Books Photography Reviews

Review: The Traveling Photographer

The-Traveling-PhotographerI’d finished reading The Traveling Photographer by Sandra Petrowitz but I had not yet begun to write about it when I was sitting in a coffee shop with friends when one pulled out his phone to pass to me to show me the pictures of the weather he had encountered the previous weekend on a shopping trip out of town. Snow, ice, cars off the road and broken trees abounded.  My second friend reciprocated with a quick draw of his phone to show pictures of his son’s wedding done just the week previous to that one when the weather was sunshine and sparkling and in the mid 80’s.

I was thinking—first that this is Texas where the weather can change in the blink of an eye, and second that it seems that everyone is a photographer today with their phones and tablets with cameras—even if they left their point-and-shoot or more potent DSLR at home. The camera is everywhere. The snapshot is ubiquitous. The final thought that came to me was that as a somewhat aesthetically judgmental photographer, maybe I could pass out copies of The Traveling Photographer to upgrade the quality of my friends images. Having been a photographer for much more than forty years and a photography teacher for thirty three of them I well know that the possession of a camera does not guarantee the aesthetic quality of an image.  The cameras today are smart enough to correctly expose most of the time, but none yet have a button or menu item to guarantee a well-designed image with a real story-telling quality. The snapshot is still very much with us.

The old days of spending the evening at a neighbor’s house looking at slides of a vacation are long gone by almost twenty years; now everyone is ready  to show their pictures of vacations or the new baby in the blink of an eye and the whipping out of their phone or tablet. Most of the  images haven’t gotten better, just smaller, and design has suffered more in the transition.

Rocky Nook Publishing sent me a review copy of The Traveling Photographer by Sandra Petrowitz. Sandra is a journalist and editor who specializes in nature, travel, environmental, and other photraphy-related topics. As a passionate traveler who has made journeys from the Sahara to the Himalayas, and from Patagonia to the Okavango Delta she has produced a beautifully illustrated volume that is full of wonderfully story-telling images of far off places and then loaded that same book with comments and information to improve the images made by the beginning and intermediate photographer who chooses to seek to improve the quality of their travel photography.

The professional photographer will admire her images and respond to her commentary with “…yes, that’s the way to do it,” but the casual photographer and traveler will respond with “…that makes sense; why haven’t I done that to make stronger images?” Her logical and clear cut advice on such things as concentrating on details and looking for the graphic qualities of a scene (and giving and showing examples), will lead the traveler to a more elegant and story-telling approach and move well beyond the simple “I was there” image. Camera height and camera angle and the basics of eye movement and good design are explored to move the traveler beyond the mundane, flat, lined-against-the wall approach of the two dimensional image. This can show the depth and richness of the world when seen with an eye to intriguing the viewer and making that viewer aware of the scale and richness potential of a scene.

Hints on composition, suitable equipment (by characteristics rather than by particular brand), storing of camera gear and the protection and transport of image files are all subjects she introduces with a sufficent depth to get the traveling photographer more comfortable with the idea that they can bring home quality images from their travels and move beyond the snapshot stage.

I have two friends who are about to receive copies of The Traveling Photographer as gifts, so it’s obvious that I recommend it.

[amazon_image id=”1937538338″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ][/amazon_image]

The Traveling Photographer 
by Sandra Petrowitz
Rocky Nook Press
ISBN 978-1-937538-33-0
US $32.95 and CAN $34.95
Amazon Kindle Editon $16.95 ; Paperback $24.38

[amazon_enhanced asin=”1937538338″ /]

Books Graphics Photoshop Reviews Workflow

Review: Gimp 2.8 for Photographers

GIMP WITH PICTUREWith Adobe’s Photoshop moving to the cloud and a subscription basis, there has been a strong movement of hobbysists and amateur photographers to seek an alternative image editing software that is less expensive and unthethered.

I have been teaching workshops on Image Editing for the past thirteen years and in the past few months the inquiries and requests that I teach a workshop with alternative image editing software have increased. I had absolutely no skills in any image editing software other than Photoshop and so I began to look into other ways to edit images to see what was available.

Right on time for my needs Rocky Nook sent me a review copy of Klaus Goelker’s new book Gimp 2.8 for Photographers: Image Editing with Open Source Software, and I immediately opened the back of the book and removed the DVD that is attached there and loaded Gimp 2.8 onto my computer.

Since Gimp 2.8 is an open source software, it is designed to run versions on Mac, Windows, and Linux. Though the screen shots of the application may look slightly different on each platform the essential elements and tools remain in the same menu places in each version.

The DVD explains how to install the application, and in addition to the application itself, the DVD contains a PDF version of the book. I immediately downloaded a copy of the PDF to my Dropbox account and then retrieved the PDF on my iPad mini so that I could read the book where ever I was and that it would lie flat (as an iPad is wont to do) and would not entail fighting the tendency of book pages to flip themselves out of position.

It took a while for the PDF to upload to Dropbox, and an a slightly less equal time for it to be retrieved by my iPad.  Transferring the PDF to a reader as my iPad mini gave me choices of iBooks, Notability, GoodReader, NoteTaker HD, Skitch, FileApp, and FileApp Pro, Bluefire Reader and Kindle as these were all reader applications I had loaded on my iPad mini. I chose IBooks for no other reason than it was the first of my options. I downloaded it first to my iPad mini but found the diagrams a bit small for my old eyes so I dug out my older iPad 2 and downloaded it again, and again opened it in iBooks. My old eyes appreciated this larger display of the screen shots that are used continuously throughout the book.    

As an aside here, I think that including a PDF version of the book along with the printed copy is a fantastic benefit. One of the things that I have always hated when I am trying to follow a step-by-step procedure in a printed book is the usual need to put weights on opposite sides of the book to hold the pages down to keep the book open while I work on the computer. The ability to use an iPad or similar reader to lie nicely flat beside my computer while I am working is of great value to me.  This keeps me from having to break the spine of the book so badly in order to lie flat that the pages start to break away from the binding. Damaging the book seems like a real waste when it is printed on acid free paper and of really excellent printing quality. OK, that’s my $.02 on that subject. On to Klaus Goelker’s excellent instruction book itself.

He begins his instruction with an introduction to the GIMP program itself and a general look at the arrangement of the windows and menus encountered in beginning to work with the program. This is followed with a discussion on printing and the drivers necessary for GIMP to work with various makes of printers.

Scanning and image calculation for scanning follows, along with the usual problems encountered in scanning. This includes moire effect and unsquare scanning that requires rotation to solve the unsquare image. This is done in a step by step manner that the newcomer to GIMP should practice. Moving on,  the author picks up correction in levels and color and exposure. (I should mention here that all the images that the author uses as examples are available on the DVD that accompanies the book and it is suggested that the student new to GIMP download the images and follow the step by step procedures as Klaus Goelker demonstrates them.)

Curves and the placement of control points (as well as how to remove them) are next demonstrated. Hue and saturation adjustments are next. Then there’s an overview of the functions from the Colors Menu. Saving an image for the Internet is next.

As demonstrations contine, Touchup work is the next topic. This includes Color Casts, then we move on to removing spots, dust, and scratches. Cloning  for retouching and rebuilding damaged images is shown. 

(While not all key commands are the same between the Mac and the PC and while it seems that most of these commands are demonstrated in the Windows versions, translating each to the Mac is relatively easy with a little experimentation –using only a single button mouse on the Mac is the culprit.)

Healing, filters, sharpening, noise reduction, Gaussian blur, Non Linear, Edge Enhancement, Simulating Film Grain, are all demonstrated in step by step procedures which use the sample images provided on the DVD which accompanies the book.

Part 3 of the volume introduces us to Masks and Layers and the corresponding painting, filling, and color tools. Selections and edit menus give us means of modifying our selections. Red eye removal is demonstrated along with suggestions as to how to avoid it in the first place. The seemingly magic abilities of layers and how they work is explored. Correcting over and under-exposed images can be corrected in layers. Using Perspective Correction shows how to eliminate out of parallel appearing lines in images taken at less than optimum camera angles.  Removing Lens Distortion, Making Perspective Corrections, and Reducing Vingetting are next.

Freshening a Dull Sky gives us another eleven pages of step by step procedures, and this is followed by adding a sun and sunlight modifications. Now the author introduces the procedures of adding text to an image; this includes creating three-dimensional text and drop shadows. Creating Vignettes and picture frames are next, followed by Lighting Effects and Shadow Layers.

Next in the step by step procedures is Extracting Image Objects with Select and Masking Tools. Using the Paths Tool to create Vector Forms and Selections is followed by the use of Filters for Light Effects.

Paths and Text are demonstrated, aligning images with the alignment tool, and the Cage Transform Tool are defined and demonstrated step by step. Cross-Fading with Masks and Selections are followed by ways to modify the canvas size.  This is well explained in nine pages of diagrams and screen shots.

One of the more interesting tools is the Foreground Select Tool and it is thoroughly explained over another seven pages. Then another six pages cover how to do the same masking technique with brushes. It’s complex, but the illustrations are more than adequate to grasp the technique. My only complaint up to this point is to wish that the author had at times used an annotation program to draw a square or circle around a particular menu so it was easier to more quickly follow just where an item was located.

HDR (High Dynamic Range) imaging is defined. HDR imaging is beyond the standard download of GIMP until a number of add-ons on plug ins are added, but the author tells you where to go on the Internet to find the appropriate PC and Mac software to add HDR techniques.

Layer Masks are introduced with five pages of step by step instructions, and will work slightly differently than what the Photoshop user will expect. However, following the steps that are demonstrated will siffice for the novice user of GIMP.

Section 4 of the book concerns Working With Black and White and Color Images and is broken down into a number of exercises. It begins with Converting Color Images Partly or Entirely Into Grayscale Images. Using the Channel Mixer begins the discussion of converting color images to black and white, and using the GEGL techniques are briefly discussed. But GEGL techniques are an as yet incomplete part of GIMP 2.8 and leave much yet to another discussion when completed. Threshold, Desaturation, and simulated Infrared techniques are discussed and shown as exercises. The tricky techniques of using the Threshold function to separate hair from a background is demonstrated. It’s followed by the method of using Channels to extract an object from the background, and that section was followed by methods of Coloring Grayscale Images. That took another fourteen pages so you can see that it covered a number of techniques.

Section 5, looks at working with Other File Formats. Raw, Gimp and UFRaw (a user installed addition to the basic GIMP 2.8.0 but not the 2.8.2 version, but UFRaw can be operated as a stand-alone program), and RawTherapee take twenty five pages of discussion and explanation.

Finally, the use of PDF Formatting to Share Print Layouts begins to end the book. How to use GIMP to produce PDFs and a discussion of the available free alternative PDF Creation and Viewing Software. Open Office, Libre Office, and the PDF Import Plug-in for Open Office are introduced. NitroPDFReader includes PDF editing tools—available in both PC and Mac versions. Exporting and reading Photoshop’s PSD files with GIMP are not 100% compatible as so functions of PSD files fail to make the translation. A chart shows which functions are compatible.

An Appendix gives a couple of “Easter Eggs”—almost hidden gems of wisdom and a THANK YOU to the translator (Mr. Jeremy Cloot) who took the original text and translated it into English, and who did a very good job of it in my opinion.

It’s taken me 1,600 words or so to cover this review, as well as a solid week of following the exercises on my computer. I’ve taken the time because I honestly wanted to learn GIMP as an alternative Graphic Editing Program. A week is not enough time to become totally proficient with GIMP, but it is enough time to decide that Klaus Goelker’s book is an excellent one. It will most certainly be read again as I try to become competent with GIMP, and I can recommend it whole-heartedly to the beginning photographer or graphic designer who cannot enter into the long term contract with Adobe in the company’s new approach to renting their software as opposed to selling it. I wanted to itemize the contents of Mr. Goelker’s book so the reader can have a full idea of what the book covers. It’s 400 pages (in paperback) of thorough instruction, with a DVD of GIMP and a number of Plug-Ins or add-ons, as well as practice images. It’s a good buy!

GIMP 2.8 for Photographers: Image Editing with Open Source Software by Klaus Goelker, Rocky Nook Press, ISBN 978-1-937538-26-2, US$ 39.95, CAN$ 41.95 and $24.65 from Amazon. Amazon can also deliver a Kindle version alone for $16.95 and if you have good eyes and a larger screen iPad or Kindle device that $16.95 is a real deal; it might even convince you to buy the full sized book version just for the ease of reference usage.

Books Photography Reviews

Review: Mastering the Nikon D800 by Darrell Young

Darrell Young has written the definitive book on the Nikon D800. If it isn’t covered in this book, you probably don’t need it. Seriously, this book is a long look inside the digital candy box for Nikon geeks and other photographers who actually (gasp!) read the manual. Unfortunately for me, reading the manual sometimes leaves a little to be desired. Darrell explains what the manual really is trying to say… and even provides the page numbers for the content in the Nikon manual. That’s what I call thorough.  I only wish the Nikon manual provided the page numbers for Mastering the Nikon D800. 

Heard of the Nikonians? I quote: “Nikonians® ( is a user community and reference site for Nikon photographers. Found in April 2000 it helps digital and film photographers to shorten their learning curve. The members and visitors improve their photography skills and results while making long lasting friendships across borders and often continents.” The page before the foreword has a 50% discount voucher for a Nikonians Gold Membership. That makes Darrell’s book actually cost nothing with the savings in membership cost.

Mastering the Nikon D800 is over 500 pages of reference. The layout is easy to understand, and it’s easy to find the chapter you are looking for, with chapter markings on the edge of pages – nice visual reference. There are many, many illustrations of menus, illustrative real-world images, and technical notes on where to find that overview in the Nikon manual. The back of the book has a… you guessed it… a nicely fleshed out index. Thoughtful suggestions are included in almost every section, including the great resource of setting up your new Nikon D800 – first chapter. Included in this chapter is a broad overview of all the Nikon D800 menus… whetting your appetite for the full chapter covering that particular area. Darrell ends each chapter with his conclusions on what he takes away from the section – and primes you for the next chapter.

Subsequent chapters cover all the menus – playback, shooting, custom settings, setup, retouch, and the powerful my menu and recent settings. I was already using my menu to house just a couple of items, but that list has grown now that I’m aware of more of the powerful back-features you might not find in the menus, or might not understand. 

Darrell then launches into the meaty chapters on metering and exposure modes, histogram use (which one and why), and the demon of digital photography, white balance. How and why white balance behaves the way it does is nicely explained, and should help a shooter who might usually shoot auto white balance be more comfortable creating a custom white balance to lessen post-processing. Also, if you shoot with a consistent light setup, like strobes in a portrait setup, you can create and fine tune a custom white balance just for that setup, and use it over and over. How to do it is all here. Final chapters cover autofocus, how the autofocus areas are determined, and release modes, plus a short section on the live view feature.

How do you setup the D800 to include your copyright statement and embed it in every image? Chapter 5. How do you accomplish in-camera perspective control (like having a PC or TS/E lens)? Chapter 6. How do you control and correct in-camera the vignetting caused by some very wide angle lenses? Chapter 3.

But wait, doesn’t the D800 shoot video? That is covered briefly along with a short chapter on speedlight usage, including the Nikon Creative Lighting System technology. Read about setting up the D800 pop-up flash as a commander for wireless TTL photography with Nikon speedlights… I read a few derisive comments on the web about having a pop-up flash on a pro camera, but it makes perfect sense to me, as I occasionally use wireless TTL, and having a built-in commander just makes that even easier.

I’m more and more impressed with the image and handling qualities of my Nikon D800’s, and Darrell’s book Mastering the Nikon D800 has granted me huge new insights on what the engineers at Nikon have created. Keep up the good work, Darrell.

Mastering the Nikon D800
by Darrell Young
Rocky Nook / Nikonians Press
ISBN 978-1-937538-05-7 (pbk.)
Available on Amazon.comfor about $23,Kindle edition about $17.

Books Photography Workflow

Review: Tabletop Photography Using Compact Flashes and Low-Cost Tricks to Create Professional-Looking Studio Shots

Cyrill Harnischmacher’s new book “Tabletop Photography” is a further sign of the digital revolution in photography… virtually all of the techniques he teaches in this new book are techniques that will only work with digital. I’m not a digital native, but I got here as quick as I could; my experimentation with digital imaging began in the mid-1990’s. The flash techniques I learned relied on an antiquated system known as “Polaroid” – using a sheet or pack Polaroid holder on the medium or large format camera to test your lighting setups. Polaroid was great, but I wouldn’t be satisfied with it now that I have that magic histogram on the back of all my cameras.

Today, we simply shoot a test in-camera, look at the image and histogram, and adjust. Repeat as needed. Polaroids used to cost around $2.00 for a pack film sheet… today, the preview is free. I like free, but I’m also enamored with cheap… I mean, low cost. Cyrill has developed a style of studio shooting that uses inexpensive, last generation flash units, all set on manual control. Setting up a studio with three last-generation flash units, triggering units, and a small infinity tabletop could be done for well under $1,000 US dollars, maybe half that. Early in the book Cyrill states that the reader should expect to learn and become expert on using manual modes with these small flashes… he states, “This is easier than you might expect.”

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And, he’s right. Remember that test shot and histogram? Today, it is easier (and less expensive) than ever to master manual flash levels with multiple flash units. He specifically mentions buying last-generation gear like the venerable Nikon SB-24 flash (truly a pro flash, rugged, dependable, and nowadays, cheap on eBay). It’s younger brothers the SB-25 and SB-26, are also readily available. This isn’t to say that your SB-800’s and SB-900’s won’t work – just that the gear doesn’t need to be current generation.

The hardest part of the whole studio photography with small flash units boils down to this: how do I make them fire? There is an excellent discussion on sync cables, wireless infrared, radio control, and even some on the newest wireless TTL control. This is the nuts and bolts of the book – how to actually make the gear work. Shooting directly into a laptop or desktop computer is also briefly discussed.

Next the reader learns about light shaping tools, reflectors, and how to set up a tabletop studio… really, you can do this on your dining room table. Shooting with white and black backgrounds is covered, as well as how to select a backdrop. When you see the shot Cyrill did of an egg in a glass flute, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that it was done with small flashes. Then, near the back of the book, you find the chapter on shooting products for eBay. I figured out a long time ago that there are really two secrets to selling on eBay… writing a great description, and providing really pro-quality photos of the item, especially when the item is photography related.

The final chapter is the do-it-yourself chapter on building your own accessories. From simple platforms to hold multiple flashes to shoot through a softbox, to small flash honeycomb filters, this chapter has several ideas I’m going to steal… I mean, use.

Cyrill states in the preface that “This book is intended primarily for amateurs who are making their first foray into tabletop photography and who don’t already own studio lighting systems.” He hits the mark, having written a book that meets this goal admirably. After reading the entire book, the only slightly negative thing I can say is that I would wish to add a few more lighting diagrams. The size and coverage of the book is really just right, and there are a number of topics I didn’t even hit on. Now, if I can just find a super cool crystal guitar like Cyrill shot for the book cover..

Tabletop Photography
Using Compact Flashes and Low-Cost Tricks to Create Professional-Looking Studio Shots
by Cyrill Harnischmacher
2012 1st Edition Rocky Nook, Inc.
ISBN 978-3981229318

Available Editions:

Books Photography Reviews Workflow

Review: Create Your Own Photo Book by Petra Vogt

[amazon_link id=”193395292X” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Create Your Own Photo Book: Design a Stunning Portfolio, Make a Bookstore-Quality Book[/amazon_link]

Several times I’ve thought about making a photo book. Since I’ve been in numerous countries across the world in the last fifteen years and assembled several terrabytes—well, many more than several—of saved images it seems like I would be a prime candidate to produce more than one photo book. But the moment never seemed to be right, and I couldn’t bring myself to do the research into the procedures and techniques of producing a good book. I’d see the ads for companies that made books and even had friends that showed me books that they had made, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do the research to get started.

But Rocky Nook sent me a review copy of Petra Vogt’s Create Your Own Photo Book and the idea and ability to create a book was dropped into my lap. The thing about reading books to do a review is that you learn things. Education never stops and even at my age new ideas are welcomed.

Petra Vogt is an author who spells out the steps in the most logical and linear manner. This is something that I appreciate as I am a linear thinker who prefers a step by step approach. One of the things that was evident very early on and which was more and more obvious as I read was the fact that Petra Vogt can effectively use (and has used) all of the programs and companies mentioned. The writing is not just making comparisons from spec sheets; major insights and comparisons appear on nearly every page.

Imagining Vogt’s writing process as the book was written I envision some huge wall covered with 3″ x 5″ cards—each containing a tidbit of data about specific programs—and the author laborously fitting the cards into a mosaic of comparisons and procedures.

However the book was written, the author has the abilty to make a complex set of choices fall into patterns through which the reader can work their way from step to step based on tons of available information.

Companies that make books and the software to make them are discussed without bias so that the reader can easily decide what to do when, and have sufficient information to justify their decisions.

Vogt begins by examining the purpose of the book, discusses many book producers and their requirements and restrictions; then examines layout and discusses why text should be written before you start to layout images. Then the author discusses why previewing, and checking for errors and saving and saving is necessary. With some producers your file disappears when you place your order. Oh, and don’t forget that there should be no spaces in file-names as most producers don’t accept them.

[amazon_link id=”193395292X” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ][/amazon_link]

With that for a start you have to realize that the producer determines the software you use, and that has to be in place before you begin. Some software is proprietary specific and some is producer independent. By selecting a company to print your book you have set up the software you most likely will use.

From the professional standpoint, both Adobe Photoshop and InDesign can produce a photo book, but there are both downloadable and online softwares provided by specific companies that are free to the user. Just remember, you are always working on a double page spread no matter what software you are using.

The Service Provider Options Overview that appears on pages 29-31 is worth the price of the book alone to me in that all the pertinent decisions of selecting a supplier can be compared for the major established book producers. Some suppliers simply do not produce books of certain sizes. Certain papers are available only from specific companies. Choices of Fonts? Check the list to see what a company allows or rejects. Got a specific cover type in mind? You had best check the tables to see if the producer you had in mind will provide it. The tables are invaluable.

But reading onward, Vogt discusses the kinds of pictures that seem to work best in different types of books. Portfolios are different from travel collections, and the intent of the book determines the look and the use of white space and borders, and frames.

Organizing images and keywording them with software makes the editing process easier when you are selecting images for a project, and the size of images is discussed. Some companies limit image sizes to 15 or 25 megapixels with the maximum pixel dimensions being 4,000 pixels. The companies are named and it’s a good thing as these items are not mentioned in the Service Provider Options Overview.

Most book producers work in sRGB color space and require the designer to either work in that space or the company switches to that space when producing the book. As an artist who usually works in Adobe1998 color space that came as a surprise since sRGB is a less dynamic color space than Adobe1998.

Oh, and saddle stitch binding limits your book to 100 pages; so keep your final look in mind before you start laying out your pages.

Story boarding your book before you start layout is discussed and suggestions are made on the procedures, which range from sketches to laying out small prints of all the work you hope to include. Start with a big empty table and a stack of drugstore prints and begin the layout procedure; it will save you time and enhance your publication. Working on the gestalt of your combined images is much easier this way.

Do you like to use guides when laying out your pages? InDesign and Scribus offer smart guides.

Process your images prior to layout; do not depend on the layout software to have adjustment capabilities for your images. Borders, frames, transparency, image masks and corners all should happen in your image editing software, not on the layout page. Which company handles spell checking in their software? The answer is in the text, not in the Service Provider Options Overview.

Quality control issues are discussed, and preview procedures and problem checklists are provided. That’s on page 168. Two pages of troubleshooting tips help keep you from going wrong.

Finally, save a local copy of your work. I’ve already mentioned, some work disappears with some companies when you order—especially if you are working with online software. Some companies allow the production of a ebook readable on an iPad and for a small fee you can get both a physical book and an ebook for the same project.

To end the book, a series of five real-world projects are examined step by step and the reader can follow the thinking process of the production of some actual books.

As a testament to my own learning process, while reading I found myself with five pages of closely written notes and ten pages of copied tables and check lists for easy reference later. If you ever considered producing a picture book, I heartily recommend Petra Vogt’s Create Your Own Photo Book. I think I am finally going to delve into my stack of hard drives and see what I can produce.

[amazon_link id=”193395292X” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Create Your Own Photo Book: 
Design a Stunning Portfolio, Make a Bookstore-Quality Book By Petra Vogt
Rocky Nook, Publisher
ISBN: 978-1-933952-92-5
US $39.95
CAN $41.95 [/amazon_link]

Books Photoshop Workflow

Review: Cracking Camera Raw by Michael N. Roach

Cracking Camera Raw: The Illustrated Guide To Working With Raw Images in Adobe Photoshop CS5
by Michael N. Roach

I’ve just read and appreciated this new work by Dr. Roach on Camera RAW. I was an early adopter of RAW files. After seeing what I could do, even with early versions of Photoshop, I was sold. I learned just enough to actually use the basic features, and got good results (mostly) with my methodology.

Adobe CS5 is a game-changer. The Creative Suite’s fifth version is bullet-proof on functionality, and Photoshop CS5 was more than an incremental step up from CS4. One significant portion of that is the enhanced RAW capabilities it offers. Enhancements in de-mosaic, sharpening, and the new processing engine put this version far ahead.

Dr. Roach offers this tutorial in a step-by-step presentation and analysis of each and every tool within the Camera RAW module. I learned new tricks… I especially like the local adjustment tool and the graduated tone tool, neither of which I had noticed before. The section on tools has concise descriptions of all the tools, and the illustrations show the results of the tools on images. I had never realized the full potential of the detail tool, but you can bet I’ll be using it more now.

As with all of Dr. Roach’s writings, the reader will benefit from clear discussion with ample illustrations. Build your standard RAW file methodology from these tips and explanations, and you’ll be well on your way to true mastery.

PS – as I write this, CS6 has just been announced by Adobe. The upgrade prices are (as usual) a little steep for my budget. I’ll be using CS5 for a while yet, probably until well into next year. I think this illustrated guide is a sound investment for today, and for months or years to come.

Books Photography Reviews Workflow

Review: Architectural Photography by Adrian Schulz

Rocky Nook’s new book Architectural Photography by Adrian Schulz provides a comprehensive update to architectural photography techniques in a digital age. My original introduction to this subject was a book by Norman McGrath called Photographing Buildings Inside and Out. Norman in years past had reservations about calling his craft “architectural photography” – but not Schulz. His 2nd Edition (2012) of his original 2009 printing of Architectural Photography leaves no one in doubt that he has mastered his craft, his tools and his ability to convey this mastery in the written word

Schulz starts out with a review of modern architectural photography, starting with a very brief history of photography, then a definition of the types of architectural photography. My only reservation about the entire book is that I believe he left out one key type of architectural photography, but I admit my bias in this statement. He lists documentary, postcard, vacation, advertising and artistic types… but the omission I see is the type of architectural photography I do – photographing building products in architecture with the specific idea of representing the products to architects for inclusion in their future projects. Maybe this will be covered in the 3rd edition.

The chapter on camera technology is about as up to date as you can make a printed book – and is current as of the first months of 2012. Many different camera systems are discussed rationally, and with strengths and weaknesses noted. Most architectural photographers fall into two categories today: first, those still shooting view cameras and film; and second, those who are shooting high-resolution digital cameras. The first group is declining quickly, as film gets harder to come by and less easily processed. The second group is quickly growing, as camera sensors get larger megapixel counts, and lens technology for D-SLR’s improves.

Shooting techniques is discussed with the desired result being to redirect the eye of the photographer in ways of seeing… after all, photography is really about seeing what others pass by or miss entirely. It talks about light, and shadows, and how a photographer will craft his image to use both to his (and the building’s) best advantage. I picked up a couple of new ways of thinking about architectural photography that I had never quantified. One was Schulz’s statement about focal length of lens: “A good rule of thumb for choosing focal length is: As short as necessary but as long as possible.” (page 129) 

In post-processing, the author discusses ways in which to maximize the digital image through the use of software. Many examples are given with clear illustrations. The discussion on why architectural photographers should be shooting RAW captures is nicely laid out. A few specific software tools are mentioned, but most of the techniques can be done with any professional level editing program

For anyone in the field of architectural photography, this is probably a “must-read” book. For anyone not in the field but wanting to break in, read this book and find a mentor working in the field. Preferably, Adrian Schulz.

Architectural Photography, 2nd Edition
by Adrian Schulz
Published by Rock Nook
ISBN: 978-1-933952-88-8 (paperback)

Books Photography Reviews Workflow

Review: The Art of Photographic Lighting By Eib Eibelshaeuser

Rocky Nook Press recently sent me a review copy of Eib Eibelshaeuser’s new book, The Art of Photographic Lighting.  It took me a little longer to write this review than it normally does for two reasons: I kept re-reading paragraphs that seemed particularly significant, and I found myself taking notes.  Both of these slowed me down as I am usually a fast reader.

I think I was expecting a book with drawings of how to arrange lights, but instead I found that it was much more involved than that. Instead, it began with the use of light in classic painting and then moved into the basis of human perception.

Light sources and shadow design came next along with ideas about directional lighting and lighting design principles.  Add to this a history of photographic lighting design and post-exposure techniques, and  accompany all of it with a multitude of illustrations, diagrams and samples and you have a thorough examination of light and how a photograph works in terms of conveying information, design, and mood.

Ask any experienced photographer what they photograph and they will answer not with places or people but will say that they photograph light. It is light that gives us shape, form, and texture and defines space and volume. It is the quantity of light that allows us to select f-stop and shutter speed and it is the quality of light that defines the mood,  the shape and form of objects or people, and the crispness or softness of the image.

Mr. Eibelshaeuser begins with the idea that the the awareness of light direction has an innate “right” or “wrongness” to it because we have been exposed to the sun as a light source for as long as mankind has existed, and we have been programmed by evolution to accept light from above as being “normal”.

Photography began as a substitute for, or an adjunct to, painting and thus depended upon natural light to define what was “right”. But the development of artificial light and now of digital lighting in images has begun to allow light from any direction to be accepted in an image. What is “acceptable” may very well change in the future.

Illustrations of the shape of the bulb and wiring element within it allow the easy identification of the kind of light source that is available to the photographer, and the light output colors are shown (pp. 72-75) to allow the photographer of visualize the results of using different kinds of light sources.

The book uses a model of a rectangular pillar topped with a round ball and the whole thing within a room-like box to illustrate the quality and “look” of each type of lighting source, bulb, bulb-color, or reflector and it is this series of examples that carry on throught out the book. I found this an invaluable “show and tell” type device. (As an aside, I’d love to see all this as an APP for the iPad along with all the shapes and element configurations of the light bulbs). Photographers would love it.

Classic photo lights, light brush, electronic flash, and energy saving lamps are all discussed and the “look” of each lighting type is shown in example images. Additive and subtractive color systems are defined and examples of how images are created and reproduced are covered.

Mr. Eibelshaeuser shows how shaping light with softboxes, reflectors, or mattes is done, and gives us examples of how we can control light through reflection, transmission, absorbtion, refraction and interference. “Hard” and “soft” light‚Äîsome of the qualities of light‚Äîare discussed and illustrated. Night, dusk, air, and light polution are all “looks” that can be used by the photographer to convey mood as well as literal information.

The wonder of RAW Processing in our digital world allows us to capture images that film could not achieve, and combining RAW processing with HDRI (high dynamic range imaging) allow is to capture images that cover some 26 f-stops rather than the 4 f-stops more commonly associated with film.

Choosing to reproduce an image in black and white instead of color is discussed as the black and white image depends upon value rather than color for its differentation of shape and form as well as mood.

The illustrations are excellent and prolific and arranged where it is easy to see the relationship between text and illustration.

Finally, remember that Rocky Nook Press produces its books upon acid-free paper and the owner can expect to have sharp, crisp, unfaded images for years to come. The beginning as well as the advanced photographer will learn a lot from this volume and it is well worth adding to your library. It’s 330 pages and a paperback.

The Art of Photographic Lighting (English and English Edition)
by Eib Eibelshaeuser
Rocky Nook Press
ISBN: 978-1-933952-75-8

Books Digital Lifestyles Photography Reviews

Review: Marketing Fine Art Photography By Alain Briot

Rocky Nook Press Press sent me a review copy of Alain Briot’s new book, Marketing Fine Art Photography, and I was delighted for two reasons. First, Rocky Nook’s volumes are beautifully bound and printed on acid-free paper and are a delight to hold and work from because they stay flat and open as you read or work from them. The second reason is that Alain Briot is a learned and articulate photographer and writer who shares his expertise in a relaxed and candid manner as though his reader is a fast friend with whom he is willing to share his most cherished knowledge. The book itself will stay bright and crisp on my bookshelf for years, and the information gives me a good look at Briot’s thinking, experience, and expertise.

Throughout the book Briot shows his own work on various pages and certainly establishes himself as a prolific and gifted photographer as well as a successful salesman. Any regular visitor to Luminous will be familiar with Alain Briot’s photographs and writings where he has produced a copious amount of material regarding aesthetics and design. His other volumes from Rocky Nook include Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity, and Personal Style, and Mastering Landscape Photography.

Briot begins this book with the premise that it takes marketing to sell even the finest photograph. He feels that, “A poor photograph well-marketed will outsell a great photograph poorly marketed.”

He begins, “most photographers who sell their work spend far too much time and money on equipment and far too little on marketing.” Briot begins by explaining what marketing is in the Fine Arts world, the goal of marketing, and why marketing is indispensible. He asks the photographers to define themselves and feels that photography must be a full time career in order for the photographer to succeed.

In order to sell fine art photography it is necessary to define what is Fine Art photography. What makes it art and not just a photograph? It is the skill (technique) and insight (creative vision) that makes the difference in photographs and photographers. It is the ability of the photographer to find and incorporate a metaphor in the image that can be seen, felt, or understood by the viewer so that a linkage between the photograph and the viewer (purchaser) can be established.

For the beginning Fine Arts photographer, Briot discusses the problems of wholesale, consignment, or retail sales, and the decision of whether to go for quantity or quality of work. Where to find a marketplace? Where Fine Art Prints can be sold and the potential profit margins of each are discussed. In Part Three, Briot approaches the fundamentals and principles of successful marketing and introduces us to the seven fundamentals of successful businesses, and emphasizes how to sell your work at Art Shows and emphasizes how credit card and PayPal sales reach the customer and actually make impulse sales (on the part of the customer) so much easier.

Visual examples of show booth setups and displays greatly enhance Briot’s marketing advice and make it evident that he practices what he advocates. His advice to avoid the “fly trap” booth is telling and convincing as he describes the psychology of the potential client. Placement of spare inventory, desk for receipts, and the way to greet every visitor are all bits of extremely helpful information that bears careful rereading. The ability to pack and ship photographs?and the willingness to do so?are also strong selling points as so many potential clients are on vacation and are not prepared to carry the photograph (framed or rolled) away with them. Having a sheet with fixed shipping costs assure the client that you are not “winging it” on shipping and handling. All of these elements contribute to the professional appearance of the booth and the photographer.

After all the discussion about how to produce work, how to display and present it, and how to package and ship it, Briot takes 38 pages to discuss the combination of skills that it takes to make a Fine Arts photographer. Technical, artistic, marketing, and personal skills are discussed and expounded upon in such a manner that any reader should be able to follow the structure with which Briot established himself to rise from a non-native speaker newly come to the United States into a successful businessman and photographer.

As a teacher and Fine Arts photographer myself, I find that Briot has articulated and demonstrated so many of the facts that face the Fine Arts photographer that I truly wish that I could have read his book fifty years ago when I first moved into the teaching and Fine Arts fields and choose teaching rather than attempting to be a full-time Fine Arts Photographer. So much of my own experiences mirror or verify his own that I cannot help but recommend, strongly recommend, this book to any photographer who contemplates attempting to make a living in the Fine Arts photography field.

I hope you’ll pick up a copy of Alian Briot’s Marketing Fine Art Photography, Rocky Nook Press, ISBN-13: 978-1-933952-55-0. US $44.95 CAN $51.95, and if you have not looked at his other two excellent volumes, I recommend them as well. You might as well have the entire experience.


Books Photography Reviews

Review: THE ART OF PHOTOGRAPHY: An Approach to Personal Expression

I always enjoy receiving a review copy of any book from Rocky Nook Press because I know two things about it in advance: (1) the book itself will be printed on Acid-Free paper, and will still show its illustrations with brilliance and clarity for years to come, and (2) the book will be bound in such a manner that it will behave itself and lie open beside my computer without the necessity of putting weights on each side of the open volume in order to make it lie down quietly and allow me to enjoy the content rather than having to fight the pages as though they were reluctant to allow me to read. Actually there’s a third thing I can count on as well; the book design will never be written so far into the gutter that I have to break the book’s spine to read all of the page contents.

Books Reviews Workflow

Review- Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3: A Photographer’s Handbook

I recently received a review copy of Rocky Nook’s Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3: A Photographer’s Handbook by Stephen Laskevitch. I always enjoy receiving a book from Rocky Nook to review because they print their books on acid-free paper and the reproduction quality is as outstanding as the content.

As a workshop teacher I am always interested in another teacher’s approach and quite admire the methodical, logical, and easily-understood approach that Stephen Laskevitch uses in Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3: A Photographer’s Handbook.

Steven Laskevitch is an Adobe Certified Instructor who uses his comprehensive knowledge of Photoshop and Lightroom to introduce the two as a working pair rather than use the more usual approach of dealing with each application seperately. This approach caused me to rearrange my computer room while reviewing this book (more on that in a moment).

Books Featured Photography Reviews

Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity by Michael E. Stern

Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity - Rocky NookRocky Nook Press recently sent me a review copy of Michael E. Stern’s new book Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity, and since I am always interested in the creative process (especially when it involves disciplined thought), I was happy to sit down with it for some quality time.

I gravitate towards that word “disciplined” because I am an analytical and systematic individual. My trusty Mac computer dictionary provided the following:

With that in mind, I have to add I also like insights into the actual step-by-step thoughts in the designing process for a photographer, and I look for good illustrations and well-written tutorials done by an enthusiastic photographer. All of these are well covered in Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach to Creativity. Add a DVD with additional images, 360 degree panoramas of studio shots in progress, some short videos of photographic sessions, references, and tutorials and you have a concise and worthwhile package.

Mr. Stern writes in an easy-going style that makes the reader feel that they are in the presence of an out-going teacher who enjoys sharing his techniques and learning experiences‚ both the good and the bad‚ and he is not ashamed to admit to mistakes made in that they provide part of the lessons learned that he would share with the student. It is no wonder that he has had a wide and varied teaching career in addition to his studio work. Among the places that he has taught are Los Angeles Trade Technical College, Art Center College of Design, Glendale Community College, Burbank Unified School District, Julia Dean Photographic Workshops, Studio Arts, Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, and Brooks Institute.

Mr. Stern’s professional career involves some seventeen years working for the Disney Studios, extensive architectural, product, and portrait photography. He cites a deeply committed relationship to Adobe Photoshop and its importance to the digital studio of today.

Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity (ISBN: 978-1-933952-18-5, US $34.95 CAN $41.95) covers four major areas.

The first is environmental portraiture, and in it he delves deeply into the process of designing the portrait and how to load the image’s environment with telling clues that give insight to the depth of the personality of the subject. Along with that he gives serious tips about controlling and predicting color output. Workflows on the computer with an emphasis on organization (remember that word “Disciplined” in the book title?) are considered in depth as well.

The second major area that Mr. Stern discusses is involved in compositing techniques using the computer and Adobe Photoshop. How to light and shoot a myriad of different images and to bring them together in a final composite is painsakingly described with a variety of tutorial screen shots showing the multiple layers and layer masks necessary to produce the final image result.

The third area that is discussed gives lessons on using the scanner in place of the camera and takes a trip into personal style and creativity. It attempts to open up the student to looking at shape and form in the small world in order to sharpen the student’s design skills and to realize that not all images have to come via the camera lens.

The final section of the book looks at product photography and how to light a product in such a way that it is easy to vary background and key colors and to composite separate product images into final images.

Throughout the entire book several ideas continue to travel side by side with the craft and techniques of both photography and Adobe Photoshop as skills. One of those ideas is that the photographer must sell himself or herself continually to the client. This is necessary because there are many photographers who are skillful as photographers but who do not maintain a pleasant working relationship with the client. The job of the photographer is to satisfy the client with both the product and a pleasant personal working relationship. A photographer walks a thin line as he or she trys to promote their own ideas and creativity, and at the same time to deal with the preconceived ideas that the client may bring to the conference table. Satisfying the client in part means that the client must feel that they have contributed to the design concept greatly even if the photographer has promoted his or her own creative design successfully. Each photographer must know when to listen and when to speak (and how to do it tactfully) as the photographer and client come to terms with the final design.

Dealt with indirectly, but explained well, is the difficulty in dealing with the chain of command in large organizations. The filtering process between the ultimate client in the chain and the photographer is a delicate one because each individual in the chain of command feels the necessity of placing their own mark on the final product‚ else they cannot justify their own position in the hierachy. Putting it bluntly, this is hell on the creative process and can lead to difficulties.

I found Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity a good read; it will provide a great deal of insight to the creative process and the day-to-day managerial skills and personality  necessary. Definitely a must read for the aspiring photographer who feels that mastering photographic and computer skills are all there is to the photography business.

His book has been published by Rocky Nook Press. Their books are printed on acid-free paper and the color in their books will survive long after the technical skills described in each volume will be replaced by the advances in our technology. Sometimes we get so caught up in the latest information that we forget how we receive that information. The “how” in this case is also important and should be acknowledged.

Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity
by Michael E. Stern
ISBN: 978-1-933952-18-5
US $34.95 CAN $41.95

Michael Stern around the web:
His website
His blog is
Find some excellent tutorials are at
Michael Stern at The Brooks Insititute