One of my favorite photography lighting books is Joe McNally‘s Hot Shoe Diaries. Joe can really write and its a great book with lots of inspiration and stories behind how each picture is made. Sometimes, you do want a book that’s specific to your camera system and covers the nitty-gritty details in configuring your small flash units. There are many books on lighting and flash but only a couple are really good. If you want a good flash and lighting book that is Canon specific, there’s only one good book and it’s this one. The Speedliter’s Handbook by Syl Arena. Joe McNally started me on multiple flash units and others like Louis and Syl has gotten me to journey down the e-TTL multiple speedlite path. As you start to wander down this road, it’s indispensable to have a book like this.

What I love about this book is that it’s big but not too big. You need space to have nice readable type and space for diagrams, before and after shots as well as some in-between shots for various settings or configurations. The pages are printed on quality paper and it feels good in my hands. There’s technical information and jargon along with clear concise explanations that beat the crap out of those boring Canon manuals. In case you need to shoot penguins, the infamous Canon flash penguin makes a cameo appearance! The best part about the handbook to me is the shoot sections where Syl’s goes through various setups with various flash configurations. The section starts with a single flash and moves on until it gets fun, scary and crazy… like with his gang-light. There’s detailed explanation on each shoot and setup so that you will understand what goes on, why the photographer is doing so and why each piece of equipment is used. Nothing could be clearer or simpler than that — you just need to duplicate the setup and you’ll be able to get the similar effect.

And for those readers who love getting new gear, there’s also plenty of that in the book along with photos showing the effect of each. I know getting new stuff won’t necessarily help you become a better photographer, but sometimes, new, shiny stuff will at least encourage you to get off your butt and shoot more. It’s not a really cheap book but it’s packed full of information. The amount of knowledge gained more than outweighs the investment — yes, it’s really an investment because you can start with one camera, one lens and one flash along with this book and grow your way up!

If you are a beginner, the book is clear and concise enough that you can understand it. If you’re in the middle of working out how to use your flash, this book will help you. Even if you’re a professional, I think this book still has something to teach you. I love the way the information is laid out as there’s plenty of basic to advance information provided for you. Syl starts with the basics and moves all the way down so this really IS the handbook to own if you intend to use small flash in any way (yes, including parking it on top your camera).

My opinion is that this is the book Canon should give you when you buy a flash unit from them! If you have one flash and am looking to improve your lighting, buy this book before you buy that second flash unit. If there’s anything this book doesn’t have is that there’s no rebate coupon for a 580EX II… or a lighting how-to DVD but then again I do wonder when Syl’s going to have a workshop down in Malaysia. Joe’s been here so come on down!











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