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Lights, Camera, Capture: Creative Lighting Techniques for Digital Photographers 1st Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0470549537
ISBN-10: 047054953X
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Learn to achieve the best possible images with minimal lighting equipment

Author Bob Davis is a photographer whose high-profile clients include Oprah Winfrey and Eva Longoria, and whose work has appeared in Time, O Magazine, and People. Along with his invaluable professional advice, this beautiful full-color book includes a DVD featuring portions of his workshop curriculum. He covers the elements of lighting and shares his two-strobe technique that will enable you to create studio-quality lighting anywhere with only minimal equipment.

  • High-profile photographer Bob Davis is especially known for his lighting techniques; this book shares his advice on lighting for professional photographers and serious amateurs
  • Covers all the key elements of photographic lighting, with informative illustrations and lighting grids
  • Details the author's pioneering two-strobe technique that reduces the amount of equipment a photographer must carry to a shoot and dramatically lowers equipment costs
  • Features professional tips and stunning full-color images
  • 60-Minute DVD includes video from the author's three-day lighting and photography workshop

Lights, Camera, Capture: Creative Lighting Techniques for Digital Photographersoffers your professional advice worth many times the cost of the book.

Top 10 Lighting Tips
Amazon-exlcusive content from author Bob Davis

1. Become a seeker of light. My lighting improved leaps and bounds once I began to notice and study light and how it creates mood, shapes, and defines textures. It’s all about light. I take mental notes when light catches my eye. I love the way the sunlight reflects off my stone counter tops and creates beautiful patterns on the kitchen cabinets. I then think of how can I emulate that.

2. Take visual notes using your cell phone camera. I love using my iPhone for this. Most people have a camera on their cell phone; it’s great for capturing those wonderful moments when the light catches your eye. Later, practice recreating that light with any type of light source, flashlight, shop light, strobe or video light.

3. Practice, practice, practice… I use a teddy bear and a flashlight to see how the light and shadows change as I move the light around the teddy bear. Then, I try to create that same look using an off-camera flash.

4. If you find using an off-camera flash a challenge because you can’t see the light, try using a flashlight as a modeling light. Point the flashlight in the same direction as your flash head. For a long time, I used a Mag light rubber banded to my Speedlight until I became comfortable using my flash.

5. Use a diffuser over your flash and, if at all possible, bounce your flash. Even the pop-up flash on a point-and-shoot can be diffused using facial tissue. If your flash has an adjustable head, try bouncing it off the ceiling by pointing the flash head upwards, or even to the side if there is a wall near by. Review your results, and make a mental note.

6. Whenever possible, get your flash off-camera. You can create depth and dimension by getting one flash with a bounce diffuser about 45 degrees to the left or right of your camera. This creates a nice modeling light to shape your subjects, and looks more natural than direct on-camera flash.

7. Read you camera and flash manual. I know they read like bad stereo instructions written for engineers, but if you read one page, and then practice what you’ve just read with your camera and flash, soon you will master all of the functions of your flash.

8. Use fresh batteries; even better, use rechargeable high capacity batteries. This alone will greatly improve your overall flash consistency.

9. Use flash outside on a bright sunny day to fill in the shadows under the eyes, hence the term “fill flash”. Photograph people in open shade to avoid them having to squint, and remember to turn on your flash to fill in their face with light. Almost all point-and-shoot cameras allow you to use your flash outside. Give it a try, and see how it puts that sparkle in their eyes.

10. You don’t always need a flash, I love lighting people using a reflector. There are many types of collapsible reflectors. You can use anything as a reflector. I once created a reflector in a pinch by using a paper plate and covered it with aluminum foil. It works! Remember it’s all about the light. Have fun, there is no wrong way to light; there are no rules written in stone. Create the light you want!

Tips for Using Strobe Lights

Strobes give you an incredible sense of flexibility in your approach to light, largely due to the many different ways you can manipulate and adjust their output.

Your flexibility increases significantly if you are able to move the flash away from the camera's hotshoe, because you can position it exactly where you would like it. Add more flashes to the mix, and you’re straying into more creative territory… This is your cue to take control of your lighting! Create the light you want anywhere.


I envisioned a romantic taxi cab ride, but I wanted to capture that feeling of motion, twilight and love. I like to think outside the box, literally! For this picture of the newly engaged couple, I mounted a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, in aperture priority mode, with a 16 – 35mm wide angle zoom lens at 18mm, 1/8th sec with f/4.0 at ISO 160. Here’s where it gets fun, so hold on and lets go for a ride. I mounted the camera on the outside trunk deck of the taxi using a Delkin Fat Gecko suction cup mount, and triggered the camera using a Pocket Wizard remote control. I used a Canon ST-E2 Speedlite Transmitter and Radiopopper transmitter and receiver to fire the remote Canon 580EX II Speedlite, in ETTL II mode, inside the cab. The Speedlite was diffused using a Lightsphere light modifier, creating the light I wanted. I choose aperture priority because of the changing available light as we drove through the streets of Chicago. I knew the camera would choose a slow shutter speed because of the low ISO, giving that sense of motion I had in my mind’s eye.


I’m always trying to tell a story through my pictures. I did the formal, “safe” pictures of the bride and groom first, and then I asked if they were up for something a little more creative. I got the green light, so I quickly changed from soft light-modifiers, such umbrellas or Lightsphere, to hard light. Using creative hard light, you can create a dramatic mood. I was feeling a little Casablanca; you know the old, classic black-and-white film with Humphrey Bogart? I had only a few minutes to create the look. I placed the groom in the background, and put spot light on him with one Canon 580EX II in ETTL II mode in group A. I modified the light using a HonlPhoto Snoot to vignette the light: focusing it on him, not the background. Next, I gave the bride the yellow flower, and asked her to give me a little attitude. I had her look into the second Canon 580EX II in ETTL II mode in group B, modified with a small beauty dish. The beauty dish creates a softer light than a snoot. I used a Canon EOS 1D Mark IV in manual mode, with a 70 – 200mm IS II lens at 70mm, 1/250th sec with f/2.8 at ISO 200. The Speedlites were triggered using a Canon ST-E2 Speedlite Transmitter and Radiopopper transmitter and receivers. I choose the long lens to compress the space, and an aperture of f/2.8 focusing on the bride’s face for a shallow depth-of-field blurring the groom. I loved the image and so did the bride and groom.

From the Back Cover

Become a seeker of light

Photography is all about light: finding it, creating it, combining different types of light, working with its various colors. Bob Davis has achieved a unique relationship with light. In this beautifully illustrated volume and DVD, he shares secrets and techniques that will advance your photographic skills. Master the basics, then step outside your comfort zone and harness the full creative power of light.

  • Understand the relationship between aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and the effects of different lenses

  • Learn how to deal with direct sunlight and how to take advantage of the "golden hour"

  • Combine various types of light for different effects

  • Know what external lighting equipment you need and how to use it

  • Explore various flash modifiers and the effects you can create with them

  • Achieve studio-quality lighting outside the studio

  • Discover what to take when you travel and how to take full advantage of available light sources

Bonus DVD includes 60 minutes of video from Bob Davis's exclusive three-day lighting and photography workshop

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (May 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 047054953X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470549537
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.6 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,114,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm a professional wedding photographer and have been for 5+ years. One area that I continue to try to improve in my craft is lighting. For the longest time I considered myself a available light shooter - and I still do, when I can. But what I learned from Bob is that you can achieve the look of available light with a flash, if only you know how to do it!

This book is very easy to read. He provides great explanations on how to get the results he got in the sample images he puts in the book. He doesn't use a ton of geeky lingo, with complex mathematical equations to get his point across. He tells you what you can do, shows you sample images, and diagrams as to where the camera, subject and lights were when he took the shot. Though there is TONS to learn in this book (for those looking for a different look at lighting), he doesn't bore you like a textbook.

I really enjoyed reading and learning from Bob in this book and would strongly recommend it to anyone who is looking to learn more about different lighting techniques.
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When reviewing a technical book, one always has to keep the skill levels of the reader in mind. This was particularly important in reviewing "Lights; Camera; Capture: Creative Lighting Techniques for Digital Photographers" because this book is aimed at the novice photographer with little or no knowledge of the use of flash in photography.

After an introductory chapter telling the reader that to be a good photographer, one must be particularly attentive to light, the author explains the quality of light and the basics of exposure. He next discusses basic lighting equipment including flashes and light modifiers. Next Davis explains the basic camera modes like aperture priority and shutter priority and flash modes like through-the-lens and manual flash. After these foundation explanations he discusses how to control the light and finally how to apply it. Each of the illustrative images is supported by a lighting diagram.

All of these explanations are of the most rudimentary nature and seemed more designed to make a beginner comfortable with using flash than trying for any special effect, even though the author's illustrative photographs were occasionally quite dramatic. By the way those photographs seemed to be selected from a minimal number of shoots, which were also used in the accompanying DVD, which the reader can skip. The first several tracks seem like a promotional video for the author or perhaps for his workshops. When the DVD finally got down to teaching, the points paralleled and duplicated the chapters of the book, but with very low production values. For example, many scenes were shot in a classroom where the author would tell the students to look at his laptop monitor rather than the projected image and where there was no view of the laptop screen.
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I like Bob Davis' work so I was looking forward to this book for some creative insight to lighting. The one positive thing I can say about this book as that I liked many of the images. I saw that some other reviewer did not like his images but I disagree. For me, a photography book should contain a variety of beautiful images that will inspire me, as well as educate. This book at least had some nice images, though there were some I did not like. I guess that is my prerogative. I did like the lighting diagrams that accompany each photo.

The biggest negative thing I have to say was the mistakes. This book was clearly written for a beginner and these mistakes would confuse the heck out of any beginner, and are therefore inexcusable. In one case he talks about moving to a larger F-stop when he should have said smaller. And I know Bob knows the difference so that was just an editorial mistake. There were also a couple cases of lighting diagrams attached to the wrong images and there were formatting errors. There is a bullet list where the last item in the list was a sentence that should have begun a new paragraph. And the second to last item in that list said "Please end list format here." After Chapter 8 the book ends and Appendix A begins. But flip into Appendix A and what do you get? More content. There is another sample image with a page of text with a reference to an image that it calls Figure 9-1. Yet there is no chapter 9. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.

As far as the content goes, this was clearly a beginner book but it didn't go into enough detail to really teach TTL. Nor did it really teach lighting. It was more like "Here is how I put my lights and see how cool it looks? Now you go get creative.
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Waste of time and money. Got nowhere fast and stayed there. Not what I was looking for. I blame myself for not browsing deeper. Reading along I got what he was saying, but no lighting diagrams. Just "Here's a photo. Looks great doesn't it" He did give settings on the equipment he's advertising. Mainly Canon and Gary Fong stuff. So if you don't use this gear, this book is basically useless to you.
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Bob Davis has the most amazing approach to teaching, One that many people should adopt. He teaches simple. He turns something that may seem complex and explains it to people in a very straight forward and simple manor, which creates an atmosphere of learning for the photographer at any level. If you are a beginner, you learn, if you are advanced, you learn. Those who read this book and PRACTICE what Bob is teaching will soon master their own style of lighting and gain confidence in their photography as they move to the next level. MANY are photographing in natural light, yes it's beautiful but perhaps people are choosing not to use artificial lighting because they do not know how to use it properly. Lighting is what separates the usual photographer, from the AMAZING photographer. Not many people can teach this well and allow for complete understanding as Bob does. I highly not only recommend this book but consider this book as a text book for ALL photographers and a must have. I refer to mine often and learn from it practicing what was ambiguous but what is now attainable, taking my photos to the next level! Thanks Bob for sharing your amazing talents and wonderful ability to teach! XXOO
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