Monday, June 8, 2009

Book Review: The Hot Shoe Diaries

I just finished a great book on photography and lighting. The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes, (ISBN 978-0-321-58014-6, $39.99 list, $26.39 at Amazon), by Joe McNally, is both an entertaining and educational read.

His approach to photography involves the use of portable strobes. Although he uses the Nikon camera and lighting system, the principles apply to any location photography. I easily adapted his ideas to my Canon system.

His writing style is very informal and fun to read. His understanding of the technical aspects of camera lighting is strong, and his imagery is stunning. It is amazing to wander through the book and understand that certain photos were made with just one or two portable flashes.

He spends a lot of time talking about color temperature and how to gel your portable flashes to create a light color that works in your image setting. He also describes how to use light modifiers like shoot through screens and umbrellas to soften the light.

I was inspired from his writing, and at a recent wedding indoors under tungsten light, I used his techniques for some indoor lighting. I gelled my flash, applied my favorite softener (the Gary Fong Lightsphere), and ended up with good soft camera light that was compatible with the decor. Good thing, because I was shooting f/2.8 at ISO3200! I was very happy with the resulting images.

Joe also addresses some of the fundamentals of good photographic technique, such as camera grip and center of balance. The book, 300 pages long, was filled with great images, diagrams on how they were made, and colorful narratives on how the image/session was conducted.

In summary, this book was very informative and useful. I read five to ten photography books a year, and this one was the best I've read in a very long time. I highly recommend it to anyone who shoots digital photography, whether you think you are a portable flash user or not.

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