December is a great time to check out photo books. Not only do they make great gifts, but the short days of winter keep many of us indoors, in comfy chairs, thinking about shoots to come. 2011 has delivered a load of great books on photography. Yesterday, I covered Joe McNally’s Sketching Light (reviewed here). Today, I’ll run through some (but not all) of the other great photo books that arrived this year. Some relate directly to lighting. Others provide insights on being a photographer. For more details on any of these books, click on the cover pic to jump over the world’s largest, online bookstore.
Visual Stories is my favorite non-lighting photo book of the year. If there’s anyone who can talk about the evolution of modern photography as a vocation, it’s Vincent Laforet. An award-winning, NY Times photographer, Vincent was literally the vanguard for the convergence of still and motion photography when he shocked the world with Reverie — the first Canon 5D Mark II HDSLR mini-movie in 2008. Visual Stories is essentially a series of conversations with Vincent about the stories behind his photos. His insights are candid, relevant, and drawn from a career that most only dream about. If you don’t know Vincent’s work, check out his blog and portfolio/reel. Highly recommended. Amazon New Riders Press, 264 pages, 9.1″ x 8.7″
I’ve given my friend Don Giannatti the moniker “Photo Pundit.” Don has been in the photo biz for 40+ years. Those who know him, know that he’s a man of strong opinions and one who is not prone to staying quiet. He started his blog Lighting-Essentials.com as a resource for all-things light-wise. Over time, the blog became Don’s soapbox for sharing his opinions about a wide range of issues in the photo world. So, Lighting-Essentials.com will soon morph into the more suitably titled Essentials-For-Photographers.com. In his book, Lighting Essentials, Don shares his no-nonsense approach to lighting. If you’re after insights on lighting for fashion and glamour, Lighting Essentials is a great place to start. Amazon Amherst Media, 125 pages, 11″ x 8.5″
Ever since I met Kevin Kubota several years ago at WPPI, I’ve been a fan of his energy, his photography, and his willingness to share both. Kevin’s Lighting Notebook lays out a sound foundation of lighting jargon, skills, and tools. It then guides you through 101 different shoots. One hundred and one! They range from simple portraits to crazy editorial to glamour. There are set shots and lighting diagrams for each shoot so you’ll have a clear understanding of what went into the lens and how the shot was created. Kevin also shares insights on how many assistants (if any) were needed and how much each shoot cost to produce. All in all, this is an accessible and valuable book to have on hand. Amazon Wiley, 320 pages, 9.2″ x 7.4″
If documentary photography or photojournalism is your passion, then you must read Steve Simon’s Passionate Photographer. Steve distills the wisdom of his 30-year career down to ten steps that will help you define and pursue your own path as a shooter. Think of it as the bridge between knowing the controls of your camera and knowing how to create memorable images. The Passionate Photographer is full of insightful stories, sound advise, and great photos. Check out more of Steve’s work at SteveSimonPhoto.com. Amazon New Riders Press, 264 pages, 9.2″ x 8″
This book gets the dubious award for being the Most Misunderstood Lighting Book of 2011. Frankly, it deserves much more positive recognition. Pro Digital Portrait Lighting takes an innovative approach to teaching lighting by showing the look of light set-ups on four different skin types. Sure, at first glance, it’s a boring book. Each spread consists of a lighting diagram and the same four faces shot against a white background and then a dark background. Spread after spread — there is a lighting diagram and eight headshots staring straight into the lens. Yet, therein lies the brilliance of Pro Digital Portrait Lighting. This is the only book I know of that enables you to compare how changes in lighting create subtle, yet noteworthy, changes in light and shadow on a range of faces. The book covers one light set-ups, two light set-ups, and all the major lighting modifiers — which are moved systematically through a set series of positions. It’s not a book you read. Rather, it’s a book that you study visually as a set reference charts. Forget the shortsighted reader reviews on Amazon. Instead check out this detailed look here on the Sekonic blog. Amazon Pixiq, 256 pages, 8.6″ x 9.6″
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I consider Light: Science & Magic to be a must-read for every student of lighting. Although the approach often borders on textbook-dry, if you’re looking to understand the mechanics of light and how to shape it, then this is an invaluable resource. The chapters on shooting reflective materials (like metal and glass) are second-to-none. Amazon Focal Press, 326 pages, 9.2″ x 7.5″
There are many great photo books published each year. These are just a few of my favorites. Time, unfortunately, does not allow me to share more. If you have a favorite book that was published in 2011, why don’t you share the details as a comment?
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