A 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.
The Visual Palette is broadly organized into three main sections, hosting a dozen chapters in all:
Chapter 1 – The Ever-Expanding Journey
Part 1 – Composition
Chapter 2 – Rules, Rules, Rules
Chapter 3 – Looking to See
Chapter 4 – Allies in Distortion and Perspective
Chapter 5 – The “Gimme” Shot
Chapter 6 – The Best-Laid Plans
Chapter 7 – Forever the Tourist
Part 2 – Post-Processing and Stylization
Chapter 8 – Post-Processing and the Righting of Wrongs
Chapter 9 – Philosophies of Stylization
Chapter 10 – The Tools of the Trade
Part 3 – Sharing your Work and your Brand
Chapter 11 – You = Your Brand
Chapter 12 – Give a Little Bit of Yourself
My only real complaint about the book is that at a high level, it looks reasonably well-organized — but the actual flow of the book tends to wander within a given chapter, and even within a section. For instance, chapters 5 and 6 include helpful material — but they are odd things to even have in a book with this topic, and are particularly out-of-place in the section on composition.
So rather than a very linear photographic cookbook or textbook, I’d have to say that The Visual Palette is the written equivalent of a chat with a good (but distractable) friend, mentoring you as you develop your own personal style of photography. The writing is personal, intimate, almost confessional in places — so I suppose a somewhat meandering walk through the material is understandable, if occasionally frustrating to some readers.
But enough about the organization of the thing — is this book for you?
If you have extensive experience in artistic (vs. strictly commercial) photography, no — you’ll already have plenty of experience with everything in the book. The majority of readers / photographers, though, are likely to pick up new ideas and choice nuggets of guidance from it. For those taking their first steps beyond snapshots, this book will be a godsend and they’ll definitely want to keep it handy to refer to time and time again.