Author: Scott Kelby
Publisher: New Riders
Aimed at: The dedicated studio photographer
Pros: Useful if you want to set up a studio
Cons: Limited range of subjects, lacks discussion of technology
Reviewed by: David Conrad
This is an interesting idea - documenting the entire photographic process from lighting to photofinishing. However, to get it right needs a careful balance of theory, practice and hardware.
The first thing to say is that this is a studio-based book. If you don't have a studio, or a room that you can use as a studio, then you aren't going to be much interested in what this book has to say. Similarly, it has nothing much to offer the landscape photographer or anyone shooting with natural light. This is also a book that expects you to spend some money - not an insane amount of money for top of the range professional kit but you may need to spend a few hundred dollars or more to even begin to use the techniques.
Each chapter follows a formula:
- The Setup
- Gear Guide
- Camera Settings
- The Post-Processing
In most cases the biggest section is the post-processing with, usually, a multiple step Photoshop procedure. What this means is that the bulk of the book is actually about using Photoshop rather then lighting or shooting. In many cases you have to think that perhaps a little more attention to shooting would have reduced the time spent post processing, but it is easy to be critical.
Each chapter looks at a different lighting requirement - clamshell lighting, high-contrast lighting, dramatic glamour lighting and so on. The majority of the subjects are female models with a few token males thrown in towards the end. This might make the book easy on the eye (for the male reader) but it means that the range of subjects and difficulties is very limited. For example, I spend most of my time photographing inanimate technical objects and it is often challenging to find a good lighting arrangement. To simply light and photograph the human form, and mostly the human face, is restricting the possible range of things.
The introduction to each lighting setup reads like a shopping list. Only later is there any discussion of why things were placed as they were. The introductions usually carried some statement of what the photographer is trying to achieve, but for me there isn't enough discussion of why a particular lighting arrangement works. Overall the book doesn't go into technicalities much and for me this is a negative point. For example, the lighting settings and the camera settings are shown as annotated photos. There is very little discussion of why the lenses, exposure modes and other choices were made. You get a favour of what the photographer is doing and sometimes why but you don't get much in the way of the reasoning that is involved so thing don't necessarily generalize.
The same is true of the Photoshop step-by-steps. If you know a bit about using Photoshop then it will probably make sense. What is missing is any deep insight into why particular tools have been selected and what they do. If you are looking for a "by example" guide to using some aspects of Photoshop then this isn't too bad.
Overall the book isn't deeply technical and as such not suitable for the serious techie. It doesn't discuss color temperature, working characteristics of particular types of light, light filters, special effects or anything much beyond light and reflector positioning.
It might work as inspiration for the amateur who has enough money to set up and kit out a studio, but for most photographers it either isn't going to be enough or it is going to be too much depending on which side of the pro-am line you are on.