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4.8 out of 5 stars150
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 12 February 2011
I have bought several books on using speedlites over the last couple of years. Each time I get one I think this is going to be the one that explains it all to me. Unfortunately, I've generally been left just as confused as when I started.

But this one is different .... Syl Arena's book is a MASTERPIECE! It starts right at the beginning and assumes no knowledge, some of the things in the early chapters I knew, but not everything, so I felt like I was learning straight off. Then as I read on I kept thinking I'd be getting to the complicated bit soon, but the truth is that Syl translates the complicated bit into plain English. It's like waking up and finding you can suddenly speak Spanish! Not only is it clear and simple, but it's a real page turner too, hard to put down.

The book covers everything you could possibly need to know, right down to the types of battery you could use and the pros and cons of each one.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. If you are only going to buy one photography book this year .... make it this one!
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on 14 February 2011
I really like how the book is written. It gives a good overview on the different approaches and gear. Yet the author finds a way to give his recommendations and explain why he thinks it's the best route for him.

Instead of seeing only excellent images in this book, we also see the path to those images as the author explains how he works. Seeing the "not-there-yet" images is far more valuable than just the "Look at how pretty pictures I can take". The approach to good photos is understandable and clearly explained. It seems that in a variable environment even the pro's take multiple images to get what they want. They'll just have more experience to understand what to change and how much.

I've found many little things that I did just not understand about my speedlite and I'm now really inspired to explore further in photography. Many times I felt "there has to be a better way to do this", now I know.

The only thing in the book that bugs me a little bit are the feet, inches and other weird measurement units that are uncommon to me as I use metric in my everyday life. Sure, I can convert those in my head somewhat easily, but it breaks the flow of reading. Still, this is only a minor problem and short of making two versions of the book I could not think of any good solution for this problem. (having all those figures in both units would be a mess too)
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on 31 January 2011
This book is amazing. It is detailed enough on the technical aspects and operation of Canon's Speedlite range to be considered an instruction manual - a much better manual than Canon's own - yet also a wonderful artistic resource for those wishing to improve the creative side of their photography and use of flashes.

The description of how Canon's amazing E-TTL system actually works is handled very well - very easy to understand yet thorough and detailed enough. Manual control of flashes is also covered in detail together with how to use flashes in both modes, or a mixture of the two, using the built in wireless system.

The creative sections are hugely informative. Arena takes you through each shoot, building the shots from one lit just with ambient light; how he then tweaks the ambient light to his desired effect and then supplements it or overpowers it with flash. You see all the shots along the way and he provides a full list of camera and light settings. There's a mix of images created solely with flash together with those where Speedlites have been used to supplement the ambient.

This is by far the best book I've read on lighting techniques. True, if you own Nikon kit or that of any other manufacturer, it will be of little technical help, but there are other book similarly biased towards them available.

For Canon users, this is a no brainer. Buy it.
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on 1 October 2011
I have never given a product five stars, thinking there could be something better; but not in this case. If you have a Canon DSLR and a Speedlite 430 or 580 ex or ex II, this is the book you need. The author has not only knowledge and experience, but also something very rare: the ability to explain things clearly. The book starts with general information such as aperture, shutter speed and the histogram, even if you think you know all this it is worth reading. Then you go into the use of the speedlite, accessories that are available and their uses, and most importantly, practical information on how to take flash photos, with clear step by step explanations and diagrams of the positioning of the light(s). Leafing through the book you get the impression that you will need to invest heavily in speedlites and accessories to be able to get decent photos, but the author does give a lot of information for the amateur with basic equipment. I have been using Canon EOS cameras and a 430ex for years, and have been frustrated by my lack of ability to get good results with the flash. This book has been a revelation. The main criteria for this type of book is "how much will I learn?" In my case it was an enormous amount.
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on 16 July 2011
I'm quite a new photographer and recently bought a 580EXII to complement my camera. The Canon manual for the flash is technically correct but but completely useless unless you already know what you are doing.

The Speedlighter's Handbook, however, is wonderful. It is the most useful photography book I've bought so far. It contains a combination of the theory of flash photography, useful discussion of what further equipment is avaialble and best of all recipes for recreating many of the photos in the book. If you are the sort of person who learns by doing, then this is the book for you.
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on 29 October 2013
As a new hobbyist where portraits are my thing, I decided to venture into the (initially terrifying) world of flash photography. This book is very complete (for a beginner), explores all aspects of off camera flash lighting, and is refreshingly opinionated in suggesting and recommending the most appropriate tools of the trade.

I have followed Syl's recommendations in a number of cases, for example: the Lastolite 54x54cm Ezybox Hotshoe Softbox with Bracket, which really provides beautiful soft light.

The book is excellently presented; where complicated topics are dealt with in plain English, a simple layout, and plenty of supporting photos. My favourite parts of the book are the chapters at the end where he deals with specific scenarios, and demonstrates how he set them up, with step by step photos demonstrating how each image evolved. Superb.

My only small criticism (not worth losing a star for) is that the discussion of speedlites is too Canon-centric. Yes, I know the clue is in the title and the word "speedlite", but they are very expensive, and there are cheaper alternatives, particularly for those comfortable with using optically fired manual slaves such as these YONGNUO YN-560 II ELECTRONIC SPEEDLIGHT SPEEDLITE FLASH FLASHGUN With The Standard Hot Shoe for Nikon , Canon , Fuji , Olympus , Pentax , DSLR Digital Camera by eimo. I have 2 and can vouch for their functionality and build quality. Some discussion of these would have made the book more complete.

Overall, a must buy for newbies in the world of flash. Go buy it.
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on 19 March 2011
If you have ANY interest in flash photography, this book is the new modern bible. It really is. Syl Arena has managed to produce what I would call "a thinking manual" which teaches you the best way to THINK about how flash influences photography, and how to formulate strategies for exploiting its effects. The book is largely based around the Canon system but I would say that the vast majority of the theory and principles taught are brand-independent, and users of other brands may feel a bit nauseous reading it but they will learn just as much.

Although some readers have criticised Arena's style, I find him to be clear in what he is trying to explain (although sometimes not all at once: as is the case with many technical books sometimes he mentions a concept but only really explains it later on). If you are using the book to learn technique and see what's possible then you don't strictly speaking need to waste any time imagining how smug the author is! Even if he does try to sell you his "long ETTL cord" every three paragraphs.

The order of topics in the book is quite logical, starting in the "what are Speedlites and why would you want to use them" area, and building up throughout the chapters until you know how cameras perceive light, how flashes affect exposure, what kit is available and what you'd use it for, and how to achieve a whole raft of portrait styles and special effects. The material is arranged in such a way that you can either dip in and look at the parts you want to know about, or read it cover to cover to build up comprehensive knowledge. The author himself recommends the former rather than the latter!

The book itself is slightly let down by being printed on paper that is quite thin and slightly corrasable (meaning that if you grip the edges of the pages with slightly greasy finger tips to turn the page, you may find you smudge the print). This almost gives it the feel of a thick magazine which considering the retail price I thought was a bit cheap of the publishers. The content is so very useful that this is easily forgiven, and doesn't even come close to costing this excellent book an Amazon star!

Whether it is for learning or reference, you will find it hard to beat this book. If you own even just one Speedlite, buy it.
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on 19 February 2011
In the world of 'strobist' style, off-camera flash technique, where most of the useful technical, practical and anecdotal information comes care of Nikon-users like David Hobby and Joe McNally, this is a welcome addition. Welcome for the many, until now, under-served Canon users and welcome because it is as clear as it is comprehensive. Even if you are using your flash on camera, this is a worthwhile investment because it offers better clarity than a Canon instruction manual (for a modest outlay) and because it may encourage you to use off-camera flash and enjoy the benefits of doing so.

I haven't read this cover to cover (yet), it's not really that kind of book. Think of it as a really good source book for building and using a compact, go anywhere, flash system, and an all-encompassing reference in the operation and control of Canon flashguns. It is hard to fault in either of these respects.
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on 3 February 2011
I have purchased many books over the years about photography, with varying degrees of success. However, after "discovering" Syl Arena on the TWiP podcast and learning about the magic that can be created from Canon Speedlites I decided I had to have this book. And Boy was I not disappointed...!!!
There is a wealth of information in here and best of all it is produced for the Canon user, so of course when Syl describes features of the flash units they are instantly recognisable on my own equipment.
If you have never bought a book before on flash photography BUY THIS ONE....in fact even if you have BUY THIS ONE!!!!
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on 26 September 2013
I got this for my kindle, bit of a mistake as you cant see the images described in the book in different lighting, only a B&W image as on the kindle, so you can never relate to the example.
However, if you have ann understanding as to the effect being created thats not too much of a problem.
I have a fair understanding on the aspect of flash photography, most of it is going to be down to practise, trial and error.
Now, I dropped it a star because.... this book, in places, is VERY indepth, infact a lot of it is manufacturers instruaction manual type stuff. Now I know when describing different stuff the author has decided to tell you how to use it, but what a lot of wasted pages, so much info, I will never need to know.
However its a very comprehencive book, and I guess if you have the time and resources, you could come up with results like the average photographer never would.
If you need it as a reference book and generally know what your doing, the kindle version for B&W versions is probably fine, although it wasnt clear you would need a colour one. The book would be for someone who needed to know in more depth.

The best info I got from the book was about metering ambient light and then using flash to add, normally a lot of flash pics blast the ambisnt light and are over powered, you find out with this book why your flash can go down to 1/64 or 1/128 power, sometimes its all you need.
I havent finished it yet, I keep reading bits and skipping a bit and picking up what I need too.
Although its probably dedicated to canon, it is useable by anyone.
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