I recently finished up David Ziser’s guide to all things wedding photography, “Captured by the Light,” [buy now] which I picked up during my Washington, DC excursion. It took me a few months to get through, not for any other reason than my own scattered brain when it comes to reading books, but I finally finished it up and here are a few of my thoughts.
The first thing you need to understand about my perspective is that I don’t shoot weddings as my trade full-time. It isn’t that I don’t shoot weddings at all, but I know too many photographer friends who do weddings and engagements throughout the year and they spend 40 hours a week on marketing, album design, bridal shows, and more and only pick up their camera a few hours a week, if that. I prefer to work with a client or model in an intimate setting and really work a portrait session until I feel I have truly captured an image that they will find timeless.
When I do get to shoot a wedding now and then, I enjoy the experience, but it’s like high school… it was fun while I was there, but I can’t say I would choose to go back except in the right circumstances. For all these reasons, I hesitated to pick up David’s book, but then I saw the man himself give a presentation at Photoshop World and he made wedding images that looked like he had all the time in the world to create them so I had to find out his secrets. I grabbed the book immediately and plowed through half of it on the plane ride back to Illinois.
So, without further adieu, here’s the first book review I’ve done since college.
The Good Stuff
My first impression of this book was how easy it was to read and digest. David takes the reader step-by-step through posing, lighting, and how to capture certain moments throughout the day. He spends one chapter on just his gear and another on a walk-through of the wedding day. Each little detail is gone over, but broken up into digestible pieces so you can easily flip through the book to a certain part of the day and get a tip or two and move on.
David also provides a whole load of images, more than most photography books care to do, to illustrate the different techniques he discusses. His use of diagrams and sketches are also very helpful when determining lighting setups. Easily the best part of the book, for me, was the last chapter where David presents pages of album layouts from a single wedding; the design and layout is where I struggle at times so to see how he presents his final images to clients is a very nice touch you don’t often see in other wedding photo books.
The “Could Be Better” Stuff
No good review of anything is worth a read without a few items on the “con” list so here are mine. Again, keep in mind that this is just one man’s opinion and I’m not a full-time wedding shooter.
One thing that could have been a little better for me was the organization of the book. David does explain why he put his book together the way he did, but I felt it didn’t follow a clearly defined structure.
Each chapter and section went through a logical procession from one technique to the next, but I think working with the compositional and posing pieces first with natural light then moving into the off-camera lighting and finally into the wedding day walk-through would have been more fluid than the current structure.
The other thing I would have liked to see, especially as someone who has experience shooting weddings, and yes I do know the book was really written for someone wanting to dip their toes in and not be unprepared during their first wedding gigs, was a little more “advanced tips and tricks.”
David talks about where he sends his assistants for certain poses and lighting techniques, especially during the ceremony, but it’s only a ripple in a big pond of information; I would love to know some more about shooting as a solo shooter who doesn’t have an assistant or some more tips on how to guarantee you get the “first kiss” or “sand ceremony,” etc.
The Final Word
Overall, I thought this was a great read and a quick one at that; quick in the way that you understand it easily and it doesn’t make you pass out from sheer exhaustion. For a beginner with only one or two weddings under your belt, this would be a perfect resource; for someone who might have more experience, you probably have your own methods, and while “Captured by the Light” [buy now] might be able to help you refine your techniques and help you create better, more vivid and lively wedding images, it may also just be a book about how Ziser does it than a guide to something you may already have a solution for yourself.
I really hope, especially after seeing his presentation at Photoshop World, that David decides to do the book thing again, but with a more advanced focus for those shooters who might have a year or two of experience. I think that would really be a great follow-up to an already good start at a wedding photography all-you-need-to-know guide.