Saturday, April 11, 2009

Light - Science & Magic, a book review

A good photograph is made up of several elements. If one of those elements is lacking then the photo is not as good as it could be. Some important elements are technical (focus/exposure/DoF), composition, color scheme, and subjectively, subject matter. Another very important element to consider when creating a good photograph is lighting. It is very often overlooked and we snap the camera shutter more times than naught without giving the lighting much consideration.

If you want to drastically improve your photography then I highly recommend studying light and how it interacts with your subject. By learning this you can learn to manipulate that light to improve your images. I think a lot of photographers (especially the readers of this blog) know a little about light, that midday sun creates harsh shadows, the better light is morning or afternoon and will reduce the harshness, or that large shade areas will produce nice soft lighting. However there is much more to light than that especially when lighting still life or portraits. Armed with this knowledge you will know how to better light your subject in a given situation and get the best image possible under the circumstances.

A book I highly recommend on lighting is called Light - Science & Magic 3rd ed by Focal Press. It is written by Fil Hunter, Steven Biver and Paul Fuqua. The book will teach you how light interacts with matter and how you can modify the light to produce better images. The book is on it's third edition now, and not that light has changed since creation, the book has been updated to include new technology and just as important an updated modern look.

(more details in the full post)

The book is comprised of 10 chapters that cover such topics as how to learn lighting, light: the raw material in photography, managing reflections and the family of angles, surfaces, shape and contour, metal, glass, portraiture, digital cameras, white on white and black on black, portable lighting and much more.

Rather than teach lighting styles, Light - Science & Magic teaches how the light interacts with the subject matter and lets you decide (based on what equipment you have) how and what light to modify to create the result you want. The book's examples are mostly still life examples shot with hot lights or strobes. If you shoot mostly available light outdoors, don't let this sway you from considering this book. Outdoor sunlight behaves in exactly the same way, it's just easier to control in a studio environment. There are light modifiers, natural or man made, that you can use to control the light outdoors. Once you learn the light you can then use your own creativity to modify it to create your own style.

Light - Science & Magic is well written with clear example photographs and technical diagrams. If you have an understanding of the basic photographic terms then you will have no problem learning from this book. It teaches you using layman's terms and introduces lighting language as it progresses. By the time you are done reading the book you will know what a gobo and a grid are and what direct and diffuse mean. What's more important is even if you know what those terms are now, you will be able to manipulate them to improve your photographs.

So get the book, it's money well spent and you will, bad pun intended, walk away looking at light in a different light.

No comments: