bookcovGuest Book Review by Alan Lillich
(Conrad has a well-deserved week off)

My oldest daughter lives in Illinois, I live in California. She recently decided to get a DSLR because her point and shoot camera was too limiting. I went looking for a good photography instruction book to send her, and found it in “Digital Photography Masterclass” by Tom Ang. There seem to be a lot of books still on the shelves teaching film photography, and a lot of digital photography books that spend too much space on geekery and not enough on photography. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a software engineer and serious geek, but I wanted a book that teaches how to use the science of photography to achieve the art that you want – and from a digital perspective.

Digital Photography Masterclass has a 2008 copyright, and is written in a timeless manner so it will be as relevant 10 years from now as it is today. The book is organized as series of twenty tutorials grouped into four sections: “mastering your camera” covers fundamental photography skills, “developing your skills” branches into topics like “perfecting your timing” and “using available light”, “the digital darkroom” teaches post processing, and “advancing your photography” explores genres like “portrait photography” and “landscape and nature photography”.

The presentation is excellent, printed on high quality paper. The typical two page spread has the outside 1/2 to 2/3 of each page showing photos on a black background, with text on a white background in the center, some spreads have a full black background. So what? Well, it feels as much like an art book as a text book. With about 350 pages of body and 1 to 5 photos per page, study this book and you’ll get 10% of your Scott Bourne recommended 10,000 photo diet.

An advanced beginner to intermediate photographer will get the most out of the book, it does try to live up to the “Masterclass” title. Key prerequisites are a basic knowledge of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO – how they affect exposure, depth of field, and motion blur. Even an advanced intermediate to expert can find the book worthwhile – the kind of book you can peruse every couple of years to help kick you out of the latest rut.

Each tutorial has about six to ten sections, most sections are a two page spread teaching a specific concept, and each tutorial ends with an “Assignment” spread. There are one or two “image analysis” spreads in every tutorial. These look at a single image that illustrates the previous concepts plus another related concept or two.

The first 2 groups of tutorials, mastering your camera”and “developing your skills” cover the essence of photography. Mostly topics that were essential 150 years ago and will still be essential 150 years from now. Modern topics like zoom lenses, auto focus, or use of RAW are slipped seamlessly. The “digital darkroom” group of tutorials is not surprisingly the most current. But it is still relatively timeless, for example the spread “curves and tone” talk about what curves provide as an exposure adjustment tool – it does not teach how to use the Curves tool in a specific version of Photoshop. The “advancing your photography” group takes a slightly different approach, aimed as much at inspiration as education. Within each of these 8 tutorials there is a 3 part pattern: a concept spread, a multi-page interview with a pro that is part “conversation” and part “images in depth”, and an assignment.

OK, enough of the fan boy stuff? But I’m hard pressed to find a serious negative. Maybe that’s because I’m willing to take the book on its own level. It isn’t a detailed “How To” textbook. It is a thought provoking book about fundamental concepts in photography. This written review does not do the book justice, drop by a local book store to peruse the book and you’ll see. Highly recommended.

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This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store