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Show HN: The Bastards Book of Photography (bastardsbook.com)
259 points by danso on June 21, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 72 comments

I've seen some of Dan's great photos before and it's awesome to be able to learn from him. Some of the advice he gives are things I've learned myself and explained to people before, and much of it is also new so I'm pretty excited to get through this properly.

One thing I would add, having been through this before myself and seeing my girlfriend going through it now as she takes up photography, is dealing with how people respond to your photos.

It can be disheartening when you take what you think is a great shot and nobody else (on Facebook, reddit/r/itookapicture, Flickr, etc.) seems to be interested. These feelings can be exaggerated when you see the photo that everybody is talking about is a simple cat photo or of some exotic location or event you're unlikely to find yourself in.

It's important not to allow yourself to feel discouraged.You have to just stick to your hobby for the original reason you picked up the camera in the first place and not to allow yourself to side-tracked by a lack of validation. It's important to seek out the opportunities leading to photos that you treasure and to remember that if others also enjoy your output that's a bonus, but not a healthy goal.

I'm not sure if Dan has experienced this (he may not have been concerned by what others think), but I believe it could be greatly beneficial to bring this mindset to the attention of readers so that if they find themselves feeling discouraged that they are aware of what's going on and how to deal with it constructively.

I used to do a lot of photography before dslrs were common, but hadn't done any digital work before. I have a friend who's a professional photographer and offered to help out when she needed an extra camera there if I could use her gear. The two best compliments I got were from two different weddings. One, the couple each used a random, but what I thought was an awesome shot (sun setting behind them as they kissed at the reception, gave a nice halo effect) as their profile picture on Facebook. The other was the first wedding I helped with shots of the wedding, she told me she used some of my photos for the album and, when I looked through it I couldn't tell which were mine.

The point of this is that most people just don't really care about random art you did, but they care a lot if it's something personal. And it may take 1000 shots to get that right one.


I used to take a lot of macro shots of flowers as I traveled and did a lot of hiking in varying ecosystems. Playing with focal depth and framing was a great pleasure, and my shots were frequently something I was really proud of.

Then I had a roommate say in a pseudo off-hand passive aggressive way that she didn't understand nature photography - "I mean, it's not like the photographer made the flower, it was already there."

I really felt it undermined some of my best efforts, while clearly not understanding anything about photography. But then she also felt a $200 point and shoot was superior to all my oversized stuff.

I guess these days I'm too lazy to carry around more than an iPhone, and not interested in spending a lot of money on that hobby. I doubt that comment has had an impact on my passion for the hobby, but then again, I remember that comment with glaring clarity and it's been about 8 years.

It's obviously not worth dwelling now, many years later, but I think you should've dismissed her comment based on her premise ("it's not like the photographer made the flower..."). It is a hard balance between pursuing what you think is art and appealing to others; but if a critic's reasoning is flawed, then you're justified in having an air of superiority.

"It's not like the DJ is doing anything but playing other people's songs"

Reminds me of this anecdote.

Your camera takes great pictures.

Thank you. Your mouth gives great compliments.

"This picture is excellent, you must have a nice camera."

"This dinner is excellent, you must have a nice oven."

I more or less ONLY take photos of stuff I found. And usually kitsch, too. Insects on flowers, clouds, swans, street art is basically 50% of my photos. For me it's not so much "look at what I've made", but "look at what I've found!". Maybe there is still an element of pride in it, but it's more the pride of a kid bringing sea shells home from the beach... and it's not my problem if boring adults don't get that :)

Having said that, having worked with a photographer for a while, I don't consider what I do "real photography"... that woman thought about shots for months, planned them for weeks, made them in hours or over the course of days! Now that is actually what it says on the tin, "painting with light".

So without any bitterness, I simply cannot call what you and I do, no matter how much we enjoy it, the same thing. It would be like comparing writting a shopping list to "writing", to Kafka or something. It may seem to be the same act to the casual observer, but it really isn't. But then again, by that standard most professional photographers aren't photographers either. Hmm I'm rambling, sorry; that woman impressed me loads, what can I say. So obsessed, so good.

That's a great point...I don't really know what the best mindset to have is. I've benefited from being in the photojournalistic mindset so that, if anything, photos serve a purpose, such as illustrating a news event. That alone can make it "good" (as many Pulitzer/World Press photos may seem average in the technical department). More importantly, I think having this sensibility makes you think of an audience, not just what you think is aesthetically appealing.

So I definitely do care what others think. But I think I lucked out by getting enough validation to get past the apathy. At least I've realized it's not just skill or technical merit in terms of getting noticed: much of it is just plain luck.

On a sidenote, participating in photosharing across Flickr and Tumblr has really helped destroy any solipsism I might have had...If attention/validation is something you care about, you have to work to get it like any other of the anonymous people on the Internet. This is not a mindset that most journalists realize when they try striking it on their own, without a masthead to tie their name to.

I just read the article, "Why even buy a camera?" because it's a subject near and dear to my heart, one I've debated with many photographer friends. Many insist that you should learn on a camera with manual controls, and some insist that it's all in the light and any camera will do.

You handled this question perfectly. Not even kidding. Down to every finer point of debate, you nailed the balance and gave the best, most helpful possible answers, including visual backup to express the true differences.

Absolutely fantastic. I'll be sharing this with other photographer friends and those interested in learning more. Great work. Thanks for posting.

  > and some insist that it's all in the light and any camera
  > will do.
This is really simple: given favourable conditions pretty much any camera will give you decent results. The point of having decent camere is that it expands the boundaries of "favourable conditions" immensely.

Thanks...I honestly question how much reliable advice I could give, as I've arguably overspent, even as I'm not caught up in the arms race. Someone did point out that iOS has special apps that do allow shutter speed control, so I'll have to come up with a few other different usecases.

Certainly, but the point is still very good and balanced either way. Good advice.

My example comes from using a point-and-shoot pocket camera, not my phone. Very little control over shutter speed and aperture and such, but I've used it with great success for landscapes in good-to-low light. I've probably sold more prints from the P&S than my SLR, all because I had it in my pocket when the light was right.

I've just started reading this, and it appears to be excellent. Thank you.

Is there a way within the site to give you some kind of renumeration (monetary or otherwise) for all the effort you've put in?

Well don't get out the wallet yet, the later chapters were hastily produced as I kept rethinking how things should be presented... :)

But thank you...that's extremely kind of you...I had thought it could be a side platform to sell prints but haven't gotten around to implementing that. At this point, I don't feel like it merits payment yet or that I've gotten nothing out of it, it's been a great learning lesson for me as I'd never really used Jekyll or SaSS before, and all of the photos were lying around anyway.

Yeah, he was the first person I thought to link to in my resources section. I don't remember when I first bookmarked him...at least 3 to 4 years ago, but I still refer to it from time to time, and pass it along to all other beginners.

Pretty nice for beginners! I'd put more mundane shots in (like in the fourth chapter) so that people don't get discouraged because they don't have the eye for finding good subjects yet.

That's a great point...my inclination was to do "interesting" photos even if they were mundane (most of them were taken during walks or sites that I frequent)...but I think taking photos in new York gives you a huge advantage over most other plans, and that's not really fair of me to exploit that so much

This is brilliant. Far better and more accessible than most photography books I've seen.

I'm no photographer, but enjoyed these stunning photos nevertheless and shared this link with some friends.

One thing I noticed though (and as you posted it on HN, I think it's not nitpicking for pointing it out): why are you hijacking mouse clicks?! I really, really hate it when I command-click (open in a new tab) on a link, and the site decides that, no, you really should view the content in the same tab...

Ooh, hadn't thoughht of that. You must be talking about the table of contents, in which I use some quick JS to listen for clicks on the box to call a load actions with _self as the target. I didn't even think that would effect those who explicitly do new tabs.

(if you meant for ulterior purposes, no...I don't even explicitly load in jquery, hence the sloppy inline JS)

As an introduction, I like it. It's reasonably non-technical and generally errs on the right side of practicality vs theory

Good to see a book about something else than programming!

Be careful about night shots of the Eiffel tower though: there are some copyright issues. See http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eiffel_Tower for more info.

Thanks, I had that in the back of mind but not when I was putting this together:

(tl:dr the lighting apparatus of the Eiffel Tower, not the Tower itself, has been upheld as a copyrightable image by France's highest court)

Great work. Do you have any plans on releasing this as a nicely packaged ebook? I'd probably pay for that instead of having to individually instapaper each page.

Thanks...not at this point...one of my main motivations was to get used to doing things with Jekyll/octopress and markdown,mso I haven't figured out the workflow from that to other formats. But I guess this would be a great chance to try that out. If I were to ever charge, I'd rather it be for a print book, but who knows

Why list the EV adjustment of the photos? The effective EV is apparent from the capture settings and listing how much you adjusted the photo based on your camera's meter isn't that useful. Each camera meter has its own quirks and it seems strange to include such a subjective setting.

On the other hand, I dig that you include lens and focal length. Both are nice to know when viewing photos.

I would guess that the author is trying to show when they've deliberately overruled the cameras exposures settings.

So in the section on under exposure the exposure compensation gives an idea by how much the image was under exposed.

Which IMHO is useful to know.

Yeah...that was what I was going for but the parent comment has a point, one which I did t really think about until I started collecting photos and noticing that some of the photos didn't match expected EV...I had thought that the EV reflected what the camera registered, no matter what mode I was in...but of course, it only measures compensation, which will be wrong if the photo is taken and the EV doesn't match the EC. And since I've just confused myself trying to explain this I doubt it's clear to the average reader.

It would be pretty easy to generate histiograms with Imagemagick...that is probably more useful

website feedback: The text is way too big for me and the centered layout could use some differentiation of "content pane" to "left and right emptiness".

The photos are huge too and somehow make me completely lose place and orientation. I have no idea how to fix it though. It could work on wide screens (would work on 1680x1050 already) if you placed images and text side by side.

More feedback - you have a utf-8 encoding problem in the first paragraph within "for learning your camera’s manual controls". It looks like the single quote was encoded by Word and doesn't translate to utf-8 - I see it as an accented "i". Just replace the ’ with ’ in the html.

Thanks! I'll check it out

Thanks, that's helpful to know and something I had been concerned about...

My challenge has been that I want to keep the paragraphs of text short, which makes it difficult to place floating-elements since there isn't much text to float them against.

The images I've wanted to keep large. I like the aesthetic of the Big Picture type of blogs, but you may still be right that it's not appropriate for what's supposed to be a learning guide.

Maybe decide for one or two images per "small thing" you want to explain and move the text really close to it, eg in the box below? Right now the scrolling is so much.

Well f*#kn done. I'm a photog and I get a lot of questions. I will definitely point people to this awesome resource. Kudos.

Good work. Would love a kindle version.

I really enjoy "the Bastards Book of Photography". There are a few reasons:

1) The sequence feels right. Everyone can start with photography, you don't need the fancy equipment, and you can start with what you have.

2) The text starts people on the road to manual settings, i.e. learning the camera. The mechanics are not what photography as art is all about, that's composition and creativity. But, without practice and understanding the mechanics until they are second nature it's very hard to realize your composition and vision efficiently.

3) This is a starting point with some help to novices. If this helps someone take a slightly better vacation or family photograph, great. The text straight off the about page sums it up.

There are concerns:

1) "Wow" is what teaches?

There seem to be two major paths to learning from experts:

If they are dead there are books. Review: The Camera, The Negative, and The Print by Ansel Adams. Highly technical from a master who had a nervous breakdown after putting everything into his art to for a showing. Still not a great starting point for the novice. They are fantastic books for someone who's more advanced and ready to get into the minutia. This is contrary to the message that people should just go look at compositions and dive in.

Expert workshops: If wow is what teaches, than there are many expert photographers who conduct workshops. For the majority of novice to curious photographers my advice has always been to save the money and go out with a photo club or some photo friends. None of the people in these clubs are probably "wow" experts, but it's a bit like learning a sport by matching up with someone of equal skill rather than paying to be taught by a pro before you know what you are getting into.

2) Technical Details: These are common practice. The body of the site directs people to learn their own settings and exposure. I'd read more into the text and intent than the photo details.

3) Photography is art? Not to the majority of people who just want to take photos on vacation or of the family. The most common questions I get are: What camera to buy (well addressed here), what do those settings on my camera dial mean (addressed fairly well here), and how do I take better pictures (good starting points to think about composition).

4) Go look at good photos. Agree. Fair? No. The big investment for most people is time. From point #1, there are a lot of good books at the library... if you are of the willing.

As for disclaimer about skill, &c: People have paid for my photos as well. I have an art degree. Look, I'm not great but I'm handy with a camera. http://www.flickr.com/photos/kanemoto/sets/72157621724362081...


WARNING: negative feedback ahead.

Disclaimer: I'm a pro photographer (as in I get paid for taking photos), and I had a few exhibitions.

A few important points, if you want to become a good photographer:

1) My philosophy with most art teachers/book writers is - unless your art makes me say "wow", you can't teach me much. There are many truly great photographers out there. Dan Nguyen is not one of them.

I look at his photos, and most of them are properly exposed, somewhat properly framed, sometimes they have something interesting, but most of the time they are mind-numbingly boring and mediocre.

2) His idea of posting technical details next to a photo is not new, but, most importantly, it's completely useless. I remember when I just got into photography, I was looking at all the cool photos and I really wanted to know the f-stop, the exposure, the ISO that the author used. It took me about a year to figure out it didn't matter. Main reason being - you will never encounter that exact scene with that exact lighting.

Even if you magically come to that same exact spot, same time, same date of the year, magically frame the shot the same way, set all the exact settings, you will NOT end up with the same picture.

3) Photography is art - don't be a fucking robot. Play with the camera settings, they are really trivial. It shouldn't take you more than a day to figure out how aperture, exposure and ISO work.

4) Trying to replicate some cool photo online is a good learning technique, but you don't simply do it by replicating the camera settings.

5) Now the most important point of learning how to photograph well: STOP READING TECHNICAL GARBAGE. Sites like dpreview are full of "photographers" who endlessly discuss their gear, their camera settings, and then you look at their photographs, and they are fucking boring and lack any taste (just to be fair, there are good photographers on dpreview).

Stop it, and look at photos instead. You should look at hundreds of photos a day, that's the only way to develop your photographic taste. And try not to get stuck on user-submitted websites like photo.net or flickr, there's a ton of crap there. Instead seek the best photographers in whatever area interests you - street, portraiture, landscape, etc.

Go to your local store and look at the photo books (not the technical ones, art ones). You will be pleasantly surprised with the quality of photos.

(you're getting an upvote for this; great points)

1) I disagree with your first statement, just because some work that really "wows" me is so beyond my comprehension that it's difficult to learn from it; sometimes, that's a core element of being "wowed": the astonished person doesn't quite know why he's astonished. How can he learn from example?

As far as my photos being boring, not going to contest that. You just have to remember that, at this point, expediency is the main factor. I rigged up a system to pull selected files from my public Flickr account, which consist almost entirely of photos I do in my own time...which means there's a high proportion of wide lenses, as opposed to shots at 200mm...because I don't casually carry around the 200mm.

2) Also no contest...the technical details are trivial to include or exclude (once you've written a script that gathers photos from Flickr and reads the metadata). For now, I find them more useful than writing out as narrative, "For this photo, I used my f2.8 lens wide open"...More can be done with the data design but I want readers to know at a glance what's going on before they read the caption of the photo. I'm hoping this leads to more active reading, because the reader has to ask himself "This photo is shot at f8.0 and yet the background is so blurred, how is that?"

> I was looking at all the cool photos and I really wanted to know the f-stop, the exposure, the ISO that the author used. It took me about a year to figure out it didn't matter. Main reason being - you will never encounter that exact scene with that exact lighting.

I say that exact sentiment: don't worry about the numbers or the math. Maybe I didn't say it strong enough but I'm happy that someone on HN agrees and I'm not just dumbing down the math. I think memorization of numbers is silly.

What I want readers to be able to do is approach each photographic situation with a problem-solving mindset:

"This scene is dark. I want the photo to show my friend's face clearly, how do I balance the three settings and which flaw am I most willing to introduce into my photo to prevent other more critical flaws?"

3 and 4) Yep, no argument. And nowhere do I say, "copy these numbers down"

5) Now the most important point of learning how to photograph well: STOP READING TECHNICAL GARBAGE.

I agree, that's why I wrote this book in the first place. Obviously I haven't done it in the same way that you would but I don't think we disagree at all.

I loved the photo of the Hudson River sunset.

But generally, maybe you can swap out "mediocre photos" with "better" ones either by yourself, or by others who gave you permission? Not because your photos are so bad, but because there are sweeet photos out there, from photographers who would love to help / show off - and photos that "say something" would help drawing people in, and keeping them reading.

I'm thinking of the Luminous Landscape (google it, explore it, wear it like a funny hat) here, which tends to have articles that explain something, and then a photo that illustrates the technique -- but without talking a whole lot about that specific photo. Maybe you can draw some inspiration from that, and try to "decouple" the photos and the articles if you will?

I'm saying this because I LOVE the general idea of the site, and that it's without clutter (though personally I think the font sizes are a bit huge). It's bookmarked to help out newbies when I run into them; now if you kindly could turn it into the best there could possibly be? Thanks :) I like what you're trying to do, and wish you all the best doing it.

Oh, and I think the whole point about art is a bit, uhm, besides the point. Yes, if you want to make great photos you don't read about shutter speed -- at the same time, if you want to learn about shutter speed a book of art photographs is perfectly useless, too :P

Thanks Marten, I definitely have more decoupling ideas in mind...I think my general strategy (and this will annoy people who already think the material is too brief) is to continue to break the topics apart, even if some articles are just a few pictures with thorough explanations.

As for using others' photos...there's a couple reasons, and they don't have to deal with personal pride. 1) Distribution /copyright issues, 2) I would spend waaaay too long if I felt I had to pick the best of the best out there (even among just the Wikicommons material)...plus, I'd have almost no expertise to share about them, so I'd feel a little guilty about using them mostly as eye candy.

I think my direction will be to improve the quality of the photos, but more importantly, improve the relevance of the photos to the topic at hand...I don't think I'll ever satisfy everyone's idea of what a great picture is, but at least I can put up educational ones.

Sorry, I don't think the chaps over at Luminous Landscape take very good pictures. I can't remember a single picture by them that I have been OMGWOW.

Instead, I think LL tends to pander more to the pixelpeeping crowd. Just my opinion. There are much better sources to learn to take better pictures.

I wonder if your ability to not think about the technical details of photography comes from the fact that in the beginning, you did think about them, and now you have a completely intuitive understanding of them.

I agree that equipment and settings do not make the photographer.

But I will point out that, back in the film age -- and more so in the pre-automated-settings age -- being able to manually set them and get them right was much more important.

- You had (stock 35 mm film rolls) 12, 24, or 36 shots to a roll of film. Particularly as a amateur photographer, developing and printing that film was a significant expense.

- Unless you had a dark room -- or, more recently, "quickie" development shops and kiosks -- you typically had at least a day between the shot and visual feedback of what you'd accomplished with it. (In "yea olden days", perhaps more like a week if you didn't want to pay "rush" fees.)

And... I guess much instruction has carried forward with a lot of inertia from those earlier times.

It seems a lot like much computer and programming instruction, when I think about it. Starting off with a lot of minutia that can be very offsetting and demotivating to many attempting to learn the art (and thereby, but for them -- thinking again of photographers -- actually secondary, the craft).

The digital age has changed this significantly. In my own circle of friends, I've observed at least two people develop from "average" snapshooters (well, one had from the start a very good natural eye) into very good amateur photographers. I don't think they would have done so starting from the perspective of shutter speed, f-stops, and tweaking exposure. But as they've learned to see and frame, they've added some of this in order to further accomplish and replicate aspects of their successes.

In the digital age, they can first "accomplish shots" and then "learn to refine". One could do that pre-digital (optionally including digital metering and exposure control), but the feedback loop was a lot slower and perhaps more circumspect.

You may be right, but most "photographers" get stuck at that phase forever. Photo companies convinced most people that buying an expensive DSLR will make them a good photographer. Or if you carry a tripod, that automatically makes you a pro.

While knowing your technical side is nice, it is completely unnecessary to take good photos. I know of a brilliant wedding photographer who shoots with cheap disposable cameras from your local gas station. He is booked months ahead.

But most people never become good at most things they try. I don't know enough about photography to comment much more on it, but that phase may be a necessary part of the learning process.

Spoken like a boss. Look up an awesome photographer, like Sam Abell from Natgeo. Until recently he used 2 olympus film cameras, and 2 fixed lenses. No zooms. Which btw cost around 150 bucks on ebay each.

Some dig into the "technical" details like it was a computer, forgetting It's about making an image that looks good and people like.

I'd recommend 1x.com instead for tutorials.

Can you show us your photos?

Sorry, I'm trying to remain anonymous.

I don't even consider myself great. I have a couple of shots that I've made in the last 10 years that I think are OK.

Most of this advice doesn't really come from me, it's mostly passed generation-to-generation. I was told pretty much this when I started learning photography, and it got reiterated by a few professionals that I respect.

your opinions would be easier to take if you supplied evidence that you know what you talk about.

You can assume I'm just making shit up.

Just want to say, for the record, I agree; you shouldn't have to show your photos. Your points stand on their own and shouldn't have to appeal to authority...so my disagreements with you aren't based on "well let's see what you can do.

And that's the problem. Dan has put this book out there and you have been rude about it and him without giving us any evidence that YOU know what you are talking about. Just another plausible sounding internet windbag.

I agree with looking at photographs, especially curated collections (published books, exhibitions).

"It shouldn't take you more than a day to figure out how aperture, exposure and ISO work."

I disagree with this from the perspective of teaching this stuff to teenagers (some decades ago now I admit). Probably easier with digital cameras.

The stellar thing about manual controls on digital cameras is that you can get a "feel" for the compromises and advantages of various combinations of settings very quickly. What took a big chunk of every project during semester with a K1000, limited exposures, and darkroom time (where you had yet another chance to make a dog's breakfast of your photo) can now be "taught" in a day and internalized in a week or two of appropriate exercises with fast feedback loops.

Sure, almost all of the work will be boring, derivative, and pedestrian, but the teacher's job (and how they will be judged) then becomes one of improving the quality of the artwork.

Yes, certainly. I've seen the Photoshop 'curves' tool used to explain film characteristic curves and shadow placement before now - and it saves time when still using the K1000s! Students in UK Colleges learn film as well as digital.

If you don't mind me asking, who are a few of your favorite photographers?

Also, what do you think of Vivian Maier?


She's a good classical street photographer. I'm sure her photos look way better in print than the tiny versions on her website.

I wouldn't say she is my favorite, but pretty solid.

There are truly many photographers that I like (and many that I only remember by the images, I'm horrible at remembering names).

Classic street photographers: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Elliott Erwitt

Modern street photographers: Joseph Koudelka

There are tons of good ones at magnumphotos.com

Thanks for your recommendations!

Totally agree with you. While the technical side may be interesting and somewhat important i've seen good photographers take far better pictures with an iPhone then Joe Average with a Canon 5D MKII. Nguyen is one of them.

As someone with 25 years of photography, I cannot recommend this "book". Starting with the very first photo, a typical photojournalist shot, super wide angle shooting into the sun photo. This just continues into the book with cliched subjects (sunsets, cats) and advice like "take lots of photos"

The section in aperture starts out with a photo that's hard to look at its so badly exposed.

The section on metering is just plain wrong, true only for spot metering, which most of the people who read this beginners guide are not going to be using. For the people it actually targets its misleading to talk about which spot the camera is metering on.

There are many many better books than this which will give beginners a grounding in the mechanics of photography.

> The section on metering is just plain wrong, true only for spot metering, which most of the people who read this beginners guide are not going to be using. For the people it actually targets its misleading to talk about which spot the camera is metering on.

That section was for people who were using camera phones with on screen touch focusing (the iPhone camera app also adjusts the exposure for the area where focus was selected). The section on dSLR spot focusing was to explain how to do that with dSLR's if you wanted to.

The next chapter on frame exposure settings goes over using exposure compensation.

Your only valid criticism is that the Aperture chapter's photo is poorly exposed.

So how about using photos that are well exposed, starting with the opening photo with the blown out sky, and then the dreadful photo of the dogs/family in front of the Hudson.

There's one good photo in the whole book, and that was taken with a p&s (s90) - something you claim cannot resolve more than 15' in front if the lens and takes a second to shoot. Both point are of course are completely wrong and misleading.

The 'book' (quoted because its really just a few dozen paragraphs) looses any credibility when it's accompanied by photos that are so awfully made.

I don't think my photos are going to be everyone's cup of tea and that's fine. I dont mean that in a "fck you it's art" but that I'm not only following my own style, but within certain limitations.

I don't disagree with you on how those particular photos are blown out, but those were candid shots in irregular lighting. To make a conventional shot, you would set up lights and possibly do significant post processing. I chose to emphasize as much of the area that I wanted even as details are lost at the other end.

The main point of the book is that there are options in the first place and it's important to be aware of them to properly adjust...rather than just snapping a photo and wondering why it turned out so off.

It's difficult for me to show what the choices were, granted, because I didn't shoot those scenes with thhe intention of demonstrating a decision tree for the final shot. Being able to show more direct comparisons, between the exposure options, is my intention as I add new examples to the book

As far as the metering section, I think you're right that it's confusing...I decided to split off the chapter with doing touchscreen exposure and never fully fleshed out standard metering. That is something I'll work on

looses any credibility :D

You don't think "take lots of photos" is good advice? I'm curious how you would recommend people improve their skill in general.

Improvement happens when you learn from your mistakes, not when you repeat them million times over, i.e. you can take a lot of photos but if you never stop to think what was good and what was bad in them you won't improve. On the other hand, you can take less photos, but carefully analyze the result and improve a lot.

If you know of better books it would be a nice idea to put them on your comment (bashing is good, but giving alternatives is better).

For instance, I dived in the technical basics of my old SLR with this book I found at my parent's house: Photography - the guide to technique by Andrew Hawkins, Dennis Avon [1].

This is probably an outdated and now useless guide, but answered me many questions I had when I started.

[1] http://www.amazon.co.uk/Photography-Guide-Technique-Andrew-H...

I deliberately avoided suggesting alternatives because I think the best advice for a beginner is to stop with all the pretentious 'arty' photo techniques and take snapshots.

But, if pressed, I would suggest this book.


Most colleges have continuing education classes in photography. Stanford for example, I know does.

Heh, I think it's funny you and I are in disagreement...I see myself as being on the opposite end of the "artsy" spectrum since that wasn't highly valued at the newspaper.

Obviously, photos I take on my own are loosened up but I lean towards realism. Not using a flash is a deliberate decision to preserve as much of the lighting in a dark scene, even at the risk of underexposure or excess ambient light from a slow shutter speed. Anyway, the book you recommend is not a bad one, but on a brief skim, it's more about the history and place of photography than snapshot technique. I don't disagree that that has worth, it's just not what I'm aiming for in my admittedly brief guide.

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