Review: The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light From Small Flashes

The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light From Small Flashes

Fresh off the success of his last book, “The Moment It Clicks,” Joe McNally has returned with “The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light From Small Flashes.” His last book mainly focused on the images and the stories and obstacles behind them, along with some technical details. “The Hot Shoe Diaries,” as the name implies, is completely about shooting and making the most out of hot shoe Speedlights.

The book starts off with the basics. A lot is covered in this section including camera and flash functionality, technique and lighting principals. Joe also talks a little bit about some of his tools of the trade and the rationale behind why he uses them. He does a great job of taking some of the more complex subjects and explaining them in a very simple manner. He also interjects his very funny humor here and throughout the book to keep things interesting.

Once you’ve got the basics down, the book works in a very logical manner: one light at a time. Joe shows what you can do with a single speedlight and stresses the importance of getting the light off the camera in most situations. As the book moves on, more and more speedlights are added into the equation, with the number topping out at a whopping 47 in one scene.

There are a variety of different scenes and each one is broken down in technical (but not overly complex) detail. You’ll see behind-the-scenes shots, before/after comparisons, camera settings, flash settings and diagrams. On top of that, Joe is an excellent storyteller and does a great job explaining why he uses a particular modifier or positioning in each situation.

“The Hot Shoe Diaries” is an absolute must-read for anyone who uses or is interested in using Nikon’s Creative Lighting System. There’s even a very useful appendix that breaks down how to set up all of the CLS-compatible lights for wireless use. While most of the information is Nikon-centric, a lot of it can be applied or translated to any hot shoe flash, making it an important read for anyone who uses multiple flashes on-location.

The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light From Small Flashes is available at If you liked this book, check out our review of A Hands-On Guide to Creative Lighting by Nikon School, a DVD that features behind the scenes video of several of the chapters of this book.