Normally, I prefer not to review non-fiction books on my holidays. However, it is good to hear that Wiley publishes photography books as well. So I grabbed a copy sent by my contact earlier on and was eager to read more on a topic so close to my heart.
For new photographers, night photography, especially under low-light condition, is likely one of the toughest challenges faced. Our human eyes adapt to low-light well. More often than not, as a beginner, what you see from the LCD screen at the back of your camera under these conditions seldom resembles to what your eyes see. Many I know of struggle with flash photography so much so that they would rather not to use a flash at all. I too have gone through that journey of frustration and experimentation. I would say Alan Hess has done a good job in explaining the basic mechanics in Night and Low-Light Photography.
What I like about this book is that it reads more like having someone talks me through the basic, and not a book full of theories. The author takes his time to explain the different gears required getting the job done. Hess also in multiple instances explains the fundamental variables and their relationship such as ISO, shuttle speed, and aperture. Other important topics such as exposure, white balance, metering, and digital noise are covered as well. I often find myself having to explain the same set of attributes when approached by new photographers. Hess’s explanation is clear and he uses plenty of illustrations to drive home his points.
The first three chapters of Night and Low-Light Photography talk through the basic. The last chapter on digital postproduction is useful if you use Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop Elements. Bear in mind that the chapter on postproduction mainly focuses on night and low-light photography. Postproduction workflow, for instance, is not covered in this chapter. Although I don’t use either tool for postproduction (I prefer using Nikon digital filters instead), it does read a bit too simplistic for me. Maybe it is good for a start. You may need another book to study the topic better.
Between the first three chapters and the last are chapters devoted to different scenarios. Scenarios range from indoor shots (people, weddings, and concerts) to sport photography, from nighttime sky to outdoor shots (city and landscape). For each scenario, the author shares with us many tips cumulated from – I assume – his personal experience. He also details out the recommended settings and steps used. Like where you should stand and what moment you should capture if you are a wedding photographer. Like how your model should pose. And much more. I enjoy reading the chapter on Light Painting the most. Perhaps because it is something I have yet to try (hence I presume the rest of the chapters may well be an enlightening read if I was a new photographer). I am not a big fan of HDR photography. But that is also covered briefly in this book, in case if HDR is your cup of tea.
There are a few photographs printed in this book that are inspiring. I like the Ferris Wheel the most, and some of his concert photographs. Most of the photographs, though, appear a bit bland to me. Some, I wish the photographer would stand and point the camera slightly differently so as to get a more symmetric shot, or compose the picture better. One photograph of a moon, the photographer used a setting of 1/400 second, f/8.0 and ISO 500. Maybe he did not use a tripod. Since the moon is pretty bright in nature, I would think that it is possible to use a different setting with a better ISO (for example, see my moon photograph here that uses the same f-stop). Granted, perhaps the author’s intend is to illustrate his technical points, rather than articulating the art within. There are other photography books that are full of inspiring printings (such as books by Scott Kelby). This book does not appear to be so. Having said that, the most important thing is for you to grasp the fundamental of night and low-light photography. So that you can go out there and confidently create your beautiful shots.