- Review Price: £6.99
Although most modern compact cameras are designed to be totally automatic and very easy to use, if you get beyond the automation and start experimenting with photography you’ll quickly realise that it is a complex and challenging subject that can take a lifetime to master. A good place to start is a beginner’s guide book, and those don’t come much better than The Digital Photography Handbook, a comprehensive and beautifully illustrated guide written by my friend and former colleague Doug Harman, with photography by David Jones, and published by Quercus Books at the very reasonable price of £6.99. The first edition was a big hit last year, selling over 100,000 copies and making it onto both Amazon’s and WH Smith’s best seller lists. Doug has now updated the handbook, with the revised second edition including the latest developments in digital camera technology.
With such a big subject a 221-page book can only hope to offer a broad overview, but the list of topics that the book seeks to cover is exhaustive. The content is divided into four main sections. The first, “Going Digital”, covers choosing and buying a digital camera, as well as what lenses, accessories and computer software you’ll need. The second section, titled “Using Your Digital Camera” starts with the basic principals such as composition, focusing, exposure and depth of field, and moves on to specific techniques for portraits, sports, landscapes, weddings and more. The third and largest section deals with “The Digital Darkroom”, and looks at basic image editing techniques such as cropping, straightening and re-sizing, moving on to more advanced procedures such as colour management, levels and clone brush use, and ending with projects such as restoring old prints and making panorama landscapes. The smaller fourth section, “Output”, covers storage, printing, scanning, emailing and uploading, with a section on photo copyright.
Because the book tries to cover so much ground in a limited amount of space most of the subjects are dealt with in only a couple of pages, many of which also contain large colour photographs. The complicated subject of exposure for example is covered by about 600 words and two photos. If you already have some knowledge of photography or image editing you’ll probably find many of the sections lacking in depth, but for the complete novice (who is really the book’s target audience) it provides a gentle learning curve, starting out with the basics and leaving out many of the more complicated bits. Although it is definitely aimed primarily at beginners, more experienced photographers should be able to find something useful here, especially in the Digital Darkroom section, and even for experts it makes a handy all-in-one quick reference.
The Digital Photography Handbook is nicely produced for such a relatively cheap volume. It is roughly Ocatvo in size, measuring 15.5 x 21.5cm, a little too big for a pocket but ideal for slipping in the side of your camera bag. The cover is softback, and finished in a hard-wearing matt surface that doesn’t mark easily, a useful feature for a book that is likely to see a lot of use out in the field. The paper and printing quality are excellent, and the many colour photos throughout look superb. The binding is quite loose, and the book will lie open at a page without bending the spine. It includes a useful four-page glossary and an even more useful five-page index.
Despite the enforced brevity of the format Doug Harman manages to impart a large amount of information in very few words, a skill no doubt honed during his long career as a camera journalist, writing articles and reviews for some of the biggest camera magazines in the country. Doug is an excellent writer with an encyclopedic knowledge of digital photography, and like many of the best magazine writers he has the ability to explain a complicated subject to a non-expert audience and make it seem simple. His passion for his subject makes it engaging, informative and interesting to read.
The only real criticism that can be levelled against the Digital Photography Handbook is that it tries to do too much in too little space, and as a result doesn’t cover any part of the subject in sufficient depth. It is a very good introduction to the subject and absolutely ideal for beginners and those considering buying their first digital camera, but even novices will outgrow it fairly quickly. It would be good to see Doug Harman write a companion volume of the same size and quality covering the same subjects as the Using Your Digital Camera chapters but in greater detail, and then maybe another expanding on the digital darkroom techniques, but I’m sure his publisher has already thought of that.
The Digital Photography Handbook is the perfect guide for anyone considering buying their first digital camera, or for any beginner keen to learn more about the subject. It is well produced, beautifully illustrated, the writing is concise and easy to understand, and it’s a bargain at the price. If you’re looking for a Christmas present for the budding digital photographer in your family, look no further.
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