Friday, July 16, 2010

REVIEW: Photo Recipes Live: Behind the Scenes by Scott Kelby

Photo Recipes Live: Behind the Scenes by Scott Kelbyis another great resource by my favorite photography and Photoshop book author, Scott Kelby (who also is one of my top photographers) . This book is really a video with a transcript-style book to accompany it, and what he does in this video is recreate some of the popular photo recipes you’ve seen in his The Digital Photography Book series (found in my highly popular Which books should I read? article). In this video you get to see the behind-the-scenes look at the lighting and environment where he shoots these shots as well as the misses that require adjustments to get the perfect shot. Scott is very interactive and discusses equipment, camera settings, environment conditions and much more to help you understand how to successfully capture the image shown at the beginning of each chapter.

There’s a little something for everyone in this video, so let me do a quick rundown of what to expect:

  1. Window Light Portrait – Here Scott shows how to use a window and a diffuser with a long lens to create a nice portrait that some might thing was done using studio lighting.
  2. Couples Portrait – In the same environment as the first shot, but now using a soft box, Scott demonstrates how to capture a nice couples portrait.
  3. 3 Light Setup – In this chapter Scott demonstrates a nice three light setup on a simple black Westcott background.
  4. Clamshell Lighting, Part 1 – For this setup, Scott uses a Westcott reflector to fill in the shadows under the eyes and a studio light above to create a common portrait technique that’s great for women.
  5. Clamshell Lighting, Part 2 – Here Scott does the same as above but also includes another soft box to clamshell the soft boxes and uses the Westcott reflector to fill in remaining shadows. This is a little different from how I do clamshell lighting of this type as I use the two soft boxes like a clamshell and then no reflector is required, whereas Scott puts the soft box behind the model which acts as a bright white background – which is useful, but a little different. The net result here is a nice effect that works well.
  6. Shooting Food – This is a neat little video that shows how to pull off a cool food shot (like Scott’s food photography idol, Lou Manna), and includes a little trick with a vanity  mirror that some will really enjoy. I know I thought it was a pretty neat one!
  7. Shooting Flowers – This one is funny because it is a bit of outtake reel that shows that not all goes perfectly even for the great Scott Kelby. I think this was great to include because so many of my students and readers get upset when things aren’t working, but Scott shows what every good photographer knows – sometimes you just need some gaffers tape to make things go right!
  8. Location Shooting – This is a good one that shows you can be in the crappiest location and less than ideal weather conditions still get a great shot.
  9. One Light Overhead – The shot this section is modeled after is one of my favorite photos from Scott Kelby’s portfolio, so I was excited to see how it was done. Unfortunately I think in this chapter he fails to pull off a successful recreation of the original. Perhaps it was the colors and skin tones of the original model that made it so powerful, but this chapter left me highly disappointed.
  10. Hard Lighting – This is good stuff if you are photographing men where you need a good strong shot, and it shows that you don’t really need to be in absolute darkness to get one of these types of images.
  11. Landscapes – This was a chapter that I think doesn’t work in this series. Scott is indoors and while he talks about some important landscape shooting concepts, I think this chapter will confuse more than it helps some viewers.
  12. Ring Flash Adapter – Here Scott demonstrates my favorite studio prop – the Ray Flash Ring Flash Adapter for your on-camera flash.
  13. Pano Shots – Again, Scott talks about concepts in the studio that would have been better discussed outdoors. I think a day outdoors shooting this and chapter 11 would have been a better call (or at least on the roof of the building).
  14. Portrait Lighting – This is really just a series of tips than a real portrait session. I’m guessing this one was shot at the end of the day.
  15. Dramatic Portrait Look – Now this is a very cool demonstration on how to get a nice portrait that is different from what you’ll get from your local Sears Photography Studio! Pay attention on this one – good stuff here.
  16. Product Shots – In this last one Scott discusses the all important product shot that nearly everyone finds themselves doing at some point for one reason or another. This is nice elegant solution that doesn’t require fancy product studio lighting tents or anything and realistically can be pulled off with an on-camera flash as I did in my book review of On-Camera Flash Techniques.


Going into this DVD I was very excited because I thought it was going to be a deep behind the scenes look at a bunch of great lighting scenarios. In the end I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more depth, and I felt that chapters 11, 13 & 14 felt totally out of place with the rest of them. With that said, it was still a solid series that I commend Scott Kelby for taking the time to produce. A picture is worth a thousand words, but a video is worth a billion so for many you’ll have a few “ah, ha” moments that help you to pull of shots that you have been struggling with for quite some time. I therefore can easily recommend this book for the beginner to intermediate photographer who is looking to see what happens behind the scenes to pull of the great shots from Scott’s books.


I was provided a free copy of this book for review and I will get a commission if you purchase using select links in this article, so thank you for supporting this blog!

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