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 ( 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


Book Review: UNMarketing: Stop Marketing, Start Engaging

Scott Stratten's Unmarketing book cover for review by picture-soup.comIf you want to get out of the “push and pray” rut and start the more responsive “pull and stay” approach to reaching and influencing your customers—then Scott Stratten’s UNMarketing: Stop Marketing, Start Engaging, published by Wiley (; ISBN 978-0-470-61787-8) is the book you need to read. It’s a new view of [un]marketing—in the age of social networking, all access media outlets and building relationships with those consumers who are the voices of their peer groups.

In addition to being chock full of helpful tips and tricks that you can implement right away, the author has a writing style that’s just plain fun to read. The book jacket was designed to look like Kraft paper; the bar code on the back of the book jacket looks like it was taped into place. UNMarketing is well-written, the chapters are short, easy to read, and understand, and one of the best parts of the book… is the footnotes. Yes, the footnotes. They’re funny, nonsensical, and most are there only to break up the monotony of the pages—only UNMarketing is an enjoyable read, it isn’t stuffy or long-winded. And, its pages are filled with proven [un]marketing techniques—ideas sure to make a difference in your business, no matter what profession you’re in.

Things are different in today’s digital world. Consumers are using new avenues to get their information, and it’s important to engage your customers where they are. Stratten offers clear-cut tips for utilizing social media, viral marketing and plain-old good conversation to build relationships that translate into results. They just work! So stop going about marketing your business like you’ve been doing before and expecting a new outcome.

This book review is relatively short and sweet, an homage to UNMarketing. Why use a dozen words to describe something that only needs a few.UNMarketing: Stop Marketing, Start Engaging is a good book. Pick up a copy today. It’s only $24.95, and is well worth it.

For more information about the author, go to

— Diane Berkenfeld


Book Review: Rick Sammon’s HDR Photography Secrets for Digital Photographers

By Diane Berkenfeld

Rick Sammon HDR book cover for book reviewRick Sammon’s HDR Photography Secrets for Digital Photographers (ISBN 978-0-470-61275-0) published by Wiley ( is the 36th book penned by the author.

The author has a great statement about halfway through the book: “While you are playing, here is something to think about: When you remove the true color from a scene, you remove some of the reality. The same is true when you increase or decrease the sharpness of an image; you alter a viewer’s sense of reality. When you remove or alter the reality in a scene, your images become more artistic.”

HDR for those who aren’t familiar with the technique, stands for High Dynamic Range. Basically, the concept of HDR Photography is this: you’re photographing a scene and bracketing the exposure, over- and under-exposing the scene, and merging the images into one photograph that shows an extreme dynamic range, with detail in the highlights and shadows and every tone in between. HDR photographs are extremely artistic, often looking more like a painting than a photograph.

In addition to discussing “real” HDR photography techniques, Sammon also includes direction for creating HDR-like images from a single exposure.

I like the fact that the book is filled with a myriad of bite-sized tips and techniques—most are only a few paragraphs to a page in length. A book written in this casual style is much more easily comprehendible than an encyclopedic tome that feels more like a college reference text that a book of tips. Sammon even mentions early on that the book can be read straight through or piecemeal.

HDR Photography Secrets is packed with images—examples and explanations of the techniques used to create them. Sammon usually includes a normal (non-HDR) image along with the HDR version. He also includes screengrabs showing the different exposures he made at the time of multiple-expsoure shoots. And when it comes to explaining the exact directions for using specific software titles, Sammon includes screengrabs of the dialog boxes, etc. which is a great help, especially for those who may not be familiar with these programs.

In the sections on HDR software, Sammon goes into great depth discussing the differences between the programs, what they are all capable of, and what his exact workflow is for using each of them.

The book discusses the pros and cons of manual vs. automatic exposure, how many f/stops to over/under expose, whether to shoot in Raw vs. Jpg, and which software program is best to use. HDR panoramic photography is also discussed, with Sammon showing the reader how to create these images by shooting multiple images and stitching them together.

He also spends a chapter on B&W. One of the great things about that section is that the images that are used as examples are ones that the reader sees earlier in the book, so you can see the transformation from a normal view of a scene, to an HDR photograph, to a B&W conversion of that image.

At the end of the book, Sammon includes cool websites that readers can visit for more information on HDR photography, as well as the websites of the software programs he describes in the book.

A great section of the book is one of the last chapters where the author shows images and asks the reader to figure out what technique was used. Are the images real HDR or HDR-like, and what exactly did he do to alter the photos shown. Readers are directed to a website to see if they were right.

Rick Sammon’s HDR Photography Secrets for Digital Photographers is definitely a book that has a place on my reference shelf. The book is informative, easy to read and well written.

For more information about Rick Sammon, go to his website at


Book Review: ProBlogger, Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income

By Diane Berkenfeld

ProBlogger, Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income, second edition by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett is a great book for the beginner or advanced blogger looking to take their blog or blogging to the next level. The book, ISBN 978-0-470-61634-5 was published by Wiley ( The authors are well known in the blogosphere. Rowse launched with best practices, tips and more for the blogger;, which is widely popular with beginning and intermediate digital photographers; and numerous other blogs. Garrett has been working on the web since the mid-nineties. His blog, offers visitors information on new media, blogging and online marketing.

The book is an easy read, which having been written by bloggers is expected, as writing for the web is slightly different than writing for print—its usually shorter, with lots of digestible items. You can easily read through the book in a weekend, or flip through it piecemeal, reading the sections that you’re interested in most.

Both authors are veteran bloggers, and although the subhead of the book reads: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income, they are honest about the fact that it takes years of work to build a blog or website up, to bringing in such revenue. And even with time and hard work, few blogs may reach this pinnacle.

I think ProBlogger is a great book. It offers a lot of tips and techniques for building a blog or website through such tactics as SEO, social media, and more. The authors also explain what not to do to increase your search engine rankings.

The authors spend a lot of time discussing content. Content after all is king, isn’t it? And for a blog to be successful, quality content must be posted on a schedule that visitors want (meaning not posting too often, or too little). Various types of content are mentioned, including article series, guest bloggers, forums, and interactivity between visitors and bloggers via comment areas.

Rowse and Garrett discuss whether or not to place advertising on blogs, how affiliate advertising works, and how to package your site when going the direct route with advertisers. They also talk about buying and selling blogs.

In addition to writing about their own blogging experiences, the authors also include examples of successful blogs and explain the best practices that were used to grow them. Throughout the book, the authors include the web addresses of sites that readers should visit for helpful information, some that I had known about but many others that are new to me and I will be visiting in the near future. The authors also share bonus content with readers, by directing them to a web address to access it.

Whether you’re blogging for fun or profit, ProBlogger is sure to provide you with helpful tips to reach your goals.

For more information about ProBlogger, Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income, second edition, check out the website

• Some of our visitors might be wondering why we’ve included a review of a book that isn’t necessarily about photography here on The answer is because there is a wealth of information that the authors of ProBlogger offer—that would be helpful to anyone with a blog or website—and that includes the many professional photographers who regularly come to this site.  — Editor