Darwin's Theories Blog

New Theories for a New Time

Masterclass; Professional Studio Photography

Book Review

A good (and very visual) read!

Submitted on 1/4/2013


5out of 5

Pros: Easy to understand, Well-written, Concise, Helpful examples

Best Uses: Expert, Intermediate

The term "master class" connotes study with a master in small groups. That's what this book is - study guides from Dennis Savini, a master of studio photography (Note there are two photographers named Dennis Savini, the book's author (https://www.srfo.to/) in Switzerland, and one in New Jersey). Indeed, I imagine that much of the material in the book overlaps some of the subject matter covered in the professional photography school (https://www.cap-fotoschule.ch/) in which Dennis is a partner.

The book continues Rocky Nook's tradition of beautifully designed quality bound photography books (Full disclosure: I was gifted this book by a friend within O'Reilly Media). Savini has done studio shooting for decades for many big name clients: Lumiere fragrance, Sinar camera (which he also uses), Dow industrial products, Disaronno and Mccallum alcoholic beverages, Cartier and IWC Lange watches, and more. And he has shot everything from dead fish to old printer's type to sportscars and motorcycles, cookware, booze, sports gear - anything the advertising agency wants.

For each of dozens & dozens of setups, Dennis discusses the background to the shoot, a brief but always-adequate discussion, and technical data such as camera, formt, lens, exposure, lighting, background, and comments. Technical data is always accompanied by a clear diagram showing the position of the subject, backgrounds, lights, table if used, etc. The facing left-hand page for each shoot is a full-size (8.5x11") full color print from the shoot.

There are sections on shooting food, drinks, watches & jewelry, cosmetics, and of course portraiture. Speaking of watches, did you know that some of the watch pictures you see in glossy magazine ads are composited from three or four separate images? See page 143 for the reason. There is also advice for creatives who have to deal with product engineering types - the "rational"(?) ones. And there's advice on the business aspects of running a studio.

DSLR fans may be a bit uneasy at first with Savinit's insistence that "Product photography is definitely a view camera domain. The need to enhance depth-of-field effects ... or make perspective corrections using camera movements demand the use of a view camera or tilt/shift lenses" (page 59). But he uses a lot of DSLR lenses on his view camera, and sometimes uses his Nikon D3 for studio work (the main cameras are used Sinar and Hasselblad). And there are, of course, tilt/shift lenses for all major DSLR lines.

I especially like that he doesn't repeat the obvious. Speaking of every tog's need to study color theory and color contrast, he simply says "I won't go into ny theoretical detail here, because there is already a wealth of great literature on the subject available, but I will give you a few visual examples to whet your appetite" (page 89).

This is a beautiful book, packed with detail on how a bunch of difficult or complicated studio shoots were actually done. Just what the title promises. I highly recommend it.