Friday, November 16, 2012

REVIEW: The Digital Negative by Jeff Schewe

A few months back I wrote an article called What’s Hot in Photography & Photo Editing Books – Part II where I first mentioned The Digital Negative: Raw Image Processing in Lightroom, Camera Raw, and Photoshop by Jeff Schewe (a fellow NEC featured photographer). I had said

… when I first saw it I thought “oh crap, not another lame book on using RAW. After all, using Lightroom’s develop module or Adobe Camera RAW isn’t rocket science, so it’s hardly worth an entire book of its own. However, Jeff does a great job of diving deeper than any resource I’ve seen. In fact, he dives so deep I’d go so far as to say that this book is NOT for photographers, but rather computer geeks (especially programmers & engineers) who want more detail behind the "what & why” behind a lot of Adobe Camera Raw/Lightroom features.

In the end I really liked what I saw in this book, so I will be taking the time to read it from cover to cover. I give this a easy Highly Recommended for Geeks ONLY. Warning: Non-Geeks are likely to have their heads explode if they try reading this, so don’t say you haven’t been warned!

After re-reading the book again on a flight yesterday I changed my opinion a bit. I actually think that the beginning of the book is very geek oriented, but as it progresses it becomes more generally approachable for the type of people who hate Scott Kelby books. The reason why I say that is because Kelby is great at showing you how to do something that you can reproduce and get good results. He doesn’t spend a lot of time explaining things – he just shows you and if you do like him you’ll get similar results. I like that – quick and to the point. However, there are some people who send me flame mail about how much they hate Scott Kelby books because they don’t like how he explains the why behind what he does. I don’t really need the why – I just want results that make me happy.

This book is a why book though and it’s a why behind a lot of the features in Lightroom (as well as Bridge & Camera Raw). While I’m not a why guy, I found it fascinating to get this level of depth on a lot of these topics. Now, I’m sure that there’s probably even more detail in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers, as much as I want to read that book (written by a close friend of Jeff’s) – I just don’t have the time. Schewe’s book goes into detail, but it cuts to the chase and moves on. It doesn’t belabor the point or go painfully deep (outside the first chapter). As a result, this book – which reads like a Lightroom history book – ends up entertaining and providing some very useful information about the why behind a lot of things in Lightroom.

While I don’t have time to do a detailed chapter by chapter walkthrough of this book at this time, I can say that the first chapter is very geeky and the second chapter is going to send you to the kitchen for a coffee. However, chapters three and four are where this book comes to live and why you should buy it. The depth and details of what the hell Lightroom is doing, why the process versions changed, and more are all both fascinating but also practically helpful. I was less impressed with the last two chapters of the book, but they are still worth reading.


I like this book and felt it was so good that It should probably be added to my What Photoshop Books should I read?  list, except it’s not a Photoshop book (time for a new list I guess). It is a good guide for the Lightroom user who wants more depth and info, but who doesn’t have time for a 704 page book. I’m sure Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers is great and I hope to read it cover to cover one day, but I just don’t have time for something that exhaustive in my busy schedule. I suspect much of the key information is contained in Schewe’s book, so that’s good enough for me to highly recommend it for those who want more depth yet still want the author to get to the point and move on.

I still wouldn’t advise this book for the novice, but I think intermediate to advanced users are a going to get a lot out of it. It makes a good stocking stuffer too, so plant your hints to your loved ones now!

Click here to order your copy of The Digital Negative: Raw Image Processing in Lightroom, Camera Raw, and Photoshop by Jeff Schewe today in paperback or on Kindle.

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Kelby Training also has some great video lessons on Lightroom 4 here, and don’t forget that you can get a discount for Kelby Training here.


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