Sunday, January 20, 2013

3 Books You Should Read

There are so many books in the world of photography that should be read it would take too long to list them out. But I have three that I feel that every beginning photographer should put on their list of continuing educational reads. Not to mention the intermediates and master photographers can benefit from these books too. As you have seen in the past few posts, and most likely many more, I am big into continuing education and books are one way to do that. The more you read, listen or take part in a workshop the better chance you have to elevate your photography from a snap shot artist, to fine art. The three books I believe can put you on a path to enlightenment is “Photographically Speaking” by David duChemin, “Digital Landscape Photography” by Michael Frye and (don’t laugh) your owners manual.

Starting with the “Owners Manual” of your camera. The camera is a tool that has evolved from an instrument for an artist to trace details on to a canvas, documenting the world around us, to the everyday device we carry in our pocket and phone. The principal of the camera has not changed over the years, it is how it records the information as well as the complexity of this tool that has change. As an experienced photographer most of the time I can pick any camera up and produce an adequate image from it, film or digital. But noticed I said adequate and not “the best” image from it. The problem is that there are a lot of photographers in the beginning that don’t spend time with their owners manual and therefore they don’t get the full understanding or benefit of their tool

The owners manual, as dull as it can be, is the best way to understand and learn what your camera is capable and incapable of doing for you. Many time and many photographers out there have pushed their cameras to a limit in order get the shot they want, only to be disappointed in the result. A flip side can also be true. Many photographers wished they could do something that they believe their camera can’t do but had they read the manual would have discovered it was possible. For an example, (and this one is from my experience file) I wanted to shoot in the mode of black and white because I prefer it over color. In the black and white mode you can see details of the grayscale that may warrant a shift in exposure that you will not get by seeing the image in color. Remember the more you do for your exposure in camera the less you need to fix in PhotoShop. Bugged by this need I decided to pull the manual out just to see if this feature was possible. To my happiness I discovered there was a mode to switch the recording and display of file from color to black and white. The process to change to that mode was not in a place to that made it easily spotted. Thanks to the manual I found it.

As under rated and over looked as the owners manual is I believe it to be just as important to read it as the myriad of the other books out there. The knowledge of what your camera can and cannot do can be the difference of a ok shot to a work of art.. So laugh at the suggestion but don’t ignore it, read your manual if you haven’t already. Spend sometime with this book to find a feature your camera has you did not know about. Come to an understanding about the features of your meter or focusing program you did not know about.

The Second book is called “Photographically Speaking; a deeper look at creating stronger images” by David duChemin. I know I have brought up this book in past posts but I truly believe that this book will dramatically help you understand design principals that apply to photography. Just like not knowing your camera, not understanding good composition is one of the factors in a creating bad photographs. If you don’t have an art degree or outside knowledge of good design principals, or even if you do, this book is one that should be in your library.

The author David duChemin is a “humanitarian and world photographer” wrote this book in two parts, a jet lagged stupor and the second part was in rehabilitation learning to walk after a fall in Pisa Italy. He broke his book down into three parts and uses his work to illustrate the principals he is discussing. In creating this book, David hopes to bring an awareness of the photographic language. The better understanding of the language the greater the expression in our photographs.

What I got out of this book was my reestablishment of what I learned in college. The reason I liked sitting in a classroom and talking about someone’s, including mine, artwork. It got me back into slowing down and looking at what I had or was about to create. To objectively look at my photographs, or more to the fact, other photographer’s work and understand why the photograph works or not. This is an important tool to have because you may instinctively know that the compositionally works but you don’t entirely understand why. Not understanding your language will only lead to frustration and eventually you quitting photography altogether.

The last one that I would recommend is “Digital Landscape Photography” by Michael Frye. Now not everyone is a landscape photographer but this book does cover a wide variety of topics that can help anyone in their photos. Topics like depth of field, contrast, filters, histograms and the printing process. It is an easy read and the real deep concepts are illustrated to be easily explained. I read this book in one sitting and use it for a reference guide from time to time. If you are really looking for a technical book this one would be good to have.

Like I have said, there are many books out there that cover photography and to list them would take too much time and effort but this is were you come in. If you have a book that has either change the way you create photographs, or print or loaded with so much information that everyone should own it, tell us about it. Put at least two books that you think everyone should read in the comments sections or on my Google plus page. Shared information is the best information out there.