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4.8 out of 5 stars34
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 28 October 2008
I was looking for some literature regarding lighting that would cover basics for product photography. Unfortunately, most books endulge in a certain high level lingo that would confuse most of the readers. One could easily see which author has more experience based on the level of simplicity he or she uses in order to explain some concepts. A friend of mine lent me this book and I have now the chance to write a short review about it.
First of all: the book is excellent. The paper and printing quality (full color for all photographs and diagrams) are outstanding. One can easily see essential details in images, like different textures and apperance of surfaces under various lighting setups. So this is a big plus.
The book is divided in 10 chapters as follow:

1. How to learn lighting; this chapter gives you basic information regarding general lighting principles, the way the author chose the examples and - most important - why did he chose those examples, the rationale behind all exercises and some hints for the way you should approach each exercise (procedures, goals - what you should get) and also some general information about shooting equipment that one needs in order to perform the exercises in the book.

2. Light: the raw material for photography. This chapter explains in detail, but not to boredom and in a very plain and explicit manner the properties of light that each photographer should know and understand in order to take proper images. What I most liked is the fact that the author starts from a basic principle (almost as an axiom) that the most important factor for photography is not the gear but the light and the way a photographer understands and uses light.

3. The management of reflection and the family of angles. Basic information about the way light is reflected by various materials and surfaces, discussions on the placement of the sources of light relative to the observer (camera) in order to get different results, polarization and some exercises that helps you apply the theory.

4. Surface appearances. This chapter elaborate a bit more some concepts from the previous chapters, with focus on surface appearance, textures, boundaries and some many other information about way different objects appear in different lighting setups. Many exercises included, things that you should try by yourself.

5. Revealing shape and contour. A very good read about methods of adding 3D appearance to 2D images using shadows, tonalities, surface detail etc. This is a chapter with a lot of info about "providing real life appearance" of your 2D images.

6. Metal. How to photograph metal surfaces. Detailed examples and information about reflection on metal surfaces, ways to reveal detail and avoid loss of detail in different lighting setups, information and exercises on photographing metal boxes, special challenges imposed by round metal objects (like globes) and the special issues such photos pose.

7. The case of the disappearing glass. This is one of the most interesting chapters and deals with photographing glass and glass objects. Various methods are explained and actions needed for succesful photographs are detailed in very clear steps, with plenty of rationale and concepts in behind. A special section deals with glass objects with liquid inside, that act as lenses and pose special problems to inexperienced photographer.

8. An arsenal of lights. This chapter will be the favourite for portrait shooters, people that want to learn and understand ways of lighting for portraits. The images are "disassembled" in their components by each light source in order to familiarize yourself with the effects of light characteristics, placement, intensity etc.

9. The extremes. This deals mainly with high-key, low-key and special (under or overexposed) images, situations that require such artwork and the interaction of environment (backgrounds etc) and the objects to be photographed.

10. Traveling light. This deals entirely with strobes (flash photography) and with special issues using flash. If you are new to concepts like guide number, bounce, feathering etc., this chapter will place more... light to it. Also, provided are a lot of practical examples that you should also try.

Overall this is one of the best educational books about photography - in general - and lighting - in particular - I have ever read. The language used is plain, concise and extremely to the point, the concepts are extremely well explained, reasons for different results are given and principles are well laid, just to be followed.

I would STRONGLY recommend (actually I have already ordered one for myself) this book to anyone is interested in understanding more the light, lighting, studio setups and general knowledge about light and photography, actually the most important ingredient for each image you might take.
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on 13 August 2007
This is a book about light: how it works, and how to use it.
It teaches you to understand what you see (in fact, what you have always seen, but perhaps never realised). Diffuse reflections and direct reflections and how to use each (or both) to optimally illuminate what you are photographing. How to photograph metal and glass: explaining dark- and light-field set-ups, and white-on-white and black-on-black ...
The information contained in this book should be a standard for all photographers: it teaches by helping you understand the concept of light, and not by showing you how award-winning images were made.
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on 3 July 2007
I've been dabbling in photography for years, but studio lighting was always a bit hit and miss for me. Then I bought this book after seeing it recommended on the Strobist lighting blog, and I'm glad I did! It contains loads of diagrams, practical advice, and clear explanations with examples. Now it's all starting to make sense at last!
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on 6 November 2008
This is probably the best book for photographers that I have ever read (and I have a big shelf full of photography books). It's written in a very readable style and tackles pretty much any lighting situation you might face with your camera.

It's particularly good for its simple and memorable explanation of lighting portraits, and is completely indispensible for anyone who photographs "products", e.g. for selling on ebay. (Have you ever tried to take a decent picture of a coin, a metal ball, or a textured item of clothing? It can be really tricky to represent things as they really are - this book shows you how to do it.)

I can't recommend this book enough: if you are interested in improving your photography, whether you have a DSLR or a compact camera, buy this book!

I reckon if you have this book plus "The Photographer's Eye" (Freeman) and "Exposure and Lighting for Digital Photographers" (Meadhra & Lowrie), you have all the reading you need to develop your photography as far as you want. The rest is down to practice, practice, practice :)
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on 22 March 2010
I bought this after it was recommended on the Online Photographer, and was not disappointed. I've read plenty of books/articles/blogs on lighting before, but this book taught me something new. It focuses on explaining how to decide what kind of light to use, and where to place the lights. Very clearly written, with useful diagrams to explain the text. It immediately improved my understanding of how to set up lights for portraiture and gave great results on my next portrait shoot, but it's probably even more useful for those needing to illuminate difficult surfaces like metal and glass. Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 5 August 2009
This book will teach you how to light, and how light works. It takes a lot of guesswork out of photographic lighting and will teach you how to take better photographs.

The book is accurate, concise, and well written. I couldn't have asked for a better book.

The techniques work for whatever lighting system you're using, even if it is a window or a desklight. Don't let your lack of kit put you off - all you need is some light and a camera you can control. No regrets here, I'm really glad I have this book. I still use it whenever a new lighting puzzle comes my way.
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on 8 August 2009
This is a fantastic book. I'm not a professional, but have earned some money with photography. I take pictures for 22 years; myself developed and printed photos in darkroom for years. I may have learned something myself but this book was like a good thriller reading.
The book is for intermediate to professional photographers; very informative; technical language is kept right to the point; good narrative language; enough information to keep you 'photo brain' busy for ever.

Thanks to authors. Well done!
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on 6 November 2007
I don't write reviews often but was so impressed with this book I was compelled to do so on this occasion.
Light, Science and Magic is the primo tomb on learning and grasping the concepts of lighting in any situation. Although primarily discussing controlled lighting the theory is equally valid in varied outdoor lighting but not discussed so much so as not to cloud the learning cycle.
Whilst reading the book it took me back to my school days studying science and reminded me of the texts I used then. Now this is not a bad thing as whilst coming across as a real study text, it does not over complicate where it could and the authors are very careful not to stray from the concept at hand.
In short the book is so good that the only fault I can find is that I want to read the next chapter before trying the technique I've just studied.
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on 12 August 2010
as an amateur photographer, I consider this book a pleasure to read, it's so plain that I've a complete understanding despite my non-native English, and I'm discovering and learning very much.

So, why did I rate 4 and not 5 stars?

Maybe I'm asking too much from a single book, but I think that:

- the word "science" in the book title, drove me to expect a few pages about the measurement of light for photographers: units of measure, lightmeters, incident versus reflected measure and so on. Without entering the zone system, something on light intensity range and quantitative control could have been useful, in my opinion;
- I expected something about the lighting equipments and accessories, i.e. some photos, a comparisnon table, what can be reasonably arranged, and what has to be bought, etc.;
- I appreciate the drawings showing the light setting: they are very important. In my experience sketches frequently miss in photography books, and they are substitued by complex, much less effective words descriptions. In this book the light settings are generously depicted and the resulting photographs fully compared, but no photography at all of the real lighting set.

Having said that, I'm happy about this book and I suggest to read it (better: to study it!) it. Carlo
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on 23 July 2009
You probably need just a little prior knowledge of photography and lighting before you begin but it really is a book that takes you to the next level. I am much more confident now with lighting and I now see light and it's effects that I never noticed before.
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