Saturday, April 12, 2008

REVIEW: Digital Portrait Photography & Lighting - Taking memorable shots every time

If you have been reading my reviews up to this point then you know one of my metrics for determining if a book is really good or not is by how many post-it flags I put on the pages for things I think are worth remembering and revisiting again. Well Digital Portrait Photography and Lighting is now the record holder at 35 flags - well more than any other book - yet I still don't feel this is the best book I've ever read.

The first problem I found with this book is that the images displayed in this book seem to me to be either overexposed or oversaturated, so I found very few pictures that I felt were shots worthy of authoring a book. However, the part that was the worst, at least for me, is that a vast majority of the pictures in this book are credited by someone OTHER than the authors, so it makes me wonder how good are these authors really?

Another important observation I had in this book is that a lot of the advice given contradicts everything I've read or learned to this point. Some examples include recommend crappy tripods that are sure to disappoint, mediocre lens recommendations, and flat out poor advice on how to pose a group based on today's conventional wisdom. Collectively it made me feel as if the author had less experience or knowledge than I have, so I really started question the teachings of this book. However, just when I was ready to say it was garbage, I'd find a section or two that would just pour out tons of useful advice.

This book made me think of my own book authoring experiences where I had two best-selling books that were co-authored with other people who I never met or spoke with. This lead to us releasing books that sold well, but didn't necessarily flow well or send the same consistent message through the book. As a result of this, I began to suspect that two authors for this book worked in isolation without much context as to what the other was doing. This was confirmed by the fact that the book repeats itself over for some basic concepts over and over again, and it doesn't seem planned - it seems like a bonehead mistake. Between this fact and the fact that the author is rather verbose even for simple concepts, I find that there is more rubbish than value in this book.

So all of this of course begs the question - if the book is such rubbish, then why did you end up with 35 flags for important concepts in this book? The answer is easy - there is some good stuff here - especially when it comes to web site references and how to deal with different body types for portrait photography. Sure there's lots of useless crap in this book too, but from page 26's "tip" until page 326 there's plenty of useful nuggets worth remembering.

I can say that you shouldn't take this advice as the word of God (as I would do with many of Scott Kelby's stuff), but you can add a mental note (or flag) that has you thinking the next time you do a shoot.

Skill Level: Beginner (but I would recommend other books first) Value: Fair - there's useful nuggets here for sure, but I still think there are at least a half dozen books that should be on your reading list before you get to this one. Recommendation: Barely Recommended. This is a book you read after you've read everything else and committed the nuggets of them to memory. At this point this book has some nuggets of value, but it also can corrupt your mind with the crap and poor advice it offers in many portions of this book

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