Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wednesday Photoshop Q&A - Scott Kelby's "Light it, Shoot It, Retouch It" Book

If you're a frequent reader, you probably remember that I just did a semi-review of Matt Kloskowski's compositing book a couple weeks ago.  Well, as soon as it was available I ordered Scott Kelby's latest book, "Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It".  It's been sort of busy around here, so I've only gotten through a few chapters, but enough to know the I'll be going through the rest of the exercises as quickly as possible.  If for no other reason, to get a chuckle from his sense of humor.  Naturally, if I was interested in a humor book, I'd buy a humorist's book.  The basic function of Kelby's book is to teach a little something about lighting, shooting and retouching.  (Can't imagine where he would have come up with the book's name.)  The first comment I'd have is that it's a well conceived book.  It teaches about lighting in a manner I haven't seen in other books.  One of the things that intrigued  me was the promos Kelby Media put out about using actual overhead photographs to show the setups rather than sketches.  Kelby credits his assistant Brad Moore for coming up with the idea and it works very well.  One thing I will have to say is that I don't have the range of lights Scott has at his disposal, so I've had to think through the setups using my gear to try to replicate what he was doing.  Which is fine and he acknowledges the fact that everyone doesn't have the same gear he's got.  I have a fairly good range of small strobes, ranging from Nikon SBs to Sunpack FP38 Flat Panels to miscellaneous small poppers.  I do have all sorts of modifiers.  Anything from umbrellas to softboxes to light spheres to a homemade beauty dish.  So, I can move the light (not just the lights) around.  I have a range of scrims, flags, diffusers, stands, reflectors, and other gear, so I'm not nailing things to the walls.  I am pretty flexible in my positioning and pushing of the photons.  All that said, to see some of the compromises I've had to make to use my gear with Scott's instructions, hit the "Read More".

One of the first things is that when I said I had multiply Nikon SB Speedlites I meant multiply SB 600s.  At the beginning of each chapter Scott shows the power setting of the lights he uses.  As an example, in Chapter One he uses three Elinchrom BRXi 500 lights.  The power on them goes from 2.3 to 10.  His setting are 2.4, 2.3 (the lowest possible setting) and 4.5 (less than half power).  He can, most likely shoot at a pop, pop, pop rate.  My translation (using similar modifiers) would be the Sb600s at full power through the beauty dish, full power through the softbox (the softbox will cut the light more than the beauty dish) and, again, full power, with no modifier, on the background.  Can I shoot pop, pop, pop?  No, it's more like pop, wait, pop, wait, pop.  The "waits" aren't excruciatingly long, but probably very noticeable compared to higher power studio strobes.
When Kelby gets into cool continuous light I can go, pretty much, toe to toe with what's in the book.  One of the things I do is night train shoots.  So, I have a range of daylight balanced  CFLs going up to 400 watt equivalent.  I have a three socket setup and put them (typically) through a uncovered softbox (using the softbox strictly to aim the light.  Backing down I have smaller lights that can be used in a reflector or defused softbox. 
One of the very neat things about the book is Chapter 13.  Scott goes through a "okay, if you're shooting with hot shoe flashes rather than studio strobes..."  setups and shows that each shot can be done with small lights.  Very cool.  Sense I was going through the book chapter by chapter I didn't see Chapter 13 until I was well through the first couple of "lessons".
Lighting is only the first of the three facets of the book.  Shooting?  Okay, Kelby shows the how of the shoot.  What lens, where he stood, what angle he shot from (high, low, where, toward what, why, etc.
The third piece of the book is the retouch portion.  Scott's done several riffs on photo retouching.  Such as his book "Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques for Photographers".  His "The Adobe Photoshop CS4 Book for Digital Photographers" and others.  If you're interested in high end retouching, go to the Professional Portrait Retouching book.  If you're interested in light (but excellent) retouching and want some tips on lighting and shooting, grab his latest book, "Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It.  It's worth the time and the dime (actually, while reasonably priced, it is quite a bit more than a dime ("legal disclaimer???").