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Digital Photography Book Recommendation

By November 17, 2003photography

Even though I love technology and computers, it was with great reluctance that I took up digital photography. But once I discovered how much easier digital photography is I quickly ditched all of my 35mm equipment in favor of a Nikon CoolPix 5000 camera. Now that I’ve switched I can’t figure out why every amateur photographer with a 35mm camera doesn’t make the transition.

Digital photography means you get immediate feedback on pictures you have taken, so you don’t have to pay to develop pictures you don’t like. In fact, it really means not having to print many pictures at all (and you spend almost nothing on film and developing). You pretty much only print the pictures that you really like; the rest you just keep on your computer to display to unwitting friends and family members. Organizing the photos on your computer is easy if you have a Mac, because it comes with iPhoto. But Windows owners will probably be just as happy with a program called Picasa (free to try for 15 days and then $30 if you want to keep it, which you will).

Most amateur photographers will be happy with just a digital camera and a program that organizes the photos. More serious photographers will want to be able to manipulate their photographs. Remember, Ansel Adams didn’t take pictures that looked great when printed straight from the negative. His skill was taking a photograph from which a great print could be made, and his skill in the darkroom was the thing that brought to life his greatest photos.

Everything that the great printmakers of the past could do in their darkrooms can now be done with a program called Photoshop, which retails for about $250. But you don’t need to spend that kind of dough to own a top notch “digital darkroom.” You can do pretty much everything that you would do with Photoshop by using Adobe’s $80 consumer level program called Photoshop Elements 2.0. But the problem with using this program is that it has so many features that, unless you are very skilled in using Photoshop, you’ll get confused. That’s what happened to me. I figured out how to use a few features of Photoshop Elements, but I knew that I was only scratching the surface of its capabilities. Every once in a while I’d pick up a book on Photoshop Elements, but the book was not arranged in a way that allowed me to easily learn how to do the things that I wanted to do. In short, none of the books I found was designed to teach the everyday photographer how to use Photoshop Elements in a nuts & bolts kind of way.

Then I found Scott Kelby’s book: Photoshop Elements for the Digital Photographer. If you own a digital camera and a computer then you owe it to yourself to buy Photoshop Elements along with this book.

Kelby tells you how to do things like “soften skin” in a selective way, which your female subjects will find pleasing. He doesn’t waste time giving you a lot of background. He just shows you exactly how to perform the task you want to perform. More importantly, since he teaches advertising photographers and other highly skilled artistic types how to improve their digital images, he is familiar with techniques that these people use regularly to enhance their photographs. So, for example, he shows you how to “brighten” a subject’s eyes, and how to whiten their smile. He also tells you how to use Elements’ “photomerge” feature, which lets you stich together a group of photos of, say, a skyline into one panoramic photo (i.e. you can create very wide-angle shots without a wide-angle lens).

I could go on, but what’s the point? If you own Photoshop Elements then you need this book. Trust me. The $30 sales price is laughably cheap. I wish more software instruction books were written like this one.

P.S. If you appreciate these kinds of observations, you might want to read this as well.
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