I read a lot, and the last few months my reading list has included quite a variety of photography books. My shelf now contains a number of helpful references, including Scott Kelby’s Digital Photography series and several books by Bryan Peterson. The book I’ve just finished is far and away the best I’ve read in some time. I’ve already mentioned The Speedliter’s Handbook: Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlites by Syl Arena a few times in the comments section, but it was so good that I thought it deserved it’s own post.
When I received my 430EX II for Christmas I was elated, but had no idea how to use it. The manual that came with it was… less than helpful. I read a few articles on the web as well, and there’s some good information there, but nothing concise. Luckily Terri Jacobson from Itsa Greyt Day For a Photo recommended I pick up this book. I’m glad she did.
Speedliter’s Handbook is easy and enjoyable to read. The author manages to convey a tremendous amount of information without being overwhelming. The book covers the basics of how-to use your Speedlite, discusses a wide variety of accessories, and digs into advanced techniques that are possible with one or more Speedlites (or other flashes).
The information in the later chapters is interspersed with actual shots the author has taken. These shots are accompanied by detailed descriptions, diagrams and photos of the setup. While that may sound technical and boring, I assure you it’s not. Nor is it a suggestion by the author that you go out and duplicate his work. Rather, his philosophy is that the best way to learn is by experimenting. He often repeats that you should not be afraid to go out and make mistakes. That’s a philosophy I wholeheartedly agree with, and I’ve been making as many mistakes as possible 😉
If I have any criticism of the Speedliter’s Handbook, it is that the book will almost certainly cause a painful increase in the size of your gadget want-list. That’s not to say that the author claims you need to purchase a wide range of accessories for your Speedlite. Quite the contrary, he goes to lengths to show the versatility of the Speedlite, and demonstrates a variety of lighting setups that you can accomplish with a single flash. Be that as it may you are going to want to purchase many of the accessories and add-ons he covers, particularly if you are a bit of a gadget geek. And really, aren’t we all?
While I have a lot more experimentation to do before I will feel that I’m fluent with off camera flash, the Speedliter’s Handbook has given me a solid foundation from which to work. I’m glad I read it, and it now has a place on my easily accessible reference shelf. If you have any interest in shooting with a Canon Speedlite I highly recommend you pick up a copy of this book.