52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2008
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.
82 of 93 people found the following review helpful
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. I suppose for a professional whose job is to deliver a certain standard look for a report or magazine, this is fine, but suppose you are looking for something more artsy. An answer might be that it's up to the individual photographer to experiment, once he gets an understanding of the system, but I had hoped for more.
The author is right that modern flash systems offer photographers incredible opportunities and convenience that they never had before. Right now there seems to be a dearth of materials on how to get the most from these systems. The author added a little to the knowledge base, but there is room for a lot more information.
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2008
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.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2008
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.
39 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2008
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.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2008
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.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2009
The first line of the book description is a blatant lie:
"Packed with incredible images and step-by-step techniques... "
Images are well exposed, professional quality, but a bit dry and boring; can't recall having reacted to a single image thinking it was 'incredible.'
Case studies are about as close as this book comes to presenting 'techniques.'
I have been shooting with off camera flash for a couple of years and have amassed a decent kit of small hotshoe flashes as well as studio strobes, therefore the first four chapters (FOUR CHAPTERS!!), about gear, presented very little new or useful information for me.
I was certainly misled by the title: "Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Location Photography" and had expected to read about "Professional Techniques for Location Photography." Well, sadly there was very little of that; the book is (another one) mostly about gear *yawn*
The lone chapter that included case studies and lighting diagrams was interesting and contained the kind of information I was looking for, however ONE chapter of techniques compared with FOUR dedicated to 'gear and light 101' this book certainly lives up to 'Minimalist' in the title much more than "Professional Techniques for Location Photography." Too bad the price wasn't as minimalist as this book's usefulness.
Even so, I don't think ANY single image was 'incredible' as the book description stated.
I give it one star for the one chapter (out of five) of somewhat useful case studies.
For anyone intermediate to advanced with off-camera flash photography I would recommend skipping this one; even beginners can do much better.
EDIT: added another star to my review. After reading several other reviews, I concede that the material this book contains can be quite useful to some, however I maintain that the title which seems to target more advanced photographers is misleading.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2008
The best way to learn how to become an accomplished photographer is to get hired as an assistant to a pro. The second best way is to read the best photo books and practice, practice. Here's the best photo book I've come across in a very long time. Kirk Tuck is a pro who has been there and done that, and he not only shows why location photography needs to change, but, more importantly, how to change it. This clearly written book tells you what equipment you need, how to use it, and gives numerous case histories of how actual assignments were shot. If you are new to portrait photography, or serious flash photography, or if you want to dip your feet into the pro world, you need to read this book. This is the breakthrough book, the one that is starting a lighting revolution. Others are under way (Bill Hurter's book, "Simple Lighting Techniques" just released, and Joe McNally's book due late this year). You also need to check Kirk's website. Kirk's next book will focus on minimalist studio lighting.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2008
This book is an excellent introduction into off-camera lighting. Specially for those with a camera flash. A lot of the information for equipment needed and similar lighting tutorials are available from Strobist.com however this book helps in consolidating all of this information into a paperback. I find it to be a valuable source for lighting and excellent companion to the Strobist website.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2010
The first 60% or so of the book gives you an overview about modern, portable, speedlight based lighting systems. The author also touches on larger studio lights and big softboxes. This excellent overview can save you many hours of online research to understand what options are out there and to get an idea what they cost. If you read it before you put your first step into the lighting field, it may also save you hundreds of bucks. This first part of the book is really outstanding and it alone makes the book worth reading for anyone new to the field.
The rest of the book is a lighting guide in form of selected case studies. First of all, this part is badly edited. The text of the case studies is accompanied by lighting diagrams and the actual photos with legends. In about half of the cases the information in picture legends, diagrams, and text is incongruent. The text might say a Fuji camera and umbrella from the right was used while the diagram says a Nikon with softbox from the left. Most of the time you can extract the relevant information - still, mistakes in this quantity are unprofessional, and a publisher should get this under control before he prints a book and asks money for it.
This said, the photos are all very well lit. The pictures were mostly taken for corporate clients, and as a result the lighting style is rather "safe" with lots of 45° soft light, and very similar in most pictures. I think it would have been nice to see a little bit what else can be done with all that equipment. On the other hand the author probably focussed on what he does best and he's really good at it.
The title has been considered misleading by other reviews and people have argued against that, but I have to agree. If a minimalist is somebody who uses "the bare minimum of what is necessary", large softboxes and up to five or six flashes aimed at selected background details just don't qualify, no matter how good the final image looks. The book's philosphoy is "smaller than heavy duty" which does not necessarily mean minimalism to me. It contains a couple of good one light shots, but if you are looking for something like "the range of possibilities with one or two flashes, an umbrella, and a cereal snoot" you are wrong here.
Overall, I expected something different and was a bit disappointed with the spectrum of artistic techniques offered. Instead I got a lesson about equipment options that was way better then what I would have expected. If you are new to off-camera speedlights and trying to figure out were to go in terms of equipment, this book is a valuable resource.