Author: Sue Bishop

Publisher: Photographers’ Institute Press

Review by Conrad J. Obregon

A photographic portfolio is a presentation of a photographer’s work designed for the viewer’s aesthetic appreciation or for marketing purposes. An instructional photography book is designed to teach the reader how to make better photographs. Photographers can improve their skills by studying a good photographer’s portfolio, but that usually requires the reader to deduce techniques and vision from the images in the portfolio rather than receive instruction. I’m always skeptical when a photographer offers what seems to be his or her portfolio for purposes of instruction.

Color, Light & Composition: A Photographer’s Guide seems to be such a book. There are three chapters with the headings color, light and composition. Typically, the chapter on color discusses the properties of color including devices like the color wheel; dichotomies like warm and cool, dominant and receding, saturated and pastel; and enhancing color both with filters and Photoshop. All of the author’s teaching points are supported by her own excellent photographs, many of which are of flowers and other flora, a genre in which she specializes. A nice touch was the occasional comparison of two or more images of the same subject.

When I considered the book, I was a little surprised since the scope of the book seemed a bit limited compared to other similar photography instruction books, where the three subjects are often included along with others like focusing and exposure. This surprise increased when I found little mention of technical details like aperture. The book is aimed at photographers primarily interested in improving their skills in color, light and composition, although of course there had to be reference to other information. For example the discussion of composition included selection of lenses of different focal lengths. On the other hand, while the author discussed the importance of selective focus, there was little consideration of the nature of depth of field as such. Bishop dealt mostly with general principals, whose applicability bears repetition and reinforcement for most photographers.

Even though this is a portfolio book, the author’s words presented valid techniques to be applied and her pictures were exactly right to illustrate the point. Sometimes the teaching points were subtle enough to require a careful consideration of the images.

In summary, this seemed one of those rare portfolio books that also instructed, thanks to the author’s highlighting her technique as she presented her pictures. I suspect that not everyone will benefit from a careful examination of the book, but photographers with experience should find some material to burnish their skills.

This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store