Good, practical guides to Photographic Lighting are hard to find. There are lots of good photography books. There are even good photography books about lighting. But finding a photography lighting guide is nearly impossible.
First let me explain my terminology. For this, I refer to to the Merriam-Webster dictionary online.
- A book is “something that yields knowledge or understanding”
- A guide is “something that provides a person with guiding information”
A photography lighting book may tell you about lighting and photography. It may be filled with lots of successful examples of photographic lighting. It may even be a very good book to read. But, having looked at dozens of photography lighting books, I realized you can walk away with very little information on how to do lighting for photography.
A photography lighting guide tells you how to do lighting for photography. This is what I have been trying to find. I wanted a guide that would tell me about photographic lighting, but would also illustrate how to do the techniques being described. I wanted a photographic lighting book that was informational and instructional.
I recently found exactly what I have been looking for when I found these two books:
- Learning to Light: Easy and Affordable Techniques for the Photographer
- Beginner’s Guide to Photographic Lighting: Techniques for Success in the Studio or on Location
Learning to Light has been the perfect handbook for learning about photographic lighting terms and equipment. But the best feature of this guide is the lighting diagrams. Learning to Light is filled with great example photographs, but it also includes diagrams showing the setup. The placement of lights, gobos, bounces, and the camera are all there for you to learn from. You can use this book to set up the shot and see for yourself what happens. Learning to Light is probably the best practical guide for amateur photographers who want to learn basic photographic lighting. Learning to Light is filled with still life examples, people and portraits. It’s just packed with useful information.
Beginner’s Guide to Photographic Lighting is another great “how-to” guide that builds on the foundation you can gain from Learning to Light. The material in Beginner’s Guide to Photographic Lighting overlaps Learning to Light but I think they are both useful together. Beginner’s Guide to Photographic Lighting doesn’t cover lighting fundamentals as throroughly as Learning to Light but it does include diagrams showing how the shots were made, just like Learning to Light. Beginner’s Guide to Photographic Lighting has some product photography examples, but focuses mainly on people and portraits.
These two books are the best practical lighting guides I have found for photography. If you can get only one, I would recommend Learning to Light.