Book review: Sketching Light by Joe McNally

Joe McNally is a master of shaping light with speedlights to create dramatic pictures. In Sketching Light he uses both small and large flash units to create his iconic style.

Each section of the book starts with the final version of the picture the he discusses in that chapter. Within the chapter he gives a breakdown of not only how the lighting was set up, but also the way. This helps you gain a better understanding of he is seeing the light and the reasons he is setting thing up the way he is. There are loads of behind the scenes pictures, test shots and variations as well. And the sketched lighting plans are great.

I would not say this book is for a beginner. You need to have some understanding of lighting before hand to help understand some of the principles, but you it doesn’t need to be an in-depth skill set. Mr. McNally does walk through some of the basics but I feel you will get more if you start with some base knowledge.

Beyond the technical skills that he teaches he also talks about life lessons that he has learned in his years as a photographer. Anecdotes fill each section, making the lessons more ‘real’ rather than just being just about the lighting setup. You feel as you are getting to know him as a person as well as photographer.

Mr. McNally’s writing style is fun. He has taken what could be a dry, boring topic and filled with humor, wit and made it come alive.

If you are interested in learning new, fun and interesting ways to light portraits I highly suggest this book. I will be reading it again soon as I know I will get more out of each time I read it.


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