Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Location Photography by Kirk Tuck
Publisher: Amherst Media
Review by Conrad J. Obregon
A better name for this book might have been “integrating new flash systems”. The main thrust of the book is how to use multi-light flash systems like Nikon’s CLS (and Canon’s comparable system, the author says) to replace the heavier studio lighting equipment that some photographers take on location shoots.
After brief discussions of the history of artificial photographic lights, and the nature of light, the author begins an explanation of four systems for triggering multiple speedlights: radio slave; built in wireless systems; optical slaves; and off-camera cords. He then describes a number of pieces of equipment useful to setting up multi-flash systems, including speedlights, triggers; light stands, adapters, and gels for altering white balance. He illustrates how to use this equipment, including umbrellas, reflectors and softboxes to take portraits. He finishes up with a series of examples, showing how and why he placed and controlled his lights.
All of this information is useful, and occasionally I learned a few tricks (for the Nikon CLS system, using the SU 800 rather than an SB 800 avoids the pre-flashes that occasionally make people squint). But more often then not, I wanted more information. Some of it I found elsewhere (what do you call that thing that holds a reflector on a light stand?-a reflector holder- duh!) But other unanswered questions were more difficult. What mode should one shoot in for best results? Why did the author use manual flash adjustments rather then TTL (through-the-lens)? How did he decide which flashes to put on which channels?
Another problem I found was that all of the pictures were portraits, and all of the portraits had the same look. I suppose for a professional whose job is to deliver a certain standard look for a report or magazine, this is fine, but suppose you are looking for something more artsy. An answer might be that it’s up to the individual photographer to experiment, once he gets an understanding of the system, but I had hoped for more.
The author is right that modern flash systems offer photographers incredible opportunities and convenience that they never had before. Right now there seems to be a dearth of materials on how to get the most from these systems. The author added a little to the knowledge base, but there is room for a lot more information.