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Reccomend books on digital photography
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Andrew Richardson
(arichardson6) - F

Locale: North East
Recommend books on digital photography on 06/14/2008 10:56:22 MDT Print View

Hey everyone:

I'm looking to learn about digital photography. It's always been a dream of mine to become a nature photographer, and though it likely won't become a career for me, I feel I should take some time to learn and have fun with it! My girlfriend has a compact digital camera for now (Casio Exilim) so that is what I have to play with.

I'm thinking that if I enjoy it enough I can find a good inexpensive camera that is more versatile.

For now, I wonder if any of the photo gurus I've seen around the boards can recommend some good beginner books. Thanks everyone!


Edited by arichardson6 on 06/14/2008 11:03:47 MDT.

Richard DeLong
(Legkohod) - MLife

Locale: Eastern Europe / Caucasus
Re: Recommend books on digital photography on 06/14/2008 12:49:31 MDT Print View

I'm neither a pro photographer (though I've sold a number of photos for money) nor a connoisseur of photography books by any means, but I have thoroughly enjoyed "National Geographic Photography Field Guide: Secrets to Making Great Pictures" (find easily on Amazon). The examples are great and it's an easy and fun read.

Chris Townsend
(Christownsend) - MLife

Locale: Cairngorms National Park
Photography Books on 06/14/2008 15:29:22 MDT Print View

Whilst they were written about film I recommend books by the late Galen Rowell, especially Mountain Light. Learning the technical capabilities (and limitations) of a camera and how to use it are the just the start of becoming a photographer. Understanding light, knowing how to use light to get the photos you want, composition, a vision of what you want from your photographs are all less "concrete" than hardware and camera operation but in the long run more important. Galen Rowell covers all these really well. I learnt a great deal from his books when I was starting out and first trying to produce good quality photos (and since then I've had thousands published in books and magazines).

Specifically on digital photography a good book is Digital SLR Handbook by wildlife photographer Andy Rouse. Much of the content is useful even if you have a compact rather than an SLR.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Photography Books on 06/14/2008 19:56:28 MDT Print View

I feel the same way about starting out with photography as Chris. In many ways I think I was lucky to start photography way before digital photography even began. My first camera, and most that followed it, was a manually operated device that required me to learn about light and how to gauge a camera to read it. It must be very confusing to start out with these complicated digital devices today that give you too many choices and do too much for you.

I do think that some time learning how to use your new digital camera is very important if you want good results and to be able to control it, but I think, as Chris said, it is as important, if not more, to understand light, composition, animal behavior (if you want to take photos of animals, or even plants!), and interpreting what it is that you have in your mind's eye.

I have read all of Galen Rowell's books and Chris is right about the insight and knowledge they offer. He tends to be a mountain and sport photographer, though, and my preference has always been for animal and plant photography. The best books I have found have been those of John Shaw: John Shaw's Nature Photography Field Guide , John Shaw's Landscape Photography, John Shaw's Closeups in Nature (Practical Photography Books). The knowledge in them and the ability to get it across very clearly are Shaw's strong points. However, they are not about digital photography and therefore don't consider such topics as white balance and the differences in focal lengths (compared to 35 mm film lenses) and megapixels and the use of Photoshop. Nevertheless, twenty years later I still refer to these texts when I get confused about light or finding my own way of seeing things.

But, what truly helped me to understand nature photography was to look at many different examples of photographers I love (not just nature photographers): Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Henri Cartier Bressan, Ernst Haas, John Shaw, David Meunch, Sebastiao Selgado, Tom Mangelsen, Jim Brandenburg, and, a personal friend of mine, Pete McGregor from New Zealand, to name a few. Just looking at them will help to inspire your own vision.

Edited by butuki on 06/14/2008 20:15:30 MDT.

Christopher Holden
(back2basics) - F - MLife

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: Photography Books on 06/14/2008 22:06:30 MDT Print View

Some of Shaw's methods are controversial, but he's still got a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge when it comes to wildlife. I was fortunate to sit in on a workshop with him several years ago. It was assumed most there knew the basics, and it provided a lot of tips and tricks with wildlife, both general and specific, for getting the shots.

For those frugal/broke who aren't looking to buy a book, you can still get the lightest exposure meter for starting out in photography:
The Ultimate Exposure Meter (UL-friendly!)

Edited by back2basics on 06/14/2008 22:21:27 MDT.

Andrew Richardson
(arichardson6) - F

Locale: North East
Re: Books on photography on 06/15/2008 10:00:30 MDT Print View

Hey everyone:

Thanks for all of the advice! As I see it, my learning schedule is:

1. Learn about the parts of the camera and how they interact. Understanding their relationship with one another is important so that I can have a good baseline

2. Learn about light, composition, color, etc... At this point I should understand the parts of the camera and my hope is that I can use this knowledge to understand the mechanisms that affect light (aperture) etc.. and thus have a clearer idea of the theory.

3. Practice!

So that is it. I plan on just learning from the ground up. My longterm goal is to take pictures of wildlife and plants. I had seen the Shaw books on Amazon, but I thought I should get more of a textbook then a technique book. I really want to learn all of the necessary information to empower myself to think outside of any boxes. The only way to do this is to understand the big picture.

I will certainly check out the Rowell books. It seems like they fit the bill.

Now the next thing is to pick a good entry level dslr! :-) I love when I get new projects to research!

Thanks again for the great advice so far!

Laurie Ann March
(Laurie_Ann) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
some ideas on 08/05/2008 05:29:47 MDT Print View

I didn't read many of the other responses so I apologize if I have repeated anything.

You don't really need a book on how to use the camera in the technical way as you already have a manual for that. What you need is a book on composition and lighting and a great deal of practice. That said, Complete Digital Photography by Ben Long is a good all-round book. My favorite is Bryan Peterson's book, Learning to see Creatively.

My husband and I were pro-photographers for 13 years. What I learned most wasn't from the books or courses but from practice. The nice thing about a digital is that it will be less expensive for you to learn. The darkroom equipment, paper and chemicals cost me a fortune.

Lighting is key. Simple things to know like strong sunlight at noon will make your photos looked washed out and in some cases that can't be corrected. Those cloudy, gray days are wonderful for taking shots of fall colors. Bryan (my husband) and I always talk about golden hour and we love taking photos at that time. Golden hour is the hour just after the sun starts to come over the horizon and the hour just before the sun dips for the night.

Give yourself self-assignments. This will help you to practice with a goal in mind. It really helped me improve my skills. There is actually a contest for it on

A small 6 inch tripod that is expandable can be helpful and it lightweight - they are $10. I know a Pelican case is heavy but having something that keeps your camera waterproof and protects your lenses is invaluable.

Have fun with the new camera.

Edited by Laurie_Ann on 08/05/2008 05:36:11 MDT.