Thursday, March 26, 2009

Book Review: Better Available Light Digital Photography - Second Edition By Joe Farace & Barry Staver

Written by T. Michael Testi

Have you ever tried to take photographs when the light was dim and the only thing that you seem to capture was a blur? If you have tried to photograph indoor events like weddings, graduations, holiday lights, or even outdoor events at dusk or later,then you have probably found it to be a difficult experience to capture what you actually saw.

Better Available Light Digital Photography was written to help you understand the many different lighting challenges that you may encounter when shooting in low light conditions. It will attempt to provide you with answers to questions about overcoming these shooting problems, and leave you better armed the next time that you are in a low light situation. Better Available Light Digital Photography is 240 pages in length and divided into 8 chapters.

Chapter 1, "What is Available Light?" begins with a description of what is called, "The Golden Hour." This is the time when the available light outside is truly extraordinary and, for a few minutes, can provide the difference between a photograph and a snapshot. In this chapter you will get a brief overview of the different types of lighting situations and how to understand the problems that exist.

Chapter 2, "Basic Exposure," is more important to digital than it is for color negative film, according to the authors, and so you really need to understand how to get a correct exposure if you want to capture the image you see. In this chapter you will look at images and learn to understand the complexities that you will need to work with while dealing with limited light. You will also look at the camera histogram and how to understand what it means as well as what high dynamic range photography entails.

Chapter 3, "Digital Noise: What it is and How to Deal With It," looks at an effect in your digital images what is the equivalent of grain on traditional film, and that is noise. In this chapter you will explore what noise is, where it comes from, and what you can do to reduce or eliminated it.

Chapter 4, "White Balance Techniques," examines the fact that light is different colors and that can affect the look of your images. These colors com from the different temperatures of light and those can give funny casts to your images. In this chapter you will learn how you can compensate for these casts which can make your images come out closer to what you imagined when you shot them.

Chapter 5, "Fast Lenses," are able to capture more light and therefore are better for low light shooting. The problem is, is that this fast glass also costs much more than a slower lens. Here you will look at the difference between zooms and prime lenses, image stabilization, and other lens features that will have you capturing better images in lower light situations.

Chapter 6, "Tripods and Other Camera Supports," can allow you to slow down the shutter speed, giving you the ability to let in more light without the nasty blur you would get if you were just holding the camera. Here you will look at tripods, monopods, heads, and alternate supports to keep your camera steady and the image clear.

Chapter 7, "Available Light Photography at Weddings," begins with examples of how traditional photographs were taken at weddings in the past and compares it to the new techniques of wedding photography. There has been a lot of change with the inception of the digital camera and this chapter examines what it might take to shoot a wedding from beginning through reception.

Chapter 8, "RAW-Image-File Capture," looks at what the advantages of working with RAW files over other formats by starting with what the difference between a RAW file and JPEG's, Here you will see the what the pro's and con's are and give you information on why you would want to use one over the other. There is also a discussion on what Adobe's digital negatives (DNG) are and where they fit into the equation of file formats.

While I don’t think that it goes deep enough for someone who is experienced in the fundamentals of available light shooting, I do think that Better Available Light Digital Photography is a good book for someone who is just getting into shooting in low light situations. would provide a good resource for someone coming from film and trying to learn the nuances of the digital medium with regard to available light as well.
Better Available Light Digital Photography contains many pictorial examples that are well documented with information and specifics of how the shot was captured. It provides a solid foundation in the relationship of low light shooting with a digital camera and lots of tidbits of practical information. If you are new to low light shooting and want to learn to shoot in available light then you should check out Better Available Light Digital Photography.



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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Book Review: Real World Adobe Photoshop CS4 by Conrad Chavez And David Blatner

Written by T. Michael Testi


Real World Adobe Photoshop CS4 is subtitled "Industrial Strength Production Techniques" because that is really what the focus of this book is - how to move images through Photoshop. But this book is not just about Photoshop, it is also about photography and images and translating your own understanding of images into the digital world of Photoshop.

Real World Adobe Photoshop CS4 knows that when you are in a crunch, you have to have an instinctive, intuitive feel for what is going on in Photoshop to finesse it to your needs. Because of this there is a lot of conceptual discussion that goes on in this book. The goal then becomes how to take what you already know and incorporate it with new tools that will give you the ability to push Photoshop to the limit.

This new edition has been completely gone through, tightened up and updated to take on the new features of Adobe Photoshop CS4 including the Masks panel, Modeless Color Correction, Adobe Camera Raw 5, and much, much more. Real World Adobe Photoshop CS4 is contained in 448 pages divided into 12 chapters.

Chapter 1, "Building a Photoshop System," will show you what you need to build a quality Photoshop system. Mac or PC is not as important as having enough power to do the kind of work you need done. Chapter 2, "Image Essentials," reminds us that computers do not understand about images, tone, color, or any of those other things that we view as important about images. While you won't have to understand binary math to work with Photoshop, it does help to understand how Photoshop thinks.

Chapter 3, "Color Essentials," examines the different ways that different people thing about what makes a color. Regardless of if it is RGB, CMYK, Lab, or some other variation, this chapter looks at the fundamental color relationships and how Photoshop presents them. Chapter 4, "Color Settings," constitutes the heart of this book. While the authors consider every topic to be important, they feel that unless you understand how Photoshop handles color behind the scenes, you will never achieve the quality of image that you should be able to get.

Chapter 5, "Building a Digital Workflow," explores what it takes to build a true digital workflow that allows you to make quick work of your digital images. Because taking digital images is so cheap, you soon find you have so many more images which mean that there are many more images to handle. This chapter is all about getting through Adobe Camera Raw as quickly as possible. Chapter 6, "Essential Photoshop Tips and Tricks," continues the work in chapter 5 in that the biggest boost to your productivity is to accelerate it with the tips and trick found here. As a sideline, included here are a couple of Easter eggs included in Photoshop including one honoring the late Bruce Frasier, one of the authors of this book.

Chapter 7, "Image Adjustment Fundamentals," is about tonal manipulation, the adjusting of the lightness or darkness of your images. This is what makes the difference between a flat image and one that pops out and draws you into it. Chapter 8, "The Digital Darkroom," will show you how to get the most out of adjustment layers to make your adjustments instead of burning pixels. By using these techniques, you will be allowed to experiment more with little or no degradation and maximum flexibility.

Chapter 9, "Making Selections," is as important when silhouetting and compositing images as it is when making nondestructive tonal corrections, color corrections, sharpening, and retouching. But to do this you also have to become comfortable working with masks and channels. Chapter 10, "Sharpness, Detail, and Noise Reduction," points out that for us to have a lifelike image it must have sharp edge definition. No matter what quality there is to your scanner or digital camera, you will loose some definition and hence loose sharpness. Here are some techniques to bring that sharpness back.

Chapter 11, "Essential Image Techniques," is a chapter that gives a lot of techniques that allow your images to soar. This is basically a potpourri of tips and tricks that will not only make your images better, but speed up processing as well. Chapter 12, "Image Storage and Output," provides methods of output for those professional images that you are now creating for both printed as well as online destinations.

Real World Adobe Photoshop CS3 is well thought out and well executed. It is definitely a must-own for anyone who wants to get to the nuts and bolts of working with Photoshop. There are hundreds of tips that can be found in the densely filled pages. So much so, that I don't think that there is anything else that comes close to providing this much detail in a book on Photoshop.

Real World Adobe Photoshop CS4 is not going to be for everyone, but if you have a reasonable knowledge of how Photoshop works and you want to learn how to be more productive, have a better understanding of why it does what it does so that you can control the results that you get, then this is an essential book and I highly recommend it.


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