Saturday, 29 March 2008

Lighting for Portrait Photography

Lighting for Portrait Photography is pretty much a recipe book for different portrait photography lighting techniques. It generally has a large image on one page and then a 3D rendered reconstruction of the image on the other, along with a key showing some information about the photograph such as, shutter speed, aperture, focal length etc. and finally a paragraph or two of text.

The book starts off with some general information about equipment, stylists and the indstry and then moves on to the images, starting with ambient light and moving on to more and more complicated flash setups. Drawing from a pool of 23 photographers, there's a pretty good variety of images showing a number of lighting techniques, and some of them are quite inspiring. There are a few standouts that are not to my taste, which is fine, because if it only showed shots that I liked, I would probably be missing out. I would still have liked to have seen some more iconic images and more contemporary styles, like Jill Greenberg's, Dave Hill's or the Ogalthorpe look, but I guess the book is a product of its time. Having said that, I'm not sure how old it is, this revised edition was published in 2007.

Now this book could have been pretty awesome, its tuned in to what people ask for all the time on the forums. People want recipes for images, so they can try to reproduce them. They want to know what aperture and shutter speed and above all they love lighting diagrams. On those counts the book delivers. It will certainly appeal to a lot of people but for me it falls down on a number of counts.

I found that the lighting diagrams and the key information, were not quite complete and made for a distracting read. For instance you might see that a 120mm lens was used and then if you look carefully at the diagram you might notice that a medium format camera was used. It would have made it a lot easier to read if the key contained all the pertinent information including things like the type of film and ISO.

In some places the key inormation appeared to be wrong. For instance the image of Angelina Jolie, was supposed to have been shot with ambient light only, but the key said it was shot with ambient and flash. In another place the key said an aperture of f22 was used, but the depth of field was minimal, so either the key was wrong or there was some information about how the image was taken that was missing somewhere.

The text describing the photos was often too little and inconsistant from image to image. Sometimes the lighting detail was very minimal and I wasn't feeling the love. The writing just didn't have the warmth and passion that other books have. In many cases it felt like not quite enough thought went into the text. There's a lot of white space in the book it was a shame not to see it filled.

Don't get me wrong, its still a good book, you just have to read the other reviews on amazon too see that many people love it, but in my opinion it falls short of kick-ass. Its good to see ambient, flash and hot lights in the one book and there is plenty in there to inspire, so I would still recommend it. Especially as it is very reasonably priced.

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