Light — Science & Magic : An Introduction to Photographic Lighting book cover
6th Edition

Light — Science & Magic
An Introduction to Photographic Lighting

ISBN 9780367860271
Published April 28, 2021 by Routledge
336 Pages 267 Color Illustrations

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USD $56.95

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Book Description

Photographic lighting is a topic that will never go out of style, no matter how sophisticated cameras and other technology get. Even with the most high-tech gear, photographers still need to put a lot of thought and vision into lighting their photographs in order to get great results. Mastering this key skill has the power to dramatically and quickly improve your photographs as well as your efficiency.

Light—Science & Magic provides you with a comprehensive theory of the nature and principles of light, with examples and instructions for practical application. Featuring photographs, diagrams, and step-by-step instructions, this book speaks to photographers of varying levels. It provides invaluable information on how to light the most difficult subjects, such as surfaces, metal, glass, liquids, extremes (black-on-black and white-on-white), and portraits.

This new edition includes:

• Expanded chapters on portraiture and lighting equipment

• Chapters on necessary equipment when working on location versus in the studio

• An updated appendix of reliable photo gear sources

• Over 100 new photographs and informational sidebars

• Updated information about advances in flash equipment, LED panels, and fluorescent lights

Lighting styles will evolve, but the science of light will always remain the same. Once photographers understand the basic physics of lighting (without having to become physicists), they can apply that knowledge to a broad range of photographic styles.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents



Chapter 1 – How to Learn lighting

Lighting Is the Language of Photography

What Are the "Principles?" Why Are the Principles Important?

How Did We Choose the Examples for This Book?

To Do or Not to Do?What Kind of Camera Do I Need?A Word of Caution

What Lighting Equipment Do I Need?What Else Do I Need to Know to Use This Book?

What Is the Magic Part of This Book?

Chapter 2 – Light: The Raw Material of Photography

What is light?

How Photographers Describe Light




"Light" Versus "Lighting"

How the Subject Affects Lighting


"Direct" Versus "Diffuse" Transmission


Chapter 3 – The Management of Reflection and the Family of Angles

Types of Reflections

Diffuse Reflections

The Inverse Square LawDirect Reflections

The Family of AnglesPolarized Direct Reflection

Is It Polarized Reflection or Ordinary Direct Reflection?Turning Ordinary Direct Reflection into Polarized Reflection

Applying the Theory

Chapter 4 – Surface Appearances

The Photographer as an Editor

Capitalizing on Diffuse ReflectionsThe Angle of Light

The Success and Failure of the General RuleThe Distance of LightDoing the Impossible

Using Diffuse Reflection and Shadow to Reveal Texture

Capitalizing on Direct ReflectionComplex Surfaces

Chapter 5 – Revealing Shape and Contour

Depth Clues

Perspective Distortion

Distortion as a Clue to Depth

Manipulating Distortion

Total Variation

The Size of the Light

Large Lights Versus Small Lights

Distance from the Subject

The Direction of the Light

Light on the Side

Light Above the Subject

Fill Light

Adding Depth to the Background

How Much Total Variation is Ideal?

Photographing Cylinders: Increasing Total Variation

The Glossy Box

Use a Dark- to Medium-toned Background

Eliminate Direct Reflection from the Box Top

Eliminate Direct Reflection From the Box Top

Move the Light Source Toward the Camera

Raise or Lower the Camera

Use Falloff

Eliminate Direct Reflection from the Box’s Sides

Put a Black Card on the Tabletop Tip the Box

Use a Longer Lens

Finish with Other Resources

Try a Polarizer

Use Dulling Spray

Use Direct Reflection

Chapter 6 – Metal

Flat Metal

Bright or Dark

Finding the Family of Angles

Position a White Target Where You Think the Family of Angles Will Be

Place a Test Light at the Camera Lens

Aim the Test Light

Study the Position and Shape of the Area Marked on the Test Surface

Lighting the MetalKeeping the Metal BrightWhat is a "Normal" Exposure for Metal?Keeping the Metal Dark

The Elegant Compromise

Controlling the Effective Size of the Light

Keeping the Metal Square

Use a View Camera or Perspective Control LensAim the Camera Through a Hole in the Light Source

Photograph the Metal at an AngleRetouch the Reflection

Metal Boxes

A Light BackgroundA Transparent BackgroundA Glossy Background

Round Metal


Keeping the Light Off the CameraUsing a Tent

Other Resources

Polarizing FiltersBlack MagicDulling Spray

Where Else Do These Techniques Apply?


Chapter 7 – The Case of the Disappearing Glass



Two Attractive Opposites

Bright-field Lighting

Choose the Background

Position the Light

Position the Camera

Position the Subject and Focus the Camera

Shoot the Picture

Dark-field Lighting

Set Up a Large Light Source

Position the Camera

Position the Subject and Focus the Camera

Shoot the Picture

The Best of Both Worlds

Some Finishing Touches

Defining the Surface of Glassware

Illuminating the Background

Minimizing the Horizon

Stopping Flare

Eliminating Extraneous Reflections

Complications from Nonglass Subjects

Liquids in Glass

Liquids as a Lens

Keeping True Color

Secondary Opaque Subjects

Recognizing the Principal Subject


Chapter 8 – Making Portraits

The Single-light Portrait Setup

The Basic Setup

Light Size

Skin Texture

Where to Put the Main Light

The Key Triangle

Key Triangle Too Large: Main Light Too Near the Camera

Key Triangle Too Low: Main Light Too High

Key Triangle Too Narrow: Main Light Too Far to Side

Left Side? Right Side?

Broad Lighting or Short Lighting?


Additional Lights

Fill Lights

Reflector Cards as Fill Lights

Background Lights

Hair Lights


Rim Lights

Mood and Key

Low-key Lighting

High-key Lighting

Staying in Key

Dark Skin

The Unfocused Spot

More Than One Person

Using Colored Gels

Chapter 9 – The Extremes

The Characteristic Curve

The Perfect "Curve"

A "Bad" Camera



Using Every Resource


Exposing White-on-White Scenes

Lighting White-on-White Scenes

Subject and Background

Using an Opaque White Background

Light the Subject From Above

Use a Gobo Above the Subject

Add Dimension

Using a Translucent White Background

Using a Mirror Background

In Any Case, Keep the Background Small


Exposing Black-on-Black Scenes

Lighting Black-on-Black Scenes

Subject and Background

Using an Opaque Black Background

Using a Glossy Black Surface

Keeping the Subject Away from the Background


Preventing Problems


CurvesNew Principles


Chapter 10 – Working on Location

The Lights We Use

Heavy-Duty Portable Strobes

"Hot Shoe" Flashes

LED Panels

Getting the Exposure Right

Letting Your Flash Do the Figuring

Using a Meter

Meters and LEDs

Getting More Light

Multiple, or "Ganged" Flashes

Battery Packs

Flash Extenders

Getting Better-quality Light

The Problems

Take It Off

Bouncing From Hard to Soft

The Omni-Bounce – A Big Help for a Little Money

"Raccoon Eyes"

Feathering Your Light

Forcing the Shadow

Lights of Different Colors

Why Is the Color of the Light Important?



Nonstandard Light Sources

Do the Colors Mix?

The Remedies

Correcting Mixed Colors

Correcting Unmixed Colors

Filtering Daylight

Correcting Errors in Reproduction

Lights of Different Duration

Different Approaches

Other Useful Gear

Chapter 11 – Setting Up Your First Studio

Lights: An Early Issue

Getting Your Lights Right

What Kind of Lights?


Continuous Lights

How Many Lights?

Light Stands


Light Modifiers – Which Do I Need?



Snoots, Grids and Barn Doors

Gobos and Flags


Computers and Associated Gear

Miscellaneous Equipment

What About Space?

Appendix: Reliable Suppliers


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Fil Hunter was a highly respected commercial photographer specializing in still life and special effects photographs for advertising and editorial illustration. During a career spanning over three decades, he worked for such clients as America Online (AOL), US News, Time-Life Books, Life Magazine (27 covers), the National Science Foundation, and National Geographic. He taught photography at university level and served as technical consultant on a number of photographic publications. Mr. Hunter won the Virginia Professional Photographer’s Grand Photographic Award three times. He co-authored Focus on Lighting Photos with Robin Reid.

Steven Biver has over 20 years of experience as a commercial photographer specializing in portraits, still life, photomontage, and digital manipulation. His client list includes Johnson & Johnson, USDA, William & Mary College, Condé Nast, and IBM. He has been honored with awards from Communication Arts, Graphis, HOW Magazine, and Adobe, who have also included his work on a Photoshop ‘extras’ disc to inspire other photographers. He is also the co-author of FACES: Photography and the Art of Portraiture.

Paul Fuqua has worked as an editorial and wildlife photographer for more than 35 years. He started his own production company in 1970 and is dedicated to teaching through the use of visuals. Paul has written and produced educational and training material in a variety of fields including law, public safety, history, science, and the environment. For the last 10 years he has produced educational material dealing with the natural sciences and the need for global habitat stewardship. Paul is also a co-author of FACES: Photography and the Art of Portraiture.

Robin Reid has been a professional photographer for over 30 years. She has worked for many federal courts (US Supreme Court, US Tax Court, and US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and others), as well as Domino’s Pizza, Time-Life Books, McGraw-Hill, American Management Corporation, Diabetes Forecast, and Heckler & Koch. Ms. Reid has won various awards from Virginia Professional Photographers Association, including Best Portrait of a Child. She taught both Studio Portraiture and Tools of Photography classes for the Art League of Alexandria for many years. She co-authored Focus on Lighting Photos with Fil Hunter.