Learn to use a one-light approach for recreating the look of beautiful, natural window light for portraiture!
At its best, natural light is magical for portraiture. The quality of natural light streaming through a window can be extraordinary—gorgeous, wrapping light that flatters your subject and can be used to create multiple looks. For years, photographer Sandra Coan exclusively used natural light in her portraiture work. And while the results could be magnificent, she also learned that she could not rely on it to build a business and create consistently great photographs. That’s because natural light is frustratingly unpredictable: sometimes it rains, sometimes the light is too harsh when your clients are available, and sometimes—depending on the time of year—it’s just too dark.
In order to grow her business with dependably great results and a high level of professionalism, Sandra finally decided to tackle artificial light. She spent years honing her ability to use artificial light to recreate the look of beautiful, natural light. And now, with a simple one-light approach, she produces “natural” light whenever and wherever she likes, creating great portraits in any situation, at any time of day or night. It’s an approach that has led to a successful career spanning two decades and a signature look to her work. Here, in Crafting the Natural Light Look, Sandra shares her knowledge and techniques so that you, too, can learn to quickly and dependably create the look of natural light in your own portraiture. Unlike other books that address artificial light, Sandra’s tone is conversational and easygoing, and she does not cover everything there is to know about artificial light. In fact, there are no two- or three-light setups here. Instead, Sandra’s method is straightforward and easily actionable. She covers:
Finally, in a series of case studies, she brings it all together and shares her thought process as she works through a number of real-world portrait shoots from start to finish. If you’re a “natural light photographer” who’s been either struggling with flash or reluctant to learn it at all, Crafting the Natural Light Look is exactly the book you need to improve the quality and consistency of your portraiture.
8 x 10in
Soft Cover- without flaps
Nikifor (verified owner) March 22, 2020
The topics discussed are interesting, although most experienced photographers will be already somewhat familiar with the most post. I like that the author has chosen a slightly different perspective, that is, how to achieve a certain “natural light” look.
Compared to other rockynook books, however, e.g. The Dramatic Portrait by Chris Knight, the illustrations are not at the same level of execution – here, the model sometimes is wearing more casual fit and fails to demonstrate perfect body control (by leaning on one side, etc.); there are numerous examples where a doll is used to demonstrate the lightning and not a real model. Apart from the lighting scheme demos, the provided real-world examples are actually quite good, but all over the place in terms of style. Overall, some of the illustrative photos demonstrate the concept being explained very well, but they may fail to inspire a seasoned photographer. All these issues make the book feel a little rushed and budget constrained.
As a bottom line – I would recommend this book to novice photographers whom this would be the first book on lighting. Otherwise, go for a more advanced and detailed books, like the one already mentioned above. If you are looking not only for a guide, but also for an inspiration, also search for titles by Nick Fancher or Jeff Rojas.
Gloria March 22, 2020
I love that Coan introduces her book by telling us that everything she does, she does with just one light and one light modifier. Hosanna! I generally get overwhelmed with anything more than one light 🙂 I think I’m going to like this author. Coan includes several videos with the book and in this day of YouTube, we know that’s a great way to learn a new skill.
The author is great at using photos to compare the different kinds of light she will teach us about. Nothing like seeing the light actually used in a photo to understand what she’s getting it. Her photos include showing the layout in the studio to make that shot: where the model stands, where the light and diffusers are, etc. Much more useful than just text! Her chapter on equipment is as complete as I’ve ever seen. She even introduces us to V-Flats, of which I’ve never heard, and which sound useful and especially great for event photo studios. Wish I had known that when I took pix at my daughter-in-law‘s shower 🙂
She introduces her chapter and the technical aspects of exposure by telling us it will not be exciting 🙂 She does point out, though, that it is critical to know how your lighting works. Interesting to me that she has a section in this chapter on creating visual interest through exposure for portraits – that’s a great way to catch our attention. She talks, for example, about using high ISO in order to get a grainy look in a portrait. The author does a superior job of defining strobe light and how it affects the other exposure settings. She also helped me understand how do use shutter speed for different purposes regarding the ambient light when you’re using flash or strobe with other light in the room as well.
Coan’s section on window light is probably the most helpful writing I’ve seen on that subject. She talks about the effect of the time of day and the direction in which the window faces, and how that all affects the light on your subject. She tells us what size modifier to use depending on how large your group is; that’s something I haven’t seen before. And a big hooray for the authors chapter on photographing groups! She even divides by what size group which I have not seen before and that is so helpful. Especially for those of us who are not professionals but who shoot lots and lots of family pics 🙂 I learned a new technique in this chapter: feathering the light. And best of all, she advises us to give kids room to play when you photograph them. Let them bounce on beds or jump up and down. Kids love to move and will probably be willing to be models far longer when they can play while doing it.
This is an excellent book she gives us advice and how-to material I have not seen elsewhere. A valuable addition to my photography bookshelf.
luisanaespinoza02 (verified owner) April 23, 2020
This book is the best investment you can do if you want to replicate natural light with flash or strobes.
Sandra did a fantastic job, especially in chapter 3 (Controlling Exposure). This chapter helped me to understand how strobes and flash works and how the exposure triangle changes when you use a flash or strobes.
Sandra adds images for every topic for a better understanding. It helped me a lot to visualize what she was explaining.
If you want to learn how to replicate natural light with strobes and flash, this is the best thing you can buy.
Thanks for sharing Sandra.
Alan Ma (verified owner) July 25, 2020
Great book! i’ve been playing around with flash for a while, but never quite got the look i wanted. after just a short read of this book, I was able to do a few simple things that completely transformed my photographs with flash! It is also really helpful that she describes the process of using flash with film, in detail. This is a totally missing area in photo education, and very very useful for those of us who love to do both digital and film in the studio. It demystifies the whole process, and gives you the courage to create wonderful images on film with flash. Sandra is a great educator, inspiration, and motivator to experiment and enjoy the process of studio flash, whatever the format.
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