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Book Review: Strobist Photo Trade Secrets, Volume 2: Portrait Lighting Techniques by Zeke Kamm

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Strobist Photo Trade Secrets is a new series from Peachpit Press focusing on lighting techniques. Portrait Lighting Techniques is the second volume and this one focuses on portrait lighting situations that show you how to light like the pros.

Portrait Lighting Techniques is a book that is based on the lighting techniques displayed on David Hobby’s famed Strobist website. It will show you how to light your photographs creatively using small flashes and accessories. The book is small enough to throw in your camera bag and is 30 pages in length.

Each page of the main part of the book consists of a postcard size card with a picture displaying the technique on the front side and a description of the shot on the backside of the card. Also included on the back is a diagram showing how the shot was set up and what kind of equipment was used to get the shot.

The cards are perforated so that you can tear them out and take them with you into the field. The front has a glossy appearance and the back more of a fiber feel that if you need to make notes on them you can.

In Portrait Lighting Techniques there are 25 separate recipes for completely different lighting situations. While most use one to two off-camera flashes, other devices are used as well. Various sources of light are used, from Christmas lights, living room lights, LED strip lights, flash lights, and daylight. Accessories include soft boxes, snoots, grids, umbrellas, vines to create special effects, and reflectors.

Each recipe is the work of a different strobist and as such the techniques are just as different. The lighting situations include group portraits, dramatic scenes in low lighting, light painting, a girl coming out of the ocean, a man and his hunting dog out in the field, a person with their tongue apparently stuck to a light pole in winter, a guy apparently falling from the sky on his BMX bike, and many more.

This is not a book for someone who doesn’t know how to use an off camera flash, is not familiar with flash accessories and other lighting theory. It is for those who have a fundamental grasp of the technology and now wants to learn how to set up shots like the pros do. I really like the idea of this kind of book. It is simple, provides enough information to get out there and shoot. If you’ve always wanted get some of the images like the pros do, but were unsure how to set them up, then I very highly recommend Strobist Photo Trade Secrets, Volume 2: Portrait Lighting Techniques.

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About T. Michael Testi

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