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Composition: From Snapshots to Great Shots 1st Edition

61 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0321741325
ISBN-10: 9780321741325
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

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

WithComposition: From Snapshots to Great Shots,the author starts with the basics of composition--such as the popular rule of thirds--and continues with exploring how the elements of color, shape, angles, and contrast work to create compelling images.

The book covers all key camera features that affect composition (regardless of what type of DSLR you have) including shutter speed's ability to freeze and convey motion, as well as aperture's direct correlation with depth of field. Throughout the course of the book, the reader will gain an understanding of composition, which will allow them to bring their own unique artistic expression to any situation whether taking portraits, action shots, landscapes, or events. 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.

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

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Product Details

  • Series: From Snapshots to Great Shots
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Peachpit Press; 1 edition (November 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780321741325
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321741325
  • ASIN: 0321741323
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 0.6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

111 of 122 people found the following review helpful By Alan Shi on April 22, 2011
Format: Paperback
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 By Robert Felice on January 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
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 By Paul S on May 12, 2011
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 By M. N. Mehta on 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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