Firstly, let me begin with saying I follow Nick Fancher’s Instagram. It started with Nick’s post on Scott Kelby’s blog. I loved the work, and put in into practice immediately. It became part of my arsenal and I’ve used variations on it as time has passed. Working up towards publication, Nick’s Instagram feed has been the trailer for the book. Does it mean I’m a fan? Kinda. At the same time, disappointed fans can be harsher than those who may be more neutral in persuasion. So have I been disappointed? Only one way to find out!
Studio Anywhere 2: Hard Light is the movie version of Nick’s Instagram trailer. While there are BTS shots on Instagram as well, there isn’t the level of detail that Nick goes into with the book. This book is all about recipes for success with hard light. It also has a few scene quizzes along with way to make sure you’re keeping up.
Split into 9 chapters, with an educational Introduction, and a forward thinking Epilog, this book (which I’ve read as the ebook version) provides a great basis for working with hard light on location. Nick delves into his kit to reveal a tightly curated gear bag, perfect for travelling light, without feeling like you’re leaving something important behind. As I’ve given talks on shooting as Ryanair photo traveller, I’m totally down with that.
Lighting wise, I’m quite experienced, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn anything from the book. Quite the opposite in fact. Even in the intro, Nick discusses the difference between speedlight and monolight shadows. It’s something I’d know unconsciously, but having it spelled out on paper brings it into sharp focus. It boils down to having different experiences and Nick is imparting his experience, quite successfully, in the book.
I’m not going to do a blow by blow account of what’s in the book. It’s full of practical setups to get interesting light in a variety of situations. Often these include little hacks to make better use of your gear, with things like homemade snoots and barndoors, or hacks to make your reflector do even more work for you.
Soup to Nuts
As well as the background detail on the shoot, each setup generally contains a scene shot, a shot of the gear, the unedited Raw file, the Lightroom settings and the final edited image. You get to see everything that went into making the image. Where Photoshop played a part in the image, this information is included as well. Changes made to perfect the lighting also get a mention, so it’s a full soup to nuts approach to imparting knowledge.
The big thing that drew me to the book was the gel work from that Scott Kelby guest blog. This book includes both the original black and white inspiration work, and the resulting colour work, but takes it a step further. Because Nick has had time to work and refine the technique, a more mature version of it appears in the book. Coupled with colour theory, and the other gel related tips, this made for my favourite part of the book.
There’s a lot in the book about Nick’s photography background, from his education right through to where he is now. He’s candid about his approach to clients, and gives out advice in relation to it. There’s also some pro tips, again based on his experience, to fill the book out even more. This means you’re getting business advice on top of the lighting techniques. Seeing Nick’s progress will definitely be a help to those working their way into a crowded market, or even those looking to add some extra cash from part time photo work.
The book is a great read. Like anything, you need to put the information into practice before it makes proper sense. Without that practice, you’ll never absorb the information. Is this book worth getting? Well, it’s a step up from introduction to lighting books, and there’s a certain amount of prior knowledge expected. It’s like you’ve joined in after a conversation has started-you have to pick up what’s already been said. As I haven’t read the original Studio Anywhere book, I can’t say if this information is in that book-it may well be. It’s not a problem, merely an observation. Despite the information being more intermediate than beginner, it’s still quite accessible. On the other hand, if you’ve been in the game a while, Nick provides plenty of new tricks in the book to satisfy your lust for light.
I’m struggling to pick holes in the book. The only thing I’d love to have seen is more final photos. As in a greater range of finished images showing slight variations in each technique-like a mini portfolio. What’s there is great, and really does serve as wonderful inspiration, but I’d love to have seen more. Weighing in at 226 pages including covers and index etc, more images would’ve made the book longer and even better-especially in a print version. But it’s truly just a nitpick.
As I’m not stuck with Amazon terms, I’d give it a 4.5 out of 5. If you enjoy using lighting at all, this book deserves to be in your library and will expand your options on all future shoots. The ebook version is available right now for $27.99, with the print version coming in January. Right now, the coupon code NEWNOVEMBER will take 35% off the eBook price!