Picture Perfect Lighting: An Innovative Lighting System for Photographing People
Author: Roberto Valenzuela
Why would a nature or travel photographer want to read a book on lighting by a Hollywood fashion/wedding photographer? Valenzuela doesn’t directly address this but some of his text does explain it: light is light regardless of where it comes from. In other words, understanding how light works for environmental portraits helps us understand how light works for other subjects.
He begins with a discussion of some of the practical aspects of the science of light as his first concept. This concentrates on the Five Key Behaviors of Light: angle, the inverse square, size, color and scatter. All of these are predictable with a little study and practice.
The core of the book is center around the second concept which is Circumstantial Light. This is an expansion of ambient or natural light. It includes the environment the light is in and how the objects in that environment will affect the light based on the Five Key Behaviors. He calls it Circumstantial Light because it is based on the circumstances we find ourselves in when we photography and how we can change them by moving ourselves and/or our subject.
Lighting Benchmarks is his third concept. He advocates shooting at certain exposures based on the situation to get the glow that he likes for his models. If there is not enough light in your current circumstances to get that exposure, he recommends moving or adding light. There are several chapters on how to add the light with reflectors, diffusers, or flash. Other chapters recommend ways to practice so the photographer is knowledgeable when the time to shoot arrives. I’ve read several books that mention finding good ambient light, but this one is the best at explaining how to analysis a situation and place the subject in the best light.
In nature photography we have similar issues. There are certain exposures that work to get a greater depth of field or to freeze motion and the light has to be right for these to works. We can even use his principles to build lighting around a macro subjects with reflectors, diffusers, and flash. Also, we all take pictures of our family and friends in the environment. He has many good quotes including, “Don’t be seduced by the location, be seduced by the light!”