Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Book Review: Captured By The Light

Captured by the Light: The Essential Guide to Creating Extraordinary Wedding Photography

This is the first of a few new reviews of photography-related items that I plan on writing up. The first item on the list is David Ziser's Captured By The Light, which is easily one of the best, most comprehensive books on wedding photography I've ever read.

I had my very first wedding job coming up and I knew I was going to need help. The main reason should be obvious: concert photography is drastically different from wedding photography. In fact, even the portrait work that I do, despite it still being fundamentally the same, builds up and into something much different. Everything from the subject (obviously), to the location, the time allotted, and very much so the expectations of the client. You always want to do a super job, no matter what, no matter who you are working for, but there is something very intimidating about a bride on her wedding day. There are no re-shoots if you mess it up.

I have been a casual reader of David's Blog for a couple of years now, so I knew any advice that he would be able to put into book form would be worth its weight in gold. I crammed with the book for a couple of weeks and ironically finished it the night before the wedding. There was a literal wealth of information in Captured By The Light; which I would recommend for anyone interested in making a career out of shooting weddings.

David starts the book off with some great general info on shooting portraits, which is useful to anyone, wedding photographer or not. He includes some of the best diagrams and descriptions of the 5 main lighting patterns/positions (butterfly, loop, Rembrandt, split, and back) that I've ever seen. The diagrams also include information on the precise locations for your assistant to be in for each lighting pattern and each facial position. After the lighting basics he even goes into his exact camera settings for different situations. This is an enormous help for anyone who has no idea what to expect on their first wedding gig.

Lighting group shots is covered very well, as well as picking the correct backdrops and framing elements of your location. He explains the best way to light the reception and how to incorporate both ETTL (or ITTL) and manual flash into the same setup, allowing for the most control and diversity in every situation.

After the chapters on the "how and why" topics, he even gives you a detailed look into his gear bag. This isn't just a long bragging list of "I use this and you can't even afford it" - quite the opposite. Each lens gets a few pages at a time as he explains the pros and cons and best uses for each lens, including little tips and tricks he's picked up on each one over the years. For first-time wedding shooters, or anyone who has ever wanted to know a pro's opinion on a particular piece of glass, it's a great way to get to know about an investment before you take the financial plunge.

There are two chapters that are absolutely invaluable, and they are the road map to the wedding day. David covers every little detail about the day itself, from assembling the shooting team before the day starts, to the candids with the bride before the ceremony, to the photos taken at the ceremony location, the ceremony itself, altar return shots, the reception, first/family dances, cake cutting (with more great diagrams and helpful tips) right to the end of the night and how long you should stay after the lights all go back on.

Captured by The Light closes out with numerous examples of wedding album page designs for anyone who might need help getting creative with their album layouts.

I couldn't possibly give this book any less than a 5/5 review. It was worth every penny, and more. Even with 8 years experience in the photography world I was able to pick up on even some basic ideas that I'd never fully grasped.

In the end, after shooting the wedding, I feel that it's not for me, but the information I learned from David's book will still be useful in other situations, so either way I'm glad I put the time in to read it cover-to-cover.

More soon,

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