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)
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 Speedliter’s 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