Review of the second Lighting Essentials book by Don Giannatti

We've been reading Lighting for Texture, Contrast and Dimension in Digital Photography, the second book in Don Giannatti's Lighting Essentials series.

Lighting Essentials: Lighting for Texture, Contrast and Dimension in Digital Photography

We’ve been reading Lighting Essentials: Lighting for Texture, Contrast, and Dimension in Digital Photography, the second book in Don Giannatti’s Lighting Essentials series.

Note: An advance copy of the book was sent to us by Amherst Media (the publisher) without any conditions imposed to influence the outcome of this review.

Lighting Essentials: Lighting for Texture, Contrast and Dimension in Digital Photography

The opening book, A Subject-Centric Approach for Digital Photographers, focused on the conceptual nature of light and how it should be applied to different people, based on example set-ups and the logic behind them. The second book delves more into the technical side, but continues to be a creative guide suitable for leisurely reading with plenty of illustrated examples.

As its title says, the book aims to teach how the nature of light reveals the texture, contrast and dimension in photographs. This helps us to identify elements of lighting that can enhance specific characteristics of our subjects, whether they are people or objects. All the while we keep in mind that lighting should be designed to bring out the best of what’s in front of the lens (which Don calls the “subject-centric” approach).

We get a comprehensive explanation of how the five “areas” of light presentation (true subject value, specular light, specular transition, shadow transition and shadows) work and affect the subject. The explanations are profound and stylish without being overwhelmingly technical, bland or boring. Don has a unique and enjoyable writing style, always presented with large photos demonstrating the reasons for how and why the light works the way it does in each of the examples.

The following chapter is devoted to understanding exposure and how to meter light, then the final chapter ties up all of the above, bringing it together and putting it into practice.

I genuinely enjoyed reading this book. Even when it touches on issues I think I know already, many of Don’s explanations help me think more about my existing knowledge (and learn new things too).

These two volumes remedy something that appears to be much neglected in other books and lighting blogs: the creative application of light to shape and enhance the subject of a photo in a personalised manner. The idea behind capturing an image is to find a personal dialogue between photographer and subject as well as considering how the subject will be described by light. The second instalment in this series not only covers this theme, but expands on it, leaving with you a perpetual desire to keep reading – not through lack of content but from Don’s engaging writing style.

One of my female friends remarked that on seeing the book, she appreciated that the portraits weren’t only of women, but there could still be more examples inside of photographing men. (However, she says this is not a criticism of Don alone but of all photography book authors.)

This is a book for those who are confused by the technicalities of lighting or aren’t sure how to apply it creatively, for the professional who wants to brush up on his skills and for amateur/hobbyist photographers (though some prior knowledge of basic flash lighting is required). The book touches on portraiture, landscapes, still life and product photography while managing to cover each of them in detail.

I would definitely recommend this book, bearing in mind that you need at least a rudimentary base of flash photography knowledge.

Lighting for Texture, Contrast and Dimension in Digital Photography is in shops now for around $25 in the USA and £17.50 in the UK.

On a related note: Don Giannatti will be presenting his live seminar about still life / product photography at CreativeLive on the 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th June. During those days the seminar (and replays of each day) are free to watch. For details of the schedule, visit the page on CreativeLive.

Eduardo Frances
Based in Spain, Eduardo Frances is a professional photographer specialized in portrait, fashion and advertising photography. You can check out his work in his website: