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Saturday, 17 January 2009


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A guy named Fil wrote a book on lighting? I've gotta stop noticing this sort of thing.

Quite simply, it's the bible of lighting! Pretty much required reading for anyone aspiring to do more than snapshots...

Geoff and Mike-

I am interested in learning more about lighting. I recently ordered "Minimalist Lighting" by Kirk Tuck, after reading about it here at TOP. How does "Light: Science and Magic" differ from Tuck's book, and why should I read one versus the other?


Steve Rosenblum

You had me at "universally sucked." Great review, thank you. The cover image selected for this book is not compelling.

I bought this book (on Mike's recommendation, I think it was) a year or more ago and have to agree that it is one of the most readable, comprehensive books on lighting that I have come across thus far.

Glad to see that it has come up again, and I heartily second the recommendation.

"It's a pleasure to read something that stresses the principles at work, and the concept of designing the lighting of a photograph, rather than the latest expensive strobe."

Thank goodness, someone who finally mentions the concept of DESIGNING the light for a photograph. That's exactly the way to approach it! It is the art of lighting design that got me into photography in the first place. I have worked for almost 30 years designing the lighting for dance, theatre, opera and film and through that time have developed a parallel practise in photography. Light is endlessly fascinating to me and is, in my view, only used well when "by design".

Thanks for the great site, Mike!

I have both the Light: Science and Magic book, and the Minimalist Lighting book mentioned by Steve Rosenblum above. The are both great books, but fill different needs.

L:SaM is a general description of how light works, and how to design a shot using basic principles.

ML is more nuts and bolts: how to avoid carting around heavy studio lights and use small flashes instead. It describes and recommends specific equipment (half of which I already own because I read the Strobist blog), and talks about balancing ambient and flash, when to use different colored gels, and designing shots quickly.

Both books are great, but there really is not a bunch of overlap between them. I recommend both of them.

It's one of the rare books that covers matte and glossy materials and their reflective behavior in product photography.
Knowledge never hurts but i'd say it is rather about studio lighting setups than the mobile strobist.

There's an older book by Roger Hicks & Christopher Nisperos called Hollywood Portraits, still available via Amazon. In it they show you how to 'deconstruct' the lighting used for classic Hollywood glamour portraits by George Hurrell and many others. It's a fascinating exercise. David Hobby's strobist site also has a post discussing how to 'reverse-engineer' the lighting of pictures you like. I'm still a newbie when it comes to portrait lighting, so I find this helps me understand what I'm trying to achieve.

"....I recently ordered "Minimalist Lighting" by Kirk Tuck after reading about it here at TOP...."

Same here. Thats the trouble with this site, it encourages profligate spending on books something I really don't need. Still some of the recommended books turned out to be crackers. (In Brit speak this means excellent. Not sure what it might mean on the other side of the pond)

Paul Mc Cann

Without doing a careful comparison, I would say that Kirk's book is more oriented to location photography, lighting in practice, and simplicity; the Hunter and Fuqua book is more oriented to studio lighting and lighting theory.

Mike J.

"Crackers" here more often means crazy, although I think we're passing familiar with the British meaning too.

As far as the plethora of recommendations is concerned, not really. I don't think I've recommended more that the three lighting books--Kirk Tuck's, and these two--one of the latter of which comes via a commenter, not me. Generally speaking, how many books you have in your library on a given subject would probably depend on how important it is to you and your work. Outside of commercial work I haven't used much artificial lighting, so I have very few books on that topic (use the light god gave ya, I say), but I probably have twenty or twenty-five books about black-and-white darkroom printing...considerably more than I would recommend to a generalist photographer these days, that would be.

As far as these two books in particular, see Chris Allen's comment above.

Mike J.

This book has achieved almost "cult" status after David "Strobist" Hobby named it the best book about lighting. It was impossible to have one for months afterwards.

I like it because it's one of the few photo books that tries to make you understand light and then create your own lighting, instead of showing a photo and a diagram, and saying "So just place your lights exactly this way", and you'll have the same effect".

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