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01-06-2013, 12:35 PM   #1
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Lighting in Layers: Strobist DVD review

Lighting in Layers is a set of instructional videos from David Hobby, creator of the popular Strobist blog. It is available as a hard-copy set of 6 DVDs (plus a 7th containing the full set as files you can download to a portable player), or in a less expensive downloadable version. The videos follow Hobby through six separate shoots on a variety of subjects: sports, portraiture/modeling, dance, macro, environmental portraiture/journalism. For each lighting setup (two or more per shoot) there is a corresponding "Lighting Notebook" followup, with lighting diagrams and voice-over explanation. There are also several "talking head" sessions where Hobby discusses some aspect of his approach to photography as a business and community-oriented activity. (Yet another bonus, he lights each talking head session differently, then shows and explains the lighting setup.)

I didn't keep track, but there's probably 9 or 10 hours of material here.

If you're looking for a complete lighting reference, this isn't it. While there are many interesting lighting techniques shown and discussed, there's not much in the way of theory, and the techniques are mostly quite straightforward. The real value of the videos is getting a close look at how one professional photographer thinks and works in the field, not just about lighting, but the whole process. You get to watch how he develops rapport with subjects, deals with unexpected obstacles, and picks up on unplanned opportunities. Hobby keeps up a steady stream of patter while he works, letting you know what he's thinking as it happens. It's something of an information firehose at times; there would have been value in mixing in voice-overs with the session audio, but this style of presentation does give you the sense of being on location with him.

The production values are quite high. The sessions feel unscripted and lightly edited, mostly in a good way. Plenty of mistakes are included and discussed, which adds to the value of the set.

Is the set worth US$160 for the hard-copy version, or $100 for the downloads? I was lucky to catch a Cyber Monday special for $49, at which price the set is an excellent value. Full price seems rather high for what it is. On the other hand, Hobby has been freely sharing his ideas and techniques on his excellent website for years now, if you think of the price as including a substantial donation to that website, it becomes more reasonable.

01-06-2013, 01:31 PM   #2
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Excellent review and echoing exactly what I thought of the DVDs. I also bought it on Cyber Monday.
01-06-2013, 01:43 PM   #3
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Interesting....do you really feel that the lack of theory hurts the product? Or do you think the examples and his explanation suffice?

Thanks for your thorough, well thought out review :-)
01-06-2013, 02:09 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by cali92rs Quote
Interesting....do you really feel that the lack of theory hurts the product? Or do you think the examples and his explanation suffice?

Thanks for your thorough, well thought out review :-)
If you are really interested in the theory and a more step-by-step approach, I would recommend the OneLight Workshop DVDs by Zack Arias. Between him and David Hobby you will learn pretty much all you'd need to know about the subject.

01-06-2013, 02:19 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sol Invictus Quote
If you are really interested in the theory and a more step-by-step approach, I would recommend the OneLight Workshop DVDs by Zack Arias. Between him and David Hobby you will learn pretty much all you'd need to know about the subject.
Thanks for the tip
Sometimes I want to know theory, other times I just want results. Lol...no wonder I annoy my wife.
01-06-2013, 04:51 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by cali92rs Quote
do you really feel that the lack of theory hurts the product?
Hurts it, no; it just might not be what some people expect. Another good (and classic) source for lighting theory is the book Light: Science & Magic by Hunter, Biver, and Fuqua.
01-06-2013, 05:04 PM   #7
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Nice review, Thanks.

I have a copy of "Light: Science & Magic" as well, Great reading no matter what your skill level.
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