Photographer Library - Hot Shoe Diaries

Photographer’s Library: Master Lighting with The Hot Shoe Diaries

Photographer Library - Hot Shoe DiariesIn an earlier blog post entitled “Build Yourself a Millionaire’s Library,” I spoke about some of my favorite business books that covered marketing, sales and self-improvement.

For fun, since we all love learning about photography, I threw in one of my favorite photography books- The Hot Shoe Diaries- Big Light From Small Flashes by Joe McNally.

That day, I took the book off my shelf and put it on my desk so that I could take another peek at it when I had a spare moment.

After not having looked at it for a few years, I started thumbing through it again and was struck by what a great book it is for ANY portrait photographer…

This is the kind of book that you can open up as the years go by, pick out a chapter, and learn something that maybe was a little out of reach previously.

I firmly believe that to stand out as a professional photographer, you absolutely have to be able to use off-camera flashes outdoors.

There are many photographers that refer to themselves as “natural light” photographers. I don’t mean any disrespect to the; natural light is all you need at times, and I have seen (and made) some beautiful portraits using only natural light.

Some natural light photographers may be using the description to define their niche, which is fine, as they might still be able to add flash if the client is looking for a certain look.

However, those that are afraid of using or learning how to add flash are really limiting what they can achieve.

If you want that dramatic blue sky for the family that you are photographing in the middle of the day, you’ll need some fill flash.

Off-camera flash can also make up for boring lighting when  natural light refuses to cooperate.

If you want to learn how to master the off-camera flash, then you can’t do any better than learning from the master, Joe McNally. In Joe’s thirty-year career he, has worked for National Geographic, Life, Time and Sports Illustrated.

Take your knowledge to a new level

Joe’s writing style is engaging, down-to-earth and sometimes hilarious. He gives a brief overview of camera metering, white balance, and shooting raw.

He also provides information about using speedlights, such as a TTL flash or manual control (Joe uses Nikon equipment but you can still apply this info no matter what you type of equipment you use.)

He talks about various modifiers that can be used with them, such as soft boxes, umbrellas, shooting through diffusion material and adding colored gels to correct and match light or to add dramatic effects.

Joe details all of the equipment that he uses, or as he puts it “What I use…and why and when I use it,” and one glance at his gear bag will make you very jealous!

Much of the book is moderate to advanced, but don’t let that scare you. There are many set-ups that use just one flash, and others using two.

Take the book outside with you, grab your camera and a speedlight on a flash stand, and bribe your spouse or best friend to pose for you as you start practicing the easy set-ups first. It’s a great way to build your knowledge and confidence while you work up to more elaborate scenarios.

Just mastering a handful of the ideas and techniques found in the Hot Shoe Diaries will put you miles ahead of any of the hobby photographers in your area.

Who knows- maybe one day, you’ll even duplicate Joes’ “tree of lights” (7 speedlight on a light stand!) that he used to photograph a model in the middle of a desert in Dubai. You’ll just have to read the book to know what I’m talking about!

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Interested in checking out the book? Head on over to Amazon to grab a copy!

I’d love to hear what you thought about this review, and if you’d be interested in hearing about more photography books in the future. Let us know your thoughts down in the comments!