Digital Art Photography for Dummies, by Matthew Bamberg, MA, ISBN: 0-7645-9801-5

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, May 2006
Published by: For Dummies (a Wiley imprint)
Requires: A digital camera and an interest in photography
MSRP: US$34.99, CAN$44.99, UK£22.99

The "Dummies" series of books started off ignominiously somewhere around 1991 with the first title "DOS for Dummies". The philosophy behind the titles however, overcame the minor stigma attached to the "for Dummies" phrase, and the plain-spoken rationale has become the driving force behind well over 1,000 unique Dummies books from hundreds of different, authoritative writers. Wiley has sold well over 125 million Dummies books. Writer and photographer Matthew Bamberg has contributed this entry in the series based on his successful experience. Like almost all other Dummies books, this one has several layers of complexity. It can be read and understoond by complete novices, but it also offers sufficient additional depth and detail which can serve to inform much more experienced readers and photographers.

Bamberg has focused Digital Art Photography for Dummies squarely on the title subject and he rarely strays from that path throughout 75% of the book. I was struck by how consistently the author maintained his subject focus and by how smoothly he positioned information about photography technology. In every chapter and section you have the opportunity to skim through or absorb greater detail. For photographers at all levels, that sort of presentation provides the opportunity to gain a lot of knowledge in a short period of time while also providing the option to go directly to a particular subject. Bamberg's enthusiasm for his subject is palpable.

The book's other features and benefits are just as important as the author's positive, creative attitude. In 370 pages (including a reasonably detailed Index), the book covers a huge range of photography techniques of direct interest to anyone who wants to do more than just shoot family portraits and candid shots of relatives and kids. Bamberg presents specific subject matter shot in interesting locations around the world—hundreds of color photos of hundreds of subjects—and explains the idea, technique and mood behind each shot. The author also helps you develop a clearer and more focused view of the world around you. Plainly put, if you've been wondering how to get started, this book walks you through the process.

The late chapters are designed to expand your abilities when it comes to handling digital photos, organizing them and performing a wide range of editing tasks to crop or otherwise enhance your work. Bamberg covers the artistic basics of Photoshop CS2 (which of course by association and because of similar features also covers Photoshop Elements, PaintShop Pro and other programs), and touches on the use of certain kinds of photo editing hardware such as graphics tablets and the graphics stylus.

Cons: There are a few quibbles that should have been cleaned up during copyediting and proofreading. In particular, there is a definitive bias toward Canon cameras. Canon makes terrific cameras, but throughout the book Bamberg uses only the Canon/Pentax/Contax acronyms "Av" (Aperture Value mode—another way of saying Aperture Priority or "A"), "Tv" (Time Value—another way of saying "S" or Shutter Priority), and in one chapter uses "A" to denote Automatic mode even though most modern cameras use the word "Auto" to denote Automatic mode. Nikon, Olympus, Kodak, Fuji, Konica-Minolta, Leica, Sony, etc. (representing the vast majority of cameras in use around the world) use "A" and "S" and the book should have clarified these important details to avoid causing any confusion amongst beginners (true 'Dummies' in other words). The 'Dummies' books invite authors to use an affable writing style, but there's no need for the repeated use of the word "um" (typically a spoken verbal pause) which usually reads like the author is trying to be overly familiar. We'd like to see future editions of this book include more technical details for each photo including F-stop, shutter speed, lighting conditions, ISO value, EV, camera model and lens brand/type.

Pros: This is not just a book for 'Dummies', nor is it limited to merely the basics. Complete beginners, novice camera users, amateurs, photography hobbyists and intermediate level enthusiasts will all benefit from reading and referring to the book. It is heavily illustrated using hundreds of example photos. The author uses clear and concise language, straying into more complex technical references only rarely and almost always within the context of a sidebar or feature item which specifically introduces the more complex subject matter. It helps that the author is also a good photographer because the photo illustrations throughout the book are largely excellent, providing readers with clear examples of techniques and ideas. Best of all, the book offers hundreds (if not thousands) of ideas for artistic photography. If you don't come away from reading this book with a head full of great shots in mind and the ability to see new photo opportunties everywhere you look, then you probably read it upside down. Bamberg's enthusiasm for digital photography and photography as a medium for the creation or capture of great art is clear and infectious. For thirty five bucks you could do a lot worse. Put another way, instead of buying yet another filter for one of your camera lenses or a fancy new case for your point & shoot camera, why not buy this book instead and learn to make better use of the gear you've already got? Highly recommended.

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