Speedliter's Handbook: Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlites (also on Kindle) is a very long book that has been my reading companion for the last several months. The good news is that it’s also a very good book that is long overdue – especially for those Canon shooters who read Joe McNally’s The Moment It Clicks and Hot Shoe Diaries books. Canon shooters are lead to believe that their flashes are so inferior to the Nikon system (which is admittedly pretty good), but the bigger obstacle for Canon shooters was the lack of decent information on Canon flashes.
Prior to this book I found the flash section of Charles Gradner’s Holistic Approach to Lighting and Digital Photography as one of my first resources on the Canon flash system and NK Guy’s Canon EOS Beginners Guide – Part IV – Flash (which later was published as Mastering Canon EOS Flash Photography) as one of the best. However, both of these online documents were a bit on the boring side without enough great images to make me excited about what I was reading.
When I first saw the Speedlighter’s Handbook with a smashing pumpkin on the front I was skeptical, but I did a little look inside on Amazon and from the Table of Contents I quickly realized this book had the potential to be the long lost Canon Flash System manual. I say this because I’ve yet to see any Canon flash ship with a manual that was super useful if you don’t know how to use the flash you just purchased already.
I delayed reading this book for a while because there was so much content, but once I started I couldn’t stop. However, it’s hard for me to find time to read a book of this size so it’s taken me forever to get through it which is honestly one of its flaws. I would have much rather seen a Scott Kelby style like he did with The Digital Photography Book Series where the author just gets to the point and tells me what to do rather than how things work. However, there will come a day young grasshopper when you’ve mastered the basics where you’ll want to know more – in fact you’ll need to know more, and when that day arrives this is the book you would have wanted. It’s for this reason that I did actually enjoy this book quite a bit, despite its massive amount of data (which even in this format should have been 3 separate books).
Normally I would do a chapter by chapter walkthrough, but with 25 chapters packed with tons of info I just couldn’t get myself to do it. You can skim the TOC on Amazon, but suffice it to say that you’ll find any answers you seek about using Canon flashes when you read this book. It’s in there – you might have a little time finding it, but the answer is in this book. It’s for this reason that I have to say – EVERY Canon shooter should own this book – you’ll finally learn how to master your flash and realize that the system is much more capable than the Nikon faithful would have you believe.
The Best of the Book
You will learn a lot from this book as it is jammed full of a tremendous amount of info. The good thing is that after you’ve finished reading it (which is the same feeling you had when you finally finished reading the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy), you with find the handy Appendix 4: Six-Point Checklist for Speedlighting to be very helpful. There’s lots of pictures and things are spelled out very well. It’s modern, relevant and quite honestly will cover more topics than most will ever use in their lifetime. From batteries to accessories, to flash 101, to gels and so much more – it’s in there. It really should have been called Speedlighter’s Kitchen Sink book!
The Worst of the Book
Syl (rhymes with hill) states up front that he’s an in-camera guy and that he doesn’t do Photoshop on his images. The sad reality in today’s world that means the images don’t have the wow and pop you’d see in a McNally book. This really turned me off as I kept thinking, these images aren’t very good so how can this guy really teach me anything. As I ignored the images and used them as tools to describe a given technique, I got along much better.
Attention Peachpit Press – I despised the way the images were labeled in this book. A great example is page 243 where 6 images appear on this page and the captions appear on page 242. I found this to be super confusing and would have been much happier with the figure numbers appearing directly on the images if necessary. Please don’t do books like this in the future!
Must Buy for intermediate to advanced Canon photographers – this book literally has everything you need to know PLUS everything you could ever possibly want to know. Your head will explode if you try to read it all at once, so plan on having this book handy for a long-term read (i.e., read a chapter every week or two – then apply what you learned).
The recommended audience for this book should just read the chapters in order (don’t skip) and plan to be reading for a long time. You’ll be rewarded for your time investment by learning the things that build on each other.
Beginners should just read chapters 0, 6 & 7 and then put the book away. Go make sure you know all the info from Chapter 6 by heart and apply what you know. After that you’ll be ready for the book.
Once you’ve finished this bible, I mean book, you should read (or re-read) read Joe McNally’s The Moment It Clicks and Hot Shoe Diaries books because they’ll mean more to you now. You’ll be a master of your flash so you can apply what you learn from Joe and immediately use your Canon gear to make the shot happen.
For those Nikon shooters who are wondering, yes there are plenty of chapters with info that applies to your system as well. However, you might feel like Canon shooters with McNally’s books where you are miffed that your platform is left out of the book.
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