15 Photographic Lighting Books and Why You Want Them

I guess I’ve had lighting on the mind lately. Except for a select few, I don’t think anyone ever truly “masters” photographic lighting. As I said in another post on the topic recently, mastering light — or even just taming it– is one of the biggest and most difficult challenges facing any photographer. For me, I find that my lighting technique continues to evolve as I continue to grow as a photographer. Lighting for portraits is different than lighting for food. Lighting for products is different than lighting for fashion. And don’t even get me started on the chasm between studio and location lighting.

And yet, when it comes to lighting, all of these genres do share some very significant similarities. The bottom line when it comes to any lighting situation is that you have to get a handle on two very important things– how the light behaves, and how to make it behave for you. To that end, I’ve pulled together a sampling of 15 of some of the best lighting books available. Not e-books. Not apps, Not videos. This week we’re going old school. Photographic wisdom printed and illustrated on actual pages and bound together into a single, hand-held volume. No batteries required.

I’ve tried to include a little something for everyone, regardless of specialty or skill level. To find out more about any of the books listed, click on the title above the cover photo. This is not a ranking– just a list of suggested reading. So, in no particular order, I give you…

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The Leica Freedom Train: A Legacy Beyond Photography

One of my favorite neighbors sends me photography-related emails every so often. She’ll send me a link for an upcoming museum exhibit or gallery show. Sometimes she’ll forward an article about a local photo contest. I look forward to her emails, partially because I appreciate her taking an interest in what I do, but also because it’s interesting to me to see what sort of photography stories and events are resonating with non-photographers. I received one her emails this past week and I was floored– shocked, actually, that I’d never heard the story of the Leica Freedom Train. It’s one of those rare stories that brings together so many aspects of my life, including my passions for photography and history, as well as some very deep connections to my family heritage.

While the actual numbers are lost to history, what has become known as the Leica Freedom Train was a rescue effort by Ernst Leitz II and his daughter Elsie Kuehn-Leitz to get hundreds of German Jews out of the country, starting within months of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933.

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10 Photography Lighting Tutorials From Beginners to Pros

Mastering light — or even just taming it– is one of the biggest and most difficult challenges facing any photographer. Regardless of whether you shoot in a studio full of strobes, or venture out on location with nothing but a reflector, overcoming the stumbling blocks that lighting throws in our way all boils down to the same set of tasks– understanding how light works, and making it work for you. The Web is bursting at its digital seams with lighting tutorials for photographers of every type and skill level. Some are good, some not, but they all share a common goal — helping you take control of one of the most important aspects of your photography. We’ve compiled ten of our favorites for you. There’s no ranking system — just a little something for everyone. So, in no particular order…

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Using Our Photographic Super Powers for Good

This tends to be a pretty emotional time of year for me. The three-month stretch between October and December marks several anniversaries. Defining moments. For starters, it was ten years ago that I left briefcases and courtrooms behind for camera bags and studios. I think that anyone who says that they’ve “never looked back” after making such a monumental change is either getting a little too dramatic with their bio, or is just better than I am at compartmentalizing the past. My past got me to my present– and will hopefully do the same for my future. How can I not look back from time to time and reflect– or even question it on the bad days? As for other autumn milestones, it’s been fourteen years since I married WAY out of my league and embarked on one of Life’s greatest adventures. Unfortunately, though, this is also when I have to pause and remember my father, whom I lost to cancer four years ago this week.

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While my dad was not a professional photographer, he was extremely talented with a camera. I still go through his photos every so often, looking for inspiration or reminiscing about the countless hours we spent in the darkroom when I was a kid. But in addition to all of the hats he wore– husband, father, dentist, friend, photographer– he was also one of the most charitable men I’ve ever known. He was never flashy about it. It wasn’t about recognition. He knew what he was doing, and that was enough for him. He didn’t hide his generosity, but he didn’t advertise it either. It was more for their dignity than his own, that he’d often give in such a way that the recipients of his kindness never knew the source. [Read more...]

How to Write a Better Photography Bio

As photographers, it’s our job to make people look good. It’s interesting, then, how difficult it can be for so many of us to write solid bios for our websites. Obviously, we’re talking about different modes of expression, and what we can often do so easily with a camera for someone else can feel like rock climbing with one hand when it comes to talking about and promoting ourselves to prospective clients.

As a writer, the one question I hear more than any other from my friends is, “Hey, can you read something for me and tell me what you think?”  Of course the answer is always yes, and lately I seem to be proofreading quite a few website updates and revisions. Consistently, the most difficult hurdle seems to the bio or “about” section. And it’s no surprise. Growing up, we’re taught that good manners dictate we show more interest in what others have to say, rather than whatever it is we think is so interesting about ourselves.

All well and good, but we’re grown-ups now and we have families to take care of. In an era when everyone with a camera and a website is competing for the same finite about of business, it’s become more important than ever to be able to sell yourself– quickly, concisely, and effectively.

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Photo Licensing: A Look at the Basics (+ Sample License)

I’ve always been very detail-oriented. That might be why I get so frustrated when I hear photographers using important terminology incorrectly– particularly when it comes to terminology that has a direct impact on their income and overall bottom line. I meet photographers who tell me they are editorial shooters when they are actually commercial photographers. I meet some who think they are commercial photographers when they are actually retail photographers. One photographer recently had the cojones to tell me, “I know I’m not really a commercial photographer, but it sounds cooler, so I go with it.”

WHAT?!?

When the shock of such an intensely ridiculous statement had finally worn off, I got to thinking about how the labels we use affect not only our views of ourselves and each other, but also on our clients’ opinions and expectations of us, as well as the licensing and use of our images.

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Kodak & Instagram: A Tale of Dollars & Sense

Instagram, the supposed “new face” of photography, celebrated its 3rd birthday earlier this month. What’s that? You weren’t invited to the party? Well, considering the usual fanfare and not-so-subtle ways in which the billion-dollar photo-sharing app usually marks its milestones, I’m actually kind of surprised that Instagram’s official entry into toddlerhood (or teens in internet years) came and went without even so much as a blip on our collective radar..

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Tattoos & Photo Editors: My Conversation with Stella Kramer

I’ve been wanting a tattoo for a long time. But not just any tattoo. I’ve been wanting the perfect tattoo. A killer design from an amazing artist that showcases my love for my family and my passion for photography. As is the case when trying to come up with the perfect anything, however, it takes time. Or maybe I’m just stalling? In either case, it was while scouring Google Images recently for ideas and inspiration that I stumbled across the blog of Pulitzer Prize-winning photo editor and consultant Stella Kramer.

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Expectations: A Two-Way Street (Or Assistant’s Expectations From Photographers)

I wrote a column last week about the ten or twelve qualities that I think are necessary for someone to be a really good photo assistant. It pretty much all boiled down to this– you need to look, act, and work like a professional. Simple stuff. Most of the feedback from the post has been positive, but a few people have pointed out that I came off a bit demanding and one-sided. One person commented on Facebook that “there are some good points there, but after reading it would you really want to work for that guy?” Don’t even get me started on the email (Apparently, I’m a pompous ass).

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Standing in Front of More Interesting Stuff…And Other Good Advice

One of my favorite photography quotes comes from long-time National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson. “If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff.” Like so many pieces of Life’s really great advice on topics big and small, it is both ridiculously simple and deeply profound at the same time. It’s the simplicity, though, that really resonates with me. I was discussing this with my students the other day when they pointed out to me that much of my advice to them is just as basic, simple, and straight-to-the-point.

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