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McClanahan Studio owners tell their story, discuss photography style

Photo by Ronnie Miller

One positive of a recessing economy is that it enables some would-be entrepreneurs to take the risk and launch out on their own. That was the case for Dan and Alex McClanahan, who in 2009 were recent graduates of Iowa State University in journalism and graphic design, respectively.

The pair, who are married, thought they had secured post-graduation jobs in Denver, Colorado within their fields, but due to the economic downturn at the time, that was not the case. With their plans falling apart, they were emboldened to stay local and follow through on their passion and long-term dream of launching McClanahan Studio, a photography studio specializing in senior, wedding, and commercial photography.

“We really felt like Ames, especially in this area, just needed something different. There is a lot of people that are doing what they do and they’re doing it well but we wanted to be something completely different. So, we wanted to keep our quality extremely high and our style was the most important thing. So, we kind of decided that we would keep the studio small and we would just have creative control over everything and that would be our business model here on out,” said Alex in talking about the plan for their company. 

Dan won’t name a favorite type of photography but did cite the challenges in working within the commercial space, where their clients range from large institutions like their alma mater to many of the musicians based in the area. “The Craig Brackins poster … that we did for The Meyocks Group for Iowa State, was particularly fun because I think it challenged me in a way that our other work doesn’t.” (Craig Brackins poster on left.)

Dan’s background as a musician lead them into working with bands, which puts their product to use as magazine covers, promotional photos, and even concert photography. “Music is still one of my biggest passions,” Dan said, “not necessarily playing it but documenting it and listening to it. So, we try to be involved in it as much as we can.”

Weddings and seniors are the bulk of their work and each shoot is unique to the subjects. “With weddings we really try and get to know them beforehand so that we know their personalities and that’s what we base all of our photography on, just really getting them to interact, show their personalities and be themselves,” Alex explained. “We just place them in beautiful lighting and environments and capture who they really are, that’s what keeps our wedding photography different from one to one, we don’t have the same structure of poses for every person because everybody’s different.”

In the interview below, Dan and Alex talk about how they plan and stage shoots, how they utilize their blog and Facebook to allow potential clients to get to know their personality, and how they plan to grow the company.

The following video is a recent promotional video created for McClanahan Studio by Ames-based motion designer John Likens and music by Ames-based band The Envy Corps.

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