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

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It’s been nearly a decade since I jumped into digital photography. Shelving my old film-based cameras, I grabbed a digital model and started pointing and clicking – mostly on the automatic setting. Sometimes I’d fiddle with the close-up option (inevitably rendering incredibly blurring shots), or even playing with the portrait setting (whatever did that achieve?) I should perhaps be embarrassed that during this lengthy time period my photo-taking skills and knowledge have never grown beyond pointing and clicking with automatic flash settings. That may sound pathetic to those gifted with a more technical mind than my own, but there are many more of us on this talent-free raft than I could possibly number.

Every once in a while though, I’d look at my camera, puzzled. Shouldn’t I be able to achieve better results with this thing? Did I need an entirely different kind of camera, and if so, what kind? Of course I had no idea where to start. That’s where Digital Photography from the Ground Up, by Juergen Gulbins came in. And after receiving it I felt sorely out of my league. Although it’s a primer for beginners, those beginners will need to be ambitious. I settled in with the big, glossy book filled with gorgeous photography, ready to dig in.

But wait! Where was the Consumer Reports style chart showing me which camera I needed? Unfortunately for me, with the constant fluctuation of models within the main brands I was presented with a technical lecture on the printed page exploring not only how many megapixels I might need and internal storage options, but also explanations on how the imaging technology on a digital camera works and a discourse on optic lenses, color temperature, aperture priority and filters. Oh dear – perhaps I should have purchased a basic, basic photography for beginners title first, perhaps then I wouldn’t have been overwhelmed by technical details that seemed largely irrelevant to me. Lead on to how to get rid of red-eye!

Indeed, we did get around to red-eye correction, this college-level-entry-course-in-a-book and I. In fact this is an incredibly comprehensive work for beginners, or those transitioning from traditional photography to digital, just be prepared to slog through technical details. Valuable suggestions on composition and tips for various types of photography (landscape, sports, night, tabletop etc.) are as equally relevant in many cases to all types of photography but are customized for a digital audience.

When we rolled around to image editing I was surprised to find that the work focused primarily on Photoshop Elements for editing, rather than the industry standard Adobe Photoshop for photo editing. I may be only further accentuating my ignorance of photography, but I was previously unfamiliar with Elements, though I do have some Photoshop experience. In any case, a general feel for the procedures, steps and processes used in basic image editing (yes, goodbye red-eyes!) The many before and after photographs demonstrate the effects of the various tools normally available and give ideas for situations in which image editing may be profitably used. Those comfortable with image editing software will likely be able to transfer these steps to their own programs. If not, a manual specific to image editing within your own software would make an excellent complementary purchase for the course.

The chapter on RAW file use and conversion left me completely stumped once again , but we were soon moving into the practical topics of printing and presenting digital photographs, followed by image capturing and management. Included in the appendix are fabulous time saving charts that lay out quick and easy answers for those of us who have difficult times composing our own formulas such as: output sizes of various camera resolutions in inches, standard image formats and their image and file sizes, etc. Even if you’re like me and have a tricky time thinking of what these tables represent at the moment, you’ll find them a huge time-saver at the end of the book. A glossary, list of additional resources and full index are also included for ease of use.

Working through Digital Photography from the Ground Up won’t likely transform you into a pro, but it will certainly equip you with the knowledge you need in order to embark upon a rewarding journey into digital photography. Just make sure you count the cost; there are some deep, sludgy technical jungles in there that you might just have to wade through. Then again, there are those of us who love to get their waders on and start plowing in; by all means, have at it!

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