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Science for the Curious Photographer: An Introduction to the Science of Photography

4.2 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1568815817
ISBN-10: 1568815816
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Editorial Reviews


It is a very well-written book by a university professor who loves photography. He presents excellent descriptions of the technical details of modern photography. … This is a unique book, providing the reader with technical details involving digital cameras, lenses, and light in general. It will help the reader to understand how digital cameras and optics work, which may help in selecting cameras and lenses, enabling one to become a more knowledgeable and better photographer.
IEEE Electrical Insulation Magazine, March/April 2012

A much needed science book for photographers―read this book if you want to gain a complete understanding of your camera and how it works.
―Steve Berardi, PhotoNaturalist

Johnson's book combines the knowledge of an experienced scientist and educator with the passion of an accomplished photographer. He introduces the scientific foundations of photography and provides interested photographers with the information and practical advice that will help improve their craft. This is also a must read for those interested in computational photography.
―Ramesh Raskar, MIT Media Lab

An outstanding book that does a remarkable job of weaving together the many facets of photography. The author provides the science that photography is based on and makes it easily understood with a variety of examples and images. In addition he provides a great deal of insight into the human side of color perception, photography, and art. One of the best I've read.
―Bill Stice

About the Author

Charles S. Johnson, Jr. holds a Ph.D in physical chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana, Yale University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he held the title of Smith Professor of Chemistry. He has authored approximately 150 research papers including review articles on magnetic resonance as well as books on laser light scattering and quantum mechanics. His research has been recognized with fellowships from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. He has been elected to the rank of Fellow in the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 190 pages
  • Publisher: A K Peters/CRC Press (June 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568815816
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568815817
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 7.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,250,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First off, let me comment on some of the other reviewers mentioning the content being too technical. I disagree on three fronts:
1) Look at the title folks, it is the science behind photography. By its very nature there is going to be some level of math and physics.

2) The math and physics are kept to a minimum. The formulas and equations are also kept to a minimum. If you understand high school algebra and trigonometry then you will have no problem understanding the majority of the technical material.

3) You can still benefit a great deal in learning about the science behind a lot of photography without understanding the math. Your insight into the subject matter will be necessarily more limited but this is not a limitation of the book so much it is a limitation of the reader. If you really want to understand the world around you on a deeper level and gain new insights into it, then, like it or not, math is the bridge to take you there. It's amazing how much more you can understand just by knowing some algebra and trigonometry.

Having said this, the book presents the material in a friendly way and the author is not condescending in any way. He makes learning the material fun and relevant and what he presents always has enough context to gain a deeper understanding. Unlike some dry and boring physics or optics books this book does not present mathematical proofs and is not a rigorous treatment. But it does provide a wealth of information, the majority of what you need to understand the relevant knowledge as it pertains to photography. As with any endeavor worthwhile in life, if you are willing to take the time and invest a little energy then you will find the reward at the end of your journey. I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting more than a superficial understanding of photography but yet doesn't want to spend many long hours of their life reading the long boring math and physics text books! :)
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have found this little book to be a gem. It touches on most of the detailed science/technology underpinning contemporary digital photography. It is not a textbook, rather it is something of a handbook of basic information. There isn't much in it that I hadn't learned about at some earlier time, but it helped me to knit together those bits and pieces of important information or concepts in an enjoyable way.

The author has chosen carefully what to include and what not to include, based on his own considerable knowledge. The result is a tight little volume that I am very pleased to have acquired, because it was just what I was looking for. I'm sure that some readers may find it inadequate in some ways, but I didn't. I understood exactly what the author set out to do, and in my opinion he fully succeeded. I am reminded of the apology offered by the author of a very long letter to a friend... I'm sorry that this is so very long, I just didn't have time to write a shorter version.
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Format: Paperback
Science for the Curious Photographer is unique among photography books I have
seen for daring to treat light, lenses, sensors, and ultimately vision in a
quantitative, scientific way. Yes, you need mathematics, but the required math
rarely exceeds the algebra and trig you learned in high school.

What you get in return for a bit of paper, pencil, and calculator work is a
much deeper understanding and appreciation of the trade-offs involved in the
costs, capabilities, and size of cameras. Johnson shows, for example, how you
can estimate your camera's minimum effective aperture (i.e., maximum F value)
from the physics of diffraction and the camera's sensor size. He also shows
how sensor size (something specified in your camera's technical specs)
influences signal-to-noise ratio and thus the maximum usable ISO value.

This book will especially appeal to those with an interest in physical science
or engineering. It will provide relief to those, like me, tired of the vague,
hand-waving generalizations about, say, depth of field found in so many other
books and classes.

Two shortcomings should be mentioned. First, the book's index is too spotty
and incomplete to be useful. The book is far more comprehensive than perusal
of the index would suggest. Better to use the table of contents to locate
topics of interest. Second, the bibliography could be better integrated with
cited references and further reading suggestions. As a whole, the book still
warrants all five stars. Perhaps, I hope, these suggestions will be realized
in a second edition.

Read by college (or precocious high school) students, Prof. Johnson's excellent
book might well launch careers in optics, semiconductors, and neuroscience.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Although the title talks about "science," the real grist of this book is a relatively gentle introduction to optics. While the book touches on other topics, the vast majority of it is on that. The discussion employs basic math rather liberally, so folks who dislike equations should stay away. But it never goes beyond basic algebra, so the math is quite accessible to anyone with a decent high school education. On the other hand, if you are looking for a book that emphasizes the practical aspects of taking photos, there isn't a lot to offer you here. There are some very nice practical payoffs sprinkled throughout the book, but they are more like asides than the focus of the discussion. One of my favorite such points is when the author applies the points about perspective to the appropriate relative size of prints of different focal length photos. It was obvious when he made the point, but it had never occurred to me before he said it. All in all, I found this to be a very enjoyable read, but one that I would recommend to fellow photographers only if I knew them to be interested in abstract ideas as well as in taking photographs.
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