Monday, July 14, 2008

REVIEW: Digital Photographer's Notebook: Practical Tips for Professional Photoshop Users

Digital Photographer's Notebook: Practical Tips for Professional Photoshop Users

I had high hopes for this book based on the title, and after reading some early reviews and previous articles by Kevin Ames in Photoshop User magazine.  However, it ended up being very disappointing. I was disappointed to see that Scott Kelby endorsed this book and that Photoshop User magazine wrote a good review for it, simply because Kevin Ames has a recurring article in their magazine. I understand helping out a friend, but overall I think it tarnishes the otherwise excellent images of both Scott Kelby and his magazine.

Chapter 1 - Out of Africa

Wow, when I started to read this chapter I was pretty jazzed! I could tell that Kevin Ames had lived most photographers dream - he had gone to spend a lot of time in Africa doing a big shoot complete with villagers and all. He talked about how he would charge his batteries with solar panels and showed pictures of big game and villagers, so I thought I was about to read one of the best books I've seen lately.

Chapter 2 - Bridgework

After the excitement of chapter 1, I was having a bit of a WTF moment. He just got me jazzed about his adventures in Africa and now he's going to talk about Bridge? How boring! Well, then he starts talking about some famous rockers so again I think this is going to be cool, but guess what - it wasn't.

Chapter 3 - Shooting Tethered

Now, I'll admit I was starting to raise a brow by the time I got to this chapter but fortunately there was a little bit of useful in this chapter, and again I got the sense this guy was good so the respect factor went up even though the information presented was just okay (and rather random).

Chapter 4 - Light Right

This chapter starts off looking like it is going to teach you about light meters and will offer some great tips from an expert. What you actually get is a chapter that only touches the surface of many topics leaving you unsatisfied and wanting for more.

Chapter 5 - Musings on Clouds

By this chapter you realize the author must suffer from ADD and he finally goes deep into something that is utterly useless and pointless - a transformation of clouds into an image of a snow angel!

Chapter 6 - All About Metadata

Picking up where he left off in Chapter 2, the author goes into the most detail thus far in the book about metadata! Okay, I'm a big fan of metadata, so I actual read it but there's a lot of outdated information (especially since the author has access to Lightroom) and the subject is beaten to death.

Chapter 7 - The Naming of Digital Negatives

Dear God, by this point I was wanting to poke my eyes out! Are you kidding me? A chapter about naming your DNG files? Unless you are the type who is living in the stone ages and using the original cryptic file names assigned by your camera, most people are going to have a system for naming their files which will solve the issues the author tries to address. In fact, most of us will have a workflow that involves letting some product name your files for you. It was this chapter that convinced me that this author is one of those people that might be a creative genius, but he hasn't a clue about how to write a book.

Chapter 8 - The Bulletproof Archive Workflow

Here was a chapter that actually might be useful for some as it goes into detail about Kevin Ames backup system and methodology. Since so many photographers neglect this topic, perhaps there's something in here for you but honestly if you are the type that is going to survive reading this chapter then you probably are already hard core about backing up!

Chapter 9 - Lightroom Catalogs

This is just a random chapter on how Lightroom does file management and how he uses it to import and backup his photos.

Chapter 10 - New Dogs, Old Tricks

This is basically a white balance chapter (can't you tell by the name) using the curves dialog.

Chapter 11 - Adobe Camera Raw 4

This is where Ames rehashes what Kelby teaches in The Adobe Photoshop CS3 Book for Digital Photographers. Good stuff if you haven't read that book, otherwise it is much like reading Ken Rockwell's blog.

Chapter 12 - Lightroom Develops

This starts off with some random features in Lighroom and then goes into how to use the Curves feature in CS3 & Lightroom. He finishes off with a black and white conversion. Again, pretty random stuff!

Chapter 13 - Color Correction and Exposure Tweaks

Take chapter 10 with a dash of chapter 11 and shake them up and pour out the contents of this chapter.

Chapter 14 - Take 'Em to the Net

AKA, how to build a trivial and boring web gallery.

Chapter 15 - Email Presentations

Another random section about Bridge followed up by how to build a PDF of images.

Chapter 16 Custom Contact Prints

AKA, how to build a contact sheet the hard way (use the File | Automate | Contact Sheet II feature in CS3 instead).

Chapter 17 - Cloud Goddess

Our ADD author returns to his thoughts in chapter 5 to add more cheese.

Seriously, if you like this chapter then I suggest you sell your camera gear and pick up a different hobby (i.e., knife juggling or sword swallowing).

Chapter 18 - Black and White

This starts off with "How to make a huge action you'll never use again", and then dives into some random techniques on black and white conversion. There's some useful nuggets in his miscellaneous ramblings which results in a chapter that comes close to what you'd expect in a book of this title.

Chapter 19 - Enchanting Enhancements

This is actually a useful chapter where I flagged a couple pages because Ames shows you how he retouches his photos of women. It is clear that he knows what he is doing, but it is equally clear that he struggles to get the thoughts on paper. This is one of the ones where his medicine seems to be working, so it is actually pretty decent.

Chapter 20 - Lighting Without Lights

This was my favorite chapter of the book because he shows you something useful, and what you'd expect from a book like this. It is basically what you see in Scott Kelby's 7 Point System for Photoshop CS3, which is a very good thing. Perhaps Kevin Ames read Kelby's book and got the inspiration (since this is one of the last chapters), but for whatever the reason this is a good chapter.

Chapter 21 - Interior Nuances

Similar to 20, but not as good.


I wanted to love this book, and there were moments where I had great hope that I would. However, I frequently found myself disappointed.

Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Value: Poor - Not only is the book not very good, my copy was poorly constructed and pages were falling out.
Recommendation: Not recommended.

Where everyone learns Photoshop - National Association of Photoshop Professionals

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