Photography Books . . . lots and lots of photography books

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, January 2010
Published by: Course Technology (part of Cengage Learning)
Requires: An interest in digital photography

MSRP: US$29.99 each

Matthew Bamberg is a sometime co-author with David D. Busch. But Bamberg has also struck out on his own to write several solid books on photography. Bamberg is another freelance, working pro whose short bibliography has been widely distributed.

David D. Busch is a very busy man. One more book on digital photography to his credit is liable to set some sort of Guinness record. Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony—he tackles all hardware with the same gusto. Busch is a working freelance photographer, well respected, and writes about cameras as well as photography technique.

Steve Weinrebe is a photographer, Photoshop instructor and author. He's been shooting professionalyl for over thirty years. His main shtick in recent years has been highly successful Adobe-based photo workshops, most of which have been widely praised

All three authors write regularly for Course Technology PTR (part of Cengage Learning). Here's a rundown of their latest releases to carry us into 2010 and hopefully some direction on how to take better photos and get them out there.


101 Quick and Easy Secrets for Using Your Digital Photographs by Matthew Bamberg — The first chapter is a big, disorganized hodge-podge called Preparing Your Photos for Use. The chapter includes everything from computer maintenance (very sketchy advice that seems a bit out of place in a book of this type) to instructions on how to use a memory card reader to transfer photos (probably the most rudimentary few paragraphs every included in a book under this title). The section titled Storing Your Photos and Backups Properly is also woefully inadequate, drives people toward hard drives without mentioning popular storage devices such as the Drobo, and completely fails to even mention remote/online data backup storage. Chapter 2 provides basic instructions for using Flickr, Picasa, Shutterfly, Photobucket, ImageShack, MySpace and FaceBook Photo Album, but fails to mention, Rubberball, iStockPhoto and many other sites which have as much or more to do with creative use of digital photos. If you're getting the impression that Bamberg's book is for beginners, you're correct. There aren't really any secrets in the book, despite its title, but the quick and easy part is dead on. All in all, 101 Quick and Easy Secrets for Using Your Digital Photographs is a bit of a lightweight, and strictly for the totally inexperienced. The writing style needs a good copyeditor (because of phrases such as "[...] delete the value that's for Resolution [...]"), and Bamberg should have added explanatory sidebars containing relevant technical details throughout every chapter. Not recommended.

Canon EOS Rebel T1i/500D Guide to Digital SLR Photography by David Busch — The book begins with the premise that the T1i (or 500D as it's known outside the U.S.) is "the most advanced entry-level digital SLR camera that Canon has ever introduced." That would be true if Canon actually referred to the model as entry-level (which it doesn't), as opposed to the XS/450D (which it does). Small point. 250 pages, 209 sections and subsections, 9 chapters, an extensive glossary and an excellent index. Users eschewing the rather average Canon user guide for the 500D could do worse than buying this book as both a training and reference guide. We liked the large menu screenshots and clear feature & function explanations. Only average explanations of color, color spaces and rendering, but good advice on monitor calibration (a must for any sensible photo editing). A good overview of Canon lenses is marred by a subsequent review of primes vs. zooms which fails to mention that zooming with your feet when using a prime works quite well most of the time. All in all, the book beats the supplied user guide hands down. Tears the T1i/500D apart in a way which should allow most serious amateurs to really get the most out of the excellent image making power possible with the Canon Rebel T1i/500D. Recommended.

Digital Photography Bucket List: 100 Great Digital Photos You Must Take Before You Die by David Busch — The book is more about emotion than about specific locations around the planet. For a book with such a grand title as well, it is surprisingly U.S.-oriented and most of the photos are of subjects within the continental United States. That's not a bad thing, but it's not what you'd expect judging from the book title alone. Still, the book's redeeming virtue is the extensive contribution of photos made by the many talented photographers whose submissions were accepted for publication. While Busch describes each of the photographer's photos in some interesting detail, you may be left with a somewhat voyueristic sense of detachment. In this presentation anyway, the individual photos don't always draw you into the emotion and subject described. Unfortunately as well, few aspiring photographers, talented amateurs or enthusiasts will get a clear view of Busch's bucket list. Busch includes some interesting information about the techniques used to make a number of the photos, but the detail is not particularly redeeming. It's a book that could have been much better if the context of the "Bucket List" had been more clearly defined. Average and not recommended.

Irreverent Photo Tools for Digital Photographers by Steve Weinrebe — For the photographers who feel the need to capture images in their own ways, essentially putting a personal stamp on their photos by getting deeply into the creation of a scene or subject, this is a great book to help you get started. Weinrebe takes what I think is a wholistic approach (not the "irreverent" one suggested by the book title) to put you in mind of a rather expansive set of commonly available items that can be use as photo-making tools in the studio and in the field. Is the book worth the money? Can you figure this all out by yourself? Maybe, and maybe. But if the process of discovering this sort of stuff for yourself is really important to you, then the book is less of a creative guide than a short cut. However, if you just want to get to the photo making and don't want to sit around trying to figure out on your own what you can use to invisibly prop up an object at the correct angle, this book is for you. There's more to the book however. The "irreverent" in the book title and the use of the word throughout is silly and detracts from what is really quite a good book jammed full of great techniques, interesting use of all sorts of lighting (natural and artificial), lots of interesting photography viewpoints and a very wide range of subject matter. Ignore the title. Recommended.

Nikon D90 Guide to Digital SLR Photography by David Busch — Authors and publishers should be careful of cover text which states things such as "newest, full featured [...] digital SLR camera" mainly because almost every digital SLR maker releases a new model every six months or less. As of this writing, the Nikon D3000, D5000 and D300s are all newer than the D90. However, the D90 is widely regarded as one of the top two enthusiast cameras on the market as of this writing, so a book that supersedes the Nikon user guide is a welcome respite from that thick, small format, uninspiringly complex booklet. Busch has been doing these sorts of books for years, and he has nailed down a formula which works extremely well. Large size shots of all camera menus (literally twice actual size in most cases) make it easy to read about and understand the hundreds of features and functions in the superb Nikon D90. Frankly, I don't know why Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax and Sony don't dump their user guides in favor of coupons for guides by Busch, Thom Hogan and other highly qualified photographer/writers. You can't fit one of these big books in your camera bag, but then one of Ken Rockwell's reference guides in iPhone/iPod Touch format will do just fine. This guide is organized almost identically to the Canon T1i/500D guide reviewed above (and to Busch's many other camera guides), with almost identical page count, the same number of chapters and Busch's excellent index. Good overview of related equipment including flash. The Nikon D90 is a superb digital SLR camera and this book will help you get the most out of it. Recommended.

Nikon D5000 Guide to Digital SLR Photography by David Busch — Here I go again, criticizing the silly marketing-speak on the back cover: "the most advanced upper-entry-level digital SLR camera that Nikon has ever produced." It's meaningless—ignore it. The book is done in Busch's signature style and format—thorough, detailed and easy to understand. Busch's advice in chapter 9, Troubleshooting & Prevention, to always wait two weeks after a new firmware release before updating firmware in any camera is typical of the common sense approach in all of his digital SLR guides. Large size shots of all camera menus (literally twice actual size in most cases) make it easy to read about and understand the hundreds of features and functions in the wonderful Nikon D5000. Text and instructions are written clearly and accurately. Note to Course Technology proofreaders: its camera "sensor" not "censor" and the incorrect word appears in a couple of locations, and might briefly confuse someone who's really new to digital photography. Genuinely minor errors aside, the Nikon D5000 Guide to Digital SLR Photography is another excellent release by Busch and Course Technology that should serve new Nikon D5000 users at least well enough to make them forget about the drab and uninspiring Nikon user guide supplied with the camera. Recommended.

Quick Snap Guide to Photoblogging with WordPress by David Busch — This Guide is about the best you'll find on the market as of this writing (January 2010). Busch's treatment of the subject is thorough, easy to understand, and addresses both new and more experienced bloggers. The opening history lesson about the evolution of blogging—starting with online bulletin board, BBS, systems—is mercifully brief (why do so many books related to computing subjects include this sort of re-hash?), which means Busch gets to the heart of the matter quickly. It's not a deeply detailed every-step-of-the-step-by-step instruction and training manual, but there's more than enough to help even the most technically inexperienced would-be blogger get started. WordPress has proven to be a stable, reliable and very widely used blogging platform, so this guide is timely indeed. Recommended.

Cons: A book—even the best book—won't help you make better photos until you get up and get out of the house. Don't believe for a moment, even then, that a book will make you a better photographer though. Ultimately, these books help you become more intimately familiar with digital photography, specific cameras, and all the interesting things you can do with your best photos. It's up to you to put the information to use. Matthew Bamberg's other books are better efforts. David Busch's Digital Photography Bucket List was a disappointment for us.

Pros: Steve Weinrebe's Irreverent Photo Tools, seriously misnamed though it is, stood out because it's such a thoughtful and useful guide and reference for beginner and intermediate photographers. David Busch's camera guides continue to be excellent replacements for the user guides supplied with cameras. We think most of the camera makers would do well to make a deal with Busch or Thom Hogan to include their excellent third-party guides with all digital SLR cameras.

KSN Product Rating:



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