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Notions on how we photograph and process photographs may need to be thrown out to create a workflow that is not a helter-skelter mess.

Book Review: Digital Photography – Expert Techniques, Second Edition by Ken Milburn

In Digital Photography: Expert Techniques, Ken Milburn takes the approach that because digital photography is such a new art form, we really need to step back and take a look at what we are doing. Our darkroom is no longer what it used to be and techniques in photographing and processing photographs may need to be thrown out to create a workflow that is not a helter-skelter mess.

Workflow, in regards to photography, is such a bantered-about term that in many ways it has lost much of its meaning. According to Milburn, “The organized process of creating a finished photograph… starts with an idea and ends by being shown or passed onto other people.”

Further, and in my mind more importantly “…when a change in the interpretation of the image is required, it is possible to go back only to the specific state at which the re-interpretation must be made.” I do not think that I have heard anyone espouse such a simple, but important statement within the confines of a photography book. And this is only in the preface.

Ken Milburn's approach to each topic is simple, concise and to the point. He does not assume that you know everything on each topic; instead he makes his points and allows you to determine if the content is relevant to your needs. Because of this, I have gained from this book a lot of insight that is lacking in other books on photography.

Digital Photography: Expert Techniques, is not about how to do things in Photoshop as much as it is about the best way to accomplish a task. According to Ken, “Because the book is called Expert Techniques, I felt obligated to take the reader well beyond even Photoshop CS, delving into all the third-party, extra-cost software that can sometimes solve a problem in a (often uniquely) better way.” This is apparent in his approach

There are many common sense items such as what to pack before a shoot and what to have on hand. There are things we all should know and do, such as have multiple batteries on hand. Something I had to learn the hard way (and now have two extras). However, there are simple tips: it is better to underexpose than overexpose; Once you lose details to washout you cannot get them back; Or, take shots in program mode to get a feeling for speed and exposure before returning to fully manual mode.

Milburn explains how to use Adobe Bridge for doing raw conversion, applying metadata, and adding copyright information. He also gives some compelling arguments for converting from raw to DNG, Adobe's digital negative format. By having it in a common standard, five, ten or twenty years down the road, you will still have a raw format available when your camera's format no longer exists.

More importantly, Milburn feels you should you follow the examples of professional photographers who deal with workflow on a daily basis. Because they do it hundreds of times a day, they have worked out the problems. From their experience you can develop efficient skills to take your work to the next level. That is where the expert techniques are so important.

Ken Milburn started his career taking publicity photos of Hollywood starlets and shooting album covers for several music labels, including Capital Records. His work has been featured in Design Graphics Magazine and Computer Graphics World. He is also the principle author of 20 computer books, mostly on Photoshop and digital photography.

Mind you, this book expects you to be comfortable with Photoshop and computers in general. If you are, Digital Photography: Expert Techniques will take you to the next level of photography expertise!

About T. Michael Testi

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

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