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Lighting Essentials: A Subject-Centric Approach for Digital Photographers Paperback – October 1, 2011

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  • Lighting Essentials: A Subject-Centric Approach for Digital Photographers
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  • Lighting Essentials: Lighting for Texture, Contrast, and Dimension in Digital Photography
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  • Don Giannatti's Guide to Professional Photography: Achieve Creative and Financial Success
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Don Giannatti has been a professional photographer for more than 45 years. He teaches workshops for photographers across the United States, Canada, and Bermuda. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 125 pages
  • Publisher: Amherst Media (October 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608952320
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608952328
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.4 x 10.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #870,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. L. Williams on October 29, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The subtitle -- "A Subject-Centric Approach" -- refers to author Giannatti's philosophy of creating photographs: He believes you should start by visualizing how you want the subject to look, then choose the lighting techniques that will produce that look.

That might not seem like something that needs explaining... unless you're familiar with the overdone "strobist" style of photography, in which it often seems that the photographer FIRST decides what lighting gimmick he wants to use, THEN looks around for a subject on which to inflict it!

Giannatti's subject-centric alternative results in pictures that are more realistic-looking, and is probably much more useful for people trying to learn to do mainstream commercial photography.

Giannatti is a highly-rated workshop instructor (I've taken two of his workshops, and they're good) so he has lots of practical experience in teaching these techniques. His fundamental principle is simple: any light source has four basic properties (color, size, distance, and angle) and you select or modify these properties to get the look you want. The book explains this via lots of "sample shoots" and "practice assignments," each with a photo and a text explanation of how Giannatti's decision-making process played out in it.

This approach works well in a workshop setting, but there's one problem with translating it into book form: The way the book is structured, you pretty much have to budget enough time to read it from cover to cover in order to benefit from the information.

In other words, it isn't the kind of book that lets you read a summary to grasp the basics, try some things on your own, then dive back into subsequent chapters for more detail.
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Disclaimer: I know Don (author) personally and he has taught me many of the things I've learned about lighting and studio photography over the years.

What sets this book apart in my mind is that it doesn't start with an image and deconstructs how it was taken, but it starts with what you wanted to accomplish when you decided to create that image, and then proceeds to give you the tools to do just that. Now, reading this book will not automatically make you great at lighting everything. But it will give you the mental tools to go out and do it, and in the process get increasingly better at it. Not by trial and error, but by understanding the components of intentional and effective lighting. Don refers to it as subject centric lighting - nice catch phrase, but what it comes down is to light with intent, not just because, or luck, or with whatever your favorite gizmo of the day is.

Don does illustrate most of the techniques with example images and a little bit of gear details and discussion. Most of the gear described and used is readily available to today's amateur or pro-am. But then, if you take the book to heart, put the gear details aside, and learn the core points of the book, it doesn't matter what gear you use.

Most of the examples center around casual model photography. It would have been nice if the book used a broader range of subjects to illustrate the points, because the core principles apply to all subjects whether it's people or objects, and whether it's casual photography, editorial, or commercial work.

Who should read this book? This book is not a 101 on lighting.
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This book is entirely different from the 8 or so other books on using strobes that I have, instead of showing equipment and showing what it does the author shows an image then shows what equipment to use to achieve the shot. Better than that, he shows the subject, discusses many possible images that might be made depending on what he feels he wants to project to the world, and then discusses the way to set up lights to achieve that goal. Also, not everything is about lighting just with strobes, but matching lights with ambient, or even just the ambient light.

This is the best photography book, not just on flash or lighting, that I've seen in a while. I'm a big fan of books that teach you how to fish instead of giving you a fish. Too many books are now hitting the shelves promising to teach you all about flash, jumping on the strobist bandwagon. In most cases, they illustrate and detail a 24" softbox to camera right at 1/2 power with another beauty dish above the subject at 1/4 power gelled 1/4 CTO, and on and on, and you haven't really learned anything because you will never encounter the same scene with the same lighting and the same perspective unless you try to copy everything, and then all you've learned is how to copy.

When going through this book, I was reminded a lot of the Ansel Adams books I studied in the early '80's, they were all about what you wanted the final print to look like, not the shot or the camera, or the lens, etc.

I really recommend that you get this book, that is if you're the type of person that really wants to learn how to do things, and not just follow instructions.
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