Joe McNally on Lighting the Life of a NYC Breakdancer

When Nikon Ambassador Joe McNally photographed Bronx, New York City-based breakdancer Kevin Rivera, he took a variety of images which he highlighted on his blog—including one in Rivera’s home, on a subway platform and in the station, in a warehouse at the end of the day with light streaming through the windows (view in gallery above), and this one shown below. For all of them, he used the Nikon Z 6 mirrorless camera, which worked well for capturing many of these low-light moments where he needed to bump up the ISO. (For this portrait he went up to an ISO of 2000.)

“I spent some time with Rivera, roaming Manhattan and the Bronx, when I saw this neon in a store, and the glow of it, and asked him to lean against the glass for a photo,” lighting guru McNally explains. “I just liked the light and Kevin has a wonderful face for a portrait.”

Joe McNally on lighting the life of NYC breakdancer Kevin Rivera.
NYC breakdancer Kevin Rivera, photographed with a Nikon Z 6 with a 50mm lens at f/1.8 at ISO 2000. Photo © Joe McNally’

There are of course, few better lighting teachers in the world than McNally who, in his prolific career spanning four decades—has photographed assignments in nearly 70 countries and was the last staff photographer in the history of LIFE magazine. In 2015, WPPI and Rangefinder were honored to have him as the keynote speaker at WPPI, and earlier this year he did a sold out Photo Walk at WPPI titled, “Looking for Light in Las Vegas with Joe McNally.”

For a behind-the-scenes look at the shoot with Kevin, view the video, “Dancing with the Light and the Nikon Z System,” here.

Check out more Photos of the Day, and email submissions to RF’s editor-in-chief at

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