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Book Review: The Digital Photography Companion by Derrick Story

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Derrick Story's book The Digital Photography Companion is sized conveniently enough, like a slightly oversized mass market paperback. And the intent is obvious. Story wants to create a manual that is easy to take along with you pretty much wherever you go (hint: vacations). He follows it up by writing in a conversational style and includes lots of bright color pictures that further increase the reader's engagement.

Story covers both digital SLRs and compact cameras and in an excellent opening chapter, he explains the major differences between the two. Some part of the audience for this book might find the information on image sensors to be too technical – and for them there is enough practical advice to help choose a camera. But for those looking for a more in-depth explanation, this is a great hook.

Right after that Story lays out the features and functionalities of digital cameras in alphabetical order. This I felt put the book in camera manual territory. I own an old Canon Powershot G3 and while Story was describing the features (somewhat mechanically) I felt his book offered no more value than my manual (which is very well written, by the way, and a text that this book squarely competes with).

Once we are past this alphabetical cataloging, the book really starts to shine. How does it do that? By offering lots of practical advice on how to create and take great pictures, sometimes by replicating studio settings with low-tech contraptions. For example, Story shows you how to devise your own light meter, shoot in rain, bounce light off household reflective surfaces, and trick your camera's white balance.

Besides being very useful, these tips also offer terrific insights into how the digital camera works. It enhances your understanding of the instrument you are working with.

Later the book also contains a useful chapter on how to post-process your pictures using software. Story covers a number of popular packages such as Apple iPhoto, Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, and Microsoft Expression Media. I would have really liked to see Story cover some web-based image editing applications in order to get in touch with Web 2.0 technologies.

There is also coverage of printing your pictures, a detail in the book that I really appreciated. And instead of trying to cover printer features and explain how to choose a printer in depth, Story keeps the focus on the camera by creating a short table with specific printer recommendations for different types of users.

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