I love writing books almost as much as I love being finished with them.

Time is ticking away and I'm spending more and more time in the office trying to read what I've written and write more of what I read that didn't make sense the first time. What a weird sentence. In case you didn't know I started writing books about photography a couple of years ago.

You'd think it's pretty simple because you are ostensibly writing about what you know but it's not that simple. Just because you know it you don't know where a reader who is coming from a totally different background will feel comfortable stepping in and easing into the flow of words and theories.

How do you presume what your audience knows? More importantly, how do you presume to know what they'd like to know? I think it's a sticky thing because if you write at one level to hit someone who is a complete novice you'll alienate everyone else and no one but tyros will ever read your stuff again.

So, here I am, a week away from deadline still adding information to a book that I thought would be a slam dunk. It's an overview of all the cool types of lighting equipment that photographers might want to try their hands at over the course of their explorations. But here's the issue: Some stuff seems really cool to the Magellans of the world but a lot of the world is made up of good, solid Burghers who just want to know how all the other pros do it.

At some point I gave up guessing and just started writing about the stuff that I'm interested in. Last week I was getting worried but this week I'm guardedly optimistic. I've finished my little sections about: Lighting with your laptop screens. Fun with florescence. Why constant light is my constant companion. Casting darker nets. And much more.

One way or another it goes into the Fedex box at the end of the week and then my brain shuts down and deals with only primordial stuff. Like actual photography. And boy I am long past due to walk around with no agenda and a camera in my hand.

Don't know how the big time guys with big time schedules do it (the Joe McNally's and Scott Kelbey's of the photo/writer world) but I presume the word for it in the publishing world is: Ghostwriters. (Don't take that too seriously! I'm sure Joe and Scott write their own stuff. I just have to say they've got more energy than the rest of us!).

On another note, I can't make sense of how people buy books. I am thrilled that they are still rushing to buy my first book, Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Location Photography, but I can't understand why the second book, the one on studio lighting, isn't beating the crap out of the first book. I think the second one is just great.

Since this is the web and we can do tons of good research here I'd like to hear from people who've read both of the first two books to better understand the appeal of the first over the second from something other than a proud parent's point of view.

Finally, I'm letting everyone know that I've been selling off all but my essential Nikon Stuff and I've started to buy some Olympus gear. Reason? I love their optics. Two lenses, the 12-60mm and the 50-200mm would suit me for 99% of what I shoot. And wow! have you played with an E-30 body? Really, really nice. It's about time someone made a fun to shoot body with good IS built in.

Keeping the D700 and a range from 18 to 300. Just about everything else goes.

No. I won't be letting go of the 50mm 1.1.2


Anonymous said...

Mr. Tuck, You are correct. The second book is the best book on studio photography I've ever read. No counting for the herd mentality.

Paul Dymond said...

Hi there Kirk

as a purely location photographer I just wanted to let you know that I loved your first book. The only reason I didn't buy the second one is that I'm not really interested in studio work.


Paul Dymond

Damen Stephens said...

Hi Kirk, I have not read either of your books (yet) however this in itself allows a certain perspective which I wish to share. In stating that you believe the second book to be "just great" and that you wish people who have read both books to supply some comment/comparison, I think you may be coming at it from the wrong angle; ie. I'm sure that you are right and that the second book is "better" than the first ... or at least very different but just as (if not more) worthy of your pride - that's validation you probably shouldn't really require from a reader of both books (because you already know it). It actually isn't a case of which book is "better" per se (better written or more comprehensive) ... it all comes down to people's interests. In my case I have been thinking of getting "minimalist lighting" as the title says it all ... namely minimal cost of equipment, minimum expenditure of time in setting up equipment, minimum bulk/weight (portability) etc. People like me may think "I don't have a studio or space for a studio and studio lighting" or "I cant afford proper studio lighting" even if ANY space can be a "studio" etc. The title of the book is therefore what probably appeals less to general photographers and those just beginning with lighting, and unfortunately most people who already have "studios" probably think (whether they be right or wrong) that they already have their own way of working with lights and that it is the best way for them.

Damen Stephens said...

Sorry - in my previous post i was long-winded and didn't acknowledge BOTH books are called "minimalist lighting", but wanted to point out that as soon as you add the word "studio", most people think the opposite of "minimalist" - they think "professional and expensive" !! There - much more succinct !! :)

Kurt Shoens said...

I think the first book sells better because it has a larger audience. Of the three people I can think of currently blogging, writing, teaching workshops, and making videos about lighting two (the newspaper guy and the magazine guy) emphasize location work since that's what they mostly do (or did). The third (the Photoshop guy) talks more about studio lighting, but for him, Photoshop is the main market.

Your first book no doubt appeals to both professionals and amateurs, while your second book appeals more to professionals. The amateur interest tends more towards location work because the pictures are out there in the world. Besides, shooting on location has that improvisational what-will-go-wrong-next excitement to it.

Since Kelby is a book writer first, I think he writes his own words or works with a credited co-author. If McNally has a ghostwriter for his books, he uses the same one for his blog since the style and content are so similar. (If he has a ghostwriter, is the ghostwriter not allowed to use subject pronouns?)

kirk tuck said...

I've edited the above to reflect that I don't really think Joe and Scott use ghostwriters. But damn, those guys have some energy and no small ration of work ethic....

Anonymous said...

Mr. Tuck,
I intend to pick up both books, as I've really enjoyed your blog. I identify with your:
-portrait style
-appreciation of 645 for portraiture w/film
-love of Olympus DSLR's (each wedding I have to explain to someone why I'm not using a Canikon)

jchphotography said...


I have both of your books (and am looking forward to the third). Your writing style is EXTREMELY approachable... reads like you and I are talking photography over a venti extra hot non-fat no-whip mocha! If I were on a desert island and could only have one photography book, I'd have both of yours, along with Kelby's and McNally's, and a wifi connection so I could keep up on David Hobby's stuff.

I do both location and studio work, which is perhaps why both books appealed to me. And I've found things in both books that are applicable to the other setting. So for me, the studio book is more or less a continuation of your first book with a different slant, but the techniques and thought processes apply to both.

Can't wait for the next one!


Jon Haverstick

kirk tuck said...

Jon, thank you for such a nice note. Stuff like that makes the blog so worthwhile for me.

Best, Kirk

Anonymous said...

The word "studio" implies:
- space I don't have
- expensieve space to rent
- lot's of equipment (more $$$)

It stopped me from going to Amazon to take a look.

I have your first book. Say an reference, went to Amazon, did the look-inside, bought it.

kirk tuck said...

Dear Poster, Thanks for the insight. I appreciate your feedback! I'll pass it along to the publisher.


Anonymous said...

Kirk I have to agree with other posters...studio rings of $$$ that many of us in the current economy don't have to spend. I went ahead and bought both books because I like your writing style but the location shooting really grabs my attention more. For me it's about trying to be unique having a wide range of backrounds and natural lighting available to you.