Book review – Christopher Grey’s Studio Lighting Techniques for Photography: Tricks of the Trade for Professional Digital Photographers

Author: Christopher Grey

Publisher: Amherst Media, Inc

Review by Conrad J. Obregon

Here’s an excellent book aimed at a very narrow segment of the photography market. It should be of interest primarily to studio portrait photographers who use strobes, although there may be other applications for which it might be useful.

Grey covers a number of lighting techniques that are beyond the basics, like shaping the background light, or using an incident light meter, or feathering a light, or using a beam splitter. These techniques will be of interest to people already comfortable with photographing with studio lights, but will be of little help to novices. Each chapter is almost like a tip in a tip book, except that rather then tell you what to do without providing understanding, the author explores each subject in great detail. For example, in discussing the use of a hair light he presents several different sources, like large and small softboxes and strip softboxes, illustrates the application and effect of each, and even shows the difference in effect with slight changes in the direction in which the model faces. There are plenty of subtly varying images and every technique is supported by lighting diagrams.

Because this is such a fine-tuned book, I feel compelled to tell you the things it does not cover. There is no explanation of the basic lighting set-up of main, fill, hair and background light (in fact Grey doesn’t even use traditional fill lights); no discussion of equipment, either cameras or lights, other than some light modifiers which the author has constructed; and no discussion of exposure, except to the extent that modifying exposures when using some of his techniques will change the effect. The lighting is limited to strobes, so if you use speedlights or hot lights, you will have to convert the author’s advice. On the other hand people interested in product photography that has an artier twist, or even fine art still life images, can probably get something from this book.

Given all of that, if you fit into the niche, this will be an excellent book for you. Grey emphasis that the photography business is very competitive and that, in order to be successful, the portrait photographer has to come up with a look that is different. The differences he creates are often subtle but they may open new doors for the appropriate reader.