Good up-to-date inexpensive lighting book


I'm primarily a set designer who is doing more lighting design. I'm a little out of touch with all the newer technology and instruments. Can any and all recommend some good recent books that don't cost an arm and a leg?

I don't need all the artsy stuff, I pretty much know all that- really the nuts and bolts and an overview of the new toys.


Senior Team Emeritus
Premium Member
Here is a few written since I got out of school or don't remember from the early 90s, though I'm sure there are more recent ones yet just to market I have not added yet.

++++ Stage Lighting Revealed, by Glen Cunningham Betterway Books, Cincinnati, Ohio 1993. ISBN 1-55870-290-3

++++ A PracticalGuide to Stage Lighting, by Steven Louis Shelley Focal Press Boston 1999 ISBN: 0-240-80353-1

++++Stage Lighting Step by Step, by Graham Walters, Betterway Books Cincinnati, Ohio 1997. ISBN 1-55870-601-1

++++The Automated Lighting Programmer’s Handbook. By Brad Schiller.

+++++ Computerized Lightboards, Focal Press

+++++ Concert Lighting: Techniques, Art and Business 2nd Ed, by James L. Moody; Focal Press ISBN: 0-240-82934

+++++ Control Systems For Live Entertainment 2nd Ed., by John Huntington; Focal Press - Newton, MA. 1994 ISBN: 0-240-80177-6

+++ Film and Video Lighting Terms and Concepts, Focal Press

++++The Followspot Training Program, Theatrical Technicians, Inc. (TTI)

+++++ Getting the Most from Your Followspot - An Operator’s Handbook, Theatrical Technicians, Inc. (TTI)

++++? Handbook of Scenery Properties and Lighting II, Volume 2 Lighting by Harvey Sweet) Allyn & Bacon - DesMoines 1994

++++Lighting Control Technology and Applications 2nd Ed. Robert Simpson

++ Motion Picture & Video Lighting, by Blain Brown; Focal Press

+++++ Recommended Practice for DMX: A Guide for Users and Installers, by Adam Bennette; PLASA and USITT

++++ Recommended Practice for Ethernet Cabling Systems, In Entertainment Lighting Applications, ESTA Publications. Stage Step - Dist. #TE3011

+++++ Set Lighting Technician’s Handbook, Film Lighting Equipment, Practice and Electrical Distribution. 3rd Ed. by Harry C. Box (377 pages); Focal Press

++++ The Speed of Light, Linda Essig

****** Stage Lighting Controls, Uif Sandström; MPG Books Ltd. - Bodmin, Cornwall 1997 ISBN: 0240514769

++++ The Stage Lighting Handbook, 5th ed. by Francis Reid; A&C Black London 1996 ISBN: 0-7136-4436-2

+++? Stage Lighting for Theatre Designers, by Nigel H. Morgan (128pp); Stage Step - Dist. #TE703

++++Color Science for Lighting the Stage, by William B. Warfel and Walter R. Klappert

+++ The Control of Light, Focal Press

++++? The Lighting Art, The Aestetics of Stage Lighting Design, 2nd. ed. by Richard H Palmer (251pp); Stage Step - Dist. #TE707

+++ Lighting by Design, Focal Press

+++++ Lighting the Stage, by Francis Reid; Focus Press

+++ Lighting for TV and Film, 3rd Ed. by Gerald Millerson; Focal Press ISBN: 0-240-54582

+++ Lighting Technology,

****** Photometrics Handbook, 2nd Ed. Robert C. Mumm; Broadway Press - Louisville, Ky. 1997 ISBN: 0911747-37-0

++ Placing Shadows: Lighting Technique for Video Production, 2nd Ed. Focal Press

+++ The Professional Lighting Handbook, 2nd Ed. Verne Carlson & Sylvia E. Carlson; Focal Press

++++ Projection for the Performing Arts, Focal Press 1995

+++++ Stage Lighting Design: The Art, The Craft, The Life, by Richard Pibrow; Design Press N.Y. 1997 ISBN: 0-89676-139-8

+++ The Technique of Lighting for Television and Film, 3rd Ed.; Focal Press


Thank you, Ship, for the elaborate list (33 I believe!) Can you possibly winnow it down a little? :? :lol: What are one or two of the best?


Senior Team Emeritus
Premium Member
Photometrics handbook is a must.

I found Stage Lighting Controls a better book on desks and movers than Control Systems. The Automated Lighting Programmer’s Handbook, Computerized Lightboards, Lighting Control Technology and Applications 2nd Ed, The Control of Light, Projection for the Performing Arts I don't have copies of yet but sound interesting. You will note + or * before the title, that's my own rating system for interest in the book based upon reviews and description if any. Might be helpful but my ratings were for my interest in them and not about the nuts and bolts or what's new. Books like Placing Shadows and color theory for me are very interesting.

Between Stage Lighting Step by Step, A Practical Guide to Stage Lighting and Stage Lighting Revealed, - those which I have read, given your interest in nuts and bolts/equipment the above are general purpose lighting books and not catalogs for new gear.

Stage lighting step by step has uses for most normal gear but is somewhat dated with the new projector and moving light technologies - in other words it's at least 5 years out of date. But it does get into stuff like pattern rotators and cloud machines.
Practical Guide to stage lighting does not have the color pictures or nuts and bolts details you are looking into, more design and production info.
Stage Lighting Revealed is old - pre ETC and at least 10 years out of date on the nuts and bolts side.

After that, if you exclude ethernet, DMX, and followspot books you are left with a few main choices. Movie/concert lights and books covering basic lighting technique which like the above three would or would not cover all the newest toys depending upon their style of presentation and publishing date. The newer the better for the most modern but there no assurance they would have much about fixture technology. Lighting Dimensions and PLSN are more normal sources for info on the latest technology, that and the manufacturers cut sheets.

Assuming you have Photometrics Handbook, Stage Lighting of the three is the next best along with Stage Lighting Controls of them which I have read. Doesn't mean there is not better books out now, just that I am yet to buy them. Given the titles and authors at least if not also ISBN numbers, you should be able to find reviews on the list to base your opinion upon. Otherwise you can contact me off line and I'll forward to you the reviews I have collected up on them.


I think that the Shelley book is one of the best lighting books out there, if you are looking at how to become an LD. He is informative, gives lots of real life experience, and has a lot of great sample paperwork. He doesnt really talk about gear so much. I find that there are a lot of books that talk about specific models and by the time that they are published in wide circulation, the are already obsolete.

If you are interested in really cutting-edge new equipment, I would recommend going to your local rental/sales house, or subscribing to a newsletter like LiveDesign or PLSN. There is an entire section in each devoted to talking about new gear. Another option is to go to trade shows like LDI and actually see the gear up close and personal. It gives you a really good opportunity to see a helluva lot of stuff, all at once, while talking to the people who use it everyday, and in some cases, built it.

That would be my $0.02


CB Mods
Just a quick Necropost warning (last post was 2004), although it is a useful topic, I think we have a book list in the wiki somewhere.

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