Book Review: Beginner’s Guide to Photographic Lighting by Don Marr

Beginner’s Guide to Photographic Lighting by Don MarrWhile the book starts from a beginner’s point of view, as far as photographic lighting is concerned, author Don Marr assumes the reader to already be comfortable with the operation of his camera – aperture, shutter speed, depth of field, lenses and film/digital capture to make full use of the concepts of lighting discussed in the book.

Regarding lighting equipment, the reader will need at least one strobe head and a light meter to practice what is presented in the book. Two strobes would be great.

But if you’re just trying to understand photographic lighting, read the book anyway, especially if you plan to buy some strobes very soon; the concepts discussed are very enlightening.

The examples in the book are from Don Marr’s area of expertise, people and product photography – he does interior and architectural photography as well – but the techniques can be applied to any subject matter.

The book is generously illustrated with high quality photos, as is typical of Amherst Media books, and in some instances schematic drawings of lighting setups accompany the explanations.

In all, this is a good starting point for any beginner to understand the concepts and implementation of effective photographic lighting.

Beginner’s Guide to Photographic Lighting, Techniques for Success in the Studio or on Location; by Don Marr; Amherst Media, 8½ x 11, $29.95 USA, $44.95 Canada.

Table of Contents

Fun and Easy
About this Book
What You Need to Know
What Equipment You Need

1. Quality of Light
Soft and Hard Light
The Size of the Light Source
The Source of Light

2. Equipment
Types of Light Meters
Using an Incident Meter – Where to Meter, What to Meter
Metering Modes – Ambient Mode, Cord Mode, Non-Cord Mode
What the Readings Mean
Exposure and Bracketing – Creative Exposure, Bracketing
Light Stands – Quality, Setting Up
Light Modifiers – Open Reflector, Softbox, Umbrella, Grid Spot

3. One-Light Setups
Putting it to Use
Rembrandt, Loop, and Short Light
Putting it to Use
Inverse Square Law
Putting it to Use
Reading Photographs

4. Lighting Ratios
Metering for Two or More Lights
Putting it to Use
How Much Fill?
Back Lighting
Putting it to Use

5. Gels, Flags, and Shadows
Gels – Using Gels, Types of Gels, Effect of Exposure, Light Contamination
Flags – Types, Using Flags
Reflectors – Natural, Man-Made, Reflectors for Fill
Open Reflector
Putting it to Use

6. Grid Spots
Creating Drama
Putting it to Use
Hair and Rim Lighting
Putting it to Use

7. Color Temperatures and Mixed Lighting
Correcting Color Shifts – Lens Filters, Combining Two Light Sources, Combining Multiple Light Sources
Mixed Lighting, Exposure and Environmental Portraits
A Practical Example
Keeping the Focus on the Subject
Contrast Between the Subject and Background
Putting it to Use

8. Strobe and Sun
Overpowering Sunlight
Putting it to Use
Overexposing a Sunlit Background
Putting it to Use

9. Continuous Light
Putting it to Use

10. Extra-Small and Extra-Large Light
Bare Bulb and Making a Large Softbox

11. White, Black and Colored Backgrounds
White Background
Putting it to Use
Adding color
Putting it to Use
Black Background
Putting it to Use

12. Still-Life and Product Photography
Make it Interesting
Putting it to Use
Reflective Surfaces
Background – Unusual Backgrounds
Colored Shadows

13. Interior Lighting
Identifying the Good Stuff
The Shoot – Supplementary Light, Color Balance, Creating a Natural Look, Putting it to Use

14. The Next Step
The Right Light
Find the Best Light for an Individual

15. The Digital Age
A Different Way of Shooting
Reviewing Your Lighting
Knowing You Got It
The Final Word


Published by Chris Malinao

Chris teaches Lightroom as workflow software to photography students at the FPPF, Federation of Philippine Photographers Foundation. He also teaches smartphone photography.