Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Quick Review: Great Light Easy Light by Kevin Clark

One of the photographers I look up to, Jose Antunes, often posts about Craft & Vision e-books. Today he posted about Great Light Easy Light by Kevin Clark. The book discusses how to use flash in a way that looks natural. That is a topic I am always interested in, and the book is only $5 ($4 with discount code EASY4) so I got it.
Usually when an ebook is inexpensive and has large nice photos with fancy layouts, I am a little wary because sometimes there's not a lot of substance and the photos are there just to make a prospective reader think that they can get photos that are just as good -- if only they would buy the book. That is of course almost never true, and as long as you know that, you won't be disappointed.
I'm pleased to say my first impression of the book is wrong. It is short - only 30 pages excluding the cover - but the content is very good. I expected that he would discuss basic lighting techniques (like the difference between hard and soft light, etc. etc.) but actually he discusses intermediate lighting techniques (controlling specularity, negative fill, etc.), which is awesome.
Kevin first discusses mixing flash and ambient and the characteristics of natural-looking light. Then he proceeds to discuss different shooting styles:
- one-light setups
- two-light setups
- three-light setups
- bounce flash setups.
For each setup style he starts off with a discussion of overall concepts for that topic, then moves on to an example of a shooting session where he used that style, showing 4 variations he used for that style (except for the three light setup where he used 2 variations), including lighting diagrams for each variation. Each section is also supplemented by a couple of case studies with large photos with brief one-paragraph descriptions of lighting setups for that photo (but no lighting diagrams).
Kevin's discussion of the concepts is clear. The descriptions of the setups are also clear where there is a lighting diagram. In the other samples without lighting diagrams, I sometimes find his descriptions a bit ambiguous. Example: "Position your softbox about eye level a foot away and slightly in front of (approx. 6-12 inches) your subject's face." Given that the softbox is already eye-level and a foot away, when he said "slightly" in front of I'm not sure if he means in front of the face but 6-12 inches to the side - but isn't the softbox already 1 foot away? :-? Nonetheless, I felt that I did learn the concepts he was trying to teach.
The techniques in the book are for setup shots and for that purpose it is a very good resource for intermediate photographers (in fact it goes into techniques that are not even discussed in a real book I have about portrait lighting). For candids, the techniques are not directly applicable (because they require setup) but the concepts are very useful and with some creativity, it is possible to find or create the lighting that would create similar results. For anyone interested in lighting portraits, this ebook is a valuable resource and I recommend it.