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Practical Artistry: Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers

Book Review
Thursday 12 June 2008.

$29.99 / 18.50
By Harold Davis
Pages: 176
O’Reilly http://www.oreilly.com
ISBN 10: 0-596-52988-0 | ISBN 13: 9780596529888

A long time ago I used to take photographs professionally with cameras that contained (rather quaintly!) spools of actual film. I had some pretty serious kit in those days and I took things like lighting an exposure with due seriousness. These days I use a digital camera and I generally let its electronics take care of all the technical stuff for me. After all, if the exposure isn’t quite right, I can always fix it in Photoshop later on, can’t I...

Well, no, not according to Harold Davis, anyway. He tackles the Photoshop myth head on in his Introduction - “It is,” he says, “fundamentally flawed to assume that incorrect exposures can be ‘fixed in Photoshop.’ Photoshop, and other digital darkroom programs, can do great things, but are best used as creative tools for further enhancing photos that are already good."

He is, of course, right. Duly chastened, I flipped quickly through the rest of the book to see what my digital photographs are missing. And see, I certainly did. Harold Davis’s pictures are marked by the care, attention and sheer love of the perfectionist. Seeing them gave me the kick in the pants that I’ve been needing. Why, I wondered, am I content to take such indifferent photographs with my digital camera when, back in the old film-camera days, I would put in a great deal more effort to get just the right picture? Blame modern technology, Photoshop and, yes, I have to admit it - laziness on my part!

This book is divided into six chapters: Understanding Exposure, Working With Aperture, Selecting Shutter Speed, ISO and Noise, Using Light and Digital Darkroom. It comprise a mix of technical information, practical tips (“lying flat on my belly, I photographed the sunlight through this small Tiarella flower”) and sheer inspiration. The photographic subjects range from close-ups of clockwork, flowers, birds, bees and portraits to some very dramatic landscapes, seascapes and skies.

While the author does not assume any particular make or model of camera, it’s probably fair to say that a reasonably serious camera would be a distinct advantage. If you were once (like me) a fairly keen photographer who has let his standards slip, or if you just can’t work out why your digital photography lacks that ‘certain something’, this is the perfect book to bring yourself up to scratch!

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