CHROMA: A Photographer's Guide To Lighting With Color
I had the fortunate pleasure of reading and experiencing “CHROMA” written by Nick Fancher. I’ve been following his work for years and I always commended him for his masterful use of vibrant color in his work. He carves our colors and patterns in a way that isn’t gimmicky, but pushes an interesting narrative. His ways of layering light and shadow, from both ambient and flash mixed in both studio and natural settings is really inspiring. Speaking of inspiration, his own are photographers like Miles Aldrige and Nadav Kander, and I can see where it comes from.
Before putting in my own thoughts, here is the overview of the book.
Learning to work with light is an important milestone in every photographer’s career, and the ability to craft light to fit your vision for an image is a skill that cannot be overrated. Most often, that crafting of light is spoken of in terms of the quality and quantity of light. But there is an important, third component of light that heavily influences the final look of the image: the color of light. In Chroma: A Photographer’s Guide to Lighting with Color, photographer Nick Fancher helps you elevate your game when it comes to introducing the bold, creative, and intentional use of color into your work.
Whether you’re using a high-powered strobe or a small hotshoe flash, Chroma is for you. Nick begins with a discussion of color theory, gels, and white balance, then examines how to determine which colors complement your subject matter (whether that’s people or products). He moves on to cover topics such as:
Balancing, mixing, and overpowering ambient light with artificial light
Layering colors for unique color combinations
Mixing hard and soft light to achieve extremely rich color
Lighting detail and texture
Modifier options, such as ring flash, snoots, barn doors, softboxes, and filters
Gobos to control the light
Post-processing for vibrant, powerful colors
How (and why) to light with color, even when the end goal is a black and white image
Illustrated throughout with innovative and expressive imagery, Chroma also includes behind-the-scenes photos, lighting diagrams, and Lightroom settings so you can follow along from the initial concept through to the final edit.
What I liked about this book is there’s no fluff at all, it’s 100% clean cut information and it’s presented perfectly. Take a look at the table of contents.
It starts out with color theory and the real world application behind it, and then the applied fundamentals and tools. It had me captivated and filled with so much inspiration. It's something I've needed after seeing the same light setups and ideas time and time again. It also made me realize the added benefit of some of these setups and where color could come into play when I never considered it. I could effectively combine some elements without needing to do everything presented.
At one point Fancher even goes into numerical systems in order to make sense of balanced colors across a frame that was ingeniously presented. It made me really think about my composition of color in a frame no matter how diverse a scene is. I also like how he ties in tonal values and how it ties in to color as well. Everything is very purposefully written. Of course, you’re also treated to a healthy amount of gear talk and getting setup in all kinds of scenarios no matter the experience level. He even gets into shutter dragging with gels, flash, and ambient together.
However, one of my favorite parts was how he shows using different setups in ambient scenarios in a real world setting so you’re not just stuck in a studio. Mixing ambient and color in a way that appears cinematic without any color grading done at all. And of course, there’s also parts where he mentions what not to do as well which is always important.
The best part is everything I’ve mentioned so far is barely even the first-half of the book, there is just so much goodness included that I highly wanted to give my personal praise to Nick and encourage you to check it out! It’s my favorite book of this year and probably the best guide on incorporating color I’ve read yet.
Not everyone should write a book, but Nick should write a few.