From my own library, the first favorite that comes to mind is Michael Grecco’s "Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait." It’s filled with very interesting and creative celebrity portraits, some of which were made very simply, while others are very complex. Not only is it useful for hands-on lighting technique, but also for good creative portrait inspiration.
I’m also a big fan of Steve Bavister’s "Lighting for Still Life." Much like Grecco’s book, this one is filled with interesting and creative approaches to still life and product photography. Maybe I have such a soft spot for it because it’s one of the first still life lighting books I ever owned, but I have definitely found myself going back to it again and again so it must be valuable.
There’s a book that was long out of print that has recently been reissued. It may technically be old and outdated, but it is also unbelievably useful for learning what’s important when it comes to lighting people. It’s called "Painting with Light" by acclaimed cinematographer John Alton. He may have written it for a moviemaking audience more than 60 years ago, but the principles of lighting are exactly the same for photographers today. You may have to get past the dated nature of some specific equipment, but it has so much to offer in terms of how you think about lighting. It had a big impact on me, and that’s about all I can ask for.
What are some of your favorite photographic lighting books? Please feel free to share them in the comments.