book review: Picture Perfect Lighting, by Roberto Valenzuela
I strongly believe that there’s a pivotal moment that happens (or will happen) for most photographers as they progress and become better at this thing we do with a camera – a moment of clarity when we realize that much of photography really hinges on the understanding of light and how it behaves. This was the theme of my one book, Direction & Quality of Light where I explained in the introduction that once we understand those principles, then we can pretty much use any light source, whether on-camera flash or off-camera flash, or found light / available light, or video light. Anything really.
Picture Perfect Lighting is Roberto Valenzuela’s third and final book in his trilogy. His previous two books where he explained a system for taking better photographs, and for improving posing of subjects, are bestsellers in the world of photography. With his new book, Roberto explains the principles behind light and lighting.
Before we look at a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of Picture Perfect Lighting, here are immediate reasons to love Roberto’s book.
- A more intuitive way to explain and illustrate the Inverse Square Law, without the math!
- How he changed his business model, and pulled out of a nose-dive photography career, by realizing what he needs to do to offer superior work to potential clients.
- The entire Section Two which deals with Circumstantial Light, is crucial. In this fascinating section, Roberto breaks down the existing light sources in several locations where he shot, to show how the entire scene have different light sources. How you then place your subject and use these circumstantial light light sources, will affect the look of your portraits.
- Advanced reflector techniques for portraits. (Seriously, just holding up a reflector randomly, with no intent, probably doesn’t help you much. There are specific techniques you can use to give you specific results.
Throughout his book, Roberto manages to skirt just this side of too-technical, to explain the necessary ideas and concepts with clarity. The material is abundantly clarified with diagrams and illustrations.
- You can order directly from Rocky Nook, the publisher.
- PPLNVN which offers Tangents followers 40% off Picture Perfect Lighting in Print or eBook form.
- Picture Perfect Lighting, by Roberto Valenzuela – Amazon (USA)
- Picture Perfect Lighting, by Roberto Valenzuela – Amazon (UK)
A summary of the five main sections of the book
1. The Building blocks of light
The behavior of light is discussed, including how light scatters; how the relative size of your light source matters; And … the Inverse Square Law explained in an intuitive way, without the math.
2. Circumstantial Light
Available light described in a more thorough way, to explain how light is affected by objects and structures and textures. In this fascinating section, Roberto breaks down the existing light sources in several locations where he shot, to show how the entire scene have different light sources. How you then place your subject and use these circumstantial light light sources, will affect the look of your portraits.
Open shade done the right way. Yes, just placing your subject in shade doesn’t give you flattering light, even if you get rid of harsh light.
3. Lighting Benchmark Test and Helper Light
Adjusting the light to match the camera settings required, instead of adjusting the camera settings to fit the light. Manipulating the location you’re shooting in, and manipulating the light through reflectors or diffusers.
4. Flash techniques
Working through the basics of flash photography, all the way to more advanced work. Roberto also shows examples of the value flash can add to your work. (I will not be the one to argue this point!)
5. Executing your lighting vision
In this chapter Roberto summarizes the book through 20 photo session case studies, to pull in the elements from each chapter. I whole-heartedly agree with this concept – it is never just one thing you do that makes a photograph successful – it is a culmination of things. You apply what you need, pulling from different techniques.
For any photographer struggling to elevate their work from blah-ness, this is the book you want! Work through it, and I am convinced you will see the results in your photography.
Because this book deals with such essential topics that are at the heart of photography, experienced photographers will have a working knowledge of much of what is presented here. Still, I would heartily recommend this book – it pulls everything together in a superb way. And for the small price of (this beautiful book), if you learn two or three things which change what you do … then it is a bargain.
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