Review: David Pogue’s Digitial Photography: The Missing Manual

Digital Photography: The Missing ManualDigital Photography: The Missing Manual from O'Reilly sets out to answer all of the questions beginning photographers face before and after they open their new cameras and file away the unopened and often unfriendly manual that came with it.

I'm giving away my review copy. Read on to find out how to enter the drawing.

For the digital novice, this book opens with two chapters on choosing a new camera in the first place. These chapters are great if you don't know what to look for in a digital camera or you find yourself exasperated from teaching a friend or relative about megapixels and digital sensors. The advice can help you determine what you need, what's important, and what can be ignored.

The following five chapters deal with actually using the camera itself. Chapter 4 covers decisions that are often made on a shot-by-shot basis, chapter 5 is devoted to avoiding blur. Chapter 6 contains nothing but "recipes" for certain types of shots: panoramas, frozen action, classic sunsets, outdoor portraits, etc.

Chapter 7 has a little advice specifically for SLR owners. But other than that and few notes here and there, this book is really for any beginner regardless of camera type.

The book concludes with Part 3 which is sort of a short course in using iPhoto and Picasa. And Part 4 deals with printing and sharing photos online.

All in all, it's a pretty good book for: anyone new to digital photography who needs help choosing a camera; beginners who feel that the owners manual that came with their camera was, to put it nicely, somewhat lacking in helpful information; folks who need help learning how to use iPhoto or Picasa; or for photographers who need instructions for taking certain kinds of photos (the recipes in Chapter 6).

Pogue does a great job of explaining, in easy to understand language, what can sometimes be a complicated topic. It's nonintimidating, easy to read, and provides a good introduction to the breadth of digital photography topics from choosing a camera to keeping digital backups.

Buy this book at Amazon.com →

To get my review copy, leave a comment with a valid email address. I'll choose a recipient at random this weekend.

This book was provided to Photodoto free of charge for review.

Gross, Creepy, or Cool?

yama_skull_camera_1Wayne Martin Belger apparantly decided a human skull would make a great camera. He decorated it, put a stereoscopic camera inside it, named it "Yama", and hey presto he had a working skull camera! Both the eyes are pinholes so it creates 3D photos. Belger has also made a HIV-positive camera which pumps HIV-positive blood through the casing, the red passing in front of the pinholes produces red-tinged photos. Berger uses this camera only to photograph HIV-positive people.

So what do you think, gross, creepy, or cool? Or something else? You can read more about Berger's cameras and The Rivet Gallery in Columbus, OH that featured his work this month, here.

Digital Black and White Photos

Sometimes a photo just looks better in black and white. You know, from time to time you'll be digitally rifling through a folder of photographs and there'll be one or two that just don't suit being in glorious technicolour. So what to do? Well here are a few tips:

1. Don't write the photo off just because it doesn't work in colour. It may look fantastic in black and white.

2. Don't just convert to greyscale or desaturate. This will most likely look boring and low contrast. Most programs (including free ones like Picasa) have some kind of  "filtered black and white" option (in Photoshop this is the channel mixers). This allows you to select a colour filter (some programs will have more choices than others) which will let you keep much more of the detail in your photo. Play around with the different filters and see which ones work best for your photo.

3. Play with the photo in colour first. Before you convert to black and white do any corrections e.g. red eye removal, exposure, contrast etc. while the photos still in colour.

4. Play more once it's black and white! Don't be afraid to make more corrections once you've converted it.You can always undo anything you regret!

5. Don't be afraid to try Auto Levels or Auto Contrast. If you don't like what they do you can always undo it and you may find it gives you the perfect photo without you having to mess around with levels or contrast yourself - that's not cheating so don't  make work for yourself!

If you want to go and shoot with black and white images in mind try these tips:

1. Shoot in colour! If you're shooting JPEGs shoot in colour, you'll have much more control over your image later than if you shoot in black and white mode. If you're shooting in RAW you can shoot in black and white mode because your camera will record all the information anyway.

2. Use a low ISO, as low as possible. Noise is more obvious in black and white photos and using the lowest ISO will help avoid very grainy photos.

3.  Pay attention to light. Light is very important in black and white photos because, obviously, you've got no colour. Try and look for light that will add texture and contrast to your image. Light coming from one direction is good for this because it will give shadows.

4. Practice! Like anything photography takes practice to improve. Set a challenge for yourself to produce a certain number of black and white photos over the next month, or decide to convert at least one photo from each shoot you do into black and white (you can always keep the colour shot too). Practice, practice, practice, and you'll get better even if you don't get perfect!

If you've got tips of your own for digital black and white photography let us know in the comments.

Photos of police banned in name of counter-terrorism

Came across this news item over the weekend that should be of interest to photographers everywhere and in the U.K. in particular:

Whereas in the past the police have not had the power to prevent photographs being taken of them, from today they have. Under the new Counter-Terrorism Act it is an offence to take pictures of officers "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism". This is such a catch-all measure that it can be used---and, in view of recent trends, will be used---to prevent photographs to which the police object merely by invoking counter-terrorist requirements. While it is important for officers involved in such operations to maintain anonymity, many photographers fear these powers will be abused.

It's a disturbing trend. It's also kind of disturbing that this has passed without much protest (or have I just missed it all because I'm on the wrong side of the Atlantic/not paying attention?)

Read the full story: Why can't we take pictures of policemen?

World Press Photo 2009

If you want to see some truly amazing photography check out the World Press Photo 2009 winners gallery.

There are some great shots including a photo series of Obama's campaign, a photo of schoolchildren looking at a victim of gang violence, a daily life series following a family in New York, and the winning shot showing a detective checking a repossesed house in Ohio.

The exhibition of all the winning photos kicks off on 4 May in the Netherlands and will travel the world, you can check out the calendar to see when it'll be arriving in your country (dates before 4 May are for the exhibition of last year's winners).

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