Wednesday, November 16, 2011

REVIEW: Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It by Scott Kelby

Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It: Learn Step by Step How to Go from Empty Studio to Finished Image is the latest book by Scott Kelby, and this time he’s tackling the subject of studio lighting. Like all of Scott’s other books, this one is complete with lots of pictures and great detailed instructions. For those of you who loved his 7 Point System book, and are taking on the challenge of studio lighting, you’ll find this book to be EXACTLY what you are looking for.

This book mostly focuses on using lights by Westcott and Elinchrom (like I have in my lighting setup), but at the end of the book he has a short appendix that shows how you could do the same thing with small flashes (i.e., 580EX II and SB-900). I appreciated the fact that he did that and that he tried to feature Canon cameras in addition to his Nikon cameras. It goes to show that Scott really does listen and care about his readers feedback.

I’m going to say flat out that there is no resource that I know of in print or on the internet that is as useful as this book is for learning studio lighting — especially if you own Elinchrom lights where he even tells you the power settings of the lights.What’s more, instead of cryptic stick figure lighting diagrams, he literally has an overhead shot of the shoot in action which really helps to quantify what he’s doing. Of course Scott doesn’t stop there, he has very clear gear guides and camera settings as well as a series of thumbnails of shots taken from each shoot.

After each shot is captured he shows some basic steps on how he processed the shot. Realistically I think you’ll want his Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques for Photographers using Photoshop book as well as some of the other Photoshop books I recommend.

I REALLY love this book, and wish that others like Joe McNally and Frank Doorhof would do similar books because it’s simply a fantastic learning tool. Of course, the good thing is that you can see a video version of some of the techniques discussed in this book on Kelby Training (click for review & discount). In fact, you can see Joe, Frank and many other studio lighting greats on Kelby Training, so this book and that resource make a great gift from the significant other.

More Details

Click to see the sneak preview on Amazon
Yeah baby, this is how diagrams should be done

Normally I do a chapter by chapter walkthrough of books, but in this case it doesn’t really make sense. The reason why is that each chapter follows the same template:

  • Intro – You see a finished shot and a title that explains the technique.
  • The Setup – This is like the picture on the right side above where you get a great overhead photo of the shot.
  • Gear Guide – This is the part shown in the upper right of the shot above. This is where you see how to set your Elinchrom lights when those are used.
  • Camera Settings – This is where you see what settings Scott used for the shot.
  • The Post Processing – Here’s where you briefly describes how he processed the shot. Some chapters are more detailed than others, but with a good setup you really don’t need a ton of post-processing.

What’s more relevant for this book are the techniques discussed, and they are:

  1. 3-Light Classic Beauty Setup
  2. 2-Light Edgy Setup
  3. 2-Light Dramatic Setup
  4. 3-Light Lens Flare Setup
  5. 1-Light Ring Flash Setup
  6. 3-Light Sports Setup
  7. 1-Light Full-Length Setup
  8. 1-Light Home Interior Setup
  9. 2-Light On-Location Fashion Setup
  10. 4-Light Sports Composite Setup
  11. 1-Light Dramatic Setup
  12. 2-Light Beauty Setup

From there you get a “If  You Use Hot Shoe Flash Instead…” chapter that gives a setup diagram of each of the shots using small lights as well as the gear needed to get the shots. The book ends with a big gear guide to show you what Scott uses.

Here’s a shot I did recently that applies the concepts of chapter 7 using the Elinchrom 39" Rotalux Deep OctaBox instead of the larger soft box:

Using Scott’s instructions, great Elinchrom gear, and hiring an awesome model like Ericababy, you can easily get shots like this too.


This book rocks. I can’t stress enough how useful it is for those doing studio lighting for the first time – especially if you have Elinchrom gear (although that’s not required). I highly recommend it, and encourage you to check out the videos on Kelby Training. In addition, if you don’t own Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques for Photographers using Photoshop then you’ll want to pick that up too. Don’t believe me? Check out the sneak peek at Amazon or your local bookstore.

Click here to buy your copy and support this blog.

See Scott In Real Life

Scott is touring the US to teach the concepts from this book in real life. NAPP members get a discount and even full price cost is only $99. He’s coming to Seattle this month, so I’m hoping I’ll get a chance to check it out – come join me!


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Anonymous said...

Very cool. Scott Kelby is a master educator and seeing the sample diagram and your comments shows he's put out another killer resource for us! Thanks Ron.

Anonymous said...

I was a lighting newbie til I got this book. Kelby makes it easy to advance from foamcore and windows to a simple lighting setup in a very short time.

Andrew Keane said...

Pretty spot on review. I also have the book and cant recommend it highly enough. Especially for newbies it almost is like a recipe book which once you have mastered you can go on an use as a bse to develop you own style and lighting ideas.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for tue helpful review, any other book instructional suggestions?