The Visual Palette: a book review

VP_250A few weeks back, the publishing company¬†Rocky Nook sent me a copy of a recently released title by Brian Matiash — it’s called The Visual Palette: Defining Your Photographic Style. ¬†Now that I’ve had time to read through the book and digest it, I thought a review / critique would be helpful to this blog’s readers.

At its core, The Visual Palette is about the process of developing / uncovering / growing your own personal photographic style, and learning to apply it in your work. About being personal and intimate in your photography, rather than distant and formulaic. Continue reading

eBook review — Craft and Vision’s Up Close, A guide to Macro and Close Up Photography

UpClose cover.jpgCraft and Vision has just released a new eBook — as usual it costs $5, and as usual it’s a good one. The latest title is Up Close by Andrew S. Gibson, and is all about Macro and Close-up Photography — so not a lot of philosophizing in this title, but plenty of practical information for those who shoot things up close (or who are interested in giving it a try).

So what, you may ask, will your $5 get you? Up Close is 90 pages long, and is divided in four parts. Part one (the largest of them) is all about equipment — dedicated macro lenses, close-up lenses (a.k.a. close-up adapters or diopters), reversing rings, extension tubes, and the like. Each gets an exhaustive discussion of its uses, benefits, limitations, and things to consider before you buy. This section of Up Close also includes a nice set of example images made with each of the equipment types, so you can see for yourself what each is capable of producing.

The second part of Up Close is about macro and close-up photographic technique. Focusing, use of depth of field, dealing with camera shake — all get their due in this comparatively slim part of the eBook.

Part three is about lighting for macro and close-up photography. Gibson definitely prefers natural light, but still gives a fairly complete (and commendably brand-agnostic) treatment of lighting options for your work with your camera.

The final section of the book contains case studies of work done by Mandy Disher (macro) and Celine Steen (food close-ups), along with photography tips from both of them.

All in all, Up Close is a very solid work if you’re even just toying with the idea of getting into macro or close-up photography. Gibson includes (really, emphasizes) approaches that don’t involve buying super-expensive macro-specific gear. And for $5, you don’t have much to lose.

eBook review — Forget Mugshots: 10 Steps to Better Portraits

mugshots_thumb.pngCraft and Vision has just released a new eBook — this one’s called Forget Mugshots: 10 Steps to Better Portraits, and as usual, it’s a good one. $5 gets you 32 tabloid-sized pages full of good tips on making more engaging portrait shots.

Right up front, I have to say that the book’s title is a bit off — because the 10 steps aren’t really “steps” that you’d take one after the other. But then, calling it “10 Factors to Keep in Mind in Order to Make Better Portrait Shots” would have been cumbersome.

So, about the book. After a brief introduction, Forget Mugshots dives into the 10 “steps,” each explained in depth and illustrated by a couple of fairly quick examples, and nearly all of them wrapping up with a “Portrait Profile.” The profiles consist of a portrait or two of an individual annotated with the camera settings used to make them, and accompanied by the tale of the subject themselves.

By the way, here are the titles of the 10 steps:

  1. Relate
  2. Wait for the moment
  3. Use the “right” lens
  4. Use more than one frame
  5. Understand the smile
  6. Watch the eyes
  7. Play with the light
  8. Control your background
  9. Get level
  10. Pose carefully

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that David duChemin’s 10 “steps” are some sort of hard and fast rules, they’re not. But they really are aspects of the inter-personal process of portrait photography that you need to think about before you start to make your next portrait. And of course, thinking about them while you’re making a portrait would be a good thing too. So as far as I’m concerned, Forget Mugshots is a fantastic deal for $5, even if you only occasionally do portrait shots.

eBook review — Craft and Vision’s Exposure for Outdoor Photography

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It’s been a few months since I’ve written up a book review, so right on time here comes another title from Craft and Vision — this eBook is Exposure for Outdoor Photography by Michael Frye.

I don’t know about you, but when I first saw the title, I thought — “Outdoor Photography, that’s a bit broad, isn’t it?” It turns out that in Frye’s use of the term, he’s talking primarily about landscape photography, but includes some wildlife and outdoor macro / close-up photography in the definition. So, no pictures of the family on a picnic here, but the same principles would apply.

But I digress.

If you buy Exposure, $5 will get you a 51 page PDF eBook — not counting the covers, that’s 48 tabloid-sized (!) pages of material on all the ins and outs of photographic exposure, including example images and 10 really good case studies (rapidly becoming my favorite part of Craft and Vision books!). So let’s break this down to see if it’s something that would be of use to you…

The first 20% or so of the eBook is a thorough if somewhat elementary discussion of the exposure triangle (shutter speed, aperture, ISO), metering and exposure modes on a camera, and using a histogram for better exposed images. Nothing Earth-shattering, but a good introduction to the topic if you’re relatively new to photography, and an excellent refresher otherwise.

But the majority of the eBook is devoted to case studies. A few of them are on scattered aspects of photographic exposure (using the histogram, the zone system, HDR and exposure blending, etc.). But most of them use example images to explore all the various aspects of the exposure triangle:

  • Maximizing depth of field for scenic shots

  • Minimizing depth of field to isolate a subject from its background

  • Short exposures to freeze motion

  • Long exposures to blur motion

  • Pushing ISO for low-light work

You get the picture — the eBook covers the exposure triangle very thoroughly, and with well-chosen example images to help you see the effect of changes in various settings. Then Frye wraps up with a short discussion on breaking the rules — when choosing a deliberately unusual approach to exposure can be a good creative choice.

So all-in-all, I’d say that for most people, it’s a very good value at $5.