108 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that will connect the photographer to his/her photograph
For someone who had no previous formal education in art of any sort including photography, this is the best book I came across. I was looking for a book that is not too advanced to understand about artistic compositions, but not too shallow that it simply tell you to apply "higher contrast is better", "the rule of the third", "the golden ratio" etc. without enough...
Published on December 5, 2010 by Z. Cheng
361 of 396 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Unneeded Update
Here's a case where Amazon's star rating sytem doesn't work very well. As described below, for a very small number of photographers this book will prove useful. For the vast majority of photographers it will not.
I've long been an admirer of the work of Bruce Barnbaum. An original Barnbaum print hangs on my wall. A copy of his book of photographs, "Visual...
Published on January 6, 2011 by Conrad J. Obregon
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108 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that will connect the photographer to his/her photograph,
This review is from: The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression (Paperback)For someone who had no previous formal education in art of any sort including photography, this is the best book I came across. I was looking for a book that is not too advanced to understand about artistic compositions, but not too shallow that it simply tell you to apply "higher contrast is better", "the rule of the third", "the golden ratio" etc. without enough explanation. I actually came across some books like that which left me even more confused about compositions. Most of the time, I just blindly apply whatever I learned of composition.
But this book is totally different. It starts talking about the philosophy of how photography is connected personally to the photographer. Then it gives a detail analysis of all the elements of composition with great examples and with a language that even an amateur can understand. Best of all, the author did a great job at interconnecting all the elements to help the reader understand the importance of applying a combination of elements instead of focusing on just one of two of the elements. It is like putting all the puzzles together to solve a great mistery.
If you want to find a book that will teach you composition and connect yourself to your photography, this is the book.
361 of 396 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Unneeded Update,
This review is from: The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression (Paperback)Here's a case where Amazon's star rating sytem doesn't work very well. As described below, for a very small number of photographers this book will prove useful. For the vast majority of photographers it will not.
I've long been an admirer of the work of Bruce Barnbaum. An original Barnbaum print hangs on my wall. A copy of his book of photographs, "Visual Symphony" graces my coffee table. Several years ago I purchased a used copy of the original, but then out of print, "The Art of Photography" at an outrageous price. I have to confess that much of the book was unread because it dealt with film photography, and I had long since made the switch to digital.
Now "The Art of Photography" has been reissued in a revised form, supposedly updated for the digital age. The book attempts to cover all of photography from visualization to hanging the print on the wall. There are even chapters that discuss ideas like innovation and old saws like truth in photography. There are references to digital photography, but a great deal of the book is devoted to Barnbaum's take on the zone system for film photography, including processing film to increase (or decrease) the range of light captured on the negative. There is a tip of the hat to digital photography, including the importance of the camera's histogram to capture exposure, and reference to high dynamic range photography to increase the range of light for digital captures but the heart of the book is film. The book is illustrated with Barnbaum's photographs, mostly in black-and-white, and they are drop-dead beautiful. If you like Ansel Adams you will love Bruce Barnbaum's images.
I suppose these images alone may justify the updating. Certainly the content will be interesting to those who still practice black-and-white film photography, although I suspect that these folks, already being specialists, may be familiar with what the author has to say. (I really can't comment on that; it's been years since I worked in a chemical darkroom.) The digital photographer will find that there just isn't enough detail in looking to this book for technique. It's a shame because I would have loved to see an explanation of how to achieve Barnbaum's beautiful effects in Lightroom or Photoshop.
The sections on the artistic aspects of photography are interesting but somewhat elementary. Barnbaum doesn't succeed in telling us what it is in an image that turns it from just an image to art. (Of course, I really don't know any authors who do this, although there are several people, most recently George Barr in "Why Photographs Work: 52 Great Images Who Made Them, What Makes Them Special and Why", who have made valiant efforts to accomplish this impossible task.)
The bottom line is that if you are unfamiliar with Barnbaum's work, this book is worth it for the images. If you are a film photographer, the technical data may prove useful. If you are a digital photographer looking for technical help, look elsewhere.
62 of 71 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Expansive theory, dated craft,
This review is from: The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression (Paperback)Books about photography can be placed across a very wide spectrum. Some focus almost entirely on the mechanics of capturing and producing images in a pleasing but essentially documentary fashion. Others approach the making of photographs from a largely aesthetic point of view emphasizing the physiology of human vision, emotion, creativity, and the artistic elements of light, color, composition, style, and social discrimination. A few attempt the difficult task of trying to cover all the bases, usually coming up short due to limited time and space, or by fostering exceedingly narrow points of view.
In this book, Bruce Barnbaum covers a great deal of territory, including theory, mechanics, philosophy, psychology, and the expression of a strong personal viewpoint along with over 100 images illustrating specific points, all wrapped in a nicely produced square format with a fairly elegant feel for a paperback. For the photographer who is a serious student of the art and craft of imaging it's a wealth of information, and certainly an excellent learning tool and reference piece. It is not, however, without limitations.
First is the fact that the views expressed are quite narrow in perspective. There's no question that the author is exceedingly bright, highly experienced, and duly lauded within the tight-knit community of well-known fine-art photographers. But photography as a medium deserves freedom from too much pigeonholing. The strong emphasis in this piece is on artistically created large-format black & white images processed in a wet darkroom and delivered in the form of silver prints. Yes, there is a nod toward color, and to digital capture and processing, but large chunks of space are devoted to elaborate film-related discussions of Zone System exposure followed by contrast-controlling development and printing methods using chemicals and other materials that are increasingly expensive and hard to get. These methods are not obsolete, but are practiced by an ever-diminishing percentage of image-makers. There certainly are valuable principles buried in this discussion that apply to photography in general, but for a great many readers the arcane specifics of wet darkroom procedures won't be of much value. Another limitation is the mixed nature of an "updated" book. With so much of the material referencing film and chemical-based processes, the added sections on digital have a distinctly "tacked-on" feel...hard to avoid without a very time-consuming total re-write.
Of most value from my perspective are the discussions regarding photography as a communication tool, personal integrity, creativity, and working toward a personal philosophy of imaging. Even though the book represents a fairly narrow emphasis on landscapes and architecture, the author strongly recommends maintaining flexibility in every aspect of photography. After all, creating images is in the final analysis a very personal endeavor.
Who might benefit most from this book? Really serious photographers who already have considerable experience in the craft and are seeking to learn as much as possible about the philosophical and artistic side of imaging. For those just starting out it's likely to be a pretty heavy lift. I'd like to see a full rewrite with less focus on specific craft and more thoughtful discussion on aesthetics with a view to visual communication in the 21st century.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very practical and pleasure to read,
This review is from: The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression (Paperback)I suggest you read this quote first:
"Whether I like or dislike the subject matter, I will not attempt to produce meaningful work with it if I am not moved by it. At best, I could produce a good but meaningless composition, much like a grammatically perfect speech that says nothing".
If you agree with this, then you will enjoy reading The Art of Photography from first pages. If not, then just go to the HOW part and you won't be disapointed either.
In a nutshell, Bruce Barnbaum first explains what the principle "Subject matter is a subject that matters" is all about. Then he teaches you how to express yourself "grammatically" correct.
So many photography books describe such thing as composition, for instance, as some illusive matter that can only be explained in abstract terms or very basic rules and cannot be taught consistently. "You need to have a vision... You've got to learn how to see in black&white..." Stuff like that reads okey until you come across a book like The Art of Photography.
This book is so concrete and practical that every paragraph teaches you something useful (I mean, really teaches you, not just tells you how important it is). It's the only book of all those I've read so far that clearly states what Composition is, what elements it consists of, and what roles each of the elements plays. The critical thing for me is that the author really guides you through this labyrinth: you can feel that his goal is to bring you to the point where you'll be able to feel comfortable in this labyrinth and navigate there alone. After reading The Art of Photography you won't miss those "Why Photographs Work" books because you will be able to see it yourself.
The book is both very fundamental and simple (not simplified!): no matter how complicated the subject is, you don't have to read a paragraph twice unless you want to. Bruce Barnbaum is an amazing writer, his writing style is just as eloquent as his photography - the book is a real page turner!
The book is very thought-out in the physical sense: it's a pleasure to hold and read (paper quality, fonts, color&tone choice...), and it's just so in sync with the content. Photographs inside are amazing and inspiring.
PS: The Art of Photography is so beyond the "digital vs. film" hype that it will hold its value for many years. Don't be tricked by some reviews which stamp the book "Old School" only because it has chapters about the zone system, film development and printing. After all, it's a smaller part of the book and you can just skip it if you want to.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thought provoking and timeless discussion.,
This review is from: The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression (Kindle Edition)I was nearly put off buying ths book by reading some of the reviews especially those by people who criticized only a passing reference to digital and a focuss on black and white images. I am extremely glad I bought it.
To me the key thought is that by photographing something we are are capturing light, and we need understand the tonal value of light as well as its hue and colouras well the shapes they make and how they all come together in a composition and how we express an opinion, a feeling with our images rather than merely record that we were there.
This really makes the criticism I read irrelevant. It doesn't matter whether we capture these elements on film or on a digital sensor or for that matter oil or pastels it's about how we see when we look at stuff. With photography we don't have the luxury of being able to adjust the scene physically but can create by understanding how the light will change and how our position can change what we capture when we make a photograph instead of take one.
I found the Kindle version of this book worth every cent. I would urge every photographer who sees himself or herself as more than a technician but as an artist to devour this book and immerse oneself in what it is trying to communicate and think about it. It really will help you see like you never have before.
This is essential reading.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taking your photography to the next level,
This review is from: The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression (Paperback)If you would like to find a book that will take you into a deeper, more comprehensive understanding of what makes for a great photograph then this book does that and more. I have read maybe 50 or so books over the past few years and most of them deal with techniques for taking and making images but I don't recall any of them attempting to define those attributes that make a photograph captivating. Barnbaum goes into a comprehensive examination (with many examples) of what separates art from the ordinary. It really is a tour de force. Very well thought out and thought through. There are a few chapters on film processing, B&W print making (in the darkroom) which may have limited appeal and represent less than 20 to 25% of the content. The heart of the book is Barnbaum's incredible insights in photography and the amateur photographer. This edition is updated and his comments have great applicability to current digital technology. An added bonus is how well Barnbaum's own photographs are reproduced, how they make us want to reconsider the power of black and white photography, and how well they are integrated into the text (a tip of the hat to the publisher).
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I liked the book, but you may not.,
This review is from: The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression (Kindle Edition)This book is well written, comprehensive, and very interesting. I like the author's writing style and I think I learned a lot.
However, this book may not be for everyone. It has two significant "problems":
1 It spends an awful lot of time on film.
2 It spends an awful lot of time on his very idiosyncratic opinions.
The first issue didn't bother me. Though I'll probably never use film, I found it interesting to learn about film. And I thought his explanations were among the best I've ever read. So I was happy to read it. But you might not.
The second issue bothered me a bit, but I didn't mind too much. I like to read different opinions. Some of his are a bit out there. For example, most people would probably just say that photographic rules -- such as the rule of thirds -- should be thought of as guidelines which are generally helpful but which can and should be ignored in appropriate situations. Not this author. He *HATES* rules, and even berates the rule of thirds as pretty much idiotic. And it's not just the rule of thirds; it's pretty much any rule. Many readers could find this kind of stridency annoying. I didn't mind it too much because of his consistency. For example, he has a stringent definition of art, and he even berates a lot of his own work because it's not artistic enough. I disagree with this view, and like the work that he rejects. But I respect the fact that he will follow through on his convictions even when it applies to his own works. At least it made his drivel tolerable. Yes, sometimes I think his opinion amounts to drivel. But I'm sure he'd say the same about me if he knew what I thought, so I don't mean to be too insulting.)
Overall, I liked the book a lot. However, I'm not sure that everyone else will. In fact, looking at the other reviews, it's pretty clear that many people won't. I don't agree with the negative opinions, but I definitely understand them.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for the serious artist!,
This review is from: The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression (Paperback)This book was a joy to read. It has reinforced my own artistic and technical philosophies and workflow. Mr. Barnbaum has a unique ability to take highly technical and scientific principles and explain them in a language that any photographer can understand and apply.
When I first started to read the book I was a little disappointed in his strictly black & white approach but by the time I finished the book I was amazed at his ability to apply these monochromatic theories and principles to color; his ability to explain film photography to digital photography.
I really enjoyed the author's explanations of his rules of composition as the reinforced by own long time views on the subject.
The artistic and compositional discussions will apply to any medium.......photography, painting, graphics or sculpture.
Any photographer that wishes to start a photographic library would do well to make this his first book.
You wont be disappointed.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book for film based photographers.,
This review is from: The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression (Paperback)Update (4/18/2013)
Much has changed in my photography since buying this book. I now shoot mostly using a film camera and use digital absolutely minimally. When shooting with film, especially black and white sheet film, this book is an indispensable treasure of quality information. I still don't personally care for Bruce's images; however that doesn't take away from the quality of info. I still say, for the digital shooter, you will have a hard time relating to much of this book. To the film shooter, the book is well worth every penny.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring,
This review is from: The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression (Paperback)The best book about photographic composition, art and creative expression that I have read. The examples are drawn from landscape, architectural and abstract photography, although the principles are universal. The author eschews the simplistic "rules-based" approach to composition and instead provides substance to Edward Weston's famous observation that composition is "the strongest way of seeing" by showing how various elements (including geometric lines and forms, repetition, tonal range, contrast, texture and palette) may contribute to or detract from the message of the photographer. He explains the techniques, both and traditional and digital, that enable the photographer to translate his or her "seeing" into a fine print. The book includes a very clear overview of the extended zone system for the control of exposure, contrast and tonal range in traditional photography and an analogous (although simpler) method for digital photography. While covering both film and digital techniques I found the technique information for the traditional darkroom to be more detailed than that for digital image manipulation - the book does not attempt to be a Photoshop guide. This did not detract from my enjoyment of the book since Photoshop technique is well covered in other volumes while the author's insights into message, seeing, composition, creativity and art are unique and apply equally in both realms. The book is amply illustrated with many fine prints by the author and in the current (Rocky Nook 2010) edition the quality of reproduction of these images is excellent. This book is not a cookbook of simple recipes for better snapshots. However I unreservedly recommend it to anyone who aspires to becoming a photographic artist and is prepared to put time and effort towards this goal.
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The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression by Bruce Barnbaum (Paperback - December 5, 2010)