Thursday, December 13, 2007

Review: The National Geographic Field Guide to Photography: Digital

The last few times I've been to the library, I've considered getting a book on photography. But every time I browse the shelves I'm underwhelmed. The books seem to be too basic or too vague. Finally, I decided I would just pick something and try it. I chose The National Geographic Field Guide to Photography: Digital by Rob Sheppard, and boy was it a good choice.

The book is short enough to qualify as a skinny book, which is gives it points to start off with. While the introduction began with basics that I could have lived without, it fairly quickly makes two suggestions I found useful:

  • Learn to read and understand the histogram that is shown after snap a photo. I've had access to this graph, but always ignored it.
  • Experiment with different color balances. This is an obvious no brainer. But still, I tend to leave the white balance on auto and ignore it. But, cool effects, and sometimes more accurate shots can be attained by playing with it.

If that's all Rob had taught me in this little book I probably would have been satisfied. But things get a whole lot better.

Much of the book is dedicated to the Digital Darkroom. In just a few pages, Rob gives a totally manageable way to attack improving your photos in Photoshop. Rather than trying to educate you about the hundreds of features of Photoshop (and related graphics programs), he explains that you can get by with understanding only 4 functions. This reduces the incredibly complicated world of photo editing to a much more tolerable size.

The book also covers topics like is digital photography as pure as film photography? (yes) and are digital pictures less reliable than film pictures? (no). It's a discussion that I could have lived without, but still one worth learning about.

I give this little gem a 9.2/10 because of the doors it's opened for me in the photo editing world.

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