Most helpful positive review
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Get the most from your camera
on November 27, 2009
This is one of the best non-fiction titles I have ever read. It's well-written, well-organized, well-planned, accurate, and useful. The authors were thorough and thoughtful. The book delivers on the promise of its title and subtitle, 100%. Seldom do all of those come together in one work, but they come together in this one.
The book flows in the order needed to provide the novice to intermediate photographer with a solid foundation for getting the most from digital photography. That is, it starts at the beginning and guides you along the same path that you need to take.
The more I look at this book, the more impressed I am with it. Let's keep in mind I used to be a magazine editor. That background has led me to be an unforgiving, sometimes unkind, book reviewer. And a real nitpicker.
I can gush about what a great book this is all day long, and that won't help you decide if it's for you. I could also list all the things I like about it, but that's really not necessary. I'll sum it up thusly:
If you have a camera and aren't a professional photographer, you should have this book. Period.
Basic and B&W
At first blush, you might not consider this book "basic" because of its size. As you read it, though, you find the content sticks to that idea of basic and the book is an easy read. It's even easy to read where it covers technical details.
The one thing that struck me the most about this book was the authors had no need to "impress the reader." I've read too many "how to" books that resemble more of an ego trip than a mentoring. So, I always look for that and did not find it here. While the authors evidently know their material, they talk at the level of the reader instead of over the head of the reader. They keep it simple and practical, too. They assume the beginner has other things going on in life and can't spend 2,000 hours a year practicing the craft. Not all authors make this assumption.
This book is full of photos (thus explaining some of its size). I wasn't surprised to find a large number of photos on a book about photography. Every picture served to illustrate some point that's important to being a better photographer or to being better able to work with the photos you take.
Some readers may wonder why most of these photos are black and white, and may consider that a minus. It's a huge plus. One reason is money. This book is about basics. Part of keeping it basic is to keep it priced accordingly. Its list price does that, but would have been impossible if all of the photos had been printed in color. If you want to see more images, you can always go to the authors' Website.
The person interested in basics of digital photography isn't going to want to drop $200 on a book to get the same information available in a book that sells for less than a tenth of that price. Also, it's worth noting that one of the best photos of all time (taken of a little girl running in Vietnam) was in black and white. Observe and learn.
Back in the day, several of my 35mm shots graced magazine covers (I have professional equipment and worked hard to learn composition). I'm not a professional photographer and need to take my shots within a fairly narrow range of conditions. I know enough about photography to have a reasonably substantive opinion about a book on photography.
I have a reasonably substantive opinion about a book on digital photography in particular because when I went from film to digital, I was lost. Not because of the computer aspect (I've built several computers from scratch, and people come to me for tech help), but because it's a bewildering new way to shoot pictures.
With my 35mm camera, I know which lens and which settings to use for a specific type of shot. This is like the bachelor who can make an excellent casserole or a great Chicken Dijon--something scripted, practiced again and again. And pretty basic stuff. Ask him to make something new and complex from scratch, and it probably won't be any good.
When I ventured into digital, I dropped down to a prosumer level camera partly because I didn't want to invest another three grand into camera equipment. But mostly because I wanted to get away from the lens-lugging, settings-calculating way of taking pictures. I thought it would be easier. It wasn't. In fact, many of the kinds of pictures that were easy for me with my professional camera proved impossible with my prosumer one.
This wasn't because the camera lacked anything, but because I did. Despite reading the manual cover to cover and working through a few sections with camera in hand, I just could not get it. All of the settings are on a menu, instead of an easy to see mechanical dial. What makes this especially bad is that when I bought this camera I didn't buy spare batteries or a power adapter. So to charge the batteries (which must be done at least once a week, even if not using the camera) I have to remove them and thus lose all of my settings. Starting all over again just to take a picture doesn't make for a great experience.
This is just an overview of the frustration I've had with a digital camera (though it's fairly high-end for a prosumer model). All of this frustrastion would have been prevented, had I read this book before buying my camera. So going forward, I'm newly encouraged and motivated.
This book consists of 18 chapters, two appendices, and a short but important introduction/preface. It's also thoroughly indexed, so it can serve as an ongoing reference as your needs change and your skills grow.
*Appendix A is an extensive glossary. The authors appear to be allergic to the concept of confusing the reader. What's nice is you don't need to flip to the glossary as you are reading the text, because the authors explain as they go. Still, the glossary is there so you can look things up any time you want.
*Appendix B is an extensive list of relevant Websites. Most such lists elicit a yawn from me, as they are poorly done and most of the entries are marginal. That's not the case here, at all. I've already looked up a few of these.
*The introduction is titled "Read This First." After you read it, you understand why it's titled that way.
*The first five chapters are about equipment and accessories. In my own case, I was able to confirm I had gone through this process correctly already (except for not buying that inexpensive AC adapter, what a mistake!). But that's because I've been playing with cameras for over 40 years and had some background to draw upon. For most people, these five chapters justify the cost of the book because they can spend camera and accessory money just once instead of 3 or 4 times.
*Chapters 6 through 8 are about camera settings. I've had a love-hate relationship with camera settings for as long as I can remember, despite having read several books on the subject. This book finally gave me some "aha!" moments on that whole set of subtopics.
*Chapters 9 and 10 provide good insight into how to take a good shot. Even with "the best" camera, you won't take good pictures if you don't master this material.
*Chapters 11 through 13 are about managing your images. I am particularly anal retentive about filenames, having cut my computer teeth in the days before GUI interfaces. I thought DOS 3.0 was "the cat's meow" for usability, if that gives you any clue. People who learn machine level language and come from the early DOS years have specific methods for file management for specific reasons that still hold true (especially if they have done any inventory management work).
This book has specific rules for those same reasons, and I know what happens when people break those rules. Most of the problems I've been called upon to fix are due to breaking those rules.
*Chapters 14 through 17 are about editing, printing, and sharing your digital images. Chapter 18 provides the basics of using your camera's movie feature, sound recording, and photo scanning.
Only one thing missing
One thing the authors didn't cover is a simple bit of advice. If you lose your camera somehow, is there a way for someone to get it back to you? Yes. Insert a blank memory card. Then, take out a sheet of plain paper and write your name, phone number, and e-mail address on it with a fat marker. Don't write your physical address--if you lose the camera while away, this tells people your home is vacant at the moment. Then, photograph the paper and lock the image on that memory card. Make a habit of installing this memory card into the camera after each shoot or any time you are just carrying it around. If someone finds your camera and turns it on, there's your name.
Go a step further, and put your photo on that same image (the authors discuss how to superimpose text on an image). The big bonus here is if an airport security person (or similar) is trying to decide if you or the other person claiming to own your camera is the real owner, simply turning it on decides the issue. Put the same photo on your other digital devices, for similar reasons.
I use only one memory card, and the reason that's all I need is I transfer photos at the end of the day. I don't store them on the camera. That card has this image. I don't format the card, as the authors suggest doing, but if I did format it I would reload that image to it before putting the card back in the camera.
You will find other helpful books on this topic. But make sure you have this one in your collection.