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I have two books for photographers I want to mention today. The first is by Photoshop guru and Kelby Media Trainer Matt Kloskowski – (Disclaimer – Matt has appeared on the Photofocus site before – but it’s only because I respect him so hopefully this won’t make you think my review is unwarranted.)

Photoshop Compositing Secrets: Unlocking the Key to Perfect Selections and Amazing Photoshop Effects for Totally Realistic Composites is all about taking picture “A” and merging it with picture “B” and making the final outcome look realistic.

Compositing is widely used in advertising and art photography. When you see a dynamite car photograph where it looks like they put the BMW out on the Polar Ice Cap – that’s a composite. When you see fairy tale creatures intermingled with downtown cityscapes – that’s a composite. I have always admired such pictures, but frankly have simply lacked the training and skill to make them. Along came Matt’s book one day and I can safely say that I am almost ready to proclaim that I know how to make a composite.

Matt is a gifted teacher and one heck of a nice guy. Now it’s possible to write good books without being a nice guy, but being a nice guy and having lots of patience is a good thing when it comes to software training. You can literally see it in Matt’s book. His smile comes across in his writing. You may think you can’t learn this but Matt will convince you that you can.

You’ll learn selections (They are much easier these days) how to merge backgrounds, layers, blending modes, how to move and merge subjects, shadows and shadow control (Very important to the “realistic” look most people want in a composite, etc. Matt’s writing style is informative and friendly. The techniques in the book will be easier to master if you can afford to buy some plug-ins Matt mentions. You’ll also do better with his techniques if you’re working with controlled lighting.

Matt shares real-world examples and is very generous with his knowledge. I believe this book will become THE reference for those who want to learn or teach compositing. Highly recommended.

Now on to my second recommendation:

Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots by Nicole S. Young is a tour de force of food photography inspiration. I have to make another disclaimer here – I have done some mentoring with Nicole and she used to write regularly for Photofocus, so maybe I am biased, or just maybe I am closer to her than most and understand just how talented she is, but this, her third book for Peachpit is simply amazing. She could probably mentor me right now! She is the most ego-less teacher I have ever met. She’s a very hard worker and when she sets her mind to something, she gets it done. And in this book, she sets her mind to teaching you how to make great food shots. Even if you have little equipment and no experience, you’ll know how to make competent food photos after you finish reading this book.

It’s a basic book, written for beginners. It covers gear, composition, food styling, lighting and post processing.

Nicole is a stock shooter so her knowledge of what it takes to get an image ready for publication is invaluable in the creation of this book. I particularly liked her post-processing advice since she knows magazine and book publishers want “clean” images. You need to produce error-free images in the food world if you want to get published. Realizing this, Nicole spends enough time on this subject in the book to help make sure you get where you need to be.

I would add one more thing – even if you don’t think you are interested in food photography, you should still buy this book if you are interested in general product or commercial photography. If you were to go through the book and substitute the word “product” for the word “food,” 90% of what she teaches would still apply.

It’s a wonderful primer and it also made me hungry.

Highly recommended.

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