Book Review- The Digital Photography Book
The Digital Photography Book: Part 1 (2nd Edition)$16.63
The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby is the world's best selling book on digital photography. It began a series of similar books to follow that teach photography concepts and techniques in a simple and easy to understand method.
Scott's premise is to avoid a lot of the technical jargon and explain how to do various photography techniques as if he were explaining it to a friend.
While this is an older book and some of the gear mentioned here is out of date (and some isn't, thanks to the magic of new editions), the big thing here is that the information is evergreen. You can apply these concepts with any camera system and find compatible accessories.
Why I Wanted to Read The Digital Photography Book
I bought this book when it was new, back in 206 or 2007. At the time, I was just getting into digital photography after having taken a long break from my old film based cameras. I wasn't quite a beginner at photography, but there were still many things I didn't know.
Essentially, I never had a mentor or teacher. The Digital Photography Book provided a lot of valuable “how to” information to get me over a few hurdles and started to open my mind to greater possibilities.
My problem was the same as many other photographers who understood the basics of exposure, but little else. I wasn't sure what kind of photography I wanted to do, so I ended up trying almost every genre of photography. The problem is that every genre of photography has little tips, tricks and techniques specific to the field.
When The Digital Photography Book came out, it was just a treasure trove of tips for a number of different photography genres. If you're still exploring different styles and subjects for your photography, you're in for a treat.
Among the chapters covered here are:
- Getting Tack Sharp Photos
- How to Photography Flowers
- Wedding Photography
- Landscape Photography
- Sports Photography
- Portrait Photography
- Travel Photography
- Printing Tips
- How to Avoid Common Problems
Basically, this book filled in to become the mentor that I never found.
Trying New Things As I Went Through the Book
I went into this book with a sense of discovery and hope. Honestly, hope wasn't as specific as I should have liked. As I mentioned earlier, I wasn't sure what kind of photography I really wanted to do. All I knew is that I really enjoyed taking photos and I wanted to improve.
The good news is that this book delivered. It answered a lot of questions that I didn't even know to ask. As a result, I bought a lot of gear. Lenses, a tripod & ballhead, flashes & light modifiers and more accessories.
I was on a journey of self-discovery through photography and this book helped me plot my course. Not very far in advance, though. This isn't a book about choosing what you want to photograph. It's a book filled with tips about how to do different things with different subjects and get great results.
By going through a number of the genres here, I ultimately discovered what I did and didn't like with regard to photography genres.
Take sports photography as an example.
At the time, I was working out six days a week and had a number of friends at the gym who participated in all sorts of sporting events. I got the bright idea that I'd like to go out and photograph them at a race or two.
That ended up with me taking photos like this one:
I shot this at something called a Muddy Buddy race. I find it odd that this poor man is sloshing through the mud while surrounded by signs for shampoo, but I digress.
After a few of these events, I learned that I wasn't planning to be a Sports Photographer. Here's why:
- Most sporting events required me to be there very early in the morning
- Most sporting event locations were about an hour drive away
- I'd have to invest in some truly expensive lenses to get the shots I really wanted
- I don't even like sports
The Biggest Lesson I Learned from Reading The Digital Photography Book
I ended up shooting a lot of events and learned the same thing.I photographed everything from concerts to bikini competitions to bull riders. While some people thrive on event photography, it seemed to be more of a hassle and frustration for me,
What I learned from trying so many of the tips in The Digital Photography Book is that I like a sense of control over my photographs, rather than trying to capture things as they happen.
That lead me to greater satisfaction with portrait and travel photography.
Even if you don't think that you're going to wind up photographing one of the genres mentioned in a chapter, go ahead and give some of the tips a try. It's amazing how many times I discovered a technique used in one genre can have a useful application in another.
Here's an example from the chapter on photographing flowers.
Now I have absolutely no interest in photographing flowers, but I decided to give it a try. Experience is experience, and you never know until you try.
One of the tip in chapter on photographing flowers that served me well is to avoid shooting down on them. Quite simply, there's no visual interest in shooting down on flowers. The tip is to get down on the same level to photograph the flowers.
Well, it turns out that advice works for a lot of travel photos and detail shots.
We all see flowers from a higher point of view when walking around. There's nothing special or interesting about that point of view. However, taking a photograph form an uncommon point of view adds some interest to your subject. Looking at something from a viewpoint we don't normally see makes for better photos.
In other words, put your camera someplace interesting if you want to take better photos. It's one of the useful tips buried among the flowers.
Transformation From a Deeper Understanding
The Digital Photography Book is one of those “now I get it” kinds of books. Some of the tips are like a gentle whack on the head when you realize that it's actually easier to get professional level results than you thought.
Sometimes you need gear, but great photos are really about great photographers who know how to use their equipment. This book has a lot of solid advice to turn you into a great photography because it gives you the knowledge you need to craft great photos.
If you know how some of the great photos get taken, then it's much more likely that you can take great photos with almost any camera.
Are there some exceptions when gear matters?
Some lenses are sharper than others. Some lenses have longer focal length and you need them if you're photographing a tight end running up a football field or a grizzly bear munching on salmon.
Yet there are options for gear in this book that range from budget to moderate to the “I have my own private yacht” crowd.
The real point here is that The Digital Photography Book makes you a better photographer, no matter what gear you use. Maybe that's why it's the best selling book on digital photography – ever.
My Tops 3 Lessons From The Digital Photography Book
Scott Kelby provides a wealth of information in The Digital Photography Book. It's all about photography, but that doesn't mean it's all about what to do with your camera. Some of the best tips are what to put in front of your camera and where to get them.
1: Simplicity is Your Friend
There are plenty of photos that look like crap taken in the same places as many beautiful photos. What's the big difference?
It comes down to knowing what to include in your photo and what doesn't belong there.
The more you can eliminate distractions from your photos, the better they look. Less is more. Distill your photo down to the core of its message by removing anything that draws the eye away from your subject.
Basically, get rid of the clutter. Sometimes that means having the patience to wait for some tourists to get out of your scene, moving a trash can out of the way, or blocking light coming from the wrong direction.
2: Photography Presents Problems for You to Solve
There is an entire chapter in The Digital Photography Book devoted to avoiding problems and mistakes. There are even more pages in other chapters that talk about how to avoid a problem. What does that tell you?
Photography presents many problems.
It's never really as simple as just walking up to something interesting and clicking the shutter, is it? Things can break. Batteries run out of power. Suspicious people wonder what you're doing with that camera. Memory cards may fail.
A boulder could fall on your head while you're trying to photograph a squirrel.
I don't care if you're creating portraits, product shots or shooting the Olympics. You're going to run into problems and you need to know how to solve them.
Fortunately, there are a lot of examples in this book to help you avoid potential problems. Yet you can't find every solution in a paperback book. One of the most important things I learned from reading The Digital Photography Book is that you need to have a head for solving problems as a photographer.
3: Faces Matter
Not every photo has a face, or even needs one. Not every face is human.
Yet if you're going to photograph a person or an animal and include part of the face, make sure you get it right. People want to see the eyes. People like profiles, too.
Most of all, people want the light on a face (or off it in a silhouette) to be just right. We don't like dappled light on a face, or harsh shadows that make someone's nose look like Pinocchio telling lies.
We want to see flattering faces in proper light. That doesn't mean the face has to be young or beautiful. Some of the most interesting faces have some miles on them. Yet we know when the photo hasn't done justice to the face.
Whether you're taking photos of a baby tiger or an old woman, get the face right.
Who Should Read The Digital Photography Book
The Digital Photography Book is a “how to” book that's filled with tips on how to take better photos, and more. It's not a book on basic photography concepts that shows you how to make a correct exposure. You should be familiar with introductory concepts like aperture, shutter speed and ISO to get a well exposed photo.
This book is for those who moved beyond that introductory phase and already figured out what most of the buttons and dials on their camera are supposed to do.
Once you get to that phase of photography, you start to wonder just what's possible with your camera. You being to wonder how other photographers got that shot, or just how did someone make that photo happen.
Scott presents this book as a mentor helping a friend. The book is full of beautiful photos and easy to understand stories about how you can take similar photos.
The chapter introductions in Scott Kelby's books are generally filled with some light humor. Some people love it, others absolutely hate it. If you find that you're in the latter category, I suggest that you shouldn't worry about it. The information in the book is worth more than the price, and it's easy to turn a page if you don't care for the humorous parts. Once Scott gets into the meat of his discussion on a topic, it's pretty much right on point and easy to understand.
I found this book at this point in my digital photography and it was immensely helpful. That's why I'm very happy to recommend it. As I mentioned earlier, some of the gear recommendations may be a little out of date, but that's OK. You read this book for the concepts, and they apply to any camera brand or model.
The link below is an Amazon affiliate link. That means there's no extra cost to you, but I'll receive a small commission if you purchase this book based upon my recommendation.