Shooting in Sh*tty Light: The Top Ten Worst Photography Lighting Situations and How to Conquer Them

By Lindsay Adler and Erik Valind

Peachpit Press; $34.99 (240p)
ISBN-10: 0321862694,
ISBN-13: 978-0321862693

Lindsay Adler and Erik Valind, both working professionals and educators, have written a beginner’s guide to photographic lighting with an unusual conceit at its core. By structuring a book around a list of common challenges - playfully if hyperbolically calling them the 'top ten worst situations' - they are able to give simple, understandable, and achievable solutions that add up to a 'lighting 101.' 

Chapters with names like 'Direct Sunlight No Shade in Sight,' 'Extremely Low Light No Flash Allowed' and 'Strong Backlight' use multiple visual examples to illustrate a few strategies to make great shots under a variety of tough lighting challenges. 

The book has a 'back to the basics' approach that seems perfect for the beginner who aspires to become more of an advanced amateur. In many cases, the authors assume access to a kit increasingly common among weekend enthusiasts - a DSLR, a strobe, a reflector or two, umbrella, and a few flash modifiers.

One quirk in the text is that the authors will periodically talk to their readers as though they are professionals, referring the readers' studio or admonishing them to 'educate your clients', yet much of the books content would be old hat to real pros. This disconnect is all the more odd since the majority of the text seems so skillfully pitched toward someone learning the basics.

The images in the book, while not especially distinctive, do a fine job of illustrating the text, especially in a 'do this, not that' sort of way. Part of this book's charm and strength is that the authors' wisdom in choosing and describing the 10 situations with the 'sh*ttiest light.' I'm sure many photographers will recognize the categories Adler and Valind named and appreciate their solutions. 

For photographers wanting a more comprehensive manual to flash photography, Syl Arena’s Speedliters Handbook has more technical, detailed, and nuanced information. 

If seeking beautiful shots with accomplished use of sophisticated lighting techniques, as well as colorful descriptions of the thought processes that underpin these methods, Joe McNally’s books are well worth a look.  And David Hobby (of Strobist fame) has tons of free lighting wisdom online.  But none of these resources represents a perfect gift to the beginner who wants to better understand lighting in a digestible and easy-to-practice way.

Shooting in Sh*tty Light: The Top Ten Worst Photography Lighting Situations and How to Conquer Them is a useful resource for less experienced photographers to better diagnose standard lighting problems and acquire some skills to make well-lit, beautiful frames wherever they are. 

'Shooting in Sh*tty Light...' is available on amazon.com


Adam Koplan is head of the Performance Department at the Dreamyard Project which brings arts programs to NYC schools. He is also Artistic Director of The Flying Carpet Theatre Co. 
Follow him on Twitter @FlyingCarpetNYC

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.

Comments

Total comments: 30
mykelhussy
By mykelhussy (3 weeks ago)

In Shooting in Sh*tty Light, professional photographers Lindsay Adler and Erik Valind cover the top ten worst lighting situations and provide a variety of solutions for each. They explain which solutions are most practical and why one option might be preferable over another, examining such problems as extremely low lighting when no flash is allowed, strong back light, and the light on an overcast day.

0 upvotes
Nikonparrothead
By Nikonparrothead (11 months ago)

Hmm I happened to have bought the book after watching Adler's Kelby video. The two apparently were done more or less at the same time. It's a common sense, plainspoken approach to mid-day lighting issues.

It definitely provides more of a shoestring approach to lighting issues than Joe McNally's solutions (own all of his books, a big fan but sometimes his solutions are a touch more "throw money at it" in the form of multiple speedlights and strobe packs). Not as familiar with Syl's book but I seem to recall him being a happy medium. All three approaches (and the multiples in between) can work in a given situation.

The fact that the author likened available light/shoestring approaches to lighting issues with those that would only have an appeal to beginning photographers left me with the impression that I spent more time reading the reviewer's work than he did the book he critiqued.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
skanter
By skanter (11 months ago)

Shi#%ty title, shi##ty book.

3 upvotes
BaconBit
By BaconBit (10 months ago)

Shi##ty comment.

0 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (11 months ago)

I think the matchbook length of this review is the author's way of saying go to Strobist or if you must spend money, buy a McNally book.

1 upvote
xentar
By xentar (11 months ago)

Well, at least it's not about sh*tting in shooty light...

4 upvotes
cgarrard
By cgarrard (11 months ago)

LOL!!! Maybe a great premise for possible photographic subjects though.

1 upvote
Hugo808
By Hugo808 (11 months ago)

I guess there's a whole chapter on the English summer then!

9 upvotes
Lea5
By Lea5 (11 months ago)

I shoot a lot in shitty light. It's a term we use since a few years, so no problem with the title at all. But maybe I'm just too young with my 47 years than the rest who got annoyed with the title. The book seems great.

6 upvotes
cgarrard
By cgarrard (11 months ago)

I have no problem with the word in the title. So long as it's not just used to sell books to 'cover reader/book collectors' because of shock value, and has a legitimate purpose for being on the cover, I'm fine with it. Haven't read the book so I can't make the judgment one way or the other. But the actual word is funny to me, never a negative word in my mind.

0 upvotes
PETERKS
By PETERKS (11 months ago)

I don't understand the need for adolescent scatological humour. I had a friend whose recorded phone message was 'can't come to the phone I am having a sh*t' .......not good, not nice, quite a put off for a so called professional book it may deserve better. 21/05/2013. Its a bit like'Computers for Dummies'. It insults you before you pick it up.

1 upvote
jkoch2
By jkoch2 (11 months ago)

Adults outgrow "nature's call" and learn to retain everything in the sigmoid colon? Or do the emanations migrate to the brain and mouth?

2 upvotes
Joe Braun
By Joe Braun (11 months ago)

I'm in my 40s and I find the title mildly amusing, not insulting at all. I suppose a few decades from now when I'm a crusty old fart, I'll be offended by it, especially if I'm constipated because I didn't eat my oatmeal.

3 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (11 months ago)

If it sells the book, there's the need.

0 upvotes
cgarrard
By cgarrard (11 months ago)

LOL Joe!!!

40's here too, no issue bar the scenario I outlined above.

0 upvotes
Tan68
By Tan68 (11 months ago)

Interesting. Where I come from the expression is 'taking a __'. We have ice cream and take a __.

I think the title is there for shock value. It does make a bold statement that your work will be better after reading it. All similar books do, though.

Looking at the excerpts, it seems the single best tool is a second set of hands. I agree. I just don't usually have access to those.

I find the title a little amusing because I recently was very impressed with the different colors of light in a Gothic cathedral. It definitely was not 'ice cream' light. I wonder if there is a chapter on purposefully mixed light scattered about for mood and effect..?

40's, as well.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
adamkoplan
By adamkoplan (11 months ago)

The title seems to have captured people's some attention. Just want to assure folks that there is nothing tasteless or vulgar in the authors' overall style. And even if "top ten" organizing principle is indeed a touch gimmicky, the concept allows them to cover many tried and true lighting techniques. My guess is that their their title was aiming to quickly grab the reader's eye as well as have a little a fun, and make sure they set a conversational and engaging tone. My take is that they were pretty darn successful on these fronts.

3 upvotes
frank200
By frank200 (11 months ago)

to all the old timers stop complaining about the title of the book.... it is great! and the book is fantastic! i love it!!

0 upvotes
odoketa
By odoketa (11 months ago)

I suspect the 'back at your studio' parts of the book are intended to make the prosumer feel more 'pro'. It's not a bad tactic. The title I'm not sure what to do with.

0 upvotes
TomJD
By TomJD (11 months ago)

".....with an unusual conceit at its core."

I guess I will have to read the book to decide if the core is really conceit or a misspelled concept. ;)

3 upvotes
Tan68
By Tan68 (11 months ago)

I figured the author means conceit as in literary conceit. I figured it was a poor choice of word. You might be right that it is some kind of typo... I didn't think of that.

Maybe the authors of the photography book did commit a literary conceit. If they did, I don't quite get it.

0 upvotes
TomJD
By TomJD (11 months ago)

I had not considered another definition of conceit other than vain pride or hubris, but Tan68's reply encouraged me to recheck the definition. Other definitions of the word might indeed describe this book, so I stand corrected (although I still think "concept" is a better choice).

Comment edited 26 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
LouMeluso
By LouMeluso (11 months ago)

The title of this tome is an immediate turn off to me. I'm not sure why the authors felt use of a pseudo-sanitized vulgarity in the title was appropriate but it is lost on me and marginalizes whatever good content that may lie within.

4 upvotes
Anepo
By Anepo (11 months ago)

I agree, I would never buy a book with such an offensive title it instantly says "the author is an arrogant hipster" who PROBABLY does not know much about photography.

3 upvotes
Beat Traveller
By Beat Traveller (11 months ago)

I agree. I gasped so loudly at the colloquialism that my monocle almost fell off.

34 upvotes
InTheMist
By InTheMist (11 months ago)

LOL @Beat Traveller - well said!

Personally, I like the witty title.

7 upvotes
qwertyasdf
By qwertyasdf (11 months ago)

The title is ok for me, but the "The top ten...." turns me off completely...
Too tired of top ten this top ten that...

1 upvote
Juck
By Juck (11 months ago)

Yikes, what's Lord Wobblebottom's problem? Get a sense of humor.

3 upvotes
Stu 5
By Stu 5 (11 months ago)

Anepo it does not say that at all. It's is quite a common term throughout the photography and TV/film industry.

0 upvotes
Ciki
By Ciki (2 months ago)

Tittle is amazing, I'm totally shoot by the the ""top ten.....", I appreciate the sense of humor

0 upvotes
Total comments: 30