Reviews of photography related books that I have read
The Digital Photography Book, Volume 2/Scott Kelby, Berkeley: Peachpit Press, 2007 (223 p.)
To quote Scott Kelby from Chapter 1, “This is volume 2 of The Digital Photography Book and it picks up where the last book left off (so it’s not an update of that book, it’s new stuff …” In the same manner as volume 1, Kelby approaches this volume as though he and the reader were out together on a photo shoot and the reader asked how to do a particular task. The result is an easy to read volume, not overloaded with technical details but instead filled with useful information. At 223 pages, you get another 200 or so helpful hints or ideas on how to make your photography better.
Volume 1 provided broad coverage of almost every photographic subject. While volume 2 continues this coverage of multiple areas, the emphasis leans strongly toward “people photography” with longer chapters on lighting, building a studio, portraiture, and wedding photography. It also includes shorter chapters on landscape, travel, and macro photography but these are clearly not the emphasis of this volume.
Like volume 1, volume 2 closes with two chapters covering pro tips and photo recipes, or techniques used to capture selected sample images. In both volumes, these two chapters provide some of the most useful and easiest to read information. As is the case with the rest of volume 2, the emphasis of these two chapters is people photography. Kelby’s dry humor remains, primarily on the introductory pages of each chapter, and can be read or ignored as the reader prefers. As a tease, I found his story of his recent contract with National Geographic to be particularly humorous.
Peachpit rates this book as a Beginner Level volume but unless you are a true expert, any reader may find helpful information included. This is particularly true for photograhers who, like me, prefer areas other than photographing people.
Another good volume that is well worth the investment (by the way, you can get volumes 1, 2, and 3 as a boxed set at considerable savings).
The Digital Photography Book, Volume 1
/Scott Kelby, Berkeley: Peachpit Press, 2006 (218 p.)
The first volume of a series of four (as of March 2012) books written by Scott Kelby on digital photography techniques, this book quickly departs from the typical reference volume filled with both comments on how and reasons why a photographer should do anything. Instead, Kelby approaches this as though he and the reader were out together on a photo shoot and the reader asked how to do a particular task. The result is a 218 page book that contains about 200 one-page hints on how to make your photography better.
While you can read the book cover to cover as I did, you can just as easily pick it up and read a chapter or even a page or two on a specific topic of interest. Each chapter is devoted to a general area of photography like flowers, weddings, landscapes, and sports and most can easily be read in a single sitting.
For those who have not read other books by Kelby it may take a little time to appreciate the humor that he injects throughout the book. Although this is primarily limited to the introduction and first page of each chapter, it occasionally sneaks into other locations. If the humor bothers the reader, they can skip the introductory pages with no loss of content. For the rest of us, it offers a nice break as you are going through the book.
I will be reading the other four volumes of this series over the next few weeks and add comments on them as they are completed. Peachpit rates this book as a Beginner Level volume but unless you are a true expert, any reader may find helpful information included. Chapter 11 may be of particular interest to more advanced photographers. In this Chapter, Kelby discusses techniques for taking specific photos which can be useful when trying to capture a certain mood or appearance.
Overall, a good book that can be read by photographers at all levels regardless of the type of digital camera they use (even those who use their smart phone as their only camera may find some of these tips valuable).
The Digital SLR Expert: Landscapes /Tom Mackie, William Neill, David Noton, Darwin Wiggett, and Tony Worobiec, Cincinnati: David and Charles, 2008 (144 p.)
This is the fourth photography book that I have reviewed as part of the Missouri Book Challenge. When I read the introduction my initial thought was “Finally, a book by Canon shooters,” since the other three books were by Nikon shooters. I also thought that this book should be a fairly quick read since it was only 144 pages and about 2/3 of the book was taken up by photographs.
I was somewhat disappointed on both counts. First, once I had read the introductory materials, there was little reference to photography gear other than in the technical notes accompanying each of the photos. Second, while the material presented in the book was fairly complete, each set of two-three pages addressed an individual topic or technique and there was little or no segue between these groupings. As a result, I found it difficult to read more than five or six pages at any one sitting. This was further complicated by the extremely small font used throughout the book (younger readers may not find this problematic but my eyes just aren’t what they used to be J).
While I found the overall body of the book difficult to follow, there were small hint blocks scattered throughout the text which many will find helpful. The book itself is divided into five chapters with one chapter written by each of the authors so you do get different perspectives as you move from chapter to chapter but it might have been more useful had the views of two authors been shared in each of the chapters.
Many of the sections include tips on how to use PhotoShop. The unfortunate thing is that because the book was published in 2008 these techniques are geared toward PhotoShop 3. The same techniques are possible in PhotoShop CS5, and presumably in 4, it may take some searching to locate the specific tools or techniques referenced.
After struggling through this book, I would probably give it 2½ to 3 stars of 5. It is definitely not a book for a beginning landscape photographer.
|Composition: From Snapshots to Great Shots/ Laurie Excell. Berkeley: Peachpit Press, c2011, Simon and Schuster, c1991 (251 p.)
For the beginning digital photographer Excell covers the full spectrum of composition from equipment selection to patterns to spatial relationships. Her work is complemented by chapters contributed by four other photographers focusing on specific subjects like black and white photography and sports.
For the more advanced photographer, the book serves as a refresher on skills that are sometimes overlooked in the rush to get that “magic photo”.
The chapters also include practical exercises that can be used to further reinforce the materials included in the book. I would recommend this book to all but the most experienced photographer.
I finished Davis’ book with mixed feelings. The book contains a great deal of information for all levels of photographers. It also contains examples on almost every page along with lens and exposure information and either a description of the subject, a description of technique, or both.
Unfortunately, because of the wealth of photos I found myself wanting to go back and forth between text and descriptions and photos which made keeping focus difficult.
The first third of the book concentrates more on Davis’ landscape philosophy and the final part of the book focuses more on technique. Probably not the best book for the point-and-shoot or smart phone photographer, I would recommend this book to SLR and medium format photographers with an interest in landscape photography.
Wildlife Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots/Laurie Excell, Berkeley: Peachpit Press, 2012 (229 p.)
This is the second book in the series “From Snapshots to Great Shots” series by Laurie Excell. I found the information here to be in more detail than her book on Composition and believe that this book will appeal to a wider, although more specialized, audience. This book also serves as a good companion volume to Moose Peterson’s Captured. While Peterson’s book is written in a more folksy manner, Excell’s book is more of a “how-to” volume and, being much shorter, is also a quicker read.
Excell considers Peterson to be one of her mentors so you will see many parallels between their books with regard to equipment, locations, etc., but Excell does not put as much emphasis on using photography as a component of wildlife studies. Instead, she focuses more on photography rather than projects surrounding the photography.
As in her other book, Composition, each chapter contains practical exercises to help photographers develop or fine tune their skills. Excell closes this book with information on two specific wildlife photography excursions, photographing bears in Alaska and photographing birds in Texas. I found these two chapters were easy to read and gave photographers a better idea of what to expect should they decide to take one of these trips.
Peachpit Press rates this book as a “Beginner” level volume which is probably accurate although I believe it offers useful information to the more experienced photographer as well. My only lingering question is whether I would recommend that a photographer read this book before or after Peterson’s Captured.
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