Mastering Digital Flash Photography by Chris George
Publisher: Lark Books (Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.)
Review by Conrad J. Obregon
It seems strange that the best book around for a long time about flash photography was published in 1997, before the full scale invasion of digital cameras and super-smart flash units. That’s the need that “Mastering Digital Flash Photography” is aimed at filling.
The first chapter deals with basic issues like the nature of the lighting systems available, and the second with the nature of light itself. The author then considers fill flash (the use of flash to supplement ambient light), low light flash and studio flash. The author finishes by discussing computer techniques that can be used to improve pictures captured with flash.
This book serves as an excellent introduction to the subject of flash photography, and will prove extremely useful to the individual with little or no experience with flash. (On the other hand, George does assume that the reader understands basic photography skills like exposure and digital post processing.) However, I sometimes felt that the author generalized a bit too much for an instruction manual and could have placed more emphasis on certain subjects. For example, he quite properly points out that a picture taken with fill flash is the combination of a picture at a slower speed with ambient light and a picture at higher speed with flash. I would have liked him to give more emphasis to the fact that this can sometimes create problems (as well as opportunities) by giving a moving subject blurred edges. I would also have liked to see more emphasis on the use of multiple portable flashes, given the facility for wireless control, like that of Nikon’s CLS system, which modern flashes provide.
I also felt that drawing a sharp distinction between portable flash units and studio strobe lights was not necessary. Many of today’s portable flash units can easily be used with umbrellas and softboxes specifically designed for them, in a manner similar to the larger, usually more powerful, studio lights, while many of the techniques for using multiple studio lights can also be applied to portable units, even outside of the studio. Yet these connections were not made.
When it came to digital post processing I was pleased to find the author made no attempt to deal with fundamentals. Instead he pointed out how the use of certain tools, with which an experienced Photoshop user would be familiar, could extend the capabilities of flash photography. Some beginning Photoshop users might wish that there was a little more detail on subjects like selective adjustments, but slightly experienced users will get just enough of an indication as to what is necessary.
Nature photographers also use flash, and have special problems and tools like flash extenders that were not dealt with here.
The use of flash is not something one learns from a single book. The more one uses flash, the more one thinks of other useful applications. This book will provide users with a good start. And it’s not over ten years old.