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Book Review: Kevin Kubota’s Lighting Notebook: 101 Lighting Styles and Setups for Digital Photographers by Kevin Kubota

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There have been many books written on the use of light in photography and many go into a lot of detail about the technical aspects of lighting. While this is interesting, the author’s viewpoint centers around getting to the point, simplifying things, and telling you exactly what you need to know to becoming successful at lighting.

Kevin Kubota’s Lighting Notebook is a field guide and not a technical manual. His goal was to write it as though you were with him out in the field seeing what he is seeing and hearing what he is thinking as he describes why he chose the equipment and how he overcame the obstacles that presented themselves. Kevin Kubota’s Lighting Notebook is 320 pages in length and is contained in six chapters and an extensive notebook section.

Chapter 1, “A Brief History of the World (of Lighting),” begins with looking at how light works beginning with the chiaroscuro method of painting during the Renaissance, which uses light modeling to bring depth, mood, and realism to artwork. Including the chronicling of the varying styles of lighting, Kubota then takes you through the 1930s, ’40s, ’60’s, ’70s, and ’80s as well as into the new century.

Chapter 2, “The Lingo of Lighting,” next takes a closer look at the various lighting styles that are available to you. These include single-point, 2-point, 3-point, Rembrandt, broad, short, butterfly, backlighting, and more. Also included is listing of terminology that you can dazzle your friends with as well.

Chapter 3, “Essential Lighting Skills,” starts off with learning how to feel the light through the process of observation. This takes practice and it should be something that you do all the time. Then you look at metering light so that you can see what light you have available for use. You will look at the quality, quantity, as well as the basic rules of light so you can then balance the natural with artificial lighting. You will finish up with high-speed sync and the color of light.

Chapter 4, “An Overview of Essential Lighting Tools,” now looks at all of the things to correctly light your scene. This obviously begins with the lights, but then looks at the modifiers as well as setting the mood. Here you will look at flash and continuous lighting, diffusing tools, triggering tools, light powering tools and other things to enhance your image.

Chapter 5, “Build Your Own Lighting Kit,” examines the key components of putting together a lighting kit. Here you start off with a do-it-yourself kit, a basic purchased kit, an “I can light almost anything” kit, and a studio kit

Chapter 6, “Post-Processing: Making Your Images Really Sing,” looks at why you photograph – is it journalism or is it art? Post processing is all about getting the most from your images. This chapter is about working with Adobe Lightroom to bring out the best.

“The Notebook,” is the meat and potatoes of Kevin Kubota’s Lighting Notebook . It is where you actually get to see how the lighting is accomplished. Presented here are 101 scenarios that you can use to perfect your own skills at lighting. Each scenario is broken down by lighting – natural, artificial, or both — plus the number of recommended assistants (none to three), and the cost of the lighting equipment used ($0 to $2000+).

Each of the setups is two pages in length and contains a description and the shot on the left page and the setup on the right page. The description talks about the shot, the thoughts on the setup and the problems encountered. The setup shows scenes from the shoot, a diagram mapping the lighting setup, the exposure information and the tools used. On some of the shoots there are optional notes for variations.

Kevin Kubota’s Lighting Notebook is very well thought-out and easy to read. It spends the right amount of time on background and a well deserved amount on the shoots. Terms are well-defined and everything is clearly laid out and easy to find. Once you get to the notebook, you can just jump to the ones that interest you.

If you want to learn to light like the pros, especially with regard to weddings, senior, and portraiture, then Kevin Kubota’s Lighting Notebook is a must-read resource and reference, and so I highly recommend this book.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.
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