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Book Review – Langford’s Basic Photography: The Guide For Serious Photographers Eight Edition By Michael Langford, Anna Fox And Richard Sawdon Smith

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That Langford's Basic Photography is in its eight edition should tell you two things; first, that this book has been thought well enough over the years to be revised eight times, and two, that unless it was revised once a year over the last eight years, it probably has had its roots in traditional film photography.

Both of these conclusions are correct. The first edition was published in 1965 and the seventh edition was published eight years ago in 2000.

Langford's Basic Photography is just under 429 pages in length and breaks out into 15 chapters.  Chapter 1, "What is Photography?" examines the fact that photography is different things to different people. In this chapter the role that photography plays is explored. What are the changing attitudes, and how does one measure success?

Chapter 2, "Light: How Images Are Formed," explains the fact that images are created from light and while you don't need to understand physics to take good pictures, an understanding of how light behaves, and how the lenses form light into images will give you a broader view of the possibilities of what photography can be.

Chapter 3, "Lenses: Controlling Images," takes you a step further in that now that you know how lenses create images, you can now understand how the controls on a lens allows you to alter the image. Chapter 4, "Cameras Using Film," now takes you from the lens to the camera as a whole. Here you will learn about the main camera and the different components. This chapter concentrates on film based cameras, but much of this translates to digital cameras as well.

Chapter 5, "Using Different Focal Length Lenses, Camera Kits," concentrates on the relationship of lens and focal lengths. In previous chapters fixed length lenses were looked previously, now the concentration is on how focal length can affect how an image looks. Chapter 6, "Digital Cameras" describes how digital cameras work and how they differ from film based cameras. Topics like mega pixels and digital zooms are explored as well as the age old question of will the digital camera take over photography.

Chapter 7, "Lighting Principles," describes the six features of lighting; quality, direction, contrast, unevenness, color, and intensity. It is said that the best way to understand lighting is to study it in a studio where you can control the variables. This is what you will do in this chapter. Chapter 8, "Organizing the Picture," concerns itself with composing the image of your subject as a picture. Here you will learn how to recognize and exploit the visual features of your scenes, and how to frame them in the strongest possible way.

Chapter 9, "Films, Filters," is all about making the image permanent. This chapter focuses on the topic of film and the type of concerns that you must take into consideration when working with it. Chapter 10, "Exposure Measurement" shows that whether you are using film or digital, it is the amount of light that is needed to record an image that is the important factor. By using exposure metering you can measure and subsequently control the amount of light that gets to your image.

Chapter 11, "Film Processing," returns back to the topic of film and how to get the best out of your film image. Here the topic of chemicals and their relation to the films that are processed is discussed. Chapter 12, "Black and White Printing: Facilities and Equipment," continues the topic of film and the fact that to get a good print you need a good negative, but it is the print that people see. This chapter focuses on the printing of black and white images.

Chapter 13, "Black and White Printing: Techniques," shows that with well organized facilities and a basic understanding of dark room materials you can now get down to printing your work. 14, "The Digital Image: Post Production" is an introduction to the ins and outs of digital post production. This looks at the selection of software to the selection of a printer. Discussed are the different options from Photoshop to Lightroom to Extensis Portfolio, Apple iPhoto, as well as other products. Chapter 15, "Finishing and Presenting Work," is about completing your work and presenting it to other people in the most effective way.

While the use of film is certainly dwindling, today's digital media still has roots in its film past. If you want to truly have an understanding of professional photography, you have to go back to its roots. Langford's Basic Photography provides that background without forgetting of the digital future.

Langford's Basic Photography has been one of the standard introductory texts for aspiring professional photographers for the last 40 years, and will continue be so for the next 40 years. It leaves no basic stone unturned and will teach you how photography works. If you are getting started in photography, or if you just want to learn more about the basics and traditional methods, then Langford's Basic Photography should be on your shelf.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.