Photo Corners

A   S C R A P B O O K   O F   S O L U T I O N S   F O R   T H E   P H O T O G R A P H E R

Enhancing the enjoyment of taking pictures with news that matters, features that entertain and images that delight. Published frequently.

Book Bag: Lighting for Photographers Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

27 April 2020

It may be a show-and-tell world but sometimes it still takes a book to impart a deep understanding of some subjects. Lighting is one of them.

You can retrieve hundreds of YouTube videos offering to show you how to light something, certainly. The best of them are well edited, showing you just how to set things up for the effect they are illuminating. And, if you're lucky, the narrator won't talk too much, limiting their commentary to footnotes.

But lighting is a big subject and once you start talking about it, there's no stopping you. Or them.

No matter how many videos you digest, however, all you'll end up with is a few techniques. A bag of tricks to try to impress your friends and family.

You won't actually understand what you're doing.

And, unfortunately, a lot tutorials try to tell you what to do with step-by-step illustrations like those old Mastering This & That books on image editing that have, fortunately, disappeared from the face of the earth. But they leave your hunger for information mysteriously unsatisfied. The subject is just too big.

What a book like Lighting for Photographers by Joe Lavine and Brad Bartholomew can do for you, though, is teach you to fish.

Joe Lavine has been snapping the shutter for over 30 years, specializing in food and beverage photography. His clients, ranging from small restaurants to Fortune 500 companies, include Coors, Betty Crocker, General Mills, and Coca-Cola. And he teaches photography at the university level, lecturing at colleges and seminars around the U.S.

Commercial photographer Brad Bartholomew is the head of the commercial photography program at Arapahoe Community College and has taught classes at the Colorado Institute of Art for over 30 years. He's shot a variety of subjects for clients that include Apple, Celestial Seasonings, the Colorado Ballet, Pentax and JD Edwards.

Their academic background lends this subject its textbook approach in a very slim volume. And yet, as they write in the Introduction, this isn't "a strictly technical how-to book." Instead, they promise to teach you how to think about lighting:

You want your light to enhance your concepts and make the viewer appreciate the image aesthetically and feel it on an emotional level. The secret is that no simple solutions to solving these problems exist. They key idea here is that you are making conscious decisions. You're not taking photographs; you're making them. You are constantly analyzing your subjects and you make a series of choices and decision to help portray these subjects in a way you wish them to be portrayed.

Their handling of the subject is from a professional perspective that includes, by the end of the book, some business advice. Still, it's just 10 meaty chapters that include a discussion of what light does, how to compose with light, how to experiment, metering and gear, reading a histogram and kickstarting your career.

There are copious examples of the same product shot in various ways, lighting diagrams and useful asides. But one of the things we liked best was their interviews with practicing professionals. They function like guest speakers who drop in on the course.

And it is a course in lighting. Complete it and you'll see the light bulb go on above your head. You won't wilt when confronted by a tough subject to light but relish the opportunity to think about how best to light it. Because, after this book, you'll enjoy thinking about that very thing.

Lighting for Photographers by Joe Lavine and Brad Bartholomew, published by Routledge Press, 250 pages, $59.95 (or $51.81 at and just $47.96 at Routledge).

BackBack to Photo Corners