I read a post this this week on one of my favourite photography blogs called “Five Books That Changed My Life as a Professional Photographer“. It was a great read, and one that I couldn’t agree more with. I have read and loved three out of those five photography books, and I would agree that they were life-changing for me as a professional photographer. The importance of continuing to educate ourselves as photographers cannot be understated in my opinion. In a world where most photographers these days are ‘self-taught’, reading blogs and books is vital. Especially if you want to work as a professional photographer. I highly recommend heading over and reading the above post.
VisionMongers: Making a Life and a Living in Photography by David duChemin
Photography Q&A: Real Questions. Real Answers. by Zack Arias
The Copyright Zone: A Legal Guide for Artists in the Digital Age by Edward Greenberg and Jack Reznicki
The Designers Guide to Marketing and Pricing by Ilise Benun and Peleg Top
ASMP: Professional Business Practices in Photography
The last three of the five books in the list are going to be far more relevant to photographers wanting to work professionally, even if that just means part-time. The other two (VisionMongers and Photography Q&A) are going to be literary gold for anyone who wants to go deeper with their photography. I bought them both a number of years ago and have read them numerous times. I can’t recommend them highly enough.
Reading this list got me thinking about the other photography books I’ve read that have impacted me. There are quite a few that have inspired me in some way or taught me something new, but there are three more books that I also cannot recommend highly enough. So, in no particular order…
1. “Understanding Exposure, Fourth Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera” by Brian Peterson
Brian Peterson’s Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera is, as the name very clearly suggests, all about the most basic and essential skill of photography – understanding light and how your camera interprets it. When learning photography basics, the interaction of light, aperture, and shutter-speed are some of the first things that beginner photographers need to get their heads around. Understanding Exposure goes so much deeper than these basic camera settings though. It takes the reader through many of the elements that can affect the image that you end up with on your memory card. One of the hardest lessons I have had to learn in my photography is that light is the single most important element in any photograph. Great light can make a very ordinary scene extraordinary, and ordinary light can make an extraordinary scene very dull.
This is the first book I recommend to any beginner or intermediate photographer. It covers everything from aperture, shutter-speed, and ISO to the use of filters, flash, and coloured gels. It even covers some of the more advanced photographic techniques like long-exposures and shooting star-trails. No matter whether your thing is shooting landscape or travel photography using natural light, or if you like to use flash to shoot portraits or products, Understanding Exposure will give you the knowledge to take better photos.
2. “Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision (2nd Edition)” by David duChemin
Expanding on his first book, and one of my favourite photography books (VisionMongers), David duCheming continues on the theme of finding and expressing vision in Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision. David has become one of the most infuencial voices in the photography world by taking the focus off the all too common obsession with gear and placing it firmly on the art and craft of photography. This is summed up by his mantra of “gear is good, vision is better”. His is one of the few photography blogs that I read virtually every post. Often more than once. His perspective and approach are refreshing and understanding. His words are very much from the perspective of someone who is on the same journey as the rest of us. I often feel like he’s my own private mentor.
Within the Frame is part inspiration and part education. As a humanitarian and travel photographer, David has visited and experienced more places and cultures than most of us would dream of in our lives. The book is full of stories, practical advice, inspiration, and beautiful photographs that will help you find and define your own photographic vision, especially if your passion is travel photography.
3. “The Moment It Clicks: Photography Secrets from One of the World’s Top Shooters” by Joe McNally
Like the previous books on this list, The Moment It Clicks: Photography Secrets from One of the World’s Top Shooters was one of the first photography books I owned. I kept seeing Joe McNally showing up all over the place every time I watched or read something photography-related, so I started following him and quickly realised that he is one of the top photography educators in the world for a good reason. He not only has an incredible wealth of experience shooting some of the biggest names and for the biggest magazines in the world, but he has a rare ability to pass on knowledge in easily digestable ways. He simplifies the most complex techniques and concepts like few teachers can.
In The Moment It Clicks, Joe shares many of his photographs (some of which you will probably recognise) and then tells the story behind each image, including the technical info like the equipment and settings he used, how to set up a similar shot yourself, and the challenges and lessons learned from the assignment. The images alone are enough reason to buy the book, as it makes a great coffee-table book, but the wisdom that comes with them make it one of the most valuable photography books you can buy in my opinion.
What are your favourite photography books?
Whether you’re a beginner or advanced photographer, hobbyist or professional, there is always something new to learn or some new inspiration out there. What books have been influencial in your photography journey? They could be educational books like the ones above or inspirational like coffee table books. All the books above can be purchased as kindle or ebooks, but I highly recommend getting your hands on a real paper and ink copy. The images in a real photography book are worth the extra few dollars!
Last year, Todd and Sarah Sisson launched their first ebook; Living Landscapes: A Guide To Stunning Landscape Photography
. In the oversaturated world of photography resources, theirs brought something new and fresh that stood out above the rest. I personally really enjoyed it, and it was very well received by the landscape photography community. You can read my review here
Since then, the New Zealand-based landscape photographers have been in hiding, working on their newest offering to the photography community, Loving Landscapes: A Guide To Landscape Photography Workflow and Post-Production. As with their first, this book has been published by Digital Photography School (dPS), one of the top photography blogs and publishers of fantastic photography resources. As the name implies, this ebook builds on the knowledge and skills gained from Living Landscapes by exploring the world of post-production workflow. If there was one area in Living Landscapes that I felt was too brief and needed expanding upon, it was the digital darkroom. Not surprisingly, Todd and Sarah have exceeded expectations with this monster. It’s packed with 200+ pages of New Zealand landscape photography gorgeousness and post-production genius. No matter your choice of workflow weapon, this will be an invaluable resource. Let’s get into it.
The book is divided into 12 chapters:
- Image capture
- Computers and backups
- RAW workflow for landscape photography
- File management in Lightroom
- Organizing your images in Lightroom
- Outputting your images from Lightroom
- Single-exposure post-processing
- Single-exposure post-processing walkthrough
- Other Lightroom tools and features
- Single-exposure techniques
- Photoshop for landscape photographers
- Multi-exposure workflow
The first couple of chapters are pretty self-explanatory. They really just cover a lot of the techniques and tools required to get the best image possible in-camera and store files safely. They briefly outline everything from correct exposure, sharpness, dynamic range, and histograms to the use of tools like tripods and filters. Any photographer not confident in the area of capturing landscape images would be wise to purchase Todd and Sarah’s first ebook Living Landscapes. No digital photographer can ignore the need for a solid backup system. There are countless stories of photographers losing everything due to hard drive failure. Chapter two outlines Todd and Sarah’s very robust backup system, which you would do well to beat.
Chapters 3-6 get into some more meaty workflow goodies with a discussion of why Todd and Sarah use a RAW workflow (and why you should), and then an introduction to using Adobe Lightroom (LR). Although there are many alternatives, some better than others, there is a good reason why Lightroom is the industry standard. Loving Landscapes refers to LR extensively, but of course if you already use something else you will still be able to use the principles taught in this book. I have been using LR for my workflow for a few years, and I wholeheartedly agree with Todd and Sarah that nothing else even comes close. Chapters 4-6 will introduce you to the process of setting up a solid cataloging and file-naming system, and importing, managing, and outputting from LR. Getting started on the right foot with your image library will save you a world of pain later on, and the process is relatively easy to work through even if you already have a decent collection of images.
Moving into the image post-processing, chapters 7-10 look at techniques to edit single-exposures in Lightroom. These chapters progress very naturally from an overview of the develop module to a real image processing walkthrough, and a look at more advanced LR tools and features. The process is very helpfully aided by the provision of one of the RAW files that Todd and Sarah have included in the Loving Landscapes package. This section really displays the power of LR. I’m constantly amazed by what LR can do with a single-exposure image, and it just keeps getting better. Todd and Sarah do well in these chapters to give you a really solid knowledge-base and the skills to be able to use Lightroom’s develop module in a very precise and effective way. Although there is a discussion on presets, this will give you what you need to express your creative vision very intentionally, rather than relying on someone else’s. Although they acknowledge that there are some LR tools that they just don’t use, no stone is left unturned in their discussion of the develop module. The only section I didn’t feel fitted well here was chapter ten, which explores some of the more creative forms of landscape photography like impressionism, zooming, camera spin, and long-exposure photography. Not that these aren’t valid forms of creative expression, they just seemed like they would’ve fitted much better into Living Landscapes, as they are photographic techniques, rather than post-processing techniques.
In chapter 11, things step up a notch with an introduction to editing images using Adobe Photoshop (PS). As previously mentioned, what can be done in LR now is quite incredible, but it has it’s limitations. This chapter does a great job of illustrating the tools that are available to the landscape photographer in PS. Photoshop can be daunting to the novice. It’s still daunting to me now! I find the best way to think of PS is as a huge box of tools that can do many different jobs, but most people will only ever use a few of those tools in very specific ways. A designer, videographer, and illustrator will all use PS very differently to the way a photographer will. Even within the photography field, different specialties will use PS differently. A fashion photographer won’t use it that same way as a landscape photographer. That being said, it’s worth mentioning that this ebook is really only an introduction to PS. The major strengths of PS over LR are in the areas of making selections and cleaning up images; healing, cloning, etc. Sarah takes you through a few examples of the tools they use, how they use them, and do a comparison of their results in PS vs LR. They really are convincing. LR mostly does a great job, but the few times it falls short, there is always a way with the right tools and knowledge in PS. The PS novice can quickly and effectively learn to use these tools to improve their images with practice, and once you realise it’s not that scary after all, you’ll be like Alice in the PS rabbit-hole!
Last, but certainly not least, is a look at multi-exposure workflow. For reasons I will let Todd and Sarah explain, sometimes we need more than one exposure to create the image we envision. Whether it’s to create a high dynamic range (HDR) image, a stitched panorama, or a composite image, there will come a time when you want (or need) to combine multiple exposures. I mentioned in my review of Living Landscapes that I wished this had been discussed, and now I can see why it was omitted. It’s not a subject you can quickly breeze over. Todd shares his techniques for manual blending of images using selections, and luminosity masks, and Sarah introduces you to blending exposures by tonemapping using Photomatix Pro software. Again, they’ve provided RAW image files so you can follow along with them as you work through the book. There are as many techniques to do this as you can point a stick at, so bear in mind that this is not an exhaustive list.
On the whole, I am very impressed with Loving Landscapes. It’s a very good resource for landscape photographers who are relatively new to the workflow and post-production side of the craft, and there is so much great content that even those who have been at it for awhile will undoubtedly learn something new. Todd and Sarah write in a very straightforward and easy-to-understand way, throwing plenty of their personality and great kiwi humour in to keep things light-hearted. Their work and reputation speak for themselves, and we are very lucky to have them share their wealth of knowledge. There are few photographers of their calibre that are willing to share their post-processing techniques so freely. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. No matter where your landscape photography is at, I’m convinced that your work will benefit from Loving Landscapes.
It’s available for $29.99, or you can grab both of these Landscape Photography ebooks as a package deal and save $20. Hit the banner below to read more:
Just a quick post to let you know about the latest ebook from Digital Photography School. This latest in their “Photo Nuts” series is titled Photo Nuts and Gear, and is written by Neil Creek. As the title suggests, it’s all about one of my favourite subjects – photo gear. It’s essentially an in-depth buyer’s guide to all things photography from camera bodies and lenses to tripods and camera bags. Here’s a sneak peek at the book:
You can get all the juicy details by hitting THIS LINK and grab the book while it’s still 33% off. It’s only $15 and comes with Digital Photography School’s usual 60 day refund guarantee.
Portrait photography is undoubtedly one of the most popular photographic specialties there is, so it’s not surprising that there is a wealth of resources out there on the subject. No matter whether your subjects are fashion models, celebrities, high school seniors or families and children, you don’t have to look far to find tutorials and guidance on how to photograph them. Gina Milicia has made a name for herself as one of Australia’s top portrait photographers, having built up an impressive client list of everything from sports, music, and movie stars to executives and politicians. Gina’s first book, Portraits: Making The Shot
, was extremely well received, and many people are still benefiting from it. It broke down the basics of portrait photography and gave readers new skills, ideas, and inspiration to take to their shoots.
Gina has returned to publish her second ebook with Digital Photography School – Portraits: Lighting The Shot. As the name suggests, this ebook builds on the basic principles she taught in her first book and adds lighting to the mix. Of course there in no photography without light, but this ebook will take your understanding of what can be done with carefully thought-out light to the next level. I’m sure you’ve all heard the rants about how “natural light it better” from the haters. That’s fine. If you want to limit yourself to only ever shooting natural light portraits, be my guest. If you want to level-up your portrait photography skills by learning how to light your subjects well, you can’t go past this book!
The ebook is broken up into sections; The Rules, The Gear, The Way, The Style, and Building The Shot. They’re pretty self-explanatory. “The Rules” lays out ten foundational rules that Gina shoots by. A lot of it is basic rules of photography and business that would apply to any photographic specialty. Many of these apply to me as a landscape and nature photographer, as they would to a wedding or event photographer. The one “rule” here that I suspect would be controversial would be #8 (use a light meter), but I’ll leave that up to you to decide.
“The Gear”, again as the name implies, delves into the gear of the portrait photographer. Everything from camera bodies and lenses to tripods, gels, light meters, and remote triggers. Of course, no portrait lighting resource would be complete without covering lights in magnificent detail. Gina covers continuous lighting, speedlights, studio and battery-powered strobes, and mono-blocks. She outlines their common uses, their pros and cons, and suggests examples at different budgets. She even throws in a few MacGyver hacks for the ingenuitive photographer.
Things start getting juicy in the third section “The Way”. This part of the ebook starts to unpack some of the more technical aspects of how light behaves and some of the differences between natural light and flash. It also covers things like how to make artificial off-camera flash look natural, how to use fill flash to complement natural light, and shutter-speed considerations. It includes helpful information about things like shooting at different times of day and weather conditions. The last part of this section on shaping light I found particularly helpful, as it identifies and compares a number of different light modifiers (softbox, umbrella, scrim, beauty dish, etc), how they work, and when to use them, all beautifully illustrated with Gina’s stunning portraits of course.
“The Style” shows you how to put all this technical knowledge into practice and begin creatively expressing your vision. It introduces little touches that can take an image from good to great, like using lens flare and catchlights in your subject’s eyes. It includes a great part on lighting more than one subject, and even groups, which if you’ve done before is not easy! This section really leads you into some of the decision making that will help to define your individual vision and style, something that is relevant for all photographers, beginner or seasoned professional. The practical examples in the final section “Building The Shot” bring it all together to show you how a real-life photo shoot can look and how different subjects call for different decisions. It looks at how to balance light, add lights individually and selectively, and use mood to create dramatic, eye-catching portraits.
Overall, I think Gina’s book would be an incredibly valuable resource for any portrait photographer no matter their level of skill or experience. It’s available for $19.99, or you can bundle it and grab all four of Gina’s other Portrait Photography ebooks and save 38%. Hit the banner below to read more:
Ask any landscape or travel photographer to list their top ten photography destinations, and I guarantee almost all of them will include New Zealand. New Zealand’s incredible scenery is well documented not only by nature and landscape photographers, but was also made famous by films like Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit. I know full well how lucky I am to live here! Todd Sisson, along with his wife Sarah, is one of New Zealand’s most well-known and well-established landscape photographers, and even made the Top 100 Travel Photographers list for 2013. They are lucky enough to live in Otago, deep in the South Island and surrounded by some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. They have carved out for themselves a reputation for creating unique images that capture the untouched beauty of the landscape.
Living Landscapes: A Guide To Stunning Landscape Photography is Todd and Sarah’s first ebook, and is published by Digital Photography School (DPS). There is a wealth of knowledge and skill to gain from them, and as they are no longer running landscape photography workshops in New Zealand, this ebook is the best way to learn from them (unless you have $5k to drop on one of Trey Ratcliff’s workshops, which they will be teaching on). As you can see below, Living Landscapes has a collection of Todd and Sarah’s most stunning landscape photos. 132 pages packed full of them!
Todd’s style of writing and teaching is refreshing and easygoing. He keeps things interesting the whole way through without boring you with monotonous details, and even manages to squeeze some of his kiwi humour in there! The ebook is divided up into five main sections. After a brief introduction, Todd launches into an overview of a landscape photographer’s gear, or what he calls “tools of the trade”. This covers everything from camera bodies and sensors through to lenses, tripods, ball heads, and filters. He also discusses his own experiences and current perspectives on gear and what is or isn’t necessary today. From my own experience, I couldn’t agree more with his views. It’s refreshing to hear him challenging a lot of commonly held beliefs and myths around gear.
The second section is dedicated to the essential subject of craft. No photographic resource would be complete without it. This section breaks down the basic elements of exposure and many of the more technical aspects to photography, and specifically how they relate to shooting landscapes. It covers things like the histogram, the ‘exposure reciprocity triangle’, ISO, focusing, and the importance of getting it right in camera. This is especially important in today’s age of ‘fixing it in post’. He also discusses photographing high dynamic range (HDR) scenes, which is a very common challenge for landscape photographers. The section concludes with a couple of real-world scenarios where Todd walks through the decision making process with two of his images.
Section three of the ebook leaves the dry technical stuff behind and explores the creative side of landscape photography. Todd breaks it down into subject, light, and composition. Of course, finding great landscapes to photograph is easier when you live in New Zealand’s stunning South Island. Even I get a little green, and I live in the North Island’s beautiful Mount Maunganui! Great subjects, however, are able to be found anywhere. It just requires some research, and eye for a shot, and maybe a little wandering around or getting in your car. On the flip-side, great light can be found anywhere! I often find myself staring out my window at my back yard watching it light up with a rich golden glow (and wonder why I’m inside, not out shooting that light). Todd discussed shooting during sunrise and sunset, ‘golden hour’, and even during the less dramatic, often shunned daytime hours. I would have liked to see him include photographing landscapes during twilight, or ‘blue hour’ also, but that’s an ebook all of its own. Thirdly, Todd discusses composition, and breaks it further down into ‘dynamic’ and ‘static’ compositions. This section is one of the real gems of this ebook and touches on everything from light and texture to foreground and background elements and using leading lines and what he refers to as “vision locking tonal control”. Again, this section is concluded with a practical scenario, this time a tutorial on how to put your newly acquired creative skills into practice.
Many photographers, especially novices, shy away from the post-production side of photography, either finding it intimidating or due to being sold the outdated myth that digital image manipulation is bad or even “wrong”. Todd dives into this subject in the fourth section. Personally, this is one of my favourite parts of the photographic process. Todd includes history and ethics of the post-production debate in the discussion, which is helpful to debunk some of the myths and keep things in perspective. He then spends the rest of the section discussing Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom and when and how he uses them. His process seems relatively simple, but remarkably effective, as his images can attest to. He outlines the essentials of post-production, then walks through the editing process for three of his images. I found this section useful and interesting, but the very obvious omission was the complete lack of discussion of his exposure blending process, especially considering that he referred to bracketing multiple exposures on a more than one occasion. I would have like to have seen his take on this process, partly due to the prolific use of exposure blending and tonemapping HDR software and its resulting reputation.
Finally, section five is a wealth of advice and tips about many different aspects of photographing landscapes from shooting water, mountains, and forests through to sunsets, sunrises, panoramas, and even shooting in black and white. It encourages you to think differently about subjects and styles, and has challenged some of the ruts I often find myself in.
This ebook is an extremely valuable resource that almost any landscape photographer would benefit from, whether the casual novice with a point and shoot camera to the established pro and everyone in between. I can’t recommend it highly enough, and I look forward to Todd and Sarah’s next offering. You can grab it for $29.95, or buy it together with Loving Landscapes and save. It will help your photography way more than $30 worth of gear. It comes with Digital Photography School’s standard 60-day money back guarantee, so you have nothing to lose. Hit the link to read more:
Martin Bailey is one of those rare photographers who thrives in both the creative and the technical. Not a lot of creatives do that well. It doesn’t take much time browsing his portfolio to see that he is a very creative person, but he is also one of the most technical photographers I have come across. I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Martin, but from what I have absorbed from his vast collection of educational resources, it is clear that photographic technique is something he is both naturally drawn to and has worked very hard at. The man knows his craft.
Martin’s latest offering from Craft & Vision, Sharp Shooter: Proven Techniques For Sharper Photographs, is obviously addressing one of the most technical areas of photography; sharpness. I don’t know of a single photographer or specialty that this wouldn’t be relevant to. Martin is a nature and wildlife photographer, so obviously many of the images in the book represent his niche, but the principles and techniques covered would be applicable to anything from people to real estate to nature and landscape photography.
Martin’s ability to take complex and confusing concepts such as hyperfocal distance and make them understandable to the humble artist is rare. He covers the material in depth, but without overwhelming the reader with too much jargon or technical detail. The book covers everything from focal distance and aperture to focusing for macro photography. It explores camera and post-production techniques to get the shot tack sharp in-camera and enhance or fix it in photoshop. It also covers some of the practical aspects unique to Martin’s specialty of wildlife photography such as shooting with super telephoto lenses, panning, and dealing with a moving subject. The post-production sharpening is also quite in-depth, covering everything from sharpening in lightroom and photoshop to using plugins such as Nik Software’s Sharpener Pro 3 (which I use) and onOne Software’s Perfect Resize. Martin is also passionate about printing, so he also touches on output sharpening for print.
As a landscape photographer, I wasn’t sure how applicable the techniques of a wildlife photographer would be to me. However, having experienced Martin’s teaching in the past, I gave it a go. I wasn’t disappointed. The techniques and knowledge I’ve gained from this book have already helped my dramatically improved my rate of keepers. I especially found the section on sharpening and enlarging for print helpful, as I sell large prints and canvases, which betray any flaw in an image.
Needless to say, I can’t recommend Sharp Shooter highly enough. It would be a valuable resource for any photographer, no matter their specialty. As with all Craft & Vision‘s ebooks, $5 is a steal, and this one fits perfectly with their mantra; Improve Your Craft (Buy Less Gear). So, give up today’s coffee and GO BUY ONE.