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Book Review: Take Your Photography To The Next Level By George Barr

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Success in photography is like success in anything else, growth comes in steps. You spend time learning your craft and about the time that you begin to think that you are becoming accomplished in it, you find someone else who is a little bit better, or you become more critical and find that there is something missing that you can't quite put your finger on. George Barr, in his book, Take Your Photography to the Next Level: From Inspiration to Image will attempt to do just that — show you what is missing.

Take Your Photography To The Next Level is for the photographer who strives to achieve a higher level of results in their work. It is based on a series of essays that were published on the Luminous-Landscape and have been expanded, updated, and added to with new essays. It is 199 pages divided in to six main chapters. There is also a forward by Michael Reichmann from the Luminous-Landscape.

Chapter 1, "Seeing," begins by stating what should be obvious, but I believe is missed by many photographers. To see, you must first look. According to the author, the single most important exercise for any photographer is to study the work of the masters. You must make a study of your particular interest, and of other styles of photography. You must not only study photography, but paintings, and even sculpture. In this chapter the author helps you understand how to see.

Chapter 2, "Finding Images," challenges your ability to see, to extract the image from the setting. Just because you see a rusting old truck, does not mean that it has to be the center of your image. In this chapter, you will learn how to "work" the scene. The author includes tips and techniques for when you know that there should be an image, but it is just not coming at you.

Chapter 3, "Composing" an image is certainly an important factor in capturing a great image. In this chapter you will learn some exercises that will, over time, allow you to compose great images in your head. You will explore complexity, centers of interest, decisions, compromise, framing, and cropping.

Chapter 4, "Assessing Images," explores what it takes to truly assess images. Many times you come back from a shoot only to be disappointed in the images that you have created. These disappointments can come from a number of sources. Here the author gives suggestions on what you should do; one of the most important in my opinion is to not discard those images that you think are bad. Here he gives his top ten reasons that images fail.

Chapter 5, "Mind Games," shows that even photographers can get into ruts and get a form of "writer's block." You begin to think that your images are too similar to each other, or that you can't create a good photograph. In this chapter you will explore 12 ways to challenge yourself.

Chapter 6, "Take Your Photography to the Next Level" is all about what it takes to move to that next level. According to the author, most of us spend many hours "agonizing over technical issues (sometimes not even the right ones), while mostly ignoring the aesthetic." In this chapter you will begin by finding your level, determining where you are. Then you will learn how to get help to assess your level. Finally you will learn how to move on to making better images to the next level.

Take Your Photography To The Next Level is a motivating book, focusing on what it takes to evaluate your skills and how to improve upon them. It spends a lot of time reinforcing scrutiny of photographs and examining what makes them good and what constitutes problems with them.

While there are many great photos in Take Your Photography To The Next Level, there are also many inferior ones that the author shares as a way to evaluate one's work. By treading into rarely discussed aspects of successful photography, one can really learn to grow as a photographer. This is not a technical book, but rather more of a practical aesthetic book that will develop your photographic eye.

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About T. Michael Testi

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