We were away caravanning this weekend, and I’d decided last week that I really (as in REALLY) want to get back into doing more photography again. But you know what it’s like when you try to reconnect with an old friend you haven’t spoken with for years – sometimes it can be hard to fall straight into the old groove again. So as a bit of a kick starter, I bought a couple of exciting sounding books and brought them along to read for inspiration.

Photographing Shadow and Light - Inside the Dramatic Lighting Techniques and Creative Vision of Portrait Photographer Joey L.

Photographing Shadow and Light – Inside the Dramatic Lighting Techniques and Creative Vision of Portrait Photographer Joey L. (by Joey L.)

Studio Anywhere: A Photographer's Guide to Shooting in Unconventional Locations

Studio Anywhere: A Photographer’s Guide to Shooting in Unconventional Locations (by Nick Fancher)

They both had great reviews on Amazon, are apparently frequently bought together, and if nothing else they have at least one thing in common: Both have quite descriptive titles.

And on the surface, that’s probably the only thing they have in common. Joey’s book is in large format, printed on thick glossy stock and edited to give prominence to his pictures (well deserved, for they are gorgeous!). Nick’s book has half the surface area, twice as many words and four times as many “tips and tricks” (the vast majority very, very useful).

Joey regularly spends time visiting remote areas in India and Ethiopia in order to develop his personal fine art photography collections. He likes to travel light, and for Joey “travelling light” means bringing only a single medium format camera, two studio flashes (one as a spare), a solar panel and car battery for collecting the sun energy while he brings an inverter (charged from the car battery overnight) with him during the day to take pictures. Oh. Yes. And an assistant to carry the gear and another to assist and someone to do help with navigation and translation. So quite light compared to having a full team and for a commercial shoot (which is where 22 year old Joey makes a lot of money).

For Nick, on the other hand, travelling light means chucking a few speedlights in the bag with his DSLR and using light to convert the local park, a downtown parking garage, a rain puddle or a cramped office that happens to have a light-toned wall or at least a curtain, or simply a concrete floor into a make-shift studio. The shots in his book are taken during one-hour (or less) shoots with either models or products (Nick has a past as a product photographer for an appareil company). While not being as epic looking as Joey’s, the photos illustrating Nick’s book proves beyond doubt that one can do an awful lot with his “run and gun” methodology – and a few years of practical experience and lighting problem solving.

Joey’s tone is what some people on “my” side of the Atlantic might consider “typical American”: Self confident going towards cocky, whereas Nick is far more “this is what might work for you as well”. Being a Dane and bearing in mind Janteloven, Joey raises my hackles, but there is no doubting his amazing picture making skills. He may sound arrogant (no, he does!) but he has a lot of good reasons for it. Nick, on the other hand, sounds like your patient big brother teaching you his hard learned skills. Nine of ten of us need a big brother, but we can always dream about being the one having the guts (and skills!) to beat the young master at his game.

Reading a photography book can be a bit like eating a wonderful meal. You want to focus on all the subtleties. You want to savour each spice, each texture, each amazing flavour combination. But often you (read: I) forget these things and just gobble the deliciousness with sheer joy until there is nothing left on the plate. These two books are a bit like that, and both were delicious. Unlike a meal, a book allows you to go back over things and have a second serving, and I shall look forward to go back over each of the books taking in more of the detail.