There are a few seemingly predictable benchmarks that photographers reach during their personal photographic journeys. After grasping exposure basics we may gravitate toward gear to replicate a particular style which may then be further embellished when we discover bokeh, selective focus, light painting, or start to really understand aspects of a post processing workflow enabling us to literally develop our own look, or replicate popular or interesting “looks” from our fellow photographers. Inevitably, at some point, photographers start to contemplate integrating added light or modifying and controlling existing light in their compositions. Wether that be for portraiture, action, event, product photography, et al, understanding the use of added light or manipulation and control of existing light is a huge tool available to those who choose to use it. Mr Kubota, popular for his seamless, post production streamlining photoshop actions has invited us into his mind with his recent book “Kevin Kubota’s Lighting Notebook, 101 Lighting Styles and Setups for Digital Photographers” C’mon in for a closer look and a few thoughts as I try to play the role of book reviewer🙂
UPDATE!!! – The companion App is now out. More than a companion per se, I’d say it’s a great way to get this book, it’s content and diagrams on your tablet. You can view both the book and app, as well as purchase them directly through Kubota Imaging Tools HERE.
The greatest way, in my opinion, to gain experience in terms of photography is to get out and shoot. Digital has enabled us an amazingly quick learning curve to experiment and learn immediately. That said, the fastest way to really learn HOW to shoot is to shoot with, or shadow talented, working photographers. Kevin Kubota has been doing this for a while, and the insight he gives us into his approach and execution through visual examples, diagrams and a list of camera and lens settings is like getting a years worth of shoots compressed into a handy, easy to reference and replicate handbook.
For those who don’t yet know of Kevin, he’s an award winning wedding and portrait photographer who has developed an independent brand of workshops, plugins and imaging tools. For those of us that dream of building our own successful photographic business, he is a guru. Listen to what he has to say, watch what he has to show and if you can swing the coin, check out one of his workshops. I say this as a fan of his work, an admirer of his journey, and not at all because I’ve just read through his newest book which they so kindly sent me (thanks Christiana!) For those of us who are craving a glimpse into the mind of a successful portrait and wedding photographer’s lighting workflow, this book offers the full view.
Mr Kubota begins his photographic tome with a brief back history of light in artistic application which then blends into easy to understand breakdowns on anything from lighting ratios, standard lighting setups and general terminology. While wordy at times (a man after my own heart in that respect🙂 ) he nonchalantly has the reader understanding even technically challenging topics without any pretension, a theme that flows through this book making it not only accessible to any level of photographer, but provides a comfortable and compelling connection to the behind the scenes, voyeuristic vantage we witness the book from. It reads as if you are planning shoot after shoot, approaching each situation with a blank slate and building your lighting up from there. Having access and insight into 101 shoots packed into such a concise reference is nice.
After providing a series of different lighting kit setups, we delve into the notebook, which as the title states, provides 101 different setups. Each setup is a double spread with a brief explanation on why the lighting was used as it was, giving the reader insight not only into execution, but mental process. He outlines the relative cost of gear needed to execute the shot, and often offers more affordable alternatives to the more budget conscious, or gear limited shooter. As I followed each setup, I found myself pausing with each page flip in attempt to visually reverse engineer Kevin’s lighting before I read on through the diagrams and technical info. I learned, or at least solidified something with each page.
Here’s a quick setup shot with the Mrs using 3 lights…
(find Kevin Kertz’ downloadable diagram on his website here: KevinKurtz.com download link is at the bottom of his home page)
Admittedly, I could go on and on, but really, a book like this either peaks one’s interest or it doesn’t. For those who have stumbled across the Kevin Kubotas, Zach Arias’es, Joe McNallys, Joey L’s and David Hobbys of the digital photographic world, I’m sure you’ve inevitably searched out lighting books, websites, blogs and the like. While the technical knowledge available through workshops and the various outlets is wonderful, having a blueprint for a hundred and one setsups to carry around with you, or have at your disposal may help push that knowledge into practice. I love learning, especially when it comes from an experienced and highly regarded photographer. Kevin Kubota’s Lighting Notebook is a reference that I will certainly use for years to come.
For more info on the Notebook, or any of the Kubota Image Tools family of plugins and products, contact them directly here: kubotaimagetools.com
*For further Kubota-centric reading, I’ve also written a review on a series of Kubota’s Image Tools plugins for the Lensbaby products HERE.