Been scarce around here due to stepped up work on Alabama Scrapfest and a cold. It is certainly not because I am getting more things done around the house. I am feeling the urge to purge, clean, and organize but am not seeing where the time is going to come from anytime soon. Hopefully the urge won’t leave before I can act on it.
I finally got my copy of Expressions: Taking Extraordinary Photos for your Scrapbooks and Memory Art in the mail and wanted to post a little review for you guys. This is by Donna Smylie and Allison Tyler Jones.
I really, really like this book. It is chock full of wonderful photography to inspire you. The entire second half of the book is a gallery of photos broken down into groups of people (newborns, maternity, toddlers, families, etc.) with ideas for shots to take of each group. Each section also includes Creative Challenges. I can see me opening the book to the baby and toddler sections and trying most of the shots and Creative Challenges one after the other just to hone my skills. Not only would it give me practice in the ideas they list, but it would also get me thinking about other shots I can take. In addition each group has their own list of emotion words (for toddler girls they are: sweet, sassy, bossy, dramatic, princess, high maintenance, loving, and gentle). The authors challenge you to illustrate those emotions in your photos of people in that group.
The rest of the book is broken up into the introduction, a section on lighting, and a section on composition. In the intro they define the purpose of the book and give some great, down-to-earth advice about photography equipment. They are not camera snobs, but they also give the pros of owning higher end equipment. They tell you that there is a benefit in the book for point and shoot owners (and there is), but also recommend good equipment to start with for those venturing off into more advanced photography. I wish I had read this section before buying my equipment a few years ago; it confirmed some things I now know.
It is important to note that this book will give you a feeling and ideas of photos you can take and also gives some practical advice on technique, but it is merely a jumping off point for a photography education. They say in the introduction that this book is not about the technical aspect of photography. That is fine with me, because I have studied the technical aspect quite a bit from other sources. Reading this book and following their techniques will improve a beginner’s photos drastically, but not to the point that photos will look like the photos in this book without lots of practice, some further study on the technical aspects of photography, and some knowledge of post-production work in Photoshop or the equivalent. For example, the pages on metering for proper exposure are a good explanation of the technique. Using the technique you will get a proper exposure, but not necessarily the best exposure. There is a big difference between the two, and I would hazard a guess that many of the photos taken for this book were taken with the best exposure in mind – not simply the correct exposure. (For everything about exposure, I recommend Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Exposure.) I am no expert photographer by any means, just a person who is trying to learn as much as they can. I can say, though, that I would have been frustrated if this had been the first photography book I picked up, I followed all of their instructions, and the photos coming out of my camera didn’t look like the ones in the book. (They won’t – sorry. There might be a big improvement over what you had before, but they won’t look like the ones in the book at first.)
The only other drawback I note in the book is that many of the shots are done under controlled circumstances. Even if the shots look spontaneous, many of the elements in the shot like lighting, location, and wardrobe are planned. This is not just your kids in the house or yard on any given day. Pre-planning is not a bad thing; I do it myself quite a bit (made easier by my huge living room window), but that is not how we live our lives. So many things happen spontaneously that we want to capture. The authors admit in the book that many people’s scrapbooks don’t contain really great photos of the kids doing everyday things because of indoor lighting issues. This is exactly the problem that I am searching for an answer to. The only answer they offer is to become a “photojournalist” and turn up the ISO to get the shot no matter what it takes. Seems like a bit of a thin answer to a problem that plagues so many of us so much.
Overall it is a great book. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it. I will return to it for inspiration again and again. Here are some shots I took today that it inspired:
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What a cutie pie! Beautiful photos!
Wonderful photos! Must check out that book :).