After a decision earlier this year to invest in some portable studio lighting, I decided to give the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) a try … Lots of reasons for this, including being a long-time Nikon shooter. The CLS is compact, not overly expensive, and extremely smart. Much smarter, in fact, than the average photographer, (and that includes me.)
A while back I picked up Joe McNally’s book, The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes, and was sold on the power and flexibility of the Nikon CLS, as well as its portability … Not to mention the price, which is pretty damn reasonable for being Nikon gear.
Now, McNally’s book gives you a lot of great information (it’s a must-have if you’re serious about moving into photographic lighting from the existing light world) and practical setups, but it’s not really a manual for using the Nikon system components themselves … Neither are the Nikon System Manuals for that matter (I’m convinced the Nikon Manuals are written by the same guys who have been writing Japanese stereo instructions since the 1960s … Not Engrish, but not very readable either.)
I think I tweeted something about CLS being slightly less difficult to master than, say, quantum mechanics. After some reflection, not really. It was the manuals that were obtuse.
The Nikon School has enlisted both Joe McNally and Bob Krist, another venerable photog, and put together the Nikon School presents A Hands-on Guide to Creative Lighting. An amazingly comprehensive DVD that covers all the basics of lighting, strobe lighting, working with Nikon CLS Speedlights, and a whole lot of advanced techniques. It focuses mostly on the newer SB-900 and SB-600 models, but provides reference for SB-800 users as well.
Coming from an academic background in theatrical lighting, as well as photography, this DVD brought me up to speed quickly, and planted a lot of ideas for how to translate key lighting techniques from the hot light world into the realm of flash photography. McNally demonstrates some amazing techniques using simple changes in white balance and color filters to produce, dramatic, mind-blowing results using Nikon speedlights.
For a beginner, this DVD, repeated viewings, and working along with some of the techniques used in the DVD will make mastering flash photography much easier, and your results more professional looking, in short order.
Subjects covered range from dance photography to portraiture and weddings. It’s pretty comprehensive.
Now make no mistake, this is not an unbiased presentation … Joe and Bob are both Nikon-sponsored photographers who teach for (among other people) the Nikon School, and this is a Nikon School production. They have drunk the Kool-Aid, and shamelessly selling you a cup, but that’s okay. You’ll have a glass in hand before long … The Nikon CLS is a great lighting system, and, if you’re a Nikon shooter, your work will benefit from it.
Nikon School presents A Hands-on Guide to Creative Lighting is available for about $25 on Amazon, and will save you at least that much (and probably a lot more) on lost opportunities for lighting your photos.