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Book Review: Welcome To OZ – A Cinematic Approach To Digital Still Photography by Vincent Versace

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Every so often a book comes along that you know — just from the introduction — is going to be good . Welcome To OZ: A Cinematic Approach To Digital Still Photography is that kind of book. Written by celebrity photographer Vincent Versace, his goal is not to teach you Photoshop but rather to engage you in a method you can teach yourself to create better photos beginning at the point of capture. From the author's viewpoint, there are plenty of books that give you a "12-step" plan to perfect photos, but not one that really teaches you how to see.

In the introduction, Versace introduces nine core concepts. I will share two here as they give a good indication of what this book is all about. First, "There are two 'eyes' that view an image, the unconscious eye and the conscious eye." To me, it is always the unconscious eye that draws me into wanting to create an image. It is the same eye that will draw your viewer to your picture. Sometimes the conscious eye is what takes the picture and processes the picture. The goal is to merge the two into one sight.

The second concept states that "Workflow starts at the point of capturing the image and is dynamic, not static." The core here is to be adaptive, to be willing to improvise – and soon the impossible will be within your reach.

Welcome To OZ is laid out in six chapters. The first chapter, "The Tao of Dynamic Workflow," will show you how to analyze a photograph and develop a dynamic, image-specific workflow. Here the author shows you how to create image maps to properly organize and "see" the image. It works in a method similar to a sculptor and a block of granite. You have to first see what you want to create. Once you master this technique, you will no longer need the image maps. This chapter is about learning how to practice.

Chapter two discusses "Image Harvesting," or recreating what the eye saw. Here Versace explores is the practice of taking multiple images of the same subject, changing the exposure, shutter speed, and focus points. By doing this you can get different depths, lighting and other aesthetics that can be combined later into creating your image. From this you can create the image that your eye saw, irrespective of limitations of light and equipment.

In chapter three, "The Unwitting Ally," you will apply the image harvesting concept to the editing process. You will create the picture that you saw in your unconscious mind rather than creating a historically accurate one. According to the author, this is where the real journey begins. You will be making modifications to direct the viewers eye to where you want it to go and to what you want it to see. By understanding how to control color, you will gain mastery over the images that you create.

Chapter four, "Classic Studio Lighting," will show you how to emulate the look of classic Hollywood glamour photographs. Here the author explains the techniques of George Hurrell, whose photos of Garbo, Harlow, and Cooper defined the style of the glamour shot. First, Versace describes the technique, and then shows how to recreate it using Photoshop.

Chapter five, "Creating a Black-and-White Image from an RGB File," takes the file from chapter four and converts to the black and white image from the '30s and '40s. Without ever leaving the RGB colorspace, Versace shows you what it takes to create a authentic imitation. He also shows you two ways not to take.

Chapter six, "It's About Time," will show you how to place the experience of time into a photograph. This chapter is about capturing the moment. This chapter deals with what is going on within a photograph. Another core concept of the book is "A still photograph is called a still photograph because the picture doesn't move, not because the objects in the picture were not in motion at the time of capture." Here the author shows how to capture the water, wind, smoke, or whatever is giving motion and therefore life to the image.

Welcome To OZ concludes with an afterword by a friend and mentor of Vincent Versace, who also is very anti-Photoshop and anti-post-shot-manipulation. Jay Maisel is here to give a balance of sorts and this is achieved. What this book teaches you is very pro-manipulation. With Maisel, we get the other side of the coin. My opinion is that, as long as all parties are aware that what is being created is not reality, all is fair game. After all, if I buy a Monet or a Van Gough, I am buying a piece of art, a piece of the creator's imagination.

Along with being a renowned photographer, Vincent Versace is an artist. He transforms an ordinary image into a work of art. The pictures he creates are not reality, nor are they intended to be. There is a lot of information contained in this relatively small (224 pages) book. You will not learn Photoshop here, but if you know Photoshop, your depth of understanding of image processing will grow by bounds.

Included with the book is a DVD that includes hi-res images that you are to work with to recreate the examples in the book. Since you will be working with these images and lots of layers, you will need a computer with a fast processor, plenty of RAM, and Photoshop CS2.

If you are looking for a challenge, and you want to take your Photoshop as well as your photographic skills to the next level, then I would recommend you get Welcome To OZ before the sun goes down! It's that good!

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.
  • http://opinesoft.com Reviewers

    The book seemed so well for all type of image lovers. More tan a photographer … a digital image designer should know these things to appreciate & use the stock photos get gets pilled up everyday. A good image is the heart of good design. We felt that this book helps to filter that fine ingredients.

    A must read for designers…

  • http://www.allthisandeverythingelse.blogspot.com/ T. Michael Testi

    Thanks for the Comment.

    I agree, you could add that any artist who deals in the visual arts would take a lot from this book, since the real topic is learning how to see.

    T.