Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Review: Black and White Digital Photography

Color is wonderful and is a joy to behold but for me there is always something special about a Black and White photograph. I'm not sure if this is because for the most of my life when great photos were presented these tended to be B&W images or the mystique that goes around their genre. But I still find them special.

The world is in color so we don't have a natural tendency to see in B&W but with practice, some inner vision, we can all create good black and white photos.
Black and White Digital Photography (photo workshop) book wants people to be better at this genre of photography.

Black and White Digital Photography (the book)
Author Chris Bucher
ISBN 978-0-470-42193-2
Publisher Wiley Publishing Inc.

The book has 10 chapters and I will explain what is basically covered in each and at the end of the article I will give the overall summary for this book.
This is a workbook of sorts and each chapter has an assignment to help you explore some of the material covered in the chapter.

Chapter 1 – Black and White Vision
This chapter is more of a compendium of general information on importance of Black and White photography, why it is a different art from color. It covers how in the color world seeing in B&W involves more of the creative process. The importance of being able to previsualize, understand the timing in 'the moment' and knowing how to wait.  Where to find photographic material and subjects.

Chapter 2 – Photography Fundamentals
A good general introduction to camera setting such as exposure, aperture, shutter speed, iso, white balance and how these each affect the photographic image. Under composition the rule of thirds, balance, symmetry, shape, simplicity, having a point of view and being able to link compositional elements.

Chapter 3 – Getting the Most out of your Camera
This chapter covers handling the buttons and menu settings on your camera. How white balance affects B&W. Glass filters and suggested settings and lens for portraits, landscape, still life and street photography.

Chapter 4 – Working with Light 
This is what I believe where photography really starts.
This chapter covers metering and exposure, basic zone system, the metering modes of your camera. Light quality and direction as well as reflectors and balancing and mixing sources. Light at dusk and after dark.

Chapter 5 – Tools and Toys
This chapter covers add-ons and supporting equipment for your camera that will allow to take more creative images and includes; Infrared photography, lens baby, smaller point and shoot and speciality DSLR camera, strobes, tripods

Chapter 6 – Tonal Quality in Black and White
This chapter covers converting color to B&W, discussing tones and contrast in B&W images, working with shadows and contrast. Also covers understanding how light quality affects tones and looking for highlights and building depth in the shadows.

Chapter 7 – The Black and White Digital file

The process of converting image to B&W, the use of film filters and the debate on raw or jepg file formats

Chapter 8 – Working in the Digital Darkroom
The chapter discusses the process of enhancing your image to bring out more by use of local and global contrast, multiple raw processing, adjustment layers, masks, shadows and highlight tools, additional filters, selective effects, film situations, workflow. The major emphasis is about using photoshop and digital editing tools.

Chapter 9-  Toning, Coloring and Special Effects
The chapter explains the old film processing techniques and how they can be achieved in digital editing such as; old process effects, split toning, coloring to monochrome, infrared effects, high dynamic range, compositing

10 Output Printing and Presentation
Film was about chemical processes, paper, developing and in this chapter the new equivalents of inject printers and paper, calibrating, creating B&W prints, output options

Conclusion and  Recommended Audience

This is a How To book about creating B&W images digitally. It broadly covers all aspects from start to finish about creating this genre of photography as evidenced by the material cover under the chapters. I don't think little was missed except some freeware program.  The author used higher end equipment,  and computer components and information is geared towards this end.

The book contains a lot of photos and all taken by the author. I like the fact that these are ordinary but good images that we would all take as opposed to those over the top studio shots.

The book does contain assignments at the end and these are general in approach. I am a firm believer that assignments should  be precise and more definitive to help focus people clearly in the direction of guidance. Too much ambiguity for beginners causes confusion in their approach.

There is a web site to post your assignment but at this time (new book) there was nothing posted under the B&W book. This site contains the other workbooks from Wiley press about photography.  Some useful information but a little hard to find since its a Bulletin Board system.
See  under forum. (the books says but routes to address above.)

This is, in my opinion, a beginners book for someone who mainly uses Point&Shoot camera or mid level SLR type only in auto mode and needs to understand photography, equipment and tools from beginning to end. Each item is well explained but only at a level to get you started and with photography, lots of practice is the key to really getting better.

From my own perspective there are so many books about using cameras I think it's better to leave some of the basic materiel out and focus more on taking B&W and then digital editing.

Niels Henriksen

A bike has so much detail at times its best to focus on particular elements only. In this image you get the feeling of power form the large exhaust pipes.
f.4.4 @ 72mm on 18-70 Nikon lens, 1/15sec, IS0 200

Disclaimer: Other than receiving a book to review, which will be given away, I did not or will not receive any remunerations, gifts or any considerations for this review from the publisher, author or anyone affiliated with this book.

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