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Read This Book Second
on June 15, 2013
The fact, even if true, that the Digital Photography Book is "the #1 Top-selling Digital Photography Book Ever" as heralded on the cover doesn't mean that it's a great book.
In this revised book there are chapters on getting sharp photos; photographing flowers, weddings, landscapes, sports, people and travel; avoiding problems; taking advantage of digital; printing ; and ten things the author wishes someone had told him. He concludes with recipes for fourteen types of generic shots. Each tip is less then a small page in length and includes an illustrative photograph.
I dislike tip books because they don't put photography technique within a larger context so that the reader learns a principle which he can apply to any circumstance. "Give a man a fish..." might have been written about tip books. For example, in the space of a few pages, the author tells us to shoot portraits with wide angle lenses and then tells us to use telephoto lenses. What might be called a comprehensive book would help us to understand the considerations involved in making a choice of focal length for portraits. Kelby must have been aware of this type of criticism for he offers a long explanation of the tip method and then tells you that after you start getting amazing pictures, you can buy what Kelby calls a "tell me all about it" book (even though he later says, I hope facetiously, "Stop reading books about photography"). I suggest that if you are going to read this book, read one of the "tell me all about it" books first so you can place the tips into context.
This is particularly so given the sometimes apparently contradictory advice. For example he tells you to use a tripod and the lowest ISO on the camera and to avoid high ISO "like the plague". Well, sometimes even if you are using a tripod, the subject may be moving and you will need to increase ISO to avoid a blurred picture. Later, another tip will tell you to use high ISO's. This kind of advice makes sense if you understand that exposure is a three-legged stool of aperture, shutter speed and ISO, but the author never explains this.
Sometimes Kelby tells you things that most photographers would warn against, like editing out images as you shoot. Perhaps when memory cards were smaller this might have made some kind of sense, but in this day and age of large memory cards, it doesn't. Instead picture how you will feel if you miss a great shot while you are fooling around deleting images.
Sometimes Kelby makes statements that might be true, but require more explanation for you to get the most from your camera. For example he says that macro lenses have a very small depth of field. Actually depth of field is a function of focal length, aperture and distance to subject, regardless of minimum focusing distance. At, say, 25 feet and an aperture of f/4 a macro lens and a normal lens, both of 60mm, will have exactly the same depth of field. At five inches the depth of field is significantly reduced, and a normal lens usually cannot focus at 5 inches while a macro lens can. But to suggest there is something about a macro lens, other then the fact that it can focus more closely, that gives it less depth of field is misleading. Yet Kelby's tips are regularly misleading in this way. That's why I recommend reading a "tell me all about it" book first. In fact, if you understand what the "tell me all about it" book is saying, you may not even benefit from this book.