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Captured by the Light (Book Review)

"Captured by the Light" by David Ziser (Front Cover)

“Captured by the Light” by David Ziser

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

Wedding Rings | Lisa & Billy (2010)

Ring, Ring

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

Damn, It's Good... | Sam & Blake (2009)

Damn, It’s Good… (2009)

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

The Boys Club | Patrick & Jenny (2009)

The Boys Club (2009)

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.

Review – The HDR Book

"The HDR Book" by RC ConcepcionNo matter what type of photography you shoot or what level of photographer you are, there is always a gem of wisdom or two found in books written by any of the “Photoshop Guys.” Whether it is Scott Kelby discussing his retouching techniques, Matt Kloskowski breaking down his compositions, or Corey Barker showing off the latest and greatest Photoshop tricks, you can always walk away with something new you learned.

These “gems” are more than clear in RC Concepcion’s first book, “The HDR Book.” With a simple title like that, you know exactly what you are going to get: High Dynamic Range (HDR) and all the post-processing intricacies that go along with it. I recently purchased and read this book in less than three days; it’s a quick read, but there’s a reason for that. Like most Kelby Training books, this one will sit on my shelf and be used as more of a reference guide when I can’t remember how to do “that one thing that RC did that one time.”

I love the approach that RC took when putting this book together. Rather than focus on the basics of HDR like shooting, using a tripod, setting your exposures, and using a remote to fire the camera, he discusses the basics in a couple of pages then breezes right into the post-processing which is where the true magic of HDR images come to life.

Once inside the post-processing section, RC really blew me away again. Not only did he show off real images and walk you through his process for creating them, but he actually gives you the images themselves to work along with as you read. He breaks down every button, setting, and slider that he used to create the effect he did and even lets you know about the third-party plug-ins he uses to create some of the “glows” indicative of an RC Concepcion image.



Before you start thinking to yourself, “I bet RC only talks about Photoshop HDR Pro since he is a Photoshop Guy,” think again! He tells it like it is and lets you know that HDR Pro is his least-favorite of the HDR processing engines, but he does show how he would process the images in the main three engines: HDR Pro, Photomatix, and Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro!

With that being said, I would have liked to see more of included a better guide to shooting the HDR images ie. what tips and tricks are used to lessen ghosting and halos. I also felt that the removal of halos wasn’t addressed as thoroughly as it could have been. As one of the real obstacles to HDR post-processing, knowing how to properly mask and use tools like Refine Edge and gradient masking might have been helpful.

As a HDR shooter myself, I really enjoyed this book overall. The writing was very well done and could be understood by any level of reader or shooter. The images are beautiful and the “tutorials” are laid out step-by-step so anyone can follow along. RC Concepcion has really done the Kelby Training name proud by creating a book worthy of being on this photographer’s shelf.

Disclaimer: I have no ties to the author other than just loving his work and following his tweets. The opinion above is my own from a photographer who read a book he wanted to talk about and share with all of you.

P.S. A special thanks to RC Concepcion for letting me “borrow” the image of his book from the Kelby Training website.

Survival of the Fittest

As a  photographer and a person who loves pursuing knowledge in general, I am constantly looking into new books and magazines to purchase to build my skills and temper my craft. I have a list that grows every day of books to read and it seems like I’m always adding more to the list before I read the ones already there.

I’m slowly, but surely, pushing my way through that list, and with the help of my Barnes & Noble membership, I am able to get some pretty sweet deals on a lot of reading material. That’s actually how I was able to grab one of the best photography books I’ve read in a long time, “Photographer’s Survival Manual” by Jack Reznicki and Ed Greenberg, the Copyright Zone guys.

I’ve been reading their articles in Photoshop User with great interest over the past year as I am always looking for ways to legally protect myself as a photographer and artist. Well, ladies and germs, check this book out if you can. It takes all of the nitty gritty details of model releases, copyright registration, invoices, contracts, and much more and puts them in a quick little read. It’s easy to understand and walks you through everything you really need to know, step by step. The best part is that it’s written by two guys who actually know what they are talking about!

Needless to say, I’m currently in the process of revamping my releases and invoices to include a lot of the information that these guys talk about. One thing to keep in mind, and the authors do warn the readers about this, but the book is not a one-stop shop for legal advice. Really, you should be consulting a lawyer who knows about intellectual property in your own state.

But, if you want a good starting spot to get the basics and really understand the boring legal workings of photography, this is a fun and easy way to get it all in one spot.

Photographer’s Survival Manual at Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: Other than being a huge fan, I am not affiliated in any way with the authors or the book company. This opinion/review is strictly my own and is as unbiased and personal as I can make it.