Book Review: The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi/450D Companion

If you’ve recently stepped up from a point and shoot camera to the Canon Rebel XSi, which is also known as the 450D in non-US markets, then you might have a bit of learning curve to adapt to. There are a number of books out there that can get you acquainted with your new DSLR, including the manual.

The Rebel XSi manual does a great job of familiarizing you with the features found in the camera; however, it doesn’t really tie them all together for you.  This new book by Ben Long does and it does it well.

The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi/450D Companion starts off by setting out the camera’s features and then goes on to put those features in context of daily shooting situations that you’ll come across with your new camera.  If you really want to get the most out of your Rebel XSi, then this book is a great place to start.

The Companion is a great book for beginners and avid amateurs alike.  If you feel like you have been just getting by with your Rebel XSi (maybe getting some solid shots, but not really understanding what goes into making a technically great photograph), then the Companion can really help you out.

Generally, my recommendation to all new DSLR owners is to pick up Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Exposure.  For the fundamentals of creating a properly exposed photograph, I still think it’s the best book out there.  Canon Rebel XSi owners can go a beyond the fundamentals with the Companion though.  It is a book that you can grow with for a while and really launch you into a full understanding of the creative tool that is the Canon Rebel XSi.

If you own the Rebel XSi and want to get more out of it, The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi/450D Companion is a great place to start.  Ben Long has really put together a flowing educational resource that Rebel XSi owners can use to propel themselves to the next level of their photography.

It is currently available at a reasonable price of $16.49 at Amazon.com.

Nancy Bruno’s “Genuine Men”

Journeys in Stories and StillsIn Genuine Men: Journeys in Stories and Stills, Nancy Bruno has done more than catalog the lives of a few men in pictures. Looking through her book, you immediately get a sense of the time she spent in selecting not only the photographs that make up this book, but also the men themselves.

The photographs making up Genuine Men are black-and-white portraits. Bruno’s experience as an architectural and interior design photographer is evident throughout: where some photographers would have focused more closely on the titular men, Bruno has brought in elements of their surroundings. That addition provides a context that a stricter approach to portraiture would have reduced.

The context is particulary necessary with this project. Without Bruno’s subtle hints — and not-so-subtle text — this project would be little more than pictures of men standing around. Perhaps interesting, but not so intriguing as the idea that each man that Bruno photographed was so carefully selected. Furthermore, not every image in this book is technically perfect. Small flaws, however, juxtapose the idea that these are normal, everyday men. More refined images, whether through technical ability or computer correction, would change the nature of the characterization we find in these photos.

Bruno’s Genuine Men project grew out of a portrait project she completed in 2006, Beautiful Women. Both projects focused on everyday people — no celebrities, but instead folks of all ages and backgrounds. With Beautiful Women, Bruno worked to convery a healthier image of feminine beauty. With Genuine Men, Bruno focused on role models with an element of finding men that her young sons can look up to.

Bruno’s medium of choice is black-and-white 35mm photography. While she has done extensive architectural and interior design photography, Bruno has made a career of documentary projects, starting in 1996 with an examination of Canadian life during the long winter.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Photography Essentials

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Photography Essentials (Complete Idiot's Guide to)The folks at the Complete Idiot’s Guides picked the right guy to cover Photography Essentials. Mark Jenkinson is a photographer of the first order, routinely shooting for big name magazines like Maxim, Time and Vogue.

You might think that Jenkinson would jump to advanced concepts based on his own work, but he’s done a wonderful job of putting together a beginner-to-intermediate manual for photographers. Even if you have a certain level of photography experience, this book will still have plenty to offer.

The table of contents reads like an exceptionally user-friendly textbook:

  • Basic Equipment
  • Optics
  • Exposure
  • Formats
  • Rules & Conventions
  • Light
  • Photographing People
  • Photographing Events
  • Travel & Landscape Photography
  • Still Life Photography
  • Arching
  • Next Steps

The writing style mirrors that approach, without suffering from the condescension many photography textbooks seem to ooze. Instead, this guide is a friendly manual. An added bonus is that Jenkinson does not assume that every beginning photographer will have a bag full of expensive equipment. He offers practical advice that does not require spending a fortune.

Take light meters, for example: Jenkinson gives a great overview of the average metering options on an SLR. He also makes mention of handheld light meters, but doesn’t make them an integral part of his discussion of the subject.

There’s an added bonus with Photography Essentials. The book is full of beautiful color photography, illustrating Jenkinson’s points. It’s always easier to learn a photographic technique when you know the end result you’re aiming for. The photos in this book making it an excellent teaching tool.

Despite my own photography experience, I feel like I learned plenty from his tips on shooting in different types of light. I have a feeling I’ll be dragging this book out as an essential reference for quite a while to come. I’m also asking my photography professor from back in the day to replace his textbook with Jenkinson’s book — it’s a much better introduction overall.

Arizona Highways Photography Guide Review

The Arizona Highways Photography Guide: How & Where to Make Great Photographs (“The Guide“) is a new book from the editors and contributors of Arizona Highways.

“We’ve been working on this guidebook for several years and it includes insights and photographic experiences from top photographers including Pulitzer-prize-winner Jack Dykinga,” said Jeff Kida, Arizona Highways photography editor. “We’ve structured the guide in such a way that people can read the book at their leisure or use it as reference when in the field.”

What It’s About

The Guide is divided up into three main sections: (1) The Basics, (2) Types of Photography, and (3) Places for Photography.  While the book benefits from cameras and pens of a number of authors and photographers, it suffers from this collaboration as well.  The Guide tries to do too much.  I never got into the “flow” while reading The Guide.  You know what the “flow” is right?  When you’re reading a book that you just can’t put down or working on something that you can’t stop for a break.  Time passes so fast . . . you’re in the zone, the flow, etc.

There’s some good info in The Basics section; however, there is also too much info.  At first, I thought the book was geared toward complete beginners that had never touched a digital camera before because of the elementary discussions that define sensors, pixels and LCD screens. However, after turning a few more pages, The Guide delves too deep into sensor sizes, ISOs and other, more advanced concepts without an appropriate transition.  Unfortunately, it just didn’t come together.

Jump to page 66, Exposure, in The Basics section and The Guide starts to pick up quality, pace and consistency.  Given the tone of the rest of the book, this is where it should have started.  If you are looking to learn more about creatively using your camera, then the rest of the book does a pretty good job of pushing your knowledge and expectations to the next level.  Particularly, the chapters on Light and Composition offer an excellent discussion of these concepts.

The section on Types of Photography continues on the foundations laid out in The Basics section.  Again, you get the insights from several different photographers with a variety writing styles and photographic examples.  For the most part, the Types of Photography section does a good job of introducing and offering tips for the different topics covered.

Arizona Here I Come

The Places for Photography sections is really what makes the book worthwhile.  The rest of the book just feels like an introduction (or, perhaps, filler) for the Places for Photography section.  Reading some of the photographers’ experiences of shooting in a variety of Arizona locations really makes me want to go there and take some photos.  The stories of shooting the Grand Canyon are really inspiring.

I never really thought about the lengths that some of the landscape and wildlife photographers go through in order to get “the shot.”  Kudos to you guys!  Hiking pre-dawn for several consecutive days for just the right light in the perfect sunrise or sunset?  Long hikes for miles upon miles to get a shot of some place that no one has photographed (or “successfully” photographed) before?  I’m glad somebody gets those shots. If this kind of stuff floats your boat, then you’ll dig the Places for Photography section of The Guide.  Note, you’ll also find some of these great stories in the Types of Photography section.

Where It Falls Short

The Places for Photography section is the best part of the book and, unfortunately, there’s just not enough of it in The Guide.  As I said before, I never got to the point while reading the book that I just couldn’t put it down.  Sadly, there were some parts that I just had to force myself through.  I just think that the book tries to do more than it should.  Most of The Basics section could be skipped over . . . unless you need to know things like what an LCD is.

When I read what I consider the meat of the book (Places for Photography), The Basics section seems very unfitting for The Guide.  These are two polar opposite audiences. Someone who is hiking to the middle of nowhere to get one great photograph does not need the primer on photography that The Basics sections tries to give.

Conclusion

The photos throughout The Guide are phenomenal.  Arizona is truly depicted as one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  I think The Guide could have been a great coffee table book.  Unfortunately, it’s physical size is too small.  I would have loved to see some larger photos in a big hardback.

Likewise, if Arizona Highways Photography Guide had just sought to be what the title implies, it could have been a great book.  Unfortunately, the meandering range of topics that speak to a variety of audiences will likely bore many advanced photographers and stupify beginners.  For me, The Guide had some great potential, but simply missed the mark by trying to do too much.

In sum, I certainly learned a few things in reading this book.  If you’re heading to Arizona or are interested in the photography of Arizona Highways’ contributors, then you should pick up a copy.  For the price, it’s also worthwhile to read some cool stories from veteran photographers that have battled the Grand Canyon on long hikes and raging rapids.  If you need a book to help you develop your skills as an amateur photographer, skip this one and pick up Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson instead.

If you’re interested in picking up a copy of  Arizona Highways Photography Guide, you can find it at Arizona Highways or Amazon.com.

28 Great Adobe Lightroom Resources

If you’re an Adobe Lightroom user (or a wannabe), you’ll want to take a look at these books and links:

Links

Free 30 Day Trial – try out LR on Adobe

Adobe Design Center – tons of info from Adobe on how to use LR effectively

Lightroom Keyboard Shortcuts – a simple, but handy chart

Lightroom Journal – blog by Adobe LR crew

Lightroom News – gobs of essential info, updated regularly

Lightroom Killer Tips – one sweet LR blog from “the Photoshop guys”

Photo Presets with One-Click WOW! – Over 80 free presets for LR designed by Photoshop Hall-of-Famer Jack Davis w/ tutorial video

Inside Lightroom – best known for its awesome collection of LR develop presets

Official Lightroom User Guide (.pdf) – the manual

Lightroom Getting Started Guide (.pdf) – again, from Adobe

RawWorkflow.com – instructional videos from Michael Tapes

Layers Magazine – several workflow tutorials, including some nice vids

Getting Photos to Your iPhone – a handy post for iPhoners from O’Reilly

Keyword Tagging – tutorial on Peachpit on keyword tagging in LR

Project Photoshop Lightroom – several great tutorials on using LR

Tethered Shooting – another Peachpit article on tethered shooting in LR

Peachpit Lightroom Resource Center – the best of the rest from Peachpit

Update:

Matt over at Lightroom Killer Tips has aptly noted that I missed Sean McCormack’s Lightroom Blog. Fixed. That makes 29, but what the heck.

If I’ve missed anything else, please leave it in the comments and it’ll go here.

Books

The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers by Martin Evening

The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Killer Tips by Matt Kloskowski

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for Digital Photographers Only by Rob Sheppard

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Workflow: The Digital Photographer’s Guide by Tim Grey

Digital Photographer’s Guide to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom by John Beardsworth

Photoshop Lightroom Adventure: Mastering Adobe’s next-generation tool for digital photographers by Mikkel Aaland

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 1.1 for the Professional Photographer by David Huss and David Plotkin

Managing Your Photographic Workflow with Photoshop Lightroom by Uwe Steinmueller and Jergin Guelbins

Adobe Lightroom Photographers’ Guide by John G. Blair

The Digital Photographer’s Notebook: A Pro’s Guide to Adobe Photoshop CS3, Lightroom and Bridge by Kevin Ames

[tags]lightroom, resources, books[/tags]

Scott Kelby’s New Book and a Can of Worms?

Scott Kelby’s 7 Point System for Adobe Photoshop CS3 is due to release on October 19th and sounds really promising. As you may know, I’ve previously raved about Kelby’s books. I expect no less of this one.

It is touted as “so revolutionary that he’s officially applied for a patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.” (Amazon description). Something inside is a bit unsettled by this fact though.

A patent for an invention is a grant of property rights by the U.S. Government through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The patent grant excludes others from making, using, or selling the invention in the United States. (USPTO)

I am curious to see the scope of the patent that Mr. Kelby is seeking. The patent doesn’t appear to be published yet (let me know if you find a copy). If a patent issues, will readers be forbidden from discussing the techniques on forums, blogging about it, posting youtube videos of the system in action? Is there a license to use the patent included with the purchase of the book? What if I’ve got an 8th point that makes the system better? Can I use it without a royalty on the original patent? What is Adobe’s stance on this?

Perhaps I am overreacting? Please chime in with your thoughts on the matter.

[tags]photoshop, scott kelby, 7 point system, patent, rights[/tags]

The Basics of Photography

DIY Photography has a new series, Back to Basics, underway. The first post in the series is on exposure. If you’re not familiar with the fundamentals of exposure, you should check it out.

Additionally, consider picking up a copy of Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. Bryan Peterson is an excellent teacher. He’s great at breaking down intimidating concepts for the novice and explaining them on your level. The book breaks up exposure into the three fundamental elements that go into properly exposing a photo: aperture; shutter speed; and ISO (or, film speed). This is the book to buy for those who have only ever used a point and shoot camera or who always shoot their SLR on full auto mode (the little green rectangle setting). Simply reading this book will make you a better photographer overnight if you fall into these categories.

If you’ve got a basic handle on these concepts but not sure you really grasp the significance of one or all of them then you should consider adding this book to your library as well. Aside from the technical basics, Bryan teaches you how to look at a scene and capture a creative photo in addition to a properly exposed one.

Before you buy another camera, lens, flash, or any other gear, buy this book if you’re wondering what you should spend you cash on. It’ll be the best $15 you ever spend on your photography gear.

[tags]photography, basics, exposure, learn, how-to, diy, bryan peterson, understanding[/tags]

Learning Adobe Lightroom

If you’re like me, you love Adobe Lightroom. If you’re not like me, you should give it a try. The learning curve is easy. The controls are intuitive. It blows through RAW files as seamless as iPhoto does with JPEGs. It’s not quite the power hog that Aperture is either.

I feel rather comfortable in the Lightroom world now that I’ve been tinkering with it since Beta 1. However, I think I’m a little too comfortable. I don’t push the software to do all the things that its capable of. Why? Part of the reason is that I don’t have the time to mess around with the volume of images I shoot. I’m still plugging away at shots from the Tour de Georgia in April, not to mention all the family and friends stuff that I’ve shot since then. I just need to get through them.

I need something different though. Something to spice things up.

That’s why I just ordered The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby. I haven’t read a single review about this book, but I trust Mr. Kelby to deliver nothing but the best and inspire me to take my Lightroom processing to the next level.

Why such blind trust?

Well, last year, I was looking for a window into the intimidating world of Photoshop. I picked up a book call The Adobe Photoshop CS Book for Digital Photographers at my local book store and found that window. I shelled out my $40 (I know, don’t rub it in, had I bought it at Amazon it would’ve been about $26) and opened the world of Photoshop to my images. Granted, I’m no master at Photoshop, or photography for that matter, but I can use Photoshop somewhat effectively now. Prior to Mr. Kelby’s book, it was simply too daunting of a task to navigate those menus.  My earlier thoughts of Mr. Kelby, among others.
So there. I gladly invest my $26 in Mr. Kelby’s new Lightroom book. Maybe something new and inspiring will come out of it . . . . I expect that to be the case.

I’ll let you know what I think of it after giving the book its due consideration. Don’t feel that you need to wait for my opinion though. If it’s anything like his prior books, you should get yours now if you use Lightroom.

[tags]adobe, lightroom, photoshop, scott kelby, book, review, deal[/tags]

Understanding Exposure, DIY Backdrops, Viewfinder Shots and an Itty Bitty Pretty Camera

I’ve always recommended the book Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson because it does a great job of putting together all of the elements that go into a properly exposed photograph and explains it for the Average Joe. Consider picking up a copy. It’ll be the best $15 you spend in photography. Likewise, take a look at this resourceful tool, an interactive camera that demonstrates the effect that camera settings have on your photograph. You can see instant results for exposure and depth of field components. If you don’t quite get it yet, then check out these two useful tools for honing your skills as a photographer. If you do “get it”, I think both are probably still worth your time.

Need a backdrop and strapped for cash? Consider doing it yourself. Here’s how to.

If you haven’t read Rich Legg’s “Through the Viewfinder” post, go check it out now.  It’s pretty cool stuff!

Check out this review of the new Fuji F40fd. Fuji has finally caught on and made way for SD memory cards.  Kudos to Fuji.  For more on why that’s important, check out my prior post on Memory Cards and Cameras.  Finally, memory cards are still dirt cheap.  Even big ones.

[tags]bryan peterson, exposure, tools, software, memory card, fuji, f40fd, sd, card, backdrop, diy, through the viewfinder[/tags]