last minute, but the Sorensen's were able to fine another member from that branch to step in. Here's how the main image turned out:

A portrait of Bubba Sorensen's painted  Freedom Rock in Greenfield Iowa accompanied by military veterans from each of the five branches: Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marine Corps.

Creating the desired "epicness" for this image was quite a challenge. I brought 5 lights to the shoot and ended up using them all! I knew I wanted to expose for the sunset in the sky to create drama, which required turning around and shooting the rock from the opposite direction as the family portrait above. I was able to position myself so the sun was hidden behind the veterans from my camera's point of view (which prevented distracting lens flare from obstructing the image). Once the composition was established and the sky was properly exposed everything in the foreground was under–exposed and essentially black. The next step was painting light onto the rock and the subjects using flashes. I started by cross–lighting the rock from two angles that would accentuate its shape and texture. Then I lit my subjects with two lights from the front to make sure each gentleman had good light on his face. Lastly a flash was placed behind the subjects to accentuate the directional light already provided by the sun and to add more drama to the shadows coming off the feet (which were getting lost in the wash of light coming off the front lights). Here's a diagram of the setup:

Photoshoot BTS lighting diagram of Dan McClanahan's Freedom Rock promo photoshoot

Getting to talk to these guys was a moving experience and I was able to make individual portraits of the servicemen after getting the main image. One in particular that stands out to me is the following image of Viet Nam Vet John Porter. Ashes and bone fragments of John's fallen brothers from Viet Nam are actually painted into the rock on the helicopter you see below. The loyalty and bond that John described when recollecting his fellow soldiers left me feeling incredibly thankful for the Armed Forces and the sacrifices they've made to ensure the freedom I so often take for granted.


We finished the evening by making a few images of Bubba at work. Getting to hang out with him was inspiring. It's exciting to see young people staying in Iowa and doing great things!



Next time you have a drive on Interstate 80 I encourage you to stop and check out the rock for yourself!


Photobooth Strips

If you follow our blog, you may remember the senior portraits we did of Alex last year! Afterwards his mom got the idea of creating photo booth strips for each of the children to decorate a large wall in their entryway. We had Alex's sisters came in and we had a blast dancing/shooting/goofing with them in our gnarly basement to get images that matched his images. The image layouts were designed by Alex's super groovy step-dad Joe, and the resulting product was four 72" acrylic prints ascending the staircase in their home. Talk about cool! Due to the size of the prints we did the install ourselves and got them hung just in time for Alex's grad party! We're super pumped we were able to create these and love this concept for home decor. If  we were family-less and it was legal for way-beyond-18-year-olds to be adopted in the state of Iowa, we would opt to be adopted into this family!Photobooth strips of Alex Rice and his three sisters made by Iowa photographer McClanahan Studio to decorate the entryway to their home in Johnston, Iowa

Detail shot of photobooth strips created of Alex Rice and his three sisters by Iowa photographer McClanahan Studio to decorate the entryway to their home in Johnston, Iowa

Detail shot of photobooth strips created of Alex Rice and his three sisters by Iowa photographer McClanahan Studio to decorate the entryway to their home in Johnston, Iowa

Detail shot of photobooth strips created of Alex Rice and his three sisters by Iowa photographer McClanahan Studio to decorate the entryway to their home in Johnston, Iowa

Detail shot of photobooth strips created of Alex Rice and his three sisters by Iowa photographer McClanahan Studio to decorate the entryway to their home in Johnston, Iowa

Miranda (part 2)

Recently we spent a weekend getting filmed for a new behind-the-scenes McClanahan Studio promo video that will drop later this year (and knock your socks off)! We wanted to use the opportunity to try some new lighting techniques and have some fun, so we brought in Miranda (one of our awesome seniors from last year) and shot a conceptual series with 1950's props and styling. It was a blast! Hope you enjoy: Portraits of Miranda Maher with a classic teal Ford, red lipstick, 50's red dress in Ames Iowa with McClanahan StudioFilm noir senior portraits of Miranda in a 50's Ford car on a gravel road. Hazy, vintage, elegant, lovely black and white images by McClanahan Studio in Ames.On the hood of a teal ford car in a red dress. Epic, sassy, stylish senior portraits with yellow flowers and blue skies by McClanahan Studio.

Melvin & Sam

When we shot the ISU MBB poster last Fall, Melvin approached me about potentially taking some photos with his girlfriend to commemorate their time at Iowa State before they move on to their next adventure. Last weekend we were able to meet up for a quick shoot while the couple was back in Ames for Melvin's graduation. Having photographed Melvin several times in the context of being a beast on the basketball court, it was cool to hang out with him in a softer context and to finally meet Sam! Classy portraits of Melvin Ejim and Samantha Melvin with a chandellier at McClanahan studio in Ames, taken the weekend of Melvin's graduation from Iowa State UniversityPortrait of Melvin Ejim and Samantha Melvin hitting the down in dress clothes lit by streetlightsSamantha and Melvin Ejim on the campus of Iowa State University with the Campanile. Melvin giving Sam a piggy back ride and demonstrating his mad-ups jumping over Sam's head Backlit portrait of Iowa State University grads Melvin Ejim and Samantha Melvin on campus at dusk with the Campanile.


Fro's senior portrait session was pretty crazy - we started afternoon and photographed until dark! From the moment we first met Fro we could sense a mutual creative connection with her. As a result, we pushed things a little further and more conceptually than we have before with senior portraits. We hope you enjoy the result as much as we do :)Personality portraits in a dinosaur shirt using pink and green gels from Fro's rockstar senior session at McClanahan Studio in Ames, IA!Images of Fro in a rainbow tutu and happy rain boots on an Iowa farm. Jumping and prairie grass at Fro's rockstar senior session with McClanahan Studio in Ames, IA!Images of Fro in a rainbow tutu and happy rain boots in an abandoned house. Shots with a ring flash and natural light from Fro's rockstar senior session with McClanahan Studio in Ames, IA!A composite of Fro wandering through a flooded forrest with a tattered umbrella in a rainbow tutu. One of many conceptual images from Fro's rockstar senior session at McClanahan Studio in Ames, IA!Portraits of Fro in a red dress. Playing dead and climbing a tree on an Iowa farm during her senior photo session with McClanahan Studio.Fro playing ukulele in a junkyard and drinking tea in a coyote headdress. Her laugh is contagious and Fro is awesome.Senior portraits in an overgrown junkyard with a rusty red truck that match Fro's red converse. Attitude, sassafras and style during a central Iowa photo session with McClanahan Studio.Conceptual central Iowa senior portrait taken in an abandoned ballroom by McClanahan Studio. Fro is levitating towards the ceiling with her vintage dress dangling beneath her.Amazing senior photo of artist Fro Feldman demonstrating mind control. Sitting in a demolished room with red fabric emanating from her blindfold and whipping around. Senior photos by McClanahan Studio in Ames, IAMidnight color run for senior portraits with Fro. Indian holi powder explosions staining white clothes to express the awesome energy of this girl. Portraits taken by Des Moines area photographer McClanahan Studio Fro sits in the carnage of holi powder color run for the last shot of her senior photos with McClanahan Studio. Epic girl, epic day!

Wedding Ideas: Ring Dog

Incorporate your beloved pet into your wedding ceremony. Include a collar or flowers to match the wedding colors – but we don't recommend giving the dog the real rings  :)   If he gets nervous, let the flower girl carry him down for an even more adorable moment. To see more from Sarah & Lyle's destination wedding, click here!