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Digital Photographer's Handbook by Tom Ang
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Digital Photographer's Handbook: 06/29/16

Digital Photographer's Handbook by Tom Ang

Digital Photographer's Handbook by Tom Ang promises "up to the minute information on the latest technology and equipment" for digital photography. First and foremost no book can be up to the minute. Hell, no blog can be up to the minute. So taking the hyperbole out of the equation, the book is about modern techniques and equipment for digital photography.

OK. Fine.

Except. Digital camera technology isn't a mysterious black box. Regardless of the type of camera the gist is the same: light goes in, hits a sensor, image data is recorded and saved.

There are four basic types of digital cameras:

  • smart phones which have a wide angle, almost pin hold lens
  • point and shoot, which have a lens built into the body of the camera that might have some basic telescoping abilities but most of the zoom work is done digitally rather than optically.
  • Single reflex lens which save space and weight by removing one of the mirrors, meaning there isn't an optical view finder and the light meter is working with the same information as the autofocus. (This is the type of camera I use because it's lightweight and compact)
  • Dual reflex lens: these are the honking big, fancy, high end cameras that every one lusts over but many can't afford and probably don't need. The have the optical view finder and can program their light meter separately from their focus. They also are faster at responding.

Beyond the camera bodies there are of course different kinds of lenses, if you have a camera that can take lenses. Although nowadays, there's even a lens attachment for your smart phone which is somewhere between silly and awesome. Lenses come in a variety of forms too: wide angle, mid range, long focus, telephoto, and tilt (for those tilt shift cityscapes where everything looks miniature).

There are also a variety lens filters, especially good for shooting through haze or catching details in water when there's a lot of glare.

Finally, there are methods for keeping your camera steady when doing low light or long exposure shooting. The standard option is the tripod. But in places where a tripod won't work, there's also the beanbag.

The rest of photography is a steady dance of trial and error. You learn the quirks of your camera (and trust me, identical camera models will have separate quirks), your own personal taste for composition, time of day, gamma, etc. You'll start simply by putting everything on automatic and maybe trying different built in settings or filters. Maybe you'll be happy with that and never branch out to manual. Or you'll eventually crave something different — something more personal, and you'll start learning how to do things for yourself with your camera.

And that's where I gristle at Digital Photographer's Handbook. It treats digital photography as a technology problem, not an art form that uses technology. It has recipes for avoiding problems, with example photographs of "mistakes." These good vs bad photographs are, of course, the author's own opinion of what makes a good photograph.

But they might not be your opinion of what makes a good photograph. Some of them certainly weren't my idea of a what goes into a good photograph.

Will this book teach you the basics of picking the camera that will best for you? Yes. Will it teach you some options for digital manipulation on the computer? Yes, although that section is more prone to becoming out of date than the camera and lens sections.

If you truly want to go beyond treating your camera like a high tech device and treat it like a tool for art, I suggest reading two other books instead:

  • Camera and Lens: The Creative Approach by Ansel Adams. Yes, it's an OLD SCHOOL book but most of photography still works on the principles that have been around for more than 100 years.
  • Painting with a Lens by Rod and Robin Deutschmann. The introduction is a bit self congratulatory but you will learn how to find your own style and do things completely manually if you want.

Two stars

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