Book Review: Kubota’s ‘Lighting Notebook’

The full title is Kevin Kubota’s Lighting Notebook; 101 Lighting Styles and Setups for Digital Photographers. While I do little structured photography of people, I was interested in this book because my wife is involved with technical lighting, and because it is always good to have some background in all photography styles and subjects: you never know when you may need to deal with an unexpected situation.

Ever since discovering the great lighting effects done with light-weight ‘Strobist‘ style systems, and after reading through Joe McNally’s  The Moment it Clicks and The Hot Shoe Diaries, I have been fascinated by what can be achieved with ‘simple’ wireless off-camera flashes. I was curious how Kubota’s Lighting Notebook would hold up in comparison to similar books. Let’s have a closer look at this Wiley publication…

"Kevin Kubota's Lighting Notebook"The book is a pleasant-to-hold 7½”x9¼” paperback with 320 pages – just the right size to provide good visuals without overpowering your desktop (the wooden one, that is…). The first four chapters deal with the history,  language, skills and tools of lighting. Chapter 5 covers how to set up a lighting kit and chapter 6 gives an overview of post-processing. The rest of the book,  204 pages,  is devoted to 101 lighting setups for digital photographers.

Kevin Kubota is well known as a wedding photographer (he has been named one of the world’s top 10 wedding photographers by American Photo magazine and a Legend Behind the Lens by Nikon) and the notebook covers that field well, but also includes examples of boudoir, fashion, portrait and commercial photography. Each scenario, in and out of the studio, is clearly explained and includes graphic representations so that you can quickly envision the lighting layout, the light sources, the number of assistants and the expected equipment cost for the shoot. However, as he says in the Notebook introduction, “Most all of the setups also can be accomplished by the photographer alone or with one assistant.” Of course each scenario is well illustrated with Kubota’s excellent photographs, including information on the post-production processing he used for the final image.

Overall, I was impressed with this book. While not covering the extreme situations that Joe McNally takes on (and who of us could?), it offers enough diversity in scenarios to get your imagination humming. It is written in an easy going and sometimes humorous style, and all the scenarios are clear and easy to understand. There are a few limitations, but they are minor: for instance, Kubota uses Nikon cameras and Speedlites, and the book is co-produced by (among others) PocketWizard and Photoflex, so much of the equipment examples revolve around these products. However, no matter what system you use, this book will be a useful addition to your lighting library.

N.B. Disclosure: My copy of the book was provided free of charge by the Senior Publicist – Technology, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. As a green blogger, I recommend that all books be obtained through your local library first prior to consideration for purchase. Please see my disclaimer in the sidebar.


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