Kirk Tuck on the Minimalist Studio

Kirk's latest book landed on my doorstep just before I headed out to Dubai, and I only now have gotten a chance to read it.

Reader's Digest version: If you liked his first book, you'll probably be very comfortable with his latest effort. And if some of this lighting stuff on this site leaves your head spinning, this may be the book for you.

More, inside.

Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Studio Photography

So here's the thing. In reading through Kirk's new book I found myself continually waiting for the Big Unveiling, but it never happened. It wasn't until I finished it that I realized why that was: This is a book for beginners who are thinking about getting into home studio photography. And that's not me -- I am neither a beginner nor a studio guy.

When taken that context, the book made perfect sense.

Twenty years ago, I would have been all over it. But these days, I'm more 'been-there-done-that.' I am looking for McNally to show me how to light the Statue of Liberty with a bazillion SB-900's, or for Annie to tell me what she was thinking when she asked The Queen to "lose the crown" during a portrait session.

That's my problem: I am looking for pure heroin, and Kirk is offering the gateway drug.

And that thought didn't even hit me until I was reading some negative comments on the Flickr threads about how Hot Shoe Diaries was too anecdotal, not enough diagrams and setup shots, etc.

I thought the reviewers in question were insane. Which, of course, is my default reaction when anyone disagrees with me. It's like on the highway: Anyone driving faster than me is a maniac, and anyone going slower than me is an idiot.

[Spiffy Subhead Tying Together Ferraris, Burps, Costco and Bacardi 151 to go Here]

In the course of a given month about 325,000 people stumble into this site. I tend to interact with a relatively small number of, um, enthusiastic readers who cannot get enough of this lighting stuff. Don't take that as a knock, either -- I am the same way. But it definitely colors my perception of the readership.

I am beginning to suspect that there are a far greater number of lurkers who are dabblers. They are the curious, the tentative, the folks who are not exactly brimming with confidence yet. And Kirk's book is aimed more at them than at me.

So the former folks -- the rabid, "lighting Ferrari" types, might tear through Minimalist in 20 minutes and still be hungry. There are no D700s dangling upside down from Manhattan ladder trucks and there is absolutely no royalty whatsoever -- bejeweled or otherwise.

(I just got a mental image of Jeremy "Ogalthorpe" Center, chewing through everything Strobist has to offer in about 30 seconds, burping -- twice -- and then bellowing out, "Enough of this tripe! More! I want more! Bring me the Collins DVDs!)

But the latter folks -- the ones who maybe have not consumed this site's entire archive in one caffeinated sitting -- might actually appreciate the setup shots, the simple approach, the hand-holding, etc. I'm thinking, I dunno, let's call 'em Toyotas maybe. And while Ferraris are undeniably cool, there are an awful lot of Toyotas around.

Kirk is not writing for the 99th percentile. He is aiming at the people who have not yet dived headfirst into full-blown obsession. He gets into spaces, gear, lighting techniques (of course), money allocation, etc., when planning a small or home studio.

Example: Forget the wide-carriage inkjet and get to know your local Costco's ICC printer profiles. Beautiful 12x18's for $3 each, and you never have a nightmare about an ink clog again.

Kirk doesn't even assume you are married to strobes -- maybe you are a "hot lights" kind of person. Don't laugh -- lots of stuff is done with hot lights today. Awesome recycle time, and excellent in the modeling department.

If McNally's books are a walk on the wild side, Kirk's books are a guided stroll in the park, where every tree has a horticultural label and there are no dangerous animals lurking about waiting to jump out and overwhelm you.

This is a cup of Earl Grey tea to McNally's Bacardi 151.

Take a Sip Yourself

If you are not sure if this is your particular cup of tea, I highly recommend popping over to the Amazon page and making use of their "Look Inside the Book" feature. Amherst has wisely opted in and made sections of the text available for tire-kickers.

Check out the viewable table of contents and you will know right away if this one is aimed at you. My guess is his approach will speak to you or it won't, with few people on the fence.

And if Minimalist Lighting can bring new people into the game, I say welcome aboard. It's very easy for a bunch of lighting fanatics (and I count myself a member of that group) to forget that we were once exactly the people for whom Kirk is writing.

:: Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Studio Photography ::


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