January 31, 2006

Understanding Digital Photography, by Bryan Peterson

The reviews at Amazon didn't lie; this is a fabulous book. Whereas most books I've seen on digital photography are mostly about using Photoshop, Peterson's book is mostly about how to take good pictures. There's a slim section on using Photoshop at the back, 40 pages out of 160 total: the basic clean-up steps Peterson does with most photos, and a few advanced techniques for composing multiple photos into a single image.

Other than that, the book is all about taking pictures with digital cameras--that is, on the photographic aspects of taking pictures with digital cameras. Peterson assumes the reader is both reasonably serious about photography and capable of reading an owner's manual. He doesn't tell you how to set the aperture using your particular camera's controls; instead he tells you why and to what, depending on what you're looking to accomplish. On the way he covers issues of exposure, composition, depth-of-field and the like; how to stop motion and how to emphasize it; how to shoot vast landscapes and intimate portraits; when the light is best and how to make the best use of it; what to do when conditions are just wrong; shooting at night and during the day; and on and on. He has a boundless and infectious enthusiasm for his subject, and the book is filled with gorgeous pictures, tips, tricks, and suggestions.

Peterson generally assumes the reader will be using a Digital SLR with multiple interchangeable lenses and an external flash, and consequently some of the things he discusses don't apply in my case. I won't be switching between a wide-angle and telephoto lens, for example. Most of what he has to say applies in either case, though, and where there are important differences--e.g., the effect of specific apertures on depth-of-field--he's careful to explain how it works in both cases.

In short, this is a fun book to read, and useful as well; and Peterson's enthusiasm is infectious as to be a real inspiration. It's not all pie-in-the-sky, either; I'm already taking better pictures than I was. Highly recommended.

Posted by Will Duquette at January 31, 2006 06:49 PM