Book review: Capturing Light by Michael Freeman

Last week I read another book about photography: “Capturing Light” by Michael Freeman.

The mitp publishing house provided me with this book. With every test or review I tell the cooperation partner in advance that I give my own opinion about the product – so this can also be negative. So this article is an honest opinion of mine, which is not influenced by the free copy. Here are my thoughts on the book.

“Capturing Light” came in the second edition of 2020 and is subtitled “Capturing and Making the Most of Existing Light in Photography”. I chose it and found it so exciting precisely because light is one of the central elements in photography and deserves separate consideration for that reason alone.

The book is conveniently divided into three parts: 1.) Waiting for Light, 2.) Hunting Light, and 3.) Imaging Processing.

Freeman’s approach is to use natural light. He’s not a big fan of flash. That’s in line with my attitude. I like to keep my photos as natural as possible. Besides, setting up the flash is just one more thing to worry about. I would rather focus on what’s around me.

Section 1: Waiting for Light

This section deals primarily with plannable light. By predictable, I mean that the lighting situation doesn’t change too quickly and, most importantly, is reasonably predictable. If you have ever read one of my reports about the creation of my landscape pictures, then you know that I do a lot of planning for this.

What’s particularly exciting here is that Michael Freeman doesn’t just say, “There’s diffuse light and there’s direct light. For example, he has divided diffuse light and overcast shots into seven different types. Aspects such as humidity, reflection and position of the sun play a role.

In addition, for direct or semi-diffuse light, the direction and height of the light is also important. In particular, I took away some ideas from this chapter about which light advertising photographers should choose for their particular motif. What is the best way to show off a building? How can the wellness area of a hotel or yoga be portrayed well? Where are portraits and product photos worthwhile? This is where you’ll notice Michael Freeman’s years of experience in commissioned photography.

Section 2: Hunting Light

Waiting is easy. Hunting, not so much.

The first section, “Waiting,” makes up half the book. Section two is called “Hunting.” This is more about fleeting light where you have to be fast. A good example is street photography, where the photographer has to make decisions in a very short time. It is also necessary to pay attention to reflections of surrounding objects and even use them.

But landscape photography also comes into play here. Thunderstorm light, which is difficult to plan, is a type of light that I have had the pleasure of experiencing a few times. Sometimes, during a storm, the sun breaks through somewhere for just a few seconds and briefly illuminates the landscape.

In such situations, the only thing that helps is to improvise and be quick. Thunderstorm light can appear as a spot or emerge flat under the cloud cover.

This chapter also discusses white light, dusty light, fog, and sun stars.

Section 3: Image Processing

In the first part of this section, Freeman shows how to use reflectors and diffusers for commercial photography. Subjects here include people, statues, and still life. But macro subjects and food photography are also included.

In addition to different types of artificial light and glare spots, this section is also exciting because image processing is in it. Michael Freeman shows how he makes adjustments to RAW files, smooths banding, and composites HDRs to make them look natural.

But advanced techniques like Dodge & Burn and time-lapse photos from several hours are also addressed.

My conclusion to “Capturing Light”

“I really enjoyed “Capturing Light. It made me think in more detail about light and what lighting situations work well for what subjects. It also invites you to use more types of light than you might have done before. So, in a sense, to venture a little further out of your comfort zone again. I can recommend it in any case. It’s available through Amazon, among other places.

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