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Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Studio Photography Paperback – April 1, 2009

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

"This guide has it all, from studio portraits to product shots and beyond."  —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."  —

"[Minimalist Lighting] is what you need to get you started."  —

About the Author

Kirk Tuck is an award-winning advertising photographer whose clients include Dell, Elle magazine, IBM, and Motorola. He is the author of Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Location Photography. He lives in Austin, Texas.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 127 pages
  • Publisher: Amherst Media; 1st edition (April 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1584282509
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584282501
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.5 x 10.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #862,743 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

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Veronika Vents on March 25, 2009
Format: Paperback
Kirk has a cool sense of humor. Apparently someone took him to task in a review of his first book for using expensive equipment in a book aimed at beginners. What does he do? He goes to a hardware store, buys a $12 work light and proceeds to do an entire demonstration about light qualities with that light and some tissue paper! The cool thing is that it works. Like a lot of other photographers I started learning about lighting with flashes on but everything is so geared to battery operated lights and "outdoor at twilight" kind of images. I really wanted a source of good information about the kinds of lights professionals use in studios. I found a lot of really good information here. Kirk covers every kind of light from florescent lights to expensive studio flashes. It's all good information because, even if I can't afford the best lights right now I can start planning for some of these things when my career blossoms.

The thing that makes these books (The Minimalist Light Series) fun for me is the way they are written. Kirk has a way with words that makes the whole subject of lighting easy to understand. There are no "carved in stone" formulas or rules. His example photos are not formulaic. The range of different things he lights and talks about makes it more interesting.

To sum up: If you liked his first book you'll really like his second book. If you didn't read the first book don't worry, it's not necessary. You'll quickly learn with this one.

It's fun to find a writer who isn't always serious.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By DigitalProphet on March 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
So, before I get started, I have both of Kirk's book in this series of Minimalist Lighting. Not to mention I follow his work on Flickr, via the strobist group there, and his page is a reflection of the information he provides in his books.

While I have owned a DSLR for two years now, I spent over a year just taking snap shots, and not getting into the real potential of my camera. I found David Hobby's blog online, I started with the strobist approach to using my camera, Kirk's first book about location photography was an early purchase. What he showed in that book made sense and really helped me up the quality of my photos.

The this year I bought a small studio set up and a month later this book came out. The information he provides makes sense and really helps me for comfortable using the gear. Again, I am not a pro, nor do I know Kirk. This is just a hobby for me and he helps make it more fun. My kids also appreciate it as I do not take as long to get the shot I am wanting.

The best part is how easy it is to read and how it is easy to relate the information to just doing it.

Great Book for someone new to the field, easy to read, and for the price it will not break the wallet.

I highly recommend this for students and people who are just getting into photography.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By John S. Loder on April 6, 2009
Format: Paperback
I'm a contract copy editor (not a photographer) who had the great good fortune to land this manuscript in near final form for review. What an attractive, well-written, occasionally humorous tome. Nearly all the pictures were taken by the author, and there's not a clinker in the lot. Mr Tuck is a born educator, not a boring educator. He's made warm, wonderful use of friends, family and even fruit to demonstrate studio lighting approaches and outcomes from those approaches. He also tells how to select studio space and equipment. There is a ferocious amount of information here well organized, depicted and presented and based on a lot of high quality experience. Enjoy it!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By P. Street on April 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
Aimed at a broad spectrum from somewhat knowledgeable amateurs to starting pro photographers this, along with Light, Science & Magic, is a must have book. I usually think that if I learn one good tip from a book it is worth the price. After shooting professionally for twenty years I came away with a number of tips. For the starting photographer I would judge the book is worth a million dollars by my scale. It is simply full of great tips and step by step primers on a variety of very useful and profitable scenarios.

Get this book!!!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. Waiters on March 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
If you like doing a lot with less then you should really enjoy this book.
Sometimes we think we need more to do more and here are examples of how to do more with alot less. One of the best things about Kirk's book, is the explanations. I read this book and a group of us got together and recreated the shots. Now the others had go buy their own copy.

Get the book TRY the stuff right out of the box, don't wait and then do it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By K. Mosmen on April 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
I have been a fan of Kirk for a while. This book is an excellent resource, with the typical humor found in his writings!

This is a great book for portraits to product shots. I actaully used things in this book to help shoot a gourmet Pizza restaurants new menu items!

As someone else mentioned, it's very reasonably priced and WELL worth the investment. I highly recommend it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By John Groseclose on July 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
Following after the very useful Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Location Photography, "Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Studio Photography" steps beyond the mindset of "Here's the light we have, let's shape it a bit, throw a little more here and there..." into "We start with no light and build it from scratch in the studio."

The 250W "work light" is about as minimalist as I've seen in a live studio...

Kirk does an excellent job of working through various scenarios from "minimalist on the cheap," using items from the local grocery and hardware stores, on up into working with the "real lights" of a studio photographer, and explains the reasons for them at every turn.

This is an excellent sequel. I hope there's more coming.
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