Shooting in Sh*tty Light


You can probably tell from the irreverent title that this book might not be the most detailed, technical guide to lighting in photography you've ever read :)

The whole gist of this book is simple; take the ten "worst" lighting scenarios a photographer might encounter and give solid solutions for each. Harsh/direct sunlight, mixed colour temperature, low light and more - these are all real-world problems and the book sets out to tell you how to conquer each one.

From the outset it feels like a labour of love project that the team of Lindsay Adler & Erik Valind really wanted to see come to life. Even if you missed the blurb on the rear cover describing the "fun, conversational style" it's written in, this feeling unmistakably comes across when reading it. It reminded me of my own experience teaching people how to handle different lighting situations, albeit almost literally transposed into book form. Whether or not you want that in a reference book is personal preference but generally the tips & lessons are delivered in a solid, understandable way that can easily be applied in the real world.

I actually bought this book myself in the early days when I was hell-bent on mastering strobism. Anything and everything lighting I picked up and read voraciously. Back then, as a wet-behind-the-ears newbie, much of what I read was new to me. In particular, the tools we have available to us to correct problems were clearly demonstrated and explained which resulted in a significant shopping order on Amazon for all manner of reflectors, CTB/CTO gels and speedlites!

On balance though, the book had a very limited appeal long term. I've only read it once and never really referred back to it - mainly because it covers topics that are very simple in lighting terms which, once you've encountered them, you instinctively know what to do next time. You could argue that means the book has succeeded perfectly in its job but you could also argue you don't need a book to teach that too. While the "conversational" style of writing will appeal to some, for me I found that it was slightly too much - almost too many words to get the lesson across. The presentation also feels very cheap for such an expensive book and although the sample pictures do the job well enough, they aren't inspirational or exciting. It really does come down to "this light bad, this light good" when it comes to examples. I also suspect it's a print-on-demand book and the quality shows, mine has already warped simply sitting on the shelf in Singapore.

This leaves me in a tricky situation when it comes to my recommendation. It DOES do a good job at giving you a solid grounding in dealing with certain types of poor lighting but as to whether the price, tone of writing and quality will make it worth it for you is something I probably can't answer. After buying it I felt vaguely like it was overpriced for what I got, but ultimately the lessons learned have been useful. 

If you're a total beginner then it's probably worth a look - your best bet is to check out one of the previews - and if you can get it cheaply second-hand then go for it.

For anyone who's slightly more advanced then I'm not really sure you'll get a huge amount out of it.


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