Book Review: Kevin Kubota’s Lighting Notebook

101 lighting set-ups described in detail, for you to recreate

Kevin Kubota Lighting Notebook book cover image Wiley (www.wiley.com/compbooks) recently published Kevin Kubota’s Lighting Notebook; 101 Lighting Styles and Setups for Digital Photographers, ISBN: 978-1-118-03510-8, $34.99. The photographer will also be releasing an accompanying iPhone/iPad App. for a more immersive educational experience.

The book features over a hundred lighting setups, complete with lighting diagrams and explanations. In addition, the author notes how costly each lighting set-up is in comparison to the others, how many assistants are needed, and depending upon whether Speedlights or studio strobes were used, how many lights in total are needed to reproduce the image.

Lighting diagrams are essential in a book that teaches lighting—because unless you’re learning hands-on, the easiest way to understand how the lighting set-ups actually work in the real world is to compare the diagram and photograph. Wide views of the entire scene, with the photographer in the shot are also included for the images; as are lists of exact tools used and exposure information.

The book features the obligatory section explaining the differences in various lighting equipment, from Speedlights to Monolights, packs and heads, scrims, reflectors and diffusers. And, Kubota includes a section on lighting basics, ratios and rules, which is beneficial to a digital photographer beginning to learn how to light their subjects artificially. Lastly, the author includes an extensive list of manufacturers of every kind of lighting equipment and modifier as a resource.

There’s a great variety of images included in the book, from studio to location, single subjects to families and kids, seniors and maternity imagery—with formal and candid, free flowing poses. Many of the images feature posing and lighting styles that are presently trendy, which is an added benefit to the photographer reading this book, as you’re handed specific directions how to recreate these great shots on your own. I also like the diversity—too many books feature images that are so similar, that Kubota’s large collection of lighting techniques is refreshing to see.

One of the added features of the book, is that because Kubota also has a line of Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom actions, he also finished practically every image using his actions, while explaining what steps were taken, complete with screenshots.

On one hand, I like the finished look that Kubota’s actions offer images—I use them on many of my own images—but as a caveat, I’m sure the hundred plus examples will increase the interest in Kubota’s line of actions as well.

Every Photograph Needs Light

Kubota starts out by explaining why lighting is so important in photography, and why knowing how to control light in your photographs is so crucial. This is a sentiment that seems to be lost among many photographers who have only shot with digital cameras and can check exposures on the LCD, (making corrections as needed)—as opposed to photographers who shot film and had only one chance to get the lighting of an image right. [read: during the shoot!]

“Good lighting is not a trend in photography, it is the backbone,” the author says in the first chapter. Understanding how to light your subject well, in a flattering manner or to achieve a certain mood is crucial to any photographer’s repertoire or style.

If you’re looking for a great field guide, one that you can flip through for inspiration and that includes step-by-step guidance on a wide range of lighting set-ups, Kevin Kubota’s Lighting Notebook will definitely provide plenty of fodder for your photography.

Diane Berkenfeld

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