Photoshop CS2 in easy steps

A good reference book for beside the computer while working in Photoshop
Photoshop CS2 in easy steps
By Robert ShuffleBotham
Computer Step, 2005
ISBN: 1 84078 300 1

There are so many books on Photoshop. Most are good. And many people still report getting so far and then being overwhelmed by the complexity of the program. This book sets out to avoid that by proving coverage of Photoshop in easy, bit-sized pieces.

Photoshop CS2 in easy steps

Don’t expect to find a lot of big images in this book. You won’t find them. The layout of the book has one third of each page devoted to tips and trip up points. This puts a premium on space in what is a fairly small book for such a big program. Frankly I do not know if this is an issue or not. Personally I like inspiration with my reading and tend to feel that others do too. However, I know others who prefer not to see too much of other people’s work when they are focused on their own work and development. So, you see, that is why I am not sure.

The book comes to grips with Photoshop though the following chapters:
*    Basic Theory
*    The Working Environment
*    Opening and Saving Files
*    Image and Color Basics
*    The Painting Tools
*    The Editing Tools
*    Making Selections
*    Layers
*    Working with Type
*    Paths
*    Channels and Masks
*    Color Correction Techniques
*    Filters
*    Web and Multimedia Images
*    Working with ImageReady
*    Animations and Rollovers
*    Slicing and Image Maps

Everything you need as an explanation of Photoshop features is there. There just is not a lot of application or on how or why you would apply it. As such this is a classic software walkthrough book, you will need to find your inspiration elsewhere. That said, this is quite a good book for the Photoshop beginner.

A book for the student who needs a reference by the side of their computer to guide them, the hobbyist progressing from some other software and intimidated by Photoshop or the darkroom worker moving to the digital domain. Be sure to supplement it with inspiration from somewhere else.

Picture Perfect – Collecting Art and Photography and Displaying it in Your Home

This book looks at the collecting of art and photography, its framing and display within your home.
Picture Perfect
Collecting Art and Photography and Displaying it in Your Home
By Stephanie Hoppen
Jacqui Small/Aurum Press 2004
ISBN: 1 903221 25 0

Picture Perfect cover

This book looks at the collecting of art and photography, its framing and display within your home.

This book is profusely illustrated, not only with art and photography, but also with these works in domestic settings to show you how you can use such art in your home. Chapters include:
*    A Passion for Pictures
*    Choosing Pictures
o    What to Collect
o    Photography
o    Art
o    Drawings
o    Other Media
*    Choosing Subject
o    People
o    Art and Architecture
o    The Natural World
o    Leisure
*    Framing
o    Matching Picture to Frame
o    Traditional Framing
o    Framing Photography
o    Modern Framing
o    Conservation and Care
*    Displaying
o    How to Hang
o    Choosing Themes
o    Positioning
o    Using Two Walls
o    Living Spaces
o    Stairs and Connecting Spaces
o    The Home as a Gallery
o    Using Background Color
o    Changing a Wall with Pictures

Picture Perfect spread

The book is full of excellent, practical advice and at how real people display their art collections in their own spaces. Specific area experts provide their input in breakout boxes throughout the book.

The first two main sections, on Choosing Pictures and Subjects provide a good, if brief, overview of the choice available. This is a simplified coverage, especially of media, since it leaves out many of the mediums that are broadly lumped under paintings, and ignores digital works entirely. Even the coverage of subject matter to collect is quite simplified, because people have made collections based on all sorts of criteria. That said, these sections do provide a good, solid introduction to the subject that will give you a base to build from.

The framing section provides a decent coverage of framing options. Thankfully it does not try to teaching you how to frame, rather concentrating on matching framing decisions to what is being framing and to the décor in which it will be displayed.

The displaying section maintains the practical advice with coverage of everything from hanging devices to the planning of a wall or room hang. Again, rather than being an exhaustive coverage, it rather provides a great starting point. However, all the key points are covered, so it works well as a guide in this area.

All round, this is a very good book that serves as a great introduction to what can be a very complex subject. There is enough information in here for the average person to sort out most of their issues with collecting and displaying art and photography. For people with a deeper interest the book serves as a great entry point into this area, allowing you to build from here with more specialized sources.

This book belongs on the shelf of every artist and photographer, as well as galleries, interior decorators and stores, as well as beginning or developing art collectors. Photographers and artists who deal directly with their customers can use the book to assist their sales efforts, as can galleries, interior decorators and stores, by showing clearly how art can be used in a normal house. Buy it.

Photographing People

Yet another book from Michael Freeman, this one focuses on photographing people. The book is presented via two-page spreads dealing with individual topics.
Photographing People
Digital Photography Expert
By Michael Freeman
Ilex, 2004
ISBN: 1 904705 20 0

Photographing People cover

Yet another book from Michael Freeman, this one focuses on photographing people. The book is presented via two-page spreads dealing with individual topics.

The book is dived into three large chapters:
*    People Posed
*    Daily Life
*    Events and Occasions
The first covers posing people in the studio or in the field. The second covers location photography of people unposed. The third covers all sorts of events.

Photographing People spread

The book does a great job of mixing technique with inspiration. There is good coverage of lighting in all its forms, equipment choice and lens choice for effect. Inspiration comes from the great photography that illustrates the book and from spreads on topics like ‘The moment’ and ‘Anticipation’.  There is minimal Photoshop stuff in this book, but that is good, as it couldn’t do it justice and still provide all the great photography coverage. There is good, solid advice here.

This book is ideal for the student photographer, the amateur wanting to make their photography of people better and even the more experienced people photographer looking for a refresher or new ideas. If you are into people photography, or want to be, you should get this book, read it and apply the advice and techniques.

Window Seat – The Art of Digital Photography & Creative Thinking

A simply stunning book that will stretch and expand you.
Window Seat
The Art of Digital Photography & Creative Thinking
By Julieanne Kost
O’Reilly, 2006
ISBN: 0 596 10083 3

Window Seat cover

This amazing book is part exhibition and part exposition. The exhibition part comes in the second half of the book and comprises stunning work the author has produced by shooting from her seat on the commercial airliners in which she spends a lot of her time. The exposition section in the front of the book focuses on how to be and remain creative. An appendix gets into the imaging techniques she uses.

The Art of Creative Thinking is a relatively short but perfect eighteen point coverage of how to be and remain creative. These points are all incisive and engagingly discussed with a personal perspective. This section is also beautifully illustrated with the author’s images.

Window Seat has page after page of truly stunning images that illustrate the adage that there is always something to photograph, you just have to see it. Even this section is a direct teaching vehicle, because it is broken into sections with a one page discussion of the appropriate topic. These sections are:
*    Desperately Seeking Creativity
*    The Perfect Subject
*    Control
*    Capturing a Moment
*    Editing
*    Image Manipulation
*    Completion

Window Seat page spread

The Imaging Techniques appendix does a great job in a compact space of covering the core techniques that you need to consider and how to use them. Sections cover:
*    Capturing Images
*    File Management
*    Processing using Adobe Camera Raw
*    Image Size and Cropping
*    Removing Imperfections
*    Making Tonal Changes
*    Selective Adjustments
*    Masking
*    Adding False Color
*    Saving Files
*    Preparing Images for Print

This book deserves to be on every photographer’s bookshelf. To me it sits with Caponigro’s book as must have books on the use of digital tools for the crafting of great photography. This book expands that beautifully with the work on creativity and with stunning examples of what can be captured from a seemingly uncreative position, business plane travel. Buy this book, you will not regret it.

Art and Photography

Phaidon Themes and Movements book covering the role of photography in the visual arts.
Art and Photography
Edited by David Campany
Phaidon Themes and Movements Series, 2003
ISBN 0 7148 4286 9

Phaidon’s Themes and Movements series is one of the really great series of art books in the publishing world. They combine great editorial insights, great art and great articles and papers written by the movers and shakers of the area covered.

Art and Photography continues this tradition by providing a book that examines the use of photography in art practice since the 1960s. The fact that it looks at photography as part of contemporary art practice rather than the independent fine art photography area makes this a unique book.

The book starts with a 35-page survey written by the editor does a very good job of covering photography’s use in the arts. This is then followed by some 150 pages of photographs. The next 80 pages cover the documents, writings on and by the artists using photography in their practice. The book concludes with artist and author biographies and a decent bibliography.

Both the photography and the documents are organized into rough thematic groupings. These are:
*    Memories and Archives
*    Objective Objects
*    Traces of Traces
*    The Urban and the Everyday
*    The Studio Image
*    The Arts of Reproduction
*    ‘Just’ Looking
*    The Cultures of Nature
This organizational structure works quite well, in that rather than overwhelming you with a whole book worth of imagery and commentary, it is divided into more manageable chunks that still allow contemplation of the whole but also allow a tighter consideration, as needed. The work and documents cover the whole time range from the 60’s to the early 21st Century (2003 to be specific, the year of publication). So the book is an excellent survey document.

Anyone who is serious at coming to grips with the use of photography in contemporary art practice should have this book handy. It brings together in one great resource not only great examples of the work produced but also, through collating the writings that are included, bringing together the thoughts, criticisms and analysis of the major artists, critics, theorists and analysts of the time. Very highly recommended.

Conceptual Art

Phaidon Themes and Movements book covering this often difficult area of conceptual art
Conceptual Art
Edited by Peter Osborne
Phaidon Themes and Movements Series, 2002
ISBN 0 7148 3930 2

Yet another in Phaidon’s Themes and Movements series, this one looks at the redefinition of art to be focused on ideas.

As in all the books in the series, it starts with a 40 page survey of conceptual art, written by the editor, followed by 140 pages of art work, divided into the following sections:
*    Pre-History: 1950-1960
*    Instruction. Performance. Documentation
*    Process. System. Series
*    Word and Sign
*    Appropriation. Intervention. Everyday
*    Politics and Ideology
*    Institutional Critique
*    Afterwards
One hundred pages of documents then follows. Artists’ and authors’ biographies and a good bibliography follows.

Again Phaidon have a great book that is an essential learning tool and a great resource for the practicing artist. Buy it, read it, study it. You’ll end up a better contemporary artist for it.

Digital Infrared Photography

A book covering how to do it, what you need and how you might apply it.
Digital Infrared Photography
By Patrick Rice
Amherst Media, 2005
ISBN 1584281448

This book is one of a small number that cover this topic. The author is a professional photographer from Ohio. The book claims to cover everything you need to know about digital infrared imagine.

The book is divided into 11 chapters:
*    Light
*    Film Photography
*    Digital vs. Film
*    Cameras
*    Lenses and Filters
*    Shooting Techniques
*    Infrared and Flash
*    How Infrared Sees
*    Weddings and Portraits
*    Printing Strategies
*    Finishing Touches
An introduction briefly covers the history of infrared and the technical applications of IR.

The book is profusely illustrated throughout, with both the work of the author and the many contributors that the book has. Fortunately or unfortunately most of these illustrations are from the wedding/portrait genre. Fortunately if that is your interest, unfortunately if your interest is in landscape, fine art or other areas.

The book does a pretty reasonable job of covering what you need to know to make a good go of IR digital photography. To me there are gaps in what it covers in terms of things like camera sensitivity and the way that an IR filter interacts with the camera’s filtration, as well as the conversion from color to monochrome options, to pick some examples. To compensate the book does a good job covering the choice of IR filters, special conversion of digital cameras and the general processes and choices involved in shooting in IR.

So this is not an all-encompassing book but it does do a good job of covering most of the topics required. For those new to digital IR this book will get you off to a good start. This book is absolutely perfect for wedding and portrait photographers who wish to add IR to their repertoire. The illustrations and so much of the content is perfect for such readers. Landscape and fine art photographers will need to view this as a book for the technical and mechanical aspects and seek inspiration elsewhere. Up to date in regards to digital cameras to the date of publication, any book on digital anything really needs a resource listing to point to web sites that will contain up-to-date information on digital camera IR capabilities, do-it-yourself removal of IR blocking filters, etc. In reality it is a minor point since a Google search will turn them up pretty quickly but I would expect an author to make an attempt to include some qualified web references.
All round, this is a pretty good book covering a broad and somewhat challenging area. People photographers will be more immediately turned on by this book’s illustrations, but the content is relevant to everyone. Recommended.



Phaidon’s Themes and Movements series is one of the really great series of art books in the publishing world. This book continues that and does a great job of covering the minimal art movement.
Edited by James Meyer
Phaidon Themes and Movements Series, 2000
ISBN 0 7148 3460 2

Phaidon’s Themes and Movements series is one of the really great series of art books in the publishing world. They combine great editorial insights, great art and great articles and papers written by the movers and shakers of the area covered.

Minimalism follows this tradition and looks at one of the more challenging areas of contemporary art for people to come to terms with. The book surveys minimalism from 1959 through to the end of the 20th Century. The 35-page survey starts the book with a sound and interesting examination of minimalism from its roots to almost the current state. The next 150 pages look at the work and are divided into four sections:
*    1959-63 First Encounters
*    1964-67 High Minimalism
*    1967-79 Canonization/Critique
*    1980-present Recent Work
Then there are 100 pages of documents and the book concludes with biographies of the artists and authors and a rich bibliography.

What is so great about these books is that the combination of survey written by the editor, body of works and the documents combine to make a great resource for anyone wanting to learn about the area and you are guaranteed to learn a lot.

This book belongs on the bookshelf of any artist working in minimalism or indeed any form of contemporary art, since minimalist concepts have influenced many other forms of practice. Very highly recommended.

Scrapbooking Your Favorite Family Memories

A great introduction to scrapbooking
Scrapbooking Your Favorite Family Memories
By the Editors of Memory Makers books, distributed by Reader’s Digest
Memory Makers Books, 2003
ISBN 1 892127 33 4

This interesting book brings together four individual books under one cover:
*    Michele Gerbrandt’s Scrapbook Basics
*    Creative Photo Cropping for Scrapbooks
*    Baby Scrapbooks
*    School Days Scrapbooks

Profusely illustrated, this book is a goldmine of inspiration for anyone getting into scrapbooking or those who feel their layouts are becoming stale. Purely a physical scrapbooking book, with no digital layout or content, it really doesn’t miss out on anything through that because you can readily extend the physical techniques onto the computer, if that is how you work. But there is still a lot to be said for the physical approach.

The book starts from the beginning with why to scrapbook, materials, tools and scrapbook choice. It then gets into approaches to organizing and laying out the scrapbook, developing designs, making an album flow, adding text, journaling and photo manipulation (with scissors). Then the later two books examine two specific album areas and gives ideas and lots of examples.

Anyone getting into scrapbooking and looking for a single book that will get them going on what to do and how to do it will enjoy this book. Even those some way into scrapbooking are bound to find new ideas or techniques in this book. Recommended.

The Advanced Digital Photographerâ

A book that gets photographers to describe for themselves important aspects of the digital process
The Advanced Digital Photographer’s Workbook
By Yvonne J. Butler, Editor
Focal Press, 2005
ISBN 0 240 80646 8

The idea is a sound one, take a group of great photographers who can also write and get them each to provide a chapter or two about an area they are expert in. The theory is sound. So how’s the practice?

This book brings together twelve authors to cover the material of the book, one of whom is also the editor. Chapters are:
*    Calibration and Color Correction
*    Getting Set Up for your Film Capture
*    File Formats: Choosing JPEG or Raw Capture
*    Digital Photography Workflows
*    Digital Light and Lighting
*    Digital Portraiture
*    Digital Travel Photography
*    Digital Infrared Photography
*    Advanced Color Correction: The 90% Method
*    Sharp Shots In-Camera and On-Computer
*    Photoshop:Using Advanced and Power Tools
*    Black and White Part I: Converting Color for Printing
*    Digital Fine Art Part I: How to Create It
*    Painter Creativity: Transforming Your Photographs into Paintings
*    Inkjet Printing and Color Synchronization
*    Black and White Part II: The Digital Black and White Print
*    Digital Fine Art Part II: Selecting Printers and Papers

The stated aim of the book is to provide a how-to guide for photographers that want to take their work to the next level. A noble and appropriate aim, indeed. And many of the chapter do contribute to this. However, and perhaps it is inevitable in a book like this, the chapters vary enormously in quality. Not the quality of the writing, which is pretty good, but in the quality of the material presented. The early part of the book seems to be the strongest with decent information that seems to fit with the stated aim.

It is the later part where the gaps open up and, at least sometimes, it seems not to be the individual author’s fault but in the planning of the book. For example, Stephen Burns’ chapter on how to create digital fine art really doesn’t fit. Stephen is a good writer and I know him. My feeling is that the book tried to do too much here and ended up giving too little space for the topic to be done justice. The chapter itself is fine as a tutorial of using Photoshop, it just does not fit in the context of the other chapters and fails to explain what digital fine art is and why a photography might want to go in that direction, something other chapters do. The same goes for the one on turning photographs into paintings using Painter. Jeremy Sutton is a fine photographer and knows his Painter stuff well. But again he is unable to explain why a photographer might want to do this and how it can fit into potential business models, etc. In both Stephen and Jeremy’s case, they both seemed to need a lead-in chapter to explain why and the options and then the chapters they did offering a how-to on one approach. Other areas are a bit weak because the example material is, frankly, not very exciting. An example here is the chapter on digital infrared.

Basically I believe the book tries to cover too much ground without the connecting material to make it coherent. For example, if the book had talked about the choices a developing digital photographer faces, from developing their conventional skills, to branching out into new areas of expertise, like commercial illustration, travel, digital art, etc and why they might choose to go each route before laying out a series of chapters in each direction that advance the reader and also helps them to really understand what is involved in that choice, it would have been great. As it is the book appears to be a grab-bag of areas and techniques without the structure to pull it together. Individual chapters are great and many of them fit together well, but the whole book does not.

So is this a bad book? No, far from it. Does it live up to its full potential? No. So who will get the most out of this book? Well, digital photographers who are looking for things to try and ways to improve. If you treat it as a grab-bag of ideas, some great information and techniques rather than as a coherent discourse, then you will not be disappointed.