The One about Dustin Diaz’ “This Is Strobist Info: Your Setup Guide to Flash Photography”

NOTE: This review was originally published back in 2012

A few years ago, I became very interested in Strobist techniques, primarily the use of off camera flash, the importance of lighting and learning on various positioning, the equipment used by other photographers and trying to learn as much as I can from them.

There is no denying that among the best resources out there for those wanting to learn Strobist techniques is through David Hobby’s strobist.com website and also the Strobist community forum on Flickr.

But where a lot of people are hardcore and invested in expensive Canon and Nikon cameras, people who spent hundreds on a single flash and other equipment, I knew that for myself… I’m not quite at that level where I am confident of spending as much as these individuals have. As much as I would love to have had the top-of-the line lens, the best off camera flash and strobes, my mindset was not there yet.

Yes, I know that may put me in the side of being a budget-conscious, fiscally conservative photographer who tends to buy speedlights from Asia for under a $100 and is always searching for the best deals on Craigslist for lenses but for now, it works for me and the more I become more confident with my photography and using off camera flash, eventually I will spend the money for a better flash.

So, I have spent months looking at Strobist website and Strobist techniques from photographers with similar equipment on Flickr and just trying to soak everything in.

But while perusing Flickr and looking at the work of the Strobist community, there was one person who’s work caught my attention. A guy named Dustin Diaz who worked in social media as his main job but when he had the free time, each day as part of his “Project 365” on Flickr, he would go out with his camera, his Nikon flash, portable stand(s), umbrella and puts them all on his backpack and take these pretty awesome photos and post one for the day.

And gradually overtime, seeing how his technique would improve while taking these pictures.

Bare in mind, this guy doesn’t toot his own horn that he’s a great photographer, nor does even come off as one. He’s just a regular guy with a busy job, married but also is passionate about photography and like hundreds of people, he took part in a Project 365 on Flickr. The goal is pretty much take a photo each day and upload one everyday for 365 days straight. But also for one to challenge themselves by trying to come up with something creative with each photo.

And sure enough, Dustin Diaz’ Project 365 inspired me. And looking at the comments from everyone, I know I wasn’t the only one.

Each day, Dustin would post a photo but would also post a second photo (and sometimes video) of how he took the shot. And I was pretty excited that he would take his time to show people how he accomplished these shots.

Granted, Dustin had provided Strobist info. for several shots, not all and like myself and many others, we would ask him “how do you do that? Where did you position your flash? How this? How that? You get the picture.

There are some photographers who are comfortable by answering people’s questions, some that are just too busy to reply or just don’t want to. Dustin’s approach was to do more of the Strobist info. for his “Project 365” and let people how he accomplished certain photos. No egos, no promotion of he’s this awesome photographer… he was just a normal guy, who experimented and got the results, good and bad. But each description was witty, fun and definitely not coming off as academic or egoist.

And sure enough, so many people followed his work and he eventually won “Best Flickr Photographer of the Year” by Mashable Web Awards. A few of his photos would also be recommended by Flickr.

The more he got popular, more and more people would write “how did you that?”, “why did you do that?”, “you left your flash on the streets of San Francisco by itself, are you nuts?”.

But after his Project 365 was completed, just to see the gradual improvement by a man using off camera flash and just taking these creative photos was inspirational. And sure, there are other professional photographers who are just as inspirational, but for me, Dustin Diaz was someone I can relate to because he was a normal guy trying to learn for himself and improve.

And when he announced that he was coming out with a book titled “This is Strobist Info”, I was excited by the news. Previously, I would have to take my iPad to areas with Wi Fi and look at his photos and his Strobist info. but now, here’s a printed book that I can use as a resource.

JUDGMENT CALL:

“This is Strobist Info: Your Setup Guide to Flash Photography” is literally an extension of his Strobist info. that Dustin had on his Project 365 on Flickr, not the same photos but with the printed format, you would get the actual photo on the left and on the right page, the setup shot.

The setup shot would often show his flash stand with an umbrella, the flash used and at one brightness and zoom and whether or not he used a CTO Gel to add color. He would also include the ISO, aperture, the shutter speed and the lens he used and pretty much some of the pertinent settings one would find in the exif data of a photo.

For those familiar with Dustin’s Project 365 and are familiar with his witty and comical descriptions, you can expect the same type of humor in this book. Dustin also goes into information about using speedlights, radio triggers, light stands, umbrella adapters, light modifiers, etc. Also, a few technical pages on light and inverse square.

There are about a hundred shots with Strobist info. and once again, an extension of what he had done on Flickr.

“This is Strobist Info: Your Setup Guide to Flash Photography” is a book that I have waited with high anticipation and for less than $15, I can easily say that it was worth every penny. Being familiar with his work on his Flickr page, it was great to have that extension of his work and seeing the Strobist info. featured in printed format.

And I’m glad he kept things separate with newer photos for the book and past photos of his learning experience from the Project 365 on Flickr.

But with that being said, for those not familiar with his Flickr work or have read the descriptions and is looking for a “Strobist” book may be slightly disappointed in the fact that this is not an academic book (there are many books out there by career photography professionals), it is fairly quick to go through with 100 photos featured and last, I know that it’s going to satisfy everyone.

By no means is this book meant to be the end all to Strobist info. For one, if you want the most detailed information, David Hobby’s website is perfectly excellent for that and also the Strobist community site on Flickr.

But who this book is for, is those who want to know how he accomplishes his photos? Where he positions his light stands, how many Flash units, at what zoom and what setting. Learning on what lens did he use. Learning what shutter speed and aperture was used.

This is not a book that goes into detail of why he chose that shot and to explain why he took that shot. This is not that kind of book.

This book is pretty much a Strobist resource for those who are wondering how Dustin Diaz accomplishes the photos he took and not asking why. Nor is he the kind of guy (like many others from the Strobist community) to answer why he took the photo in such a manner. It’s his creative shot done his way and I have no care of wondering about the decisions of why he took the shot that way. There are career professionals who have books out there, who have websites and blogs that go into full detail of their photography.

So, if you are expecting that information, “This is Strobist Info: Your Setup Guide to Flash Photography” is not that kind of book. For those wanting a more professionally written, academic style photography book, this is not that kind of book.

But for those who peruse Flickr, typing “Strobist setup” and seeing the experiments that people have done, the tools they use to take that shot, especially for those who have been to Dustin’s Flickr site, then this book is for you. It’s an extensions of Dustin’s Project 365 project and for his first Strobist book, I enjoyed it a lot.

And yes, I wish there were more photos featured in the book, but considering it was only $15, I would have gladly paid more if there were 200 or more shots with Strobist info.

What would I have liked to see in the book? Possibly comments from Dustin about the photo. For example, one of the biggest questions that occur often on his comments section on Flickr are people wondering about the safety of the shot. On Project 365, for one photo, he talked about losing a clamp and a flash because it was stolen. But people wonder, are there people watching his equipment when he takes his photo in the streets somewhere in the Bay Area? If anything, perhaps a bit more discussion on the challenges of certain shots would have been nice to see.

Granted, I know that the goal was to show a full page of the original shot and the Strobist setup shot, but perhaps having the full shot and a shot of the setup maybe smaller or cropped but with a paragraph of comments would have been nice.

So, If anything, the “Setup info.” was great to see, but it would be nice to have those comments that we are used to reading from his Project 365 included with each (or some) of the photos. Just learning about the difficulties, the challenges and even mistakes learned, were among my favorites to read on Dustin’s Project 365.

That’s part of what I was drawn to Dustin’s photography and his Project 365 on Flickr. He has a laid-back, cool perspective that doesn’t come off sounding too pretentious, doesn’t come off as egotistical, academic or erudite on photography. Dustin is just a normal guy who is still learning, but yet sharing what he learned from his own personal experience and sharing it with the world and inspiring thousands of people.

The guy has style, wit (which may not be for everyone) but heck, it’s what makes this book so fresh because it’s not banal or traditional. And this may rub some people off the wrong way. For me, I’m open to his style of wit, no matter how funny or not so funny it is.

Overall, Dustin Diaz’ first book on “This is Strobist Info: Your Setup Guide to Flash Photography” was what I wanted and got. Setup strobist info. nothing more and nothing less. And as mentioned, it is worth the money! And for a sales price at under $15, that’s darn cheap for a new photography book!

Is it meant to be the end all of “Strobist” books? Of course not. Will it help the noob? My answer is that if you are new and use the information featured on the Strobist website, learn from the Strobist community and then apply the Strobist setup techniques as seen in this book and apply it to your setup, then yes.

Do you have to do everything as exactly what is featured in the book? Of course not. That’s part of the excitement of learning Strobist techniques, applying it to your work, your environment and trying to live within your financial means with the equipment that you have.

As mentioned, I’m not at that point where I’m confident on spending hundreds on a several Nikon or Canon flashes (I’m still trying to get used to saving money for better glass), so these Yonguo flashes are quite fine for me right now. Do you need a top of the line camera? If you can afford it, but I’m fine with my Canon T3i. And do you have to buy Manfrotto light stands? As excellent as they are…I’m quite fine with my much cheaper Ravelli’s. But what works for Dustin and other professionals out there is great, but definitely learn to use equipment that suits you and that is within your budget and to apply the techniques you see in Dustin’s book (and other sources) to your Strobist experiments and photo shoots. If anything, learn from that experience.

With the Strobist website, the Strobist community forum on Flickr and other books from professionals out there are fantastic sources for information! But if you are looking for a book with setup shots such as what was featured on Dustin Diaz’ Project 365 on Flickr, then you will enjoy “This is Strobist Info: Your Setup Guide”.

I spent a lot of time perusing photos with a Strobist setup and information with the finalized shot and Dustin Diaz has inspired a lot of us through his learning experience and sharing that Strobist experience with those who follow his work. And I really do hope that Dustin Diaz continues this book with a “part 2” because I found this first book to be a wonderful resource for a low price!

“This is Strobist Info: Your Setup Guide to Flash Photography” by Dustin Diaz is recommended!


 

Dennis A. Amith