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Product Review: Lighting in Layers by David Hobby
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Product Review: Lighting in Layers by David Hobby

More than just the ultimate instructional Strobist DVD

FlashBus Tour Workshop presenter David Hobby’s just-released 7-disc DVD set will change the way you think about flash photography—and the business of being a photographer.


Imagine being the proverbial fly on the wall as one of the world's top photography instructors does six different shoots, photographing a wide variety of subjects and using increasingly complex lighting setups. You get to hear everyti9ng as he describes what he’s doing; you watch him interact with professional and non-professional models while he solves increasingly difficult lighting problems. Lighting in Layers ($159.95), the new 7-disc DVD just released by David Hobby in tandem with the beginning of the FlashBus Tour, which started its nationwide tour of 29 cities in 6 weeks on March 11, 2011, lets you be that fly on the wall.

David’s DVD set is one of two DVD sets associated with the FlashBus Tour; the other one, The Language of Light, is a 2 DVD  (bundled with an Adorama snoot) set, by Joe McNally, who is also presenting workshops on the Tour. It’s available for $159.95 from Adorama but if you are registered for a FlashBus workshop there is a discount; email if you are registered but haven’t ordered either DVD set. (You can also buy both DVDs together for $279.94 with a discount available for registered FlashBus attendees.)

And now, on to "Lighting in Layers"!

The format of the first six discs is simple: Two or three shoots with the same model or group of model are shown, from start to finish. You get to see David build the lighting from very simple to complex, and you watch as he fine-tunes the lighting while establishing a rapport with the model. David will frequently pause and explain his thought process both to the viewer and the model. A typical segment may take 20-30 minutes.


I found listening to David's interactions with the models to be very instructive as he put them at ease while working with each one to get the best possible pose. In every shoot, he encorages input from the model, showing test shots and asking for feedback, until the shoot becomes a true collaboration that both photographer and model can "own."


Fly on the wall: David shoots, instructs his crew, talks with his model and the viewer as we watch, left. With the screen divided as in the screen grab above, we get to see the images he’s getting as he shoots, right.

Each shoot ends with a Lighting Notebook segment, where David sketches out the placement of the background, model and lights, and shows in both sketches and examples how each setup evolved into the right combination of lighting, background, pose and expression that went into the defining image. It’s a nice, condensed summary of the shoot that just ended.

Finally, each DVD serves up a 10-15 minute “talking head” segment where David discusses some aspect of his approach to the business of photography—marketing, creating an online presence, deciding what kind of photographer he wanted to be, and putting that plan into action.

Notebook segment: David sketches out each setup, starting with an initial setup and adding lights and showing the effect of each light as he goes. It’s a good review of the session just completed.

The final disc offers up everything in a format that can be downloaded onto a portable media player so you don’t have to stay tethered to your computer or TV to watch the series. That’s a good thing, because there’s over 9 hours of fly-on-the-wall studio time and talking-head business advice.

Without spoiling it, here are a few nuggets I got out of disc #1:
•    How to achieve Butterfly Lighting;
•    The advantage key and fill light from the same direction;
•    Building a picture from straight ambient light to one that is fully lit by flash;
•    See how one light for shape and one light for detail works;
•    Using a ring light with other lights to give the image dimensionality;
•    How to use a small light modifier for soft wrap-around lighting or hard light;
•    Experimenting and being willing to fail;
•    Learning why telling your model “stay with me…stay with me…stay with me…!” is so important

Whether you pay full price or are eligible for a registered FlashBus Tour attendee discount, each disc has enough money-saving advice in it to recoup the cost of the entire set, and the business advice will help you develop a new marketing plan and income sources. In other words, the Lighting in Layers DVD set is a good investment for serious photographers, and will pay immediate dividends.



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