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Showing 1-10 of 117 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 133 reviews
on December 16, 2011
Amazing book. He's a frikkin' genius writer, because he's so uninhibited and confident and smart that he gives you a brain-dump of everything in his mind. Take from it the bits you like, run with 'em, and have fun making some awesome shots.

If you haven't used a lot of flash before, you'll sometimes read over a page and have no idea what he's talking about. WTF? Not that he's overly technical... kind of the opposite, that he's so gushing and enthusiastic and dropping all the hip terms for everything ("start with a bit of a hot rim and then back it off, 'cause in a sidelight situation it's gonna blow it out by a stop... then it gets piped backed to the lens and baby, it's dark out there!"), that it's hard to bring him out of orbit and back into the land of 'OK, what button do I push?' But stick with it. Read the book, shoot, read it again, shoot some more. You'll get it.

McNally gets a lot of attention for using flashes in extraordinarily complex setups -- and yeah, he does. But he's always focusing on the people... the story... the eyes. He's not a landscape photographer. His stories about interacting with his subjects (models, celebrities, musicians, quarterbacks, astronomers, bagpipe makers) are what this is really about.

This book has longer stories, more details and more diagrams compared with the previous books. If you don't have his other books (Hot Shoe Diaries, or The Moment it Clicks) and you want to learn his techniques, *get this one instead*. It's fatter, it's got more writing, and the narratives are longer and more intricate. This one is more chapter-based with various techniques, and the other two are closer to "here's a cool photo, and here's a page about how I took it." If you have the other two and love him, then get this one since it's essentially all-new material, and his technique and philosophy are so useful and inspiring, that the more you read and see of his work, the better your photos will end up as a result.

*** Important note: McNally uses only Nikon and makes only passing mention of Canon. Everything is virtually interchangeable, *but* there's one important difference about flash exposure you need to know if you're a Canon shooter. All over the book, he's talking about the EV exposure compensation being a global adjustment (e.g., p. 213, 345) -- that is, if you change the EV on the camera, you program underexposure into the flash as well. That's how it works on Nikon, but *not* on Canon!

On Nikon: the camera EV and flash EV are indeed linked: lowering the camera EV lowers the flash output. So, to highlight the foreground, you go -2 EV on the camera, and then back up +2 EV on the flash to compensate.

But on Canon, this is *not true*: the camera EV and flash EV are independent. Dropping the camera EV drops the ambient exposure, but keeps the flash output the same! So to do the same as above on Canon, you want to do -2 EV on the camera, and leave the flash at 0 EV. If you do what McNally says, you'll end up over-flashing your subject on Canon.

This difference is *not* well documented, but you can find some more info on it at Canon's web page -- Google for "Canon EOS speedlite system tips" and click on the tips by photographer Stephen Wilkes, and there are a lot of sample photos for how this works. Neither system is better or worse -- but you do need to be aware of the differences!

*** Update February 2012. Nikon's new D4 will ship soon. The D4 offers the option to set the flash level using the Canon way, not the Nikon way... that is, on the D4, doing a -EV on the exposure will now leave the flash EV unaffected. Nice change, since it means you need to do one adjustment, not two, to lower the ambient level. It appears that this is an option (not a full-time change), and that this applies to the D4 only, not the D800. For details, search for an article called "Exposure Compensation When Using i-TTL Gets Easier with the D4" on Nikon's site.
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on December 13, 2011
If you are a student of light, then consider Joe McNally`s new book Sketching Light to be a must-read. Sitting down with Sketching Light is like sitting down for a beer with Joe as he talks you through his favorite pix in a photo album. The conversation will wander, stories will be spun, jokes will be told, detailed insights will be shared, advice will be given, and you'll walk away grateful for the opportunity.

Short bits to know about 'Sketching Light'...

>The book is Nikon-centric. Joe is Nikon-centric. Don't let this worry you. If you shoot Canon, or Sony, or any other brand, don't despair. Strip out all the Nikonian jargon and 'Sketching Light' remains a heavyweight when it comes to lighting. (And, if you shoot Canon, check out Speedliter's Handbook: Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlites -- written by yours truly. It will give you all the buttons and dials info that you need to drive a Canon Speedlite.)

> 'Sketching Light' is a book about the possibilities of flash and it covers the full spectrum. Joe shoots Speedlights. Joe shoots big lights. Sometimes you need just a breath of on-camera fill flash from a Nikon SB-910. Sometimes you need the punch of an Elinchrom Ranger. Sometimes you need one light. Sometimes you need to haul out every light that you can get your hands on.

> There are plenty of set shots that show Joe and his gear in action. You'll also find Joe's signature lighting diagrams--drawn by hand on napkins and sketch pads--for nearly every shoot in the book. I recommend keeping a highlighter and a black marker on hand so that you can annotate your "aha!" moments as you read.

> Yes, there are photos in the book that no mere-mortal could make. Joe is, after all, the Indiana Jones of photographers. Yet, there are also dozens of shots that you can make today with gear that you likely have around you right now.

> There are no photo captions in the book. At first, you'll hate this. You've likely grown accustomed to flipping through photo books, pausing at a pic, and having the caption give you the basics so that you can move on. 'Sketching Light' makes you earn your knowledge. I guarantee you, however, that as you read Joe's narratives and decode his photos, you'll be a stronger photographer for your efforts.

> This is not a beginner's book that lays a foundation of basic concepts and then layers new ideas on top. Rather, Joe starts right in at an intermediate level and keep moving. Think of 'Sketching Light' as a long conversation that jumps around and you won't be disappointed. Each "chapter" is really another "hey, let me tell you about this now...." And yes, you can jump around 'Sketching Light' and read the chapters for the pix that interest you today and then jump to another spot tomorrow.

> 'Sketching Light' may give you deja vu. If you've read Joe's blog, watched his videos on Kelby Training, or attended one of his seminars/workshops, then you've likely seen some of these pix and heard some of these stories before. I see this as being like catching up with an old friend rather than a shortcoming. Of course, there were pages and pages of material in 'Sketching Light' that I'd never seen before.

While wrapped in a cover that says "flash", for me, 'Sketching Light' is really about vision and using whatever gear you have to craft images that express that vision. It's about dreaming big and having the courage to fail. It's a book that says "go out there and create the images that only you can create."
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on April 19, 2013
If you are looking for great pictures and the tales that go with it, this is the book for you.

If you want all the details on how to trigger this or that flash, or what cable to use under what circumstances, you will probably be better off with Syl Arena's Speedliter's Handbook (if you are a Canonista).

If you want to learn photography simply and on a reasonable budget, this is not the book for you either. Joe McNally seems to take pleasure in blocking NYC streets with cranes or moving huge equipment to the top of mountains to shoot admittedly gorgeous pictures. You might find what you are looking for in Digital Photography Lighting For Dummies (no offense intended - I really like the book).

Except for the first 30 odd pages which show with great clarity not only the major types of modifiers but how to use them and their effect, Sketching Light is structured in chapters dealing with essentially one shoot, or similar shoots, showing lots of great, great pictures, frequent lighting diagrams or set up photos, the whole being drenched into Joe's prose which must have improved a lot since his first books, judging after the amazon reviews on these.

No, you won't learn all the details about this or that lens, what aperture was used or what was the color temperature adjustment. (Well, there is some of that.)
Yes, Joe is a Nikonista and any gear info will be skewed that way, although honestly it didn't bother me a bit.
What you will not find in this book is the description of the classic lighting patterns (Rembrandt, Hollywood, loop, butterfly etc.). For these, have a look at the Master Lighting Guide for Portrait Photographers.
What Joe McNally gives you is the extraordinary, the dream.
It becomes all too easy to forget that before running, one has to learn to stand and walk, so if you are a pro or an advanced amateur flash photographer, by any means grab the nuggets of info and shoot. But for me as an intermediate amateur, the lesson I learned is that making a great picture takes work and efforts and that maybe (just maybe) it is worth learning first to do the classic lighting patterns.

Finally, Joe McNally's pictures are great thanks to his flawless technique, not necessarily his vision. Composition is good, lighting is gorgeous. For gorgeous pictures based a lot on composition (and posing, and post-processing - argh, yes, I said that), check out Jeff Ascough's work on the web or Picture Perfect Practice (both are geared towards wedding photography).

All in all a very nice book. If you are into photography, want to see beautifully lit pictures and read the stories about them, Sketching Light is a book for you.

If you want more hands-on tutorial, you might find what you want with Scott Kelby's The Digital Photography Book,Part 2 and Part 4 (but skip part 3).

I drop half a star for the fast one he pulled with the picture on p400 (testing a flash and lighting with the sunset - how are we supposed to identify what light comes from where?) and rounding up to five stars for an outstanding read, cover to cover.
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on September 27, 2012
As with all of Joe's books, this one is filled with examples and lessons on how and why to use different lighting setups. Joe is one of the MASTERS of photography today, and his creativity and ability to adapt to changing situations never ceases to amaze me. My only issue with the book is that he gets really "wordy" sometimes. Many times things could be explained in simple straightforward terms, but instead you might need to break out a thesaurus to get some of his points (it makes me glad I have the Kindle edition with built in dictionary). It sometimes seems like the kid you knew in high school who tried to put a bunch of big words in his book reports or research papers just to make himself look smarter. Anyways, it's still an excellent book in terms of giving an incredible number of situations, examples, and creative use of equipment that you might not think of using in that way. For example, many times he puts reflectors on the ground and bounces small flashes into them on low power, just to fill in shadows slightly... or how he uses multiple TTL cords sometimes to stretch his wireless master signal to a place where his other flashes can "see" the master, even if they happen to be outside the house he's shooting in. He is always looking for new and creative ways to push the limits of today's small (and big) flash technology. I've read other books by Joe McNally (The Moment it Clicks/Hot Shoe Diaries) and, to me, they are a bit easier to read than this one. This book does, however, give a little more in-depth information on some of Joe's adventures over the years, even from way back when nobody had a clue who he was, and he was still developing his style and learning his style.
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on June 26, 2017
Joe McNally is one of the strongest voices in photography today. If you're interested in portraiture, photojournalism, or using TTL flash off-camera, and you haven't familiarized yourself with McNally, you're missing an important reference. This book would be worth buying for the photos, even if he didn't bother with words. Still, his insights on the practice of photography are vastly worthwhile, from a technical viewpoint, as well as an artistic one. McNally writes like the laid back dude who just wandered in to sit next to you at the local bar. But, oh-by-the-way, he's been at the leading edge of photojournalism for decades. If this is your interest, pay close attention to what he has to say.
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on December 10, 2011
Short Review:
Just get it if you are interested in location photography.

Long review:
I have read Joe's two books before namely Moment It Clicks and the The Hot Shoe Diary. To me the first was more like a commentary which made you get up and make some photos while the second was more a discussion on hotshot flashes (a bit Nikonish if that is a word) but this one goes to the proverbial 11 or perhaps 12 or 13 or may be more.
If you have ever wished to get inside the brain of Joe and understand what goes inside those "noodles" confined inside your skull then this is the book.
If you are like me who can not attend any of Joe's workshop then you simply grab this book and rest assured you know how he thinks while going about making those amazing photos. In fact I will even say that perhaps he did himself a big disfavor by writing this book because it not only talks about "which"gear he uses he also talks about the "why".....e.g. Why he used a beauty dish instead of say a soft box. Now I don't think it is a recipe book but if you seriously intend to learn about lighting your photo it gives you the entire "secret" and at the same time leaves you with enough food for thought to improvise.
To me this book should have come before The Hot Shoe Diary but as the saying goes it is better let than never.
A Big Note:
Learn from him and apply to your need. He talks about alternative but sometimes even the alternatives he suggest is beyond us amateurs (especially if uou are like me from India) But if you are open minded to learn the concept and improvise then there is no better alternative (at least to me) than this book.
If you are looking for kind of a recipe book then my suggestion will be to skip it.
Ultimately it is your choice.
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on December 24, 2011
I received this book on Thursday this week, and I have been unable to put this book down. This is a real 'magnum opus' on the utilization of speedlight flash, and in most cases using only one flash with modifiers, in order to create stunning images. I have read Joe McNally's other works, such as 'The Moment It Clicks', and this work is written in a very similar style. I started reading this work on Friday afternoon, and made it through the first 100 pages by mid-day Saturday morning. One feels like one is, on the one hand, sitting down at a coffee table at Starbucks with Joe just going over his assignments and listening to him discuss his thinking and approach to utilizing and modifying light to capture the image he has in his mind. On the other hand, one feels as though one is being present in an intense workshop, with Joe at your side, confiding with you on his thinking, approach, tools of choice, and alternative approaches for capturing a specific image or solving a lighting problem. Joe explains the use of equipment specific to his camera of choice, Nikon, utilizing Pocketwizards, however, the principles he lays out are universal and applicable to any other manufacturer's model of camera body/lenses, as well as other radio transmitter systems (I personally use Canon with Canon L-series lenses, Canon 580 EXII flashes triggered by Radio-Poppers or infrared line of sight with a master-slave configuration, and Quantum T5d-R off camera flashes triggered by Freewire radio transmitters). He readily admits that the methods he has used, in any specific situation, are relevant for that image, at that place, and at that time only. What I find most fascinating is sharing his own detailed thought process in analyzing a lighting challenge, his use of techniques, his choices in his equipment at hand, and leveraging various lighting modifiers in solving the challenge at hand. He does not fish for you...he teaches you how to fish for yourself.

For Canon Users: Hankk from Boulder is right; Joe McNally uses only Nikon and makes only passing mention of Canon. Everything is virtually interchangeable, *but* there's one important difference about flash exposure you need to know if you're a Canon shooter. All over the book, he's talking about the EV exposure compensation being a global adjustment (e.g., p. 213, 345) -- that is, if you change the EV on the camera, you program underexposure into the flash as well. That's how it works on Nikon, but *not* on Canon!

On Nikon: the camera EV and flash EV are indeed linked: lowering the camera EV lowers the flash output. So, to highlight the foreground, you go -2 EV on the camera, and then back up +2 EV on the flash to compensate.

But on Canon, this is *not true*: the camera EV and flash EV are independent. Dropping the camera EV drops the ambient exposure, but keeps the flash output the same! So to do the same as above on Canon, you want to do -2 EV on the camera, and leave the flash at 0 EV. If you do what McNally says, you'll end up over-flashing your subject on Canon.

Syl Arena goes into this concept for Canon systems in his book:

Speedliter's Handbook: Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlites

http://www.amazon.com/Speedliters-Handbook-Learning-Craft-Speedlites/dp/032171105X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1324799542&sr=8-1

This difference is *not* well documented, but you can find some more info on it at Canon's web page -- Google for "Canon EOS speedlite system tips" and click on the tips by photographer Stephen Wilkes, and there are a lot of sample photos for how this works. Neither system is better or worse -- but you do need to be aware of the differences!
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on December 19, 2011
I have been waiting for this book in several ways. First of all, it's been almost a year since I ordered it, so I'm very happy that it's finally here. But more importantly, I believe that Joe has finally written the book most of his fans want. His first book, The moment it clicks, is great inspiration, and you can read a lot of good stories about the photos. The problem? He doesn't tell exactly how he got the shot. Are you an experienced photographer you will get a lot of inspiration, but I think beginners want to learn more. Later, he wrote The hot shoe diaries, which is more instructional, but not enough. Actually, as I wrote in my review of that book, Joe made room for a new book, and now I have it in my hands!

In Sketching light, you get a lot of behind-the-scene photos, and also Joe's well know sketches. You will be shown everything from the most basic lighting set-up (using flash) through to more complicated multiple exposure photos. There's an incredible variety to the photos Joe shows you and explains, and any keen photographer is sure to fill up the "mental rolodex" with useful information that will come handy when out on location.

If you are a complete beginner, I think this book might be a bit intimidating. After all, it's 400 pages and contains A LOT of information! But if you have learnt the basics of flash and you want to boost your knowledge, and possibly your creativity, this book is great! It was a lot of fun to read, and I can't wait to get my camera and flashes out on location and try out some new ideas!
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on December 19, 2011
Got it 2 days ago and halfway through it. I can't put it down.
I just bought another book by another very well known NYC shooter, and he tried to do his version of McNally. But the other guy failed because he doesn't have Joe's sense of humor or style.
McNally is a storyteller and teacher at heart, who just happens to shoot really well.
I hope this isn't the last book of a trilogy, because everything Joe writes is full of little nuggets and has a lot of meat with the nuggets.
Just buy the book. You won't be disappointed.

FYI, Joe addresses head-on 2 knocks he always gets from the haters. First he tells you that you can do just about everything he does with a Canon, so it is NOT a Nikon book. He uses Nikon and talks about them. Secondly, there are lots of reasons he uses the small flashes, and lots of places he uses the big flashes. he explains the reason for both.

Get the book. You'll be happy.
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on December 29, 2011
I've been waiting for this book for some time (the release date was pushed back constantly for over a year), but it was well worth the wait. Joe McNally picks up where he left off with The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes on his explanation of how to use Speedlights, but includes information on how to use more light-shaping tools and other lighting products to create the types of shots explained throughout the book. He tells a story about each picture, from technical setup, environment, understanding the subject, and final exposure settings. In addition to the story, every photo in the book has a sketch of the setup Joe uses to get to the final photo. This is invaluable when trying to understand how some of these images are created and Joe breaks things down in a common sense kind of way.

Although Joe is committed to Nikon equipment and this book is written with a Nikon slant, I would say this is a critical book to get if you shoot in studio or on-location regardless of what system you use (Nikon, Canon, other). I would also say this book would be extremely helpful if you have been using only Speedlights and want to branch out to using other lighting tools. If you are new to completely photography, I would say much of the terminology may be a bit technical and jargon-heavy, but I would still say it's a great book to have because of the possibilities explained. One flash, a diffuser, and a reflector are all you need to be quite creative with light.

One of the key things I like about this book is that Joe emphasizes the need to capture the essence of the subject. This is often lost with photography today. My next step is to attend a McNally workshop and see him at work in person.
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