Will McBride was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on January 10, 1931. He first studied English language and literature from 1948-50 in Vermont, then painting, illustration and art history in New York until 1953. He was intermittently a private student of the painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell. At the same time, he completed a course of study in officer training for the Army. As an officer, he was stationed in Germany (Würzburg) in 1953, and during the time that followed, he made trips to Italy, France and Switzerland. During these years, McBride began to take photographs.
In 1955, he moved to Berlin for three years, where he studied philology, painted and photographed. Beginning in 1957 he worked for magazines such as "Life", "Stern" and "Paris Match".
Four years later, Mc Bride opened his own studio for advertising photography in Munich, and beginning in 1960, he worked primarily for the journal "Quick" and later "Twen". In 1965, McBride became a lecturer at the College of Design in Ulm and in the same year began to publish his own books on various themes (for example, "Adenauer, a Portrait"  and "Dictionary of Sexuality" ).
Particularly well-known are "Siddharta" (1972) and "Knips, Berliner Straßenszenen aus den 50er Jahren" (1982, Click, Street Scenes from Berlin of the 1950’s). McBride also attracted attention with his explanatory book "Zeig mal!" (1974, Show Me!) which thematizes the awakening of child sexuality. The book received several prizes in the 1970’s, only to become sharply criticized in the 1990’s. Now it is alleged that the book is too close to child sexual exploitation and child pornography. In some states in the US, even owning the book is now forbidden.
McBride established a "Summer Academy for Photography" in Casoli di Camalore in Tuscany in 1973, held photo workshops in Europe and worked as a free-lance photographer for "Stern", "Geo" and other magazines. In addition, he worked intensely with painting and sculpture.
Since 1983, he has had a studio for photography, painting and sculpture in Frankfurt am Main. In 1992, a large retrospective of his work was shown in Frankfurt, Bonn, Hamburg, Munich and Berlin. Will McBride now lives in Berlin.