Michael Grecco‘s Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait starts of by discussing various camera systems (35 mm, medium format, and large format) and their particular characteristics.
Then a number of pictures are presented with diagrams and text describing exactly how the lighting was set up to achieve the desired result. This is extremely useful to help understand how the picture was made. Why on earth the client contact for the picture (usually art director so-and-so) is important in this context is beyond me, however …
The remaining pictures are described without a diagram, but I had no trouble understanding the light after the previous chapter with diagrams.
I really like that Grecco not only explains the technical detail of the shot but also why he made it the way he did. Sometimes the reason is his creative vision, at other times it is a restraint that came up during the shoot (the subject objected, for example) or the image evolved in the process of shooting, often in collaboration with the subject.
Grecco’s method seems to involve a truckload of equipment and a horde of assistants and specialist. This should not intimidate the reader. Most of what Grecco describes can be achieved on a much lower budget using inexpensive speedlights and some tinkering (and gaffer tape 😉 – the same principles apply as with super-expensive studio lights.
The book is strongly recommended to anyone looking to improve their lighting skills, especially when photographing people.