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on December 31, 2010
I was fortunate to participate in a 2 day workshop with Syl in the lead up to this book, and now I have the book in my grubby little hands, I can heartily recommend it for anyone who is trying to get something more from their speedlites than Canon seems to think they are capable of.

If you've just bought your first speedlite, then this book will walk you through everything you need to know to get it off the camera *and* keep the wonderful ETTL functionality that so many people misunderstand or seem to dismiss as gimmicky.

If, like me, you've got a couple of speedlites and had already got them off the camera, then there is *still* material in here that will help you up your game and expand what you are able to make these wonderful little lighting gadgets do. My biggest revelation in off camera ETTL speedliting? Buy a long ETTL cable :) Syl turned me onto what can be achieved if I get my master speedlite off the camera, on a cable so I can trigger my slave anywhere, including behind my model. So simple, yet I never thought of it.

There are tons of full color photos in the book that cover every topic covered in writing, making it perfect for us visual learners.

Did I mention, it's Canon specific? So little has been written for us ... all those "brand independent" books I've read and purchased in the past still assume only Nikon is able to handle off camera flash work, never really giving Canon their due. Finally, something I can simply follow along with the buttons on my own system and understand the same terminology.

Simply - *the* book to buy if you want to get better at what we do in the Canon world.
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on January 1, 2011
Simply put, the best book/reference tool that I have seen to date on speedliting (regardless of brand). So much great information, presented in an easy to understand manner, and with terrific explanations as to the why behind Syl's methods and choices. Canon shooters in particular will absolutely love this volume. The author clearly spent a great deal of time and effort creating this book which is evident in the amount and quality of examples, both the photos and the fabulous "syllustrations". Great reference books only come from a combination of knowledge and passion for the subject, and it is clear after reading this book over the last two days that Syl has both in abundance. Worth every penny.Speedliter's Handbook: Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlites
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VINE VOICEon December 30, 2010
I've decided to write this review in terms of what I'm getting out of this book. To put it in context, I'm a Canon shooter (just stepped up to a 60D) and have, of course, Canon flashes. I've wanted to do more with flash, but the details (with explanations of why, not just how) of using the 580EXII (for example) are very hard to find. As a result, 90% of my images are landscapes and I've shied away from using flash. No more.

Until now, the only things I could find were a few online tutorials and a very good book by NK Guy. Although that book is excellent, this one is better (buy this one first, but if you can afford it, get both.)

Top Ten benefits (for me) of this book.

1. Great explanations of using light. By that I mean to create shadows and give definition. On the opening pages there's a picture of a white square against a black background. Next to it we can see that the square was simply a sheet of copy paper. We can see that because the author crumpled and then straightened it, giving it texture that the light could use to create those shadows and make it obvious. In two pictures and two paragraphs, the author said more about using light than hundreds of others tried to do elsewhere.

2. Great explanations on how to manipulate the buttons on the Canon flashes to make them do what you want. [Note: some of that is quite tricky, such as the need to hold a button down for 2 seconds in order to get into a specific configuration mode].

3. Great tips, such as telling you that if the flash modifiers are not 100% secured into the flash head, the controls won't work.

4. Excellent step by step instructions through the menus on both the flash units and the camera bodies.

5. Clear and understandable explanations about master and slaves, groups, channels, etc.

6. Clear and understandable explanations about ratios between flashes and how to set and control them from both the flash and the camera

7. Some very useful tips for using Canon-compatible flashes and even non-compatible ones

8. Good descriptions of studio lighting, and of combining (ganging) flashes

9. A very nice section on flash modifiers (scrims, gobos, snoots, etc). That reminds me, there are sidebars that explain all the jargon. Very useful, indeed.

10. Several chapters at the end that put it all together, including one that explains the cover shot.

This is a long awaited, MUST BUY book for Canon flash users.

By the way, the author maintains a blog that's well worth following, too. It's at Also, check out another great book of his, LIDLIPS. LIDLIPS Lessons I Didn't Learn In Photo School: 100 Modern Insights On Photography
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on December 31, 2010
I'm digging into Syl Arena's book on Canon Speedlite's and it is great. If you are a Canonista you want this book!

It's specific to Canon flashes and cameras, but also covers lighting in general. It starts by covering how light interacts with the thing you are taking a picture of, and how it effects the image you end up with. A big takeaway is that the shadow parts of your picture are just as important as the light parts.

The book really explains how lighting equipment works, including the specifics of Canon Speedlites along with studio equipment along with specific recommendations. It answers questions like "What's flag?" or "When should I use a CTO?" For me this is great stuff, it's really taking the mystery out of lighting techniques for me.

Then the book has a ton of example images, each with a description of how the lighting was setup for the image and why the lighting was setup that way. It also shows what happens to the image when you setup the lighting the wrong way. It covers everything from "How do a make a portrait with one Speedlite." to "What do a do when the sun is in front of me." My plan is to use these as a lesson plan to practice using my Speedlites, and I sure can use the practice.

Super book that covers everything from the aesthetics of lighting to how to use a guide number. Highly recommended.
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on January 23, 2011
I can't stop talking about this book to my photogro-friends.

Some facts about me so you know where I'm coming from:

- I am new to the world of getting my flash off my camera.
- I've been serious about photography for almost 2 years.
- I hate reading.
- If I have to read, I'm a skimmer and a jumper.
- I am rebellious

Now that you know that about me, I can tell you that I have read this book literally from cover to cover. I started at the beginning and I finished at the end. I know that the author suggests on page 1 that the best way to experience the book is not necessarily the cover to cover option (enter, rebellion). The again, I am a beginner to Speedliting and he does say to start at Chapter 0 and work your way through.

There are many things I loved about this book:

1. Easy to read - the author uses clear, straightforward language. It drew me in from page 1 and kept me until the very end (a miracle for someone who hates reading). The authors passion for his craft comes across in his writing - it's contagious. I WANT to be an awesome Speedliter because of this man. I think this book has made me want to be a better photographer, also.

2. FANTASTIC illustrations/examples/photos...not too many, not lacking, well done, and a variety of different models so you don't get bored. I loved that he used his sons as well.

3. Well structured. There's a logical flow to the really can read it from cover to cover.

4. I really liked that he would reference things he hasn't spoken about yet in the book without dumbing it down - but then gave the chapter where you could read more about it. Maybe that seems like a lame point to make, but for the way that my brain works, this was helpful.

5. I love that the author is a Canon guy. I hear the argument all the time that it shouldn't matter what gear you use, the concepts are the same. Really? I'm sorry - I must be stupid then. The guy includes pictures of Canon gear, talks about proprietary Canon technology and talks about the pro's and con's of certain Canon, how is that not helpful? I love Joe McNally but I couldn't read his book like I could read this one.

6. This may be more publishing related...but, the book is hearty. Nice quality pages.

7. I loved the tips, jargon and geek speak boxes.

8. I love that the author tells me what gear/acessories HE uses, but also gives other options as well.

Now, my question to you is why are you still reading comments? You should really buy this book....seriously. Just click that little "add to cart" button.
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on September 5, 2011
All in all a fine book for explaining in detail the various functions of the canon speedlites. A lot of the info is standard lighting set-up stuff but the main meat of the book centers around the use of High Speed Sync, (that "H" button). Of importance here is that by using the "H" button the effective power of the flash drops considerably. As such to achieve a shot like the on on the cover the recommendation is to use multiple units (up to 12 used at times by the author). This had not been clear to me at point of purchase. Though I own 2 units I'm not inclined to keep buying them. Again, on balance a good, well written book by an enthusiastic author
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on November 4, 2011
I can't say enough about the quality of the content, flow and 'understandability' of this book. The only thing I might add from all the other great reviews is that I am NOT a professional and therefore the content I would say is written for anyone that wants to TAKE THE TIME to understand creative lighting. If you have no time, set your camera to Auto and flash to e-ttl and save your money. But if you do, this is a must buy.

I do have a MAJOR problem with the Kindle version for ipad of this book however. I dont feel I should rate the item anything less than 5 stars but the delivery/format is ONE star. Biggest issues and MAJOR annoyances are: 1) page numbers are in the 1000's actually called 'location numbers') and have no relation to the real book page number as far as I can see, so its *really* easy to get lost; 2) When Syl talks about 'the series of photos opposite' or 'following', don't really know *which* photos those are. Sometimes they follow, sometimes they preceded but most frustrating of all is that if he's showing a series of photos to comparison purposes eg "Figure 23.1, 23.2, 23.3" etc sometimes are labeled on top of the photo, sometimes on the its maddening to try to figure out which photo is actually 23.1 or 23.2, it the one below the number or above- its inconsistent throughout the entire Kindle/ipad version..which obviously is not the case in print form. Lastly, this seems to be a functional issue with Kindle for iPad..when Syl refers you to another section of the book, there is a hot link eg "see pages 147-148" click on that to peek but you have no way of going back to where you just were easily! There is no 'back' you either have to go all the way back to the Chapter Index or find the 'location' you were just on not easy to remember "location 8163").

5 starts for Syl. 1 star for the kindle/ipad format and features!
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on April 19, 2011
First off let me say, this is one of best books on a technical aspect of photography I've ever read. Syl has a great gift for making complex ideas easy to understand.

This book is very thorough. Yes, it's called a handbook but this sucker is almost 400 pages long. It covers the science of lighting, the Canon Speedlites, how to use the speedlites, the different modifiers, grips and gear for the speedlites, and art of speedliting. The science part was a nice refresher to me and I'm sure very useful to those just starting out with speedliting. After that, Syl goes into great detail on the features and operations of the speedlites. Before reading this section, I was pretty comfortable using my 580ex II, however, there were a few things I didn't quiet understand. After reading it, I feel like know the all ins and outs just as well as Syl does. This section is loaded with a lot of photos of the menus and real world examples where applicable. I found it a lot more useful than the official Canon manual ever was.

Next up is the gear section. Normally when a photography book has a gear section, I scan a couple pages, then skip through it. However, this book is different. Syl doesn't just tell you what gear he uses and suggest you do the same, instead he's gone through and painstakingly tested various types of gear just for this book. For example if you were thinking about getting a softbox, there are 6 covered in this book, all with different strengths and weaknesses. He covers just about every modifier you'd ever want to use with your speedlite, COTS and DIY. Best part is that there real world examples of the modifiers being used so there is no confusion on what effect they produce. The grip section is as equally useful. There is so much grip gear out there that I feel over whelmed when I go shopping for it. A lot of times it's hard to find recommendations on what's good and what's worth the money. Thankfully Syl has done just this in his book and once again covers just about every piece of grip you'd ever want to use with your speedlite.
Finally, this book dedicates over 100 pages to using the speedlites in portraits. While there are plenty of books on portrait photography and lighting out there, this is book is great because everything is tied in neatly with what you just learned about your speedlites. The book touches upon many different situations and goes into detail about speedlite specific photography such as hi-speed sync and stroboscopic flash. There is plenty of information for you to get up shooting like a pro right away.

So who is this book for? I think it's for anyone, from the person who has never touched a speedlite before to the pro who wants to be more efficient in their use. If you've never used off camera flash before, I'd highly recommend picking up this book first. It'll give you a good idea of what you need to buy before you get started and will save you from wasting money. To those who have experience with speedlites, this book is great for filling in all those little gaps of knowledge that you may be missing. If you shoot a camera brand other than Canon, you still might find this book useful. About 50 pages of this book are very specific to Canon hardware. If you can look past that, you shouldn't have any problems applying the rest of the book to your specific camera system.
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on December 31, 2010
I've been a frustrated Canon EOS flash user for over a year, looking for anything that can help me understand their systems. I recently finished NK Guy's book Mastering Canon EOS Flash Photography on mastering Canon EOS flash systems, and loved it for it's comprehensive technical information, and it helped a lot. However, Syl Arena's book picks up where NK Guy's book left off, and it goes much farther. Syl offers practical advise, real world examples, and it's perfectly illustrated with tons of examples that will be sure to take your photography to the next level. I've been a fan of Syl's educational style, from his blog, to podcasts and now this wonderful book. It leans towards Canon users, but Nikon or other users will benefit from the same lighting principals. For Canon users who have been frustrated learning how to use their flash to it's fullest, this book fills a long overdue void. I strongly recommend this for anyone who wishes to learn more about Flash! It's required reading!
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on May 8, 2013
This is simply a fantastic photography book not just on the use of flash, but on photography in general. I've read a lot of photography books, especially as they relate to Canon cameras, and this one stands alone in the sheer amount of information and the clarity with which it is presented. In my mind the title is a bit of a misnomer because you will learn just as much about photography as you will about flash. As someone who shoots mostly with ambient and continuous lighting, I found this a great reference for getting started with Speedlites. I especially like how he has quick start sections, but then goes into more depth if that's what you want. He also provides detailed step-by-step instructions on how to do things and that was very helpful as well. I don't think there's any fluff in here. It is all very practical and well-presented information. Even his section on how to read a histogram is more informative than anything else I've seen in most photography books. You can tell he is a practical shooter and not an academic. And I appreciate the tone of that. It feels like he is advising you as both a professional and a friend.
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