Book Review #1

The Complete Guide to Light & Lighting in Digital Photography by Michael Freeman

I picked up this book because another of his books “The Photographer’s Eye” was recommended to me as the definitive book on photographic composition,  but the library didn’t have it.  But it had this.  So I thought I would give it a try and see if I liked his style.

This is an excellent book, it would be a great reference for a beginner (such as myself) but I think some parts (particularly the studio lighting section) has something for the more experienced photographer.

First Impression – its a large coffee table sized paperback 224 pages in total.  A quick flick through shows LOTS of images as well as text, which is always encouraging.

Contents – 6 main sections with subsections clearly delineated.  Main sections cover off what light is, the kinds of light and how to use them.

Section 1 – Light and the Camera

I found this section very useful, it explained clearly but with enough detail to be interesting (and not condescending) what light is and how the camera sees it.  Some of it was too technical for me, but I stress that this is a lack in myself, being a beginner, and is not a lack in the book at all.  If I understood everything in a book it would have no value to me as a learning tool.

Section 2 – Daylight

I found this a useful section, as I am currently working only with natural light, and am now experiencing the joys of its changeability.   I particularly liked the explanations about clouds and how they can be used as diffusers .  But he covers off a wide range of daylight light options and how to work with or around them

Section 3 – Artificial light

To be honest I mostly looked at the pictures in this section 🙂  But it was a useful summary of many different kinds of lighting.

Section 4 – Photographic Lighting

This was possibly the most cohesive explanation of studio lighting equipment I have come across.  One of the things that stands out in this book is the larg number of images to support the text, and I found this used to advantage in this section.  I learned a lot more about studio lighting equipment, and it felt like I was getting the important summary – the relevant stuff, and if I needed more I could go looking at a later point.

Section 5 – Digital Lighting

This section I found the most useful for my immediate needs.  Having just started to shoot in RAW, I then find myself having to process the images, and I am at quite a loss to understand the histograms, what they were telling me, and how to manipulate them.  This section really helped clarify a lot of that and answer a lot of questions, and I felt better prepared to go and experiment with my own images.

It is useful to note that with many of the photos in the book (and particularly this section) alongside the image is the matching histogram.  And in here he showed the differences of tweaking the histogram and the effect on the image really well.

He also explains HDR technology very clearly and simply, and I finally felt like I had a better grasp of  this process after reading this section.  A lot of it again was more technical than I am ready for, but I now have an idea of the basic principles, which is more than I had beforehand 🙂

Section 6 – The Craft of Lighting

Creative ways of using light are covered off here.  There is also an extensive set of images using a prop and different light setups in studios.  Not something I am ready for, but very useful for a studio portrait photographer.  Hints on making light softer and different directional lighting also covered off here


This was an excellent book to read, and if the budget allowed it, a useful resource.  I enjoyed it enough to want to try other reference books he has read, and I would possibly purchase the composition book unread.  Lots of useful things for a beginner, and more information than you initially expect, so great to learn from.  I am not intending on heading into studio work anytime soon, and I felt this book had quite a strong focus there, and that would be my main reason for not purchasing initially.



About lensaddiction

Mad keen photographer figuring it out as she goes!
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2 Responses to Book Review #1

  1. Craig says:

    Was led here after your geekzone welcome post 🙂

    I’ve had the 40d since around 5 months from first release and STILL learning tricks of the trade. But sounds like were on the same par. (cept your landscape stuff beats me to shreds)

    Some more lighting and general tips I can thoroughly recommend..

    Neil.. I’m contemplating buying his book given the strong $US
    His lighting techniques and explinations are second to none

    And prophotolife. I found some of his tips for outdoor portraits etc also very valuable.

    • lensaddiction says:

      Hi Craig, sorry for the delay in reply, the email got stuck in my spam filter and then I got sick!

      Glad to meet another 40D user, Im loving mine to bits 🙂 Thanks for the links, will check them out, the ProPhotoLife page looked good.

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