Wednesday, April 27th, 2011
My professional reading list has moved from design to photography over the last year and one of the most influential books that I’ve had the pleasure of reading is Light, Science & Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting (third edition) by Fil Hunter, Steven Biver and Paul Fuqua. This book is a step-by-step guide through the fundamentals of photographic lighting and the science of light with a focus on achievable small step exercises that will make you a better photographer.
I’ll step back there a few metres and say that again – it will make you a better photographer.
The reason I make that bold claim on a book of fundamental principles is that you do need to understand the science (and magic) that underpins what you do. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned in photography all year is this: photography is simply the study of light. It’s that simple. Photography is the study of how light responds when it interacts with a flat lens (as opposed to a rounded eye) and how refraction, reflection (family of angles), absorbtion and transmission (direct and diffuse; size of the light) affect the production of images in the form of photographs.
As somebody who generally likes to shoot natural light, this book has shifted the way my mind works out on the street and roaming through the Tasmanian countryside. At some point in making the photographs I’ll be thinking about the best place to get a certain shot and then it will occur to me there are other options because I’ve gained a small bridge of knowledge that leads away from the obvious. It has certainly narrowed the factor of chance in my work and improved my ability to walk along a crowded street and see an opportunity.
This is a short review because several chapters toward the end of Light, Science and Magic were a lot harder to work through than I’d appreciated at the beginning. This book is very much a work in progress for me as I am still not finished. So keep in mind this isn’t a one-time reading book but rather an instructive text that you’ll want to visit occasionally to understand light more intuitively. It doesn’t really matter where you take that knowledge about light – the street or the studio – it’s then about making great photography.