Strobist Reader Favorite: Light, Science and Magic

I love books.

I especially love escaping the August heat and disappearing into an air-conditioned room somewhere with a good photo book.

And since I suspect that you guys do, too, I am always curious to know what you are reading.

A few weeks ago, I asked you for your best bets. And boy, did you respond. I got nearly 100 "Strobist Book Review" e-mails, listing everything from how-to books to monoliths by great photographers.

(I even got a couple of "gag" book review e-mails, but we won't go into that...)

One of the most popular suggestions was Light, Science and Magic, An Introduction to Photographic Lighting, by Fil Hunter and Paul Fuqua.

This is no lightweight, either. Weighing in at 360 pages, I would expect I might find a new trick or two in here. I would note that people were sending me e-mails suggesting this book for the site before I even solicited your ideas. So, it's on my next Amazon order list, too.

I am happy to introduce you guys to my faves, and just as pleased to get fresh ideas from you for my own reading list.

Anyway, the book is apparently a very good volume on lighting theory.

Says Strobist reader Jeff:

You can safely file most books on photography in the trash can. This one you will reread.

It covers the "basic principles of lighting" in a straightforward and well-written manner, including the family of angles, diffusion, revealing shape and contour. There are also good chapters for lighting people, glass, and metal.

And there is a bad, outdated chapter on equipment, which seems obligatory in these books.

And this, from Joe:

Unlike many books which show you specific lighting setups and diagrams, Light - Science and Magic starts with the fundamental principles underlying the behavior of light. While some may be put off by the seemingly scientific focus of the book, the writing style is actually quite friendly and unintimidating.

The potential applications of learning these principles for portrait and editorial photography are immense. If you are actively working on improving your lighting technique, understanding the basic theory behind what you're doing will be tremendously useful.

Highly recommended.

Others noted that this book is not a cookbook, per se, but a book to give you a much better understanding of how light creates various effects.

The info on Strobist is pretty heavy on the "how-to" stuff. But you need your basic theory, too. Otherwise, you are just a photographer with a bag of specific tricks. Which can be about as exciting as driving a train. Knowing your theory is more akin to having the ability to go off-roading. Or being able to improvise a jazz solo, rather than just read music.

The establishment says:

"This is the first book I have seen on photographic lighting that is worth using as a text. Light-Science and Magic is about principles, not cheap tricks or the authors' portfolio. Thanks." -- Pete Christman, Savannah College of Art and Design.

"An excellent guide to high-quality studio-style lighting, even on location." -- John Alderson, Booklist.

And the reader reviews at Amazon are pretty impressive, too.

(At this point I will confess to being somewhat addicted to Amazon's reader reviews. They run the gamut from being right out of the New York Times book review section to looking like an extended family fight on the Jerry Springer show...)

Read it? Loved it? Hated it?

Comment on it below.

Either way, I am very much looking forward to reading it. Many thanks to all who recommended it.



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