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Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Location Photography Paperback – May 1, 2008

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Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Location Photography + Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Studio Photography + Photographic Lighting Equipment: A Comprehensive Guide for Digital Photographers
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Editorial Reviews


"This is a quiet book full of information, but bubbling with the kind of energy that is created when you realize you can do what you thought you couldn't."  —Lighting

"Pure gold, showing real solutions to real lighting situations and along the way creating some of the most natural-looking on-location portraits."  —Shutterbug

"I wanted to do a shoot using just the sunlight outside my studio. No electronic flashes, no multiple light sources, and no large studio flashes."  —Kirk Tuck, Studio Photography

"Richly illuminated with location portraits and a few still lifes, and written in a clean down-to-earth style."  —

"The beauty of this book is how much information is packed into 122 pages of content. And yet the information and explanations are deep enough to give the reader an understanding of the subject in order to start experimenting with it."  —

About the Author

Kirk Tuck is a former photography professor and creative director of an advertising firm who currently works as a freelance photographer with clients such as IBM, Dell Computer, Motorola, Elle magazine, and Time Warner. He was chosen as the 2008 chapter president for the Austin/San Antonio American Society of Media Photographers. He lives in Austin, Texas.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 125 pages
  • Publisher: Amherst Media (May 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1584282304
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584282303
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 0.3 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #142,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I started my photography career as a teaching assistant at the University of Texas at Austin working for three diametrically different commercial photographers. Charles Guerrero was the consummate Brooks Institute graduate who possessed the knowledge to do every type of photography well. One day Charlie would be shooting technical shots of semiconductors with a 4x5 inch view camera and on the next he'd be shooting a wedding. Reagan Bradshaw was a kindred spirit, an English major who felt more at home with a camera than a typewriter. He would later become one of the most influential presidents of the ASMP (The American Society of Media Photographers). He could shoot fun ad stuff in his studio or head out for a long bout of Texas Landscape photography. My third major influence was Tomas Pantin who was resolutely an advertising shooter. He still has his fingers on the pulse of what looks cool and what doesn't. These three depended on me to run their labs for their commercial photography courses.

My early photography days were spent teaching students how to set up and use 8x10 view cameras, studio strobes, cinematic lighting equipment and much more. We also maintained a large and efficient darkroom.

One by one my mentors left the University to go back to their true love, taking photographs. When the last one left he recommended me to the chair person and I spent another few years teaching both commercial studio photography while occasionally filling in for a fine art instructor who'd gone of a sabbatical.

Eventually I left because that kind of teaching becomes a routine and the time and energy for your own work drains away. I spent seven years as the creative director of a regional ad agency until finally opening my own advertising studio in 1987. Since then I've be all over the United States and most of Europe and the Caribbean making photographs and cataloging experiences.

A student asked me recently what my favorite assignment of all time was. I could truthfully say that it was a toss up. There was the freezing February I spent in St. Petersburg, Russia shooting art in the Catherine Palace and being the first American photographer to bring equipment into the Alexander Palace. The Alexander Palace was the last palace of the Czars and the current headquarters of the Russian Naval Intelligence Agency. We were their guests. We worked hard during the gray days and we played hard in the evenings. A favorite memory is the evening we spent at the Mariensky Theater watching the Kirov Ballet perform "The Firebird". We were sitting in the box seats of the Czar and the show was great but one of our ongoing quests in Russia in 1995 was to find clean public toilets. I didn't find them in the basement of the theater but I did come back up to the long private hallway that led to our box seats. There was an ornate door with a velvet rope in front of it. Naturally curious I lifted the rope and tried the door knob. It was unlocked. I went in and closed the door behind. As I looked around the room it dawned on me that I'd discovered the "real" throne room of the Czar. It was his private bathroom. WC. Loo.

After making sure the plumbing worked I ascended the throne. I won't go into more detail but suffice it to say that few have sat upon the throne of the Czars. As the guards said when I was thrown out, "IT IS FORBIDDEN!"

My second favorite photo assignment took place in Monte Carlo for an American high tech company. It was a week long conference that, for one reason or another, was very sparsely attended. I had a marvelous room at the Lowes Beachfront Hotel, right next to the Grande Casino and, since the program had to be truncated because of the low attendance I was forced to entertain myself every afternoon, surrounded by beautiful people, swimming laps in the Prince Ranier Memorial competition swimming pool adjacent to the harbor. Oh, and having dinner at the Prince Ranier Private Car Museum, chatting with Tom Peters and Sir David Frost.

Over the past twenty years I've been present at the nomination of Clinton for his first term, done one of Renee Zellweger's first headshots, hung out in an executive suite with former president George Herbert Walker Bush and Michael Dell, met high ranking Chinese government officials, photographed the October fashion shows in Paris, and dragged camera gear through clean rooms, sewage plants, and printing factories.

Over the course of the years I've found that additional knowledge has generally helped me lighten my load of gear while giving me more access and more mobility.

I decided to share that information when I was approached a few years ago by the folks at Amherst Media. They really believe in books. Not just as receptacles of information but as beautiful objects in their own right. They asked me to do a book I called "Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Location Photography". I didn't know what to expect but a great review from David Hobby propelled the book into bestseller status, and, as the information has not changed, it continues to sell very well.

My second book is on Studio photography and the third book covers the ins and out of commercial photography. My fourth book is a compendium of lighting Equipment and my latest book is the first of its kind, a guide to using LED Lights for Photography. Exciting times, for sure.

I still love taking photographs and I'm constantly playing with new cameras and lenses. I think it's like a sport where you have to practice daily to preserve your edge, your "chops". I can't understand professionals who've given up shooting for themselves or hobbyists who only shoot on vacation. Cameras are small and light, especially these days. Is there any reason to travel anywhere without one?

I'm not totally consumed by photography. I also love to swim and swim with a masters group just about every morning but Mondays. (That's the day the pool is closed.....). Much of my discipline for writing comes from a life long discipline learned in the pool. As my coach, Kirsten Weiss, always says, "The only way to get better is time in the water." The only way to become a better photographer is time with the camera. Books, workshops, DVD's and such are just the building blocks or the modeling clay. You have to do the design, stack the blocks, throw the clay on the wheel and some times it's just basic hard work and drudgery. But in the end it's all that matters in the making of a beautiful image.

I bought a Honda Element a few years ago. I didn't see it as a car so much as a giant camera bag with tires. When I buy a TV I really just see it as a device to hook up a Panasonic GH2 to and scroll through images. I stopped drinking caffeine so I could handhold my cameras at lower shutter speeds. I named my child Shutter Speed. Why do something if you aren't committed to doing it well?

Next up for me are novels about a photographer. More swimming and a lot more writing about the things that can make our images different and better.

I live in Austin, Texas with my wife, our sixteen year old son and my dog. Life is fun. Photography is too.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 29, 2008
Format: Paperback
I've been using the minimalist style of lighting, in one form or another, since the late 1980s, and I learned much of what I know through the painful process of trial-and-error. Austin, Texas-based photographer Kirk Tuck has taken all that basic knowledge and wrapped it up into a neat 128-page introductory handbook.

Minimalist Lighting covers both the "why" and "how" of location photographic lighting using small strobes off-camera. The first half of the book takes you through the basic gear choices you'll need to make and the fundamental techniques of off-camera small-strobe lighting. In the second part of the book, Kirk takes apart 14 of his own shoots, showing how he approached lighting them, the decisions he made, and the final results.

If you're already comfortable using small strobes off-camera, the first half of the book will be largely review material, and you'll likely skim over to the case studies, from which I gleaned several techniques I'm already putting to good use. If you're a newcomer to the world of minimalist lighting, you'll probably read the whole thing several times, learning new things on each pass through.

Either way, if you want to learn to light better with less cost, less money and less weight, this book definitely belongs on your bookshelf.
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82 of 93 people found the following review helpful By Conrad J. Obregon VINE VOICE on May 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
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.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By S. Rodionov on May 22, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you ever consider shooting on location, with smallest possible gear - this is a book to have and read. Seriously. While its pushing for Nikon stuff (but not as much as "Moment it Clicks", which is another cool book on strobist shelf), it useful to anyone.

It does require some brain power to understand, so its not just cookbook full of ready recipies, but its a really good read. This takes place on my shelf and wont leave it for a while, as it will be re-read many times.

Very rarely i would give photography books thumbs up, but this is occasion were i do. It covers some really interesting bits, that you wouldnt ever find anywhere else, even in online resources, on how to place lights and WHY you may want to do that.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Zocto on June 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
When I began reading the chapter where Tuck describes the expense, the weight, and the complications of transporting heavy studio strobes on an airline, I thought that he had been watching me board last year's flight to Denver. It is a new world in photographic lighting and photographers need to learn to be smart, quick and flexible. This book provides a great introduction to lighting with battery powered strobes. Tuck generously shares his knowledge and techniques-something that many professional photographers guard jealously. If you don't come away with a new tip or technique with this book, you need to re-read it.
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39 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Gadget Freak on May 5, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really wanted to like this book. It has a very good mix of background material and informative case studies. However, the very first case study uses FIVE STROBES and two softboxes, triggered wirelessly. Certainly, the kit's small enough to carried by a single person, but it's also several thousand dollars of lighting gear that can hardly be called minimalist. Other case study examples are similar.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Big Fudge on November 4, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a hobbyist photographer who started out using a darkroom in high school shooting black and white film. I have never felt comfortable using strobes. Over the years I have convinced myself that I am a "natural light" shooter who didn't need a flash. I actually used to push 3200 film a couple stops to avoid using a flash at night!

Unfortunately my D200 just doesn't cut it in low light, so I bought an SB600 and reluctantly started using it for indoor shots. My pictures have been awful... I simply did not know what I was doing.
Recently, during a family wedding, I took another stab at using the flash and the results were complete crap. I decided to buy this book on a lark before throwing in the towel. I am glad I did!

This book is concise, full of information, and it all makes sense. The pace and progression of information is right on. Everything you need to know about using a modern flash is here. It is technical without being boring or patronizing. I want to thank the author for producing such an intelligent and usable guide to using my camera as it was meant to be used.
I now have the confidence to set up a small studio to help out with a local fashion business. Instead of fearing my flash, I am now empowered to really embrace artificial light.
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