2.27.2013

Finally, a book about portrait lighting that I can recommend.


It's rare that I see a "how to" book that's done by someone whose work I really like. And continue to like over time. I first became aware of Neil Van Niekerk's work nearly three years ago. I was researching for my LED book and looking for good, innovative photographers who had already discovered the flexibility and creative power of LED lights on their own.

A link led me to his website and I was very impressed by his portraiture and even his wedding images. (A confession: I don't generally like wedding photography). His lighting is very, very modern and most of the time you can barely tell from the images he presents that he's lit them at all. It's almost as if his models just happen to stumble into spontaneously beautiful light just as he's ready to click the shutter on his camera. I was so impressed that I got in touch with him and asked him to contribute photographs and a bit of writing about his use of LED lights for my book, which he graciously did.

His first book for our mutual publisher was On Camera Flash Techniques. It quickly became a bestseller because he writes well and shoots even better. He followed it up a year later with a book called, Off Camera Flash Techniques which was as good as his first. I recommend both of those books if you are looking for lots of tips and techniques for using small flashes to create portraits and to cover events and wedding. Especially if you are interested in doing those things in a thoroughly modern idiom.

I am interested in this book, Direction and Quality of Light,  because I feel that Neil is working to re-invent our concepts of good portraiture and he's pushing away from the time weathered "rules and conventions" that main street studios and legions of mid-brow photographers have been repeating and recycling for decades.

He uses bright, fresh and very lovely models. He also uses a variety of lighting. His camera gear is state of the art but the real state of the art is his approach to lighting portraits. This is a book I wish I had done. It's that good. It is currently the #1 ranked book on lighting at Amazon.com...enjoy.

Please use this link to order a copy from Amazon.com and help support my writing habit...




17 comments:

Jan Klier said...

Ah, a name I remember. I always used to enjoy reading his posts. I forgot if it was in a forum or a blog. Will have to check out the book (via your link).

Kirk Tuck said...

Thanks Jan. Here's Neil's website: http://neilvn.com/

ginsbu said...

I just received my copy (ordered last week via his Amazon link—sorry, Kirk!). Having enjoyed his previous books, I expect this one to be every bit as good. Your books and his complement each other very nicely.

Kirk Tuck said...

Very cool. Neil's a great guy!

Wataru Maruyama said...

I've been meaning to pick this up so your link gave me the nudge I needed. His on-camera flash book is great although it took me awhile to grasp some of the technical aspects of it. That and your LED book are constantly in my camera bag for reference.

Kirk Tuck said...

Thank you.

Wolfgang Lonien said...

This one's on my wish list since it was announced a while ago, so I guess the purchase wouldn't help you that much (I think it was Mike Johnston who once wrote about how that works). And yes, besides your great books, Neil is one of the few who would deserve some space...

Ron Nabity said...

The Amazon preview closed the deal for me - thanks for nudging us on this book. And Prime shipping means I'll have something new to read this weekend.

Winwalloe said...

Sounds good !
"He uses bright, fresh and very lovely models." : even though it's an "industry standard" is that a good thing for learning the trade? I don't shoot only bright, fresh and lovely models... And the foremost conclusion of my recent shoot (and first on my own) is that you can't light people with different facial features the same way.

Mike said...

"Neil is working to re-invent our concepts of good portraiture"

Hmmmm. Neil is a great photographer and his books are excellent but I think this is taking things way too far.

dave said...

His on camera flash book was incredibly useful as i got started in wedding photography, and his Tangents blog.

Kirk Tuck said...

Neil has a much more modern (almost advertising and fashion ) portrait aesthetic. He's not the only one working in this vein but he's one working in a consumer space with this aesthetic instead of the commercial arena. If his book moves traditional photographers away from some of the lighting cliches that I see everywhere the consumer space that's good. He is moving us, by example, to accept deep, unfilled shadows and to use alternative posing methods that are quite different from what I read in nearly every other book on portrait lighting in today's market. He's not discovering uranium for the first time but he is bringing a much more sophisticated portrait look to the general public conversation. He is re-inventing a sophisticated look, born in advertising and fashion, for a retail, consumer market.

Kirk Tuck said...

I could write a book about shooting people with double chins but I know from experience that it won't sell. Each of us learns from experience how to modify our lighting to suit different faces. But we all need a starting point, a point of reference, to get us going.

Keith I. said...

Ordered via your link. I flipped through the sample pages on Amazon and it looks like something that could be very beneficial to what I have been working on learning lately.

Gregg Mack said...

Thanks, Kirk! I just placed my order by clicking on your Amazon.com link. I look forward to studying this one.

Ron Nabity said...

Sweet - delivery scheduled for Saturday morning! Looks like the lawn will grow a few more inches now.

BTW - I ordered via your link, Kirk.

:-)

Dave said...

Amen to that Kirk. I see the desperate patterns of the wannabe photographer in my own portrait work so anything that helps me have a better variety of concepts is always welcome (hence the reason for habituating your blog!). In my mind I don't take issue with his using fresh, young models for the book. From a marketing position that's assumed. The more important thing for us wannabe people is to look for the beauty in all of our subject and convey it. To assume that photographing average people is in someway beneath us is the worst kind of artistic hubris. The cover sold me on the book, not because the model is pretty but I can immediately go "oh..." and see how the concept is useful.