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Book Review: Digital Photography from the Ground Up by Juergen Gulbins

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Digital media has revolutionized music. But first, it revolutionized art, especially photography. Things that were once reserved for people who had spent their lives training and experimenting can now be done with a $200 camera purchased at the local Wal-Mart and an image-editing program downloaded for free from the internet. But even that takes some skill and understanding, and that's where Digital Photography from the Ground Up comes in.

The title says "from the ground up" and it's serious. Gulbins starts the book with over 50 pages covering how to buy a digital camera, and what the differences are. People overlook this part of the process, but when you're buying a camera you have to have in mind what you want to do with it. Gulbins covers the technology in the camera (the image sensor, the lenses, etc.) and the accesories that the salesperson will insist you buy (bag, memory, batteries). We get the details on various image formats, from JPEG to RAW, the metadata formats (descriptive information about the image that the camera typically stores, and that you can see if you use online services like Flickr).

"Ground up" also means pixels and printer resolution. Gulbins covers lines per inch, dots per inch, and pixels per inch, explaining how to get the best results from your inkjet printer. We also get a primer on photography, including concepts like color temperature, depth of field, and aperture and shutter speed. This is the part that I appreciate the most in Digital Photography from the Ground Up – Gulbins doesn't assume anything at the beginning. Everything is explained as if the reader knows nothing about photography beyond "pint and shoot," and it's explained in clear language, using a lot of color photo examples.

Gulbins covers RAW files in more detail in its own chapter. I knew essentially nothing about photography in the RAW format, so I learned a lot from this chapter. And the section on image storage and management should be required reading for anyone with a digital camera. But the most valuable sections for me were those covering image composition (a basic of photography, but one that most vacation photographers are ignorant of) and the image editing section. While Gulbins uses Photoshop Elements in his examples, the principles are useful for any image-editing software (especially the GIMP-based GIMPshop, which mimics Photoshop's interface and commands.

Digital Photography from the Ground Up is a book that will help anyone, regardless of experience, to take better digital photographs. More than that, it will help your digital photos look more professional. If you only buy one book on digital photography to help you take better pictures, this needs to be the one.

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