If you aspire to be a 3D artist (3D modeling, animation, rendering), and you've never had traditional training in drawing or photography, I highly recommend that you study this book. It covers many important topics that you may have missed out on. This book includes color theory, light (and shadow) behaviors, composition and many other topics that are vital to all forms of art, including 3D computer art.
The author compares computer-world aspects of lighting and rendering to their real-world equivalents and demonstrates that a photographer's tip can be a 3D artist's tip (and visa versa). This makes the book more than just an excellent computer 3D rendering book; this book is also a great addition to any photographer's bookshelf.
Each topic is wonderfully illustrated with color images that depict exactly what is being discussed; clearly and without distraction. For example, you can see for yourself what the different properties, capabilities and shadow types are among point lights, area lights, spotlights and so forth without having to wade through technical jargon or executing tests with your 3D software. These types of lights are demonstrated on simple spheres, on a flat surface, instead of full 3D scenes, allowing the reader to see the vital details quickly instead of being forced to study the image and draw conclusions.
The author guides you through selecting the most effective light type, the number of light sources to use and where the lights should be placed into your scene, depending on what your objectives are and how much time you have to render the final work. This makes the book a great guide to have on hand during the setup process of your 3D scenes. For example: if you like the appearance of global illumination or radiosity but do not have the time to render your work with those time-consuming advanced features, there are ways of simulating the results with the standard features.
Other topics such as post processing, compositing, reflection, caustics, global illumination, and exposure are also clearly explained and illustrated. The book is also software-agnostic. Meaning, topics and techniques in the book are applicable to practically all 3D software packages (Lightwave, Maya, 3D Studio Max, Carrara, etc). The author also explains some of the differences between the popular software packages to make applying the text to your software easier (for example, different software packages have different names for the same things).
Overall, I highly recommend this book for artists of 3D computer rendering and photography. I can think of no downsides to this book except maybe that I would not mind it being longer. However, "short" sometimes equals "sweet" and that may be the beauty of this book. It is not a five hundred page technical manual; it's a well paced, excellently illustrated, and easy to read handbook for two important topics that have many interesting facets. One note of caution: if you are expecting a "recipe book" or "perfect lighting in five simple steps" you may be disappointed (and I feel that such instant recipe books are not really as helpful to artists seeking to fulfill their own visions). This is an art book in the sense that it tries to teach you how to look at the world and to reproduce what you see with every detail. It's about learning how things look and why; not a set of steps to produce a limited set of results.
I'm off now to go get the companion book "Texturing and Painting."