The Digital Photography Book, Volume 2 by Scott Kelby
Published by Peachpit Press
Review by Conrad J. Obregon
A photography tip is a short instruction on how to do something in photography — “put the softbox as close as possible to the subject for the softest light” — without trying to put the instruction into any larger context.
This is a short book of photography tips that contains tips on using flash, studio photography, portraits, landscapes, weddings, travel, macro, and what should probably be called miscellany. There is a final section in which Kelby shows particular pictures and indicates his considerations in taking them. Each tip is less then a small page in length and includes an illustrative photograph.
Kelby is a Photoshop guru turned photography guru, and his images while nice, certainly are not inspiring. Be warned: many people are put off by his sophomoric sense of humor, which he displays throughout the book (e.g., the Committee for Creation of Complex Sounding Studio Gear Names).
I dislike tip books because they don’t put photography technique within a larger context so that the reader learns a principle which he can apply to any circumstance. “Give a man a fish.” might have been written about tip books. For example, in the space of a few pages, the author tells us to shoot portraits with wide angle lenses and then tells us to use telephoto lenses. What might be called a comprehensive book would help us to understand the considerations involved in making a choice of focal length for portraits.
Most of the tips that Kelby provides are really quite basic, and will be familiar to anyone who has spent any time at all learning techniques. (I acknowledge there is some value in being reminded about a small technique, although one could be reminded as well by reading a more comprehensive book.) Some of the tips are repeated, like telling us to keep shooting after sunset, or to buy a fast normal lens to shoot in dim places where you can’t use flash. Some of the tips are even contradictory, as when he tells the reader not to cut off the chin in a close-up portrait and then does just that later on. I particularly resented a so-called tip to buy a book that Kelby just happens to have edited and which I found to be interesting but not essential reading.
On the other hand, this is a book that you can pick up, read for a few minutes, and then put down. If you feel that’s an essential quality for an instruction book, this certainly fills the bill.