Wednesday, March 12, 2008

REVIEW: Professional Secrets of Natural Light Portrait Photography

Lately in the evenings I have been reading Professional Secrets of Natural Light Portrait Photography by Douglas Allen Box which has a 2001 copyright but the pictures have more of a early 90's feel. This book had been recommended to me by a colleague at work and I was using it to try to understand natural lighting better. The author does a pretty decent job of explaining some key concepts in the first 16 pages and then goes into a bunch of examples after that. However, it seems that if you read the first 16 pages you basically get what he is telling you in the rest of the book (not exactly, but close). The key points from this book are:
  • Try to keep your light to the left or right side of your camera
  • Have the model setup such that one side of the face is darker than the other to give a sense of texture and depth (to avoid a flat looking face), but allow enough light so that the dark side isn't blacked out
  • Shoot with long lenses (he usually shoots from 135mm - 250mm in most of his shots at f/5.6 @ 1/60 sec) to effectively blur out backgrounds
  • 1 hour before sunset is your best shooting time (dawn is good too, but most people can't get ready and look good at dawn - the light gets harsh in a hurry too)
  • Blue sky is your friend - that is where your light source should come from
  • North-side windows are almost always good, as are west in the morning and east in the afternoon
  • Most natural light shots can be done well on both sunny and cloudy days if you know what you are doing, and rarely will you need a reflector or other light assistance (this contradicts other stuff I've read in other books)
  • Keep people's heads on a separate plane so they have their own space (this is a good one)
  • Have people were the same color pants and shirts (I hate this one)

He has a few other points as well that are featured in bold on a lot of the samples. If you have the time, it is worth a read, but it wasn't the book that caused me to have many ah ha moments so I was a little disappointed.

Skill Level: Beginner

Value: Poor - not a lot of bang for the buck

Recommendation: Get it from the library like I did

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