‘Light’ book reviews

Books that I found very useful on Light

On commencing the TAoP chapter on Light, I had only a very basic understanding of how light behaved and how this relates to photography. As I worked through the exercises and projects (at a much slower pace that I would have liked) I used reading to explain topics further and in turn support my learning in this area.

Three books that I found to be particularly helpful were

  • Hunter, F., Bier, S. and Fuqua, P. (2012) Light, Science and Magic. (4th Ed.) Waltham: Focal Press
  • Präkel, D. (2007) Lighting. Lausanne: AVA
  • Freeman, M. (2012) Light & Lighting. Lewes: ILEX

I will now offer a short review of each book highlighting the ways in which each offered support and inspiration.

Light, Science and Magic (2012)

I bought this book at the beginning of the course as per the recommended reading list. Since this point I have made a few attempts at digesting its contents only to become confused with the technicalities of diffusion, transmission and reflection. However, as I needed to extend my knowledge of light I made a concerted effort to read and, this time, to understand the concepts. Admittedly, I found the first three chapters difficult, however this time I persevered and I found it useful in helping me to understand the answer to the fundamental question, What is Light? This led to a further explanation about colour temperature that helped support my work on the exercises, Judging Colour Temperature and Light Through the Day.

The ‘family of angles’ was a concept that I had real difficulty in grasping no matter how many times I read the text. However, I carried out a practical exercise as directed on p121, and this helped demonstrate to me how to find the family of angles that, in turn, helped to demystify the concept. My blog entry on this can be found by clicking here.

The following chapters in the book contain a lot more practical information and advice and clearly guide the reader, using lighting set-up diagrams and varying subject matter characteristics. This section was especially helpful for Assignment Four as it explains about the angle of light in relation to texture, shape and form, three characteristics of an object the assignment asks to be revealed.

Despite it’s technical introduction, this book is actually full of practical advice on photographic lighting. It is a book that I will keep to hand and undoubtedly use as a point of reference for my lighting set-ups.

Lighting (2007)

This was also a book that was included in the recommended reading list for the course. It is part of the Basics photography series by AVA and has a good balance of technical information and practical tips alongside inspiring images and clear diagrams. The book consists of six chapters;

What is light?

Natural light

Available light

Photographic light

Controlling light

Using light

The section, What is light? Helped to reinforce what I had read in Hunter et al regarding light being an electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the eye. It expanded on this somewhat, by detailing the colour temperatures of common light sources and how a nomograph can be used to work out which filters can be used to convert the colour of one light source to another.

The Natural light chapter specifies the qualities of light at different time of the day. I referred to this often when researching the Light Through the Day, Cloudy Weather and Rain and the Outdoor at Night exercises as it helped me to understand how light behaves throughout the day and how to ‘read’ its temperature.

The section on Controlling light helped outline to me the possible uses for the light modifiers I had recently acquired, such as reflectors, a flag and a snoot, to build light and control it.

The last section, Using light, offers brief, yet clear advice on how to use light to reveal a subject’s shape, form, texture, tone and colour. Advice that was extremely useful in planning for and carrying out Assignment Four.

This book has both practical content and is easy to navigate, making it a handy reference book to have on hand.

Light and Lighting (2012)

This book was not part of the recommended reading. I found it in the photography section of my local bookshop and decided to buy it after noting that its structure is akin to that of a college course, containing lessons and encouraging reader participation.

The book covers five sections titled; Lighting fundamentals, Daylight, Artificial light, Photographic lighting and Lighting styles.

I found each section helpful in some way.

Lighting Fundamentals was helpful in that it explained colour temperature, WB and measuring light in a simple way. All helpful in supporting the Light exercises.

Daylight discussed the quality of light at different points throughout the day and in different weather conditions and how to use this to advantage. Freeman covers shooting into the sun, which was useful as it gave practical advice on how to achieve a silhouette and correct exposure. This section also outlines how reflectors and diffusers, both man-made and natural, can be used to manage strong sunshine.

Artificial light is a short section which discusses incandescent light, fluorescent and vapour discharge lights. The main learning I gleaned from this chapter is that even with WB presets many images taken under these types of lighting still may have deficiencies in colour accuracy. While sometimes these colour casts can add to a scene’s atmosphere sometimes they require colour correction, best carried in images shot in RAW format. It became apparent that there is no one ‘rule’ on whether to correct or not. Freeman advises that it is probably best to consider what is appropriate for your individual subject and setting.

Photographic lighting was a helpful chapter as it details the benefits of both flash and continuous lights alongside various light modifiers. It also illustrated the varying positions of a light in relation to the subject and how this could emphasis specific subject characteristics. Practical information that was useful when planning and carrying out both the exercises, assignment and future shoots.

Like Präkel, the Freeman book also looks at Lighting Styles. However, the Freeman book has a wider range of images to illustrate the varying lighting styles, several of which, the chiaroscuro, light painting and backlighting styles, sparked me to experiment.

Overall, I found each of these books helpful in widening my knowledge of light and in supporting me through this section of the course. While several of the topics are repeated in more than one of these books I didn’t feel that I was routinely covering the same ground. Conversely, I felt as though reading from more than one source helped broaden my knowledge and has helped me to consolidate my learning.


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