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Composition: From Snapshots to Great Shots [Kindle Edition]

Laurie Excell , John Batdorff , David Brommer , Rick Rickman , Steve Simon
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Now that you’ve bought that amazing new DSLR, you need a book that goes beyond the camera manual to teach you how to take those great shots. One key element is composition—the creative arrangement of components in the shot, and the way a viewer’s eye travels through an image.

With Composition: From Snapshots to Great Shots, author and photographer Laurie Excell starts with the basics of composition and explores how the elements of color, shape, angles, and contrast work to create compelling images. Contributing photographers, John Batdorff, David Brommer, Rick Rickman, and Steve Simon, provide unique perspectives on black and white, sports, art history, and other subjects related to composition. Beautifully illustrated with large, vibrant photos, this book teaches you how to take control of your photography to get the image you want every time you pick up the camera.

Follow along with your friendly and knowledgeable guides, and you will learn about:
  • Key camera features that affect composition, including the exposure triangle (ISO, aperture, and shutter speed)
  • Shadow and light and how to direct the viewer’s eye to your subject
  • Lines and shapes that create visual paths to points of interest in your image
  • The role of color—using complementary or contrasting colors—to add your own unique artistic expression
  • Spatial relationship and placing your subject within the frame for portraits, action shots, or landscapes

And once you’ve got the shot, show it off! Join the book’s Flickr group, share your photos, and discuss how you use your camera to get great shots at

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Laurie Excell is a professional wildlife and nature photographer. Her images have been published in Outdoor Photographer, Outdoor  Photography (UK), Photoshop User, Elements Techniques, and Layers magazines. She leads popular wildlife photography adventures in North America and is an instructor at Photoshop World. Prior to working as a professional photographer, Laurie spent more than two decades in photographic sales, helping pros and hobbyists decide which equipment suited their particular needs. See her work at
John Batdorff is an award-winning landscape and travel photographer who splits his time between Chicago and Montana. He is the author of Nikon D7000: From Snapshots to Great Shots (Peachpit), and his work has been featured in the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole. He loves the outdoors and traveling, and sharing his images with others. See his work and read his popular photography blog at
David Brommer is a New York City based photographer, who currently works as the B&H Photo Event Space Manager. Well versed in photography from pixels to platinum, David has built up a body of work centering on portraits of fringe society. David operated the gallery Suspect Photography in Seattle during the 90s and continues to explore new technology and old techniques. See his work at
Rick Rickman is a Pulitzer Prize-winning Southern California photographer with 30 years experience. His work has been featured on many covers of Time and Newsweek magazines. His project and documentary work has appeared in publications such as National Geographic, Life, Sports Illustrated, and Smithsonian. Rick has traveled the world covering Olympic competitions, wars, and political upheavals as well as innumerable social interests and events. His abilities cross over every photographic discipline, and his greatest motivator is the challenge presented by each opportunity. He excels in creating unique images that excite the eye and captivate the mind. See his work at:
Steve Simon has been passionate about documenting the beauty and drama of the human condition for his entire photographic life. The author of four photography books with works in major museum collections around the world, he has had solo shows in New York, Buenos Aires, Toronto, and Montreal, and his work has been featured at the Visa Pour L’Image Photojournalism Festival in Perpignan, France. He is on the Apple Aperture Advisory Board and faculty of International Center of Photography (ICP) and School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York. He has lead workshops all over the world, including Mentor Series, Macworld, PhotoPlus Expo, and Gulf Photo Plus in Dubai. His forthcoming books include: Steve Simon's Nikon Dream System (Lark) and The Passionate Photographer (New Riders). See his work at

Product Details

  • File Size: 12021 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 5 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Peachpit Press; 1 edition (November 17, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #182,124 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
110 of 121 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Random jumbles April 22, 2011
This is a short, rudimentary book on composition, yet ironically, is poorly suited to beginners. There are a number of serious flaws with this book, almost all of which are related to some form of bad organization/editing. For a book that can be read easily in within one evening, it's puzzling why there are *five* different authors--and this chaos really shows. The majority of this book is written by Excell, but the last 4 chapters are basically random, disconnected topics that were just stitched into this book as if it was just filler material. Those chapters are not connected to the main text, can overlap in content, and are often just poorly written in their own right.

The first six chapters written by Excell are by far the best in the book. The photos are excellent, and I enjoyed almost every one of them, although there was very little *instructive* value that was offered. You can see that Excell is an intuitive and gifted photographer, although (at least in this book), she is not skilled in articulating the knowledge she has. The writing strongly lacks organization.

These organization problems are obvious in a number of ways. Strangely, the first two chapters are not about composition at all. Chapter 1 describes equipment, and chapter 2 attempts to describe the basic principles of photographic exposure (iso/shutter/aperture). This is a bit odd in a book about composition, but I suppose the intent was to give background information for novices. Unfortunately, it does a very poor job at this.

Even if you did want to present these topics, why would you start with equipment before the fundamental concept of exposure?
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57 of 61 people found the following review helpful
I doubt I'll be able to finish reading this book. I'm up to page 42, and so far all I've been treated to is a list of professional equipment the author owns, and pictures with descriptions that tell me "my xyz lens lets me do this" and "my abc lens lets me do that" and so on. It's been very tedious reading, and I'm not getting much out of it.

I thought I was buying a book to teach me something about composition. But a book that teaches you something is aimed at YOU. This book reads like the author's CV or autobiography ("and then I took this picture, using my jkm lens and my fizzbar tripod, and then I took this picture with my...").

Sorry, Laurie, this book isn't supposed to be about you. It's supposed to be about you teaching me about composition. And, lest we quibble over what the word "composition" actually means, the back cover of the book defines it thus: "the creative arrangement of components in the shot, and the way the viewer's eye travels through the image."

I've read about 20% of the book, and have yet to read a anything about composing a shot. Glancing at the Table of Contents, it doesn't look like the good stuff starts until the second half of the book. I swear, if I have to read one more photo caption that begins, "My jkl lens allows me to..." I'm going to throw the book across the room and scream.

Ironically, composition has very little to do with your equipment. A great photographer can make a "creative arrangement of the components in the shot" with a cell phone camera. And maybe that's what the focus of this book should have been. Composition, not equipment.

This review is a work in progress. Assuming I don't give up in frustration and add the book to my pile of books to be sold, I may yet be able to discover why a book on composition needed five authors. And if I find a book that actually concentrates on composition, not equipment, I'll be sure to let you know what it is.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not really a book on composition. May 12, 2011
By Paul S
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book holds a very rare record. In my 53 years, I have only thrown two books in the bin after reading only a few chapters. This is one of them. If you're looking for a guide to photographic/artistic composition, then this really isn't for you. If you're looking for a book on general photography (which is what the title should be), there are better books out there.

The first chapter is nothing more than a brag-fest about the wonderful cameras the author owns that we mere mortals won't have a hope of buying. I started to add up the cost of the equipment he owns. I stopped counting at $30,000USD. Yes he takes nice nature photographs, and yes you need a rugged camera (or two), but you don't need to spend that kind of money to get a good setup. He makes no mention of the equipment that say, a wedding photographer, or a portrait photographer might need.

I skipped ahead looking for something on composition. Waaaaay into the book at Chapter 8, I started to find some reasonable information, but not a lot. He could have reduced this book to just 50 pages (from it's 250 page length) and honestly titled it "Composition". I read exactly three chapters (half of Ch. 1, Ch. 8, Ch. 9 and half of Ch. 10) then threw it in the bin.

In short - don't bother with this book. You can do much better. Buy a good art book and you'll learn about composition.
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59 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for BEGINNER photographers December 5, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a great book with lots of useful easy to read and digest information for AMATEUR photographers. There is much less to gain from the book if you are an experienced photog but that is no reason to downgrade the rating for this book given its TARGET audience.

The chapters are well organized, the book is well written and I really like that the pictures are accompanied with relevant information about the shot including basic things like the shutter speed and aperture.

I would have loved to have had this book a few years ago when starting out my photography hobby. It would be a GREAT complement to the Scott Kelby series of books about Digital Photography:
Scott Kelby's Digital Photography Boxed Set, Volumes 1, 2, and 3, and Bryan Peterson's classic book on Aperture.

The book is compact enough that you can take it on a holiday with you to get inspiration on the road and see how to take better photos in various situations on your trip. Highly recommended for NEW photographers.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Performs as expected.
Published 3 months ago by Griffi
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great pictures in this book.
Published 3 months ago by Stanley R. Freedman
2.0 out of 5 stars For a book on photographic composition...
…this book was seriously lacking. The first chapter was a list of what the author owns. In a book geared for novices, a list of equipment is going to be meaningless. Read more
Published 5 months ago by poetnyouknowit
3.0 out of 5 stars fair
The book is fine, it took over TWO and a half weeks to arrive. I needed it for school. Thats way too long.
Published 9 months ago by Donna Parnisi
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Everything you need to know about Composition. Its not only about the rule of thirds! A must have to complete your collection
Published 10 months ago by Dr. Ad Barnard
5.0 out of 5 stars composition
when you read about composition it is always rules of thirds. This book goes into other areas of composition so you can create interesting images.
Published 10 months ago by steve torma
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for beginners
As with all the Snapshots to Great Shots book, it's a good book for beginners. Easy to follow and enjoyable read.
Published 13 months ago by Kathy
4.0 out of 5 stars It's a good read
It's a good read and I like the fact that the settings for the pictures are given - helps to have a feel of where to start.
Published 15 months ago by NickP
4.0 out of 5 stars Beginner or experienced, it's a great read
It's not often that you can sit down with 5 experienced professional photographers and discuss about photography. That's what this book offers. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Stratos Safioleas
2.0 out of 5 stars For beginners,nice pics but that's about it
I made the mistake of buying this book without reading the preview. I was hoping for something a little more advanced. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Thomas
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Topic From this Discussion
Kindle difference?
Pages used to show up great on my iPod Touch, but now with the "optimized for larger screen" publications can no longer read parts of the book due to the fact the words &/or images are so large & cannot be shrunk to fit the screen. Yes, I could just get a larger-screened device, but I... Read More
Oct 31, 2011 by hippihopi |  See all 3 posts
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