I took my turn first, now our regular book reviewer gives his opinion of Within the Frame.

Author: David DuChemin

Publisher: New Riders (Peachpit)

Review by Conrad J. Obregon

Taking a picture is easy. You aim the camera, fiddle a few dials if you have a digital single lens reflex camera, and press a button. Taking an image that speaks to people, perhaps even rises to the level of art, is much harder. You have to add a secret ingredient, vision, to get that kind of image.

There are tons of books that talk about technique, like exposure, composition, post processing and so forth. As far as I know there are only a handful of good books that tell about how to get the secret ingredient. This book is one of them.

A description of the chapter headings doesn’t do justice to the book, or even a look at the subheadings. What can one learn about a book from a heading like “Indecisive Moments” in a chapter called “Within the Frame”? It all sounds so vague.

A few years ago in a review I wondered whether you can teach someone to be creative (which I took to be similar to developing vision.) The author took issue with me in a conversation, even though I had praised her book. Now six years later I still wonder if you can teach someone vision.

Vision is not like exposure. It’s not a matter of setting menus and dials and getting feedback from a histogram. It’s vague and amorphous and not everyone will view a subject and see it with vision. Yet it’s critical to photographic success.

DuChemin gives the effort to teach vision a good shot. For example early in the book he urges the reader to “shoot what moves you”. Good advice that almost doesn’t need any explanation, although the author’s discussion certainly reinforces the point.

In the later chapters, the author provides more specific guidance about things to look for in certain subjects. For example he notes that in photographing places we should “slow down” and “try going deeper rather than broader”.

The author’s images are all striking and support his thesis. Moreover he notes that post-processing is essential to realizing the vision you had when you captured the image. It is a minor quibble but I certainly wished that he could show how this worked with a few more of his images. Almost none of the books on post-processing do this. Perhaps that can be a subject for his next book.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching “In Treatment” on television, but it seems to me that the author can’t teach you how to get good photographic vision. Rather he can just walk along with you and point to things while you find your vision buried deep within you. Fortunately duChemin is an excellent walker and pointer and most serious photographers will benefit from reading this book.

Given the nature of this book, especially the point regularly made that seeing is more important to a photographer then is equipment, it seems almost sacrilegious to point out that there is an additional chapter on-line about gear for the traveling photographer.


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  1. […] are many extensive reviews of the book out there (here and here for example) so I’ll just say that since the day I got the book I want to shoot a lot more, […]

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