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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2012
When I first started shooting in the 1970s, I used black and white film and did most of the developing myself. I have always loved black and white photography and was really looking forward to reading The Art of Black and White Photography. However, it appears that the book is primarily meant to "facilitate both amateurs and professionals as they transition from analog to digital...[while helping] you become familiar with digital photography and focus again on the image in the digital age". I stopped using analog (film) over 10 years ago. I don't know anyone that has used film in the past five years, so I found it puzzling that the author put so much emphasis on analog photography. In fact, I found it very frustrating at times. For example, he does a wonderful job of explaining color filters and then concludes by saying "color filters just described lose their effect, lead to flat images, and are therefore useless in digital photography." To his credit, he does then explain what you need to do with digital photography in lieu of the color filters.

The author states that "this book will stimulate you to analyze images in-depth and will motivate you to find your own photographic style". Unfortunately, for me this didn't happen. I will admit that this is a very personal opinion, but there wasn't anything in the book that made me go "wow". Furthermore, while the photos were okay, I didn't find them great or inspiring.

Having said this, I think the book would be a wonderful resource for someone who is still shooting film and is looking at transitioning into digital. In Section 3 of the book the author does a good job in discussing and demonstrating the Rules of Composition, including pictorial composition, the golden ration and elementary construction, triangular composition and so forth. I found that Section 4 of the book does a good job providing an overall introduction to the Digital Darkroom (Photoshop) including the steps to convert your digital photos from color to black and white, simulating analog filter effects, brightening dark areas while increasing midtone contrast, adding grain, dodging, burning and retouching the photo. He also spends a chapter explaining how to partially manipulate a photo using the Lasso Tool in Photoshop.

In summary, I think the book would be useful for those individuals that are transitioning from film to digital and have little too no knowledge about digital photography and Photoshop.

Disclosure: A copy of this book was provided to me as part of the O'Reilly's Blogger Review Program on the understanding that I would read it and provide an honest review.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2012
Now I have to admit up front that I like black and white photography for its ability to strip an image down to its bare bones. The question of course is will this book help you produce better images? Over all I think it probably will. The book is divided into four sections; tools and fundamentals; photographic genres and concepts; rules of composition and the digital darkroom. I'll deal with each of these sections separately in this review.

The tools and fundamentals section is slim and retreads some well worn ground. It covers the basics of choosing a camera, shooting in RAW mode and using (or not using) filters. It doesn't cover anything new but summarises the basics more or less clearly. Some technical discussions, such as the description of how a polarising filter works, could do with clarifying or the use of a diagram but overall the section is coherent.

The photographic genres and concepts section is probably the one that you will dip in and out of rather than read through. It is divided into sections largely covering different genres of photography such as street photography and portraiture. Some of these styles will appeal and some won't, for example I can't stand fuzzy mystical images so I simply skipped that chapter. The chapter that is most worth reading is the first one on avoiding cliched pictures. However this chapter does have one big issue; one of the images cliches used is that of the New York skyline with the World Trade Centre which some will find rather tasteless and does make you wonder just how updated this second edition is.

The third section which covers composition is by itself worth the price of the book. Now that you can snap away without having to worry about the cost of development and the availability of simple post processing there seems to be a move to firing off as many snaps as possible and hoping to get something good out of it. The composition section is more about seeing and composing the picture before you press the shutter which I find much more satisfying. All the basics of the golden ratio, recurring elements, balance and reduction are all well covered. For me this was the real meat of the book and the section I enjoyed the most.

The final section on the digital darkroom is one where I have some issues. It seems almost obligatory to have a section on photoshop in a digital photography book but I must admit I usually find them a waste of space. Photoshop is so complex that it needs a book or two to itself to use it properly, and that's ignoring the fact that not everyone uses photoshop. That being said this is one of the least worst digital darkroom sections I've read in a photography book. Rather than skimming all of photoshop's functions the author selects a few pertinent tasks such as black and white conversion, filter effects and retouching and works through each one.

The Art of Black and White photography has it's high points and low points but overall I consider it a useful book even if just for the excellent section on picture composition which is where, for me, the real art of photography lies. For all its flaws the book has earned a place on my bookshelf.
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on July 21, 2014
Black and white imaging is alive and well in spite that every digital device, be it a digital camera, a tablet or a phone, produce stunning color images there is still room for black and white photos. In many cases a monochromatic, black and white, image has far more impact then its color counterpart. The author goes to great lengths attempting to show how to create award winning black and white photographs. Many well explained examples are provided. The author does not shy away from explaining related digital post processing and devoted an entire section to the digital darkroom. This book helps to expand your photographic skills adding black and white photography to your bag of tricks.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2012
I have just started reading this book and I am finding it to be superb. It is technically up to date but reaches back to the film world where black and white photos were the only game available. He not only covers techniques but also artistic insights, compositions, and creating worthwhile photographs while avoiding cliched photos. Exactly what I was looking for, a book for photographers with practical techniques and valuable insights. Highly recommended.
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on March 20, 2015
I originally became acquainted with Hoffmann through his book "Photography as Meditation" and thoroughly enjoyed his insights into developing a vision for my photography. This book continues his perspective on black and white images. I love his development of a perspective approach and the way he advocates for the unique power of black and white.
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on September 7, 2014
This was a gift for my husband. He loves it and keeps returning to it, finding more each time. He is an accomplished photographer himself.
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on October 23, 2014
Yhis is the best book that I have yet read. Thanks to the author.
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on May 17, 2015
Very helpful in my hobby work.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2012
In The Art of Black and White Photography a great variety of thematic photos are analyzed
to show how mood and emotion are evoked by certain fundamental elements,
while also comparing these photos to great photographers and artists criteria and intentions.

Torsten Hoffmann's understanding of good photography principles and knowledge of various great artists
makes this a truly inspiring book. And Torsten gives good creative advice on composition throughout.

The later part of the book focuses on the Digital Darkroom.
Utilizing Photoshop the Black and White adjustment panel is explored as well as Brightness/Contrast,
tonal correction with Levels, and adjusting shadows with Shadow/Highlights. Selective adjustments are reviewed,
as are dodging and burning, retouching, and the Lens Correction filter. The book ends with a quick explanation
on how to use the Photomerge feature for creating panoramas with multiple photos.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2012
I HAVE JUST FINISHED READING TORSTEN HOFFMANN'S SECOND EDITION AND MUST ADMIT THAT IF YOU HAD ALREADY READ THE FIRST EDITION THERE IS PROBABLY NOT A LOT MORE NEW INFORMATION.

I READ THE FIRST EDITION AND THOUGHT IT WAS A GREAT BOOK FOR THE BLACK & WHITE PHOTOGRAPHER. THE SECOND EDITION IS JUST AS GOOD, PROBABLY BETTER.

THE BOOK BREAKS DOWN INTO TECHNICAL CHAPTERS, TYPES OF PHOTOGRAPHY AND THERE USE AND RELATIONSHIP TO BLACK & WHITE, A GREAT SERIES OF CHAPTERS ON COMPOSITION AND FINALLY POST PRODUCTION.

I MUST ADMIT THERE ARE BETTER BOOKS ON COMPOSTIONAL STUDIES AND POST PRODUCTION BUT THIS ONE ISN'T BAD. ME. HOFFMANN REALLY HITS HIS HOME RUN WITH THE TECHNICAL AND USES OF BLACK & WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY.

I HAVE SHARED THIS BOOK WITH MY CAMERA CLUB AND EVERYONE HAS TOLD ME THEY GOT SOME GOOD INFO AND ARE GOING TO PUT IT INTO PRACTICE. A DEFINATE RECOMMENDATION.
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