Chasing Rays Blog

Picture Perfect Lighting

Picture Perfect Lighting

Full Title: Picture Perfect Lighting
Publisher: Rocky Nook
ISBN: 978-1-937538-75-0
Language: English
Amazon Rating: 0.0/5 (0 Reviews)
Family Friendly: True

Date of review: 4th June, 2016
My Opinion: 4.5/5

Main Review

Picture Perfect Lighting is the third and final book in the Picture Perfect trilogy and deals both exclusively and extensively, as you’ve probably guessed, with a detailed lighting system and lighting scenarios; it is an appropriate end to this trilogy, my reviews for which can be seen at Picture Perfect Practice and Picture Perfect Posing.
"Picture Perfect Lighting is the third and final book in the Picture Perfect trilogy…"

This book to me is sort of the ‘odd one out’ of the trilogy. I would say of the three, it seems to contain by far the least extent of information – and please do take note that I say extent, here – but instead concentrates on just a few issues in somewhat greater detail. However, given Valenzuela’s approach to light – in essence, that it is all the same, whatever the source – this might be considered unsurprising.

And that, in fact, is the main strength of this book. That light is light, whatever the source. It doesn’t matter where it comes from, or how, all that is important is that you execute your lighting vision for a particular scenario, and not a lighting style.

The last is quite important; it takes apart the idea of the ‘natural light photographer’ or the ‘strobe photographer’. For sure, there is a place for both in photography, but if one is to label oneself as one or the other exclusively, then you are missing out on a whole side of photography that could be the game changer in your approach to taking images.

As with his other books, Valenzuela develops a systematic approach to how to consider the quality of light, and how to get the best from it, in any scenario; if that requires adding flash, then that’s fine, though it need not.

The mainstay of this approach is a ten-point approach to assessing light. One minor point of confusion here is that, given that this is introduced in the natural light section of the book, and indeed deals mainly with the consideration of natural light, it does in fact imply that this is the be-all and end-all of this situation. It is not; it merely implies, rather than states explicitly, where you need to augment, or even completely overpower, natural light with flash.

Given that the book starts with a section on the nature of light itself, one can combine this understanding with the consideration of natural light to produce beautiful natural light images; this is the extent of the first major section of the book and, as mentioned, its mainstay.

It is clear that Valenzuela considers flash light as an augmentation to natural light in his approach to discussing natural light. It does seem to me that the attitude taken is that he wishes to introduce the idea of flash and strobes as though to people who have tried their best to stay away from such light sources for their entire career.

This seems evident in his introduction to flash, in which he presents a series of exercises to familiarise the reader with the use of flash. As someone who uses flash regularly, these seem to be fairly basic to me, and anyone reasonably familiar with speedlights (and other lighting sources) as tools can probably skip this section. At its most complex, it deals with master/ slave flash operation off-camera with up to three strobes. Valuable to someone with a fear of flashes, but otherwise only a decent refresher exercise for those more familiar with artificial lighting; a good way of just checking your understanding, perhaps.

Here, I can’t stress more that it is important to consider the first chapter of the third, final section of the book that deals with Valenzuela’s lighting benchmark test. This is the connection between natural light and flash; when to augment natural light, and how to augment it (with reflectors, flash, whatever).

The rest of the [final] section on flash I found to be somewhat less informative than the first section (developing the system). There are a couple of very useful chapters on the use of reflectors and diffusers with flash, and advanced flash techniques.

The last section, for me, does not describe flash use quite as extensively as I might have hoped, and I believe this is because of the approach Valenzuela seems to take to it, as mentioned above; I might personally have hoped that, on occasion, more detailed descriptions of the scenarios and case studies were given. All sections are extensively illustrated with examples, but the flash examples seem to me to have more general descriptions than those given for natural light. Again, though, if one is to look at flash as a means to augment natural light (or, in the extreme, overpower it), then this is perhaps understandable.


This book is an extremely worthy end to the Picture Perfect trilogy. It deals extensively with a systematic approach as to how to consider light in order to get the very best out of your images; in this aim, it succeeds admirably. My one bone of contention is as to whether it does justice to its description of flash appropriately, or whether more extensive explanation would have been appropriate. If one takes the attitude that flash is an extension or augmentation to natural light, then it does; if not, then the flash section might be regarded as being a bit lacking in depth, or at least in extent of description.

Other than this, the book is liberally illustrated with examples and case studies, and a number of advanced tips and techniques that, without a doubt, make this book a worthwhile read even to readers who have years of experience.

In all, an excellent book, and just a shame that this book is the last in the trilogy. One thing for sure is that Valenzuela’s books are not just showcases of pretty images, but genuinely useful resources; I personally rate this trilogy as the best series of books for anyone interested in general portrait- and wedding-type photography, bar none. The only other author I can think of who I would think of as comparable is Neil van Niekirk (author of the excellent Tangents blog, who concentrates on flash lighting, rather than taking a general approach).

I don’t know whether Valenzuela intends to write any further books, but I can only hope that he has plans for a new series sometime soon.

All the best,

Chasing Rays Photography.

About the Author

Mark Watkins

Mark WatkinsI've been a photographer since 2006 and a computer fanatic since 1995. I hope to share my passion for photography with you through the products and services I offer through my website. See me on Google+ | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedInView all posts by Mark Watkins →

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