95 of 105 people found the following review helpful
When my daughter was 14, her best friend and she borrowed flutes from her school's music room, even though neither had ever played the instruments. As they sat trying to learn the fingering and to play a duet, I took a couple of dimly-lit photographs. Thirty years later, those images still hang on my wall, reminding me of that moment of friendship and experiment. Visitors often ask me what the photographs are about. I was reminded of this as I read "Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sisters' Guide to Shooting from the Heart".
The Shutter Sisters are a group of women who operate a photography blog. Ten of the sisters have joined forces to create this book. Each of the sisters writes one chapter on a subject including such genres as Portraiture, Stillness, and Togetherness. Each chapter is illustrated with images taken by the writer and other sisters. There are also excerpts from the Shutter Sisters' blog and sidebars telling us to "See It!" with shooting data and "Shoot It!" urging us to experiment with a certain type of photograph.
Basically the book is a collection of random tips and motivational words about the importance of photographing from the heart. The pictures vary in quality from highly interesting to bland family snapshots. There is little of a technical nature in the book, and there is little that tells how to apply technique to one's vision, other than reminders that technique can help the photographer to capture what is in his or her heart. Occasionally, one of the authors will go on for a page about the difficulties of being a homemaker, or the anxiety and joy of being a mother. While I acknowledge the validity of these sentiments, the authors often failed to make the connection with creating a good photograph. Instead most of the text emphasizes the importance of following our emotions in photography, a sentiment with which I whole-heartedly agree, but I also recognize that it is through the application of technique that the photographer transforms a vision created by, among other things, emotions, into an artful photograph. I often got the feeling that the pictures were more successful in preserving memories for the photographer, then in revealing what was in the photographer's heart to the viewer.
I have no doubt that there will be an audience of people with cameras with whom these sentiments will resonate. For an old geezer like me, who continues searching for ways to make expressive photographs, the book seemed much more about the importance of emotions than creating images that will speak to viewers.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Expressive Photography is a book written by the "Shutter Sisters" about shooting great pictures from the heart. This is not your typical photography book; you will find little about technique in this guide. Instead, this book focuses on helping you find the emotional side to your technique.
There are jillions of technique books out there, so I was happy to find a book that offers an alternative discussion. This book assumes that you already have a bit of technical proficiency and are looking to expand the heart of your images. Unfortunately, this book falls a bit short of being a useful guide that I would find myself turning to over and over.
So the pluses and the minuses.
- Lots of images, many with accompanying "Set It!" information (ISO, Exposure, Aperture, Focal Length).
- A blurb on each photograph that explains why, at least to the photographer, each image works.
- Lovely prose introducing each section and each topic.
- Not all of the images do actually work. Many seem as though they simply evoke the photographer's emotions and were included for this reason.
- A lack of real detailed information. Many of the tips and suggestions seem to fall under the umbrella of "shoot things that make you feel emotion." A nice sentiment, but it doesn't really help me become a better photographer.
- Perhaps too much of this book is occupied by the author's reflections on parenting, working from home and homemaking.
Make no mistake, there are tips in this book about shooting, many tried and true and some new ones, but there is a lack of any real direction about how to use that technique to create a picture that reflects the emotion. The most useful books for me are the ones that not only explain technique but how to use that technique to create a successful photograph. For me, that probably means that I will continue to reference what I consider the classic book on emotion in photography (Galen Rowell's Inner Game of Outdoor Photography).
Having said that, this book is well done and beautifully written. If you are looking for a book that is one part photography technique, two parts journal/self-help and three parts interesting photography, this is the one for you.
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 2010
Having just recently purchased my first camera (at the age of 41), I am very grateful for this book. I've decided the book will serve as my companion in my photography endeavors. It's creators do a wonderful job of reminding me to take notice of the small details and to move at my own pace. With so much technology available to us, it is easy for one to feel intimidated by the immense possibilities for amazing photos. This book reminds us that none of that matters, the most important thing is to translate what is in our hearts to the image. These women, are brave in their encouragement of simplicity and intuition. Not to mention their generosity in sharing images that give us glimpses into their lives, giving us permission to breathe. Beautiful, just beautiful images!! BRAVO!!!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 2010
I really wanted to like this book. And I do. Just not as much as I wanted to. I'm an an advanced hobbyist photographer, and have noticed a lack of emotion/expression/story in my images. I want to fix that. This book helped. But it didn't really resonate with me. Written by a collection of women (one per chapter), I found it hard to connect with. I'm a male scientist, and this book was a bit too poetic for my tastes. Each chapter is structured identically: two pages each for Introduction, Approach, Perspective, Composition, Lighting, Details, and Processing. By the fifth time I got to "composition", it got a little repetitive.
The images are okay... and they are expressive. The writing, however, occasionally seemed to lack substance. A little too floofy and ethereal. And much of it was presented at a level more appropriate for beginners.
If you're a mom who's recently obtained your first SLR with a kit lens, you're about the perfect target audience for the book. If you're giving a camera like that to someone (especially female), this book would accompany it perfectly. Well, this one and Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera, which focuses on the basic technical stuff more.
Similar "how to be creative" photography books that I enjoyed more and feel that I got more out of included The Photographer's Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos and Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision. I highly recommend those. BUT... whether or not they're "better" will depend on the reader. I can see this book being more appreciated by some people. If you're considering whether to get this book, spend some time at shuttersistersdotcom first, and see if you like their style, as the book reads much like their blog posts.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2011
Seriously, this book is provides very little content for anyone trying to advance their own photography skills.
"Will also teach you how to create your own compelling photographic images - one click at a time" explain how this book teaches anything....at all.
This is an excerpt on Portraiture Lighting: "Every photographer knows that light is everything. Lighting can turn the most ordinary things into magic, elevate them to a kind of poetry. In the right light, everyone looks more beautiful, more true. Lighting can make or break a portrait. The less harsh the lighting (the few the shadows), the softer the face will look and the smoother the skin will appear. Lighting can transform a simple snapshot into an artful portrait."
That is pretty much the extent of the kind of information available to create your own compelling photographic image.
A good blog does not make a good photography book.
35 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2010
First of all, a huge disclaimer: I wrote one of the chapters of this book. That said, I had absolutely no input on any of the remaining chapters, so in writing this, please note that I am speaking to the book as a whole.
When I was asked to contribute to this book, I was absolutely thrilled, primarily because as far as I knew, I was unaware of any other photography books like this one. Admittedly, as one of the commenters mentioned, the book is light on technical information (although there is SOME, make no mistake); however, the truth is there are TONS of technical books on photography on the market, and frankly, they're all very much alike. The point of this book was NOT to add to that oversaturated market.
What I love about this book, and why I was so honoured to be asked to contribute is because I don't know of any other photography books that go into the EMOTION behind photography -- how, particularly when using your photography to help chronicle your life, and the times that you're living in, it makes sense to tap into your emotions in the moment before squeezing the shutter. What this book does is not only illustrate how doing so can help improve your photography by a quantum leap, but it also helps give tips on how to approach your subjects -- framing, angle, perspective, etc. -- to convey those feelings. It encourages the photographer to take a moment and consider the emotion of the moment before ever capturing the shot -- and watch the magic happen as a result.
If you've ever looked at a photograph and felt a visceral emotional response, but then lamented that your own photographs do little to evoke the same emotion in others, then trust me, THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU. It's a brilliant book, and I'm humbled to have contributed the small part of it that I did.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Expressive Photography may inspire beginning photographers aiming for new approaches to taking personally meaningful pictures. But it is likely to disappoint experienced amateur photographers (and certainly pros), especially those wishing to improve their photography.
Written by ten different "Shutter Sisters", and based on their popular blog, Expressive Photography includes chapters on photography related to horizons, nature, familiar spaces, kitchen and dining room tables, creatures, children, portraits, and togetherness, as well a documentary photography. Each chapter is well-organized and easy-to-read, divided into topics of composition, lighting, perspective, detail and post-processing. There is little technical instruction; the focus is on different approaches and perspectives related primarily to composition.
Although entitled Expressive Photography, the book is not oriented toward taking photo that move the viewer. Instead, it assumes that the reader wishes to capture significant facets of his/her life for primarily personal reasons. For example, taking a closeup of your pregnant sister's stomach may be meaningful to you and your family, but necessarily to the unknown viewer.
The photos which illustrate suggestions provided in this book are second rate at best; some are embarrassingly poor. Reading the book, I was at first intrigued that the authors were frequently breaking the rules of composition - showing pictures with tilted horizons, odd colorization, out of focus subjects, half of people's faces, and people with their heads chopped off. Initially I thought - maybe it's time to experiment with breaking the rules of photo composition for more original, exciting results. But viewing such photos here, I realized that they simply were poor quality photos, taken with little regard for their final impact upon viewers.
If one is aiming to simply have fun doing photography and try different approaches, then Expressive Photography is likely to be worthwhile. But many of us wanting to take better quality photos are not likely to be satisfied for example, with a photo of the in-focus BACK of a boy looking through glass a large completely out-of-focus gorilla. What really does this express, and what is the point anyway? The gorilla is certainly more interesting and worthy of focus than the boy's back.
In all fairness, the book does have its strengths. Some of the people pictures capture the personal expressiveness of the subject and are framed well. Some suggested approaches might even intrigue photographers enough for them to want to experiment further. For example, why not try: a) shooting through the windshield or capturing reflections on rearview mirrors? b) setting up unusual still lifes with diverse objects to create a particular effects? c) focusing on an evocative gesture, such as nervous hands? d) purposefully creating silhouettes?
Since I have never done black and white photography, I also did find valuable the hints for determining whether to shoot and/or post-process in black and white or partial black and white. For example, we might want to clarify which photos we take may lend themselves to be highly desaturated afterwards, and then converted to grayscale, sepia or pastels.
As a photoshop user, I also appreciated the few but useful suggestions for post-processing such as vignetting and split toning. Purposefully underexposing with the intention of brightening and saturating afterwards and saturating could be worth attempting, although the result if likely to increase the noise in the photo.
In short, If you want to merely have fun taking more pictures that are personally meaningful to you, you may appreciate this book. But if you wish to improve your technical expertise, photo composition and ability to take photos which move the viewer, look elsewhere for instruction and inspiration.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 2010
For me, photography is all about connection, creativity, and community. The Shutter Sisters book captures all of these elements with gorgeous images, wonderful essays, and insightful tips. If you enjoy contemplative photography, this is the book for you.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Perhaps I expected too much from this book, but I found it little more than someone's photo album with lots of personal background to the shots (like a paragraph talking about the photographer's daughters taking a long bath next to an unremarkable picture of them) and very little instruction. "Tips" like "photo-editing software can be used to manipulate an image until you arrive at the desired result" are useless to all but the absolute beginner. Some of the pictures are quite good and a few give good descriptions of how the shot was taken and how it was manipulated, but for the most part this book is useful only for someone who is new to photography and has little innate talent.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 2010
I own several photography books but none of them makes me want to shoot like this one! This innovative book revolutionizes the way we approach Photography by showing us how to explore emotion while we click our shutters. With Expressive Photography we finally have a refreshing alternative to the often intimidating books on the subject of photography. Alleluia! Instead of treating the craft as a mechanical process, it dares us to think about why we shoot first and foremost, and then it offers numerous and useful tips on how to draw on our personal experience for inspiration, and on how to capture what we see in effective ways. One thing is for sure: this is not a book that will collect dust on your shelf! You'll want to keep it near your camera, on your coffee table, at your bedside, and mostly, close to your heart! And if you're like me, you'll also want to send it as a gift to every creative women you know. Seriously: Get ready to have some fun with your camera!