Friday , March 1 2024
The new standard on how books on photography -- or the creation of any artwork for that matter -- should be written.

Book Review: ‘From Basics To Fine Art’ by Julia Anna Gospodarou and Joel Tjintjelaar

From Basics To Fine Art simply put, is the new standard on how books on photography — or the creation of any artwork for that matter — should be written. It is a book that will guide you toward creating works of fine art especially within the realm of architecture photography. The key point here is creating. Creation is not the act of snapping a picture. Creation is something that takes time, some determination, but most of all artist participation. Ansel Adams once said “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” This is the kind of standard that you will find within the course of these pages.

From Basics to Fine Art
From Basics to Fine Art

Much like the masters of photography, Adams included, the work doesn’t end when the shutter has been pressed. In fact, at this point, the work has only just begun. In this book you will be taught everything from how to visualize your image, how to capture the image using the techniques of long exposure photography, and how to bring it to completion using methods like photographic drawing and the use of the ‘Rule of Grays’. From Basics To Fine Art is 424 pages in length and is contained in 33 chapters.

The main focus of From Basics To Fine Art revolves around architecture and how to use architectural points of view to create art. The fact is, the concepts that are derived throughout the course of this book are fully applicable to just about any photographic genre. That is, this is more than a book on architectural photography, but rather it is a book on photography that is about taking the time to think about what you are doing, consciously making decisions about the outcome that you want to create, and purposely executing that vision in such a way that it becomes a reality irrespective of the amount of time and effort that it takes to bring that vision to light.

From Basics To Fine Art begins with what makes not only a good photograph, but what makes a photograph become a work of fine art. This comes down to being able to not only capture the object that you are photographing, but having the ability to dig deeper and capture the essence of the subject that you are capturing. In the case of architecture, this would be your interpretation on what the architect was visioning when they creating the work. In some cases how this subject integrates within the space that it is contained is also necessary to integrate as well. This essence is effectively the soul of the image. This formation of vision lays the foundation of this book.

Once you formulate your vision you can then begin building the composition of your image. This is how you begin to bring your image to life by determining where the main focus of attention is to be. Many of these techniques have been basis of all photography for years and has to do with subject placement, viewpoints, angles, lights and shadows, as well as other fundamentals of image creation yet this is where From Basics To Fine Art also diverges.

From Basics to Fine Art
From Basics to Fine Art

The authors take these techniques and merge them with the methods of the centuries old traditional fine art masters. It is through the unique use of light, shadows, light placement, and volume rendering that makes this work so different. This last item; volume rendering, is a technique that is used in classical drawing and in From Basics To Fine Art, you will be introduced to the technique of Photographic Drawing or how to see light like an artist.

In order to “see” in black and white you will learn another technique that is called the Rule of Grays. In a black and white photograph, you want to use almost no black and almost no white, but rather you want to use the spectrum of variations on gray to create your image because that is where the details reside. Much of this is born out of the traditional Zone System, but it is integrated into the techniques of volume rendering to give it the detail that is not possible when capturing an image.

Then From Basics To Fine Art gets into the details of capturing the image. It is here that you will learn about the techniques of traditional architectural photography as well as the equipment and settings that are used to capture large structures. Depending on the exact type of photography that you are pursuing, lenses such as a tilt-shift lens might be necessary for shooting tall buildings to compensate for keystoning, wide-angle lenses may be used for capturing other angles, and longer lenses would be used for more cityscape types of images

From Basics to Fine Art
From Basics to Fine Art

You will also be introduced to the tools you will use to capture long exposure images. In context of this book, long exposure refers not to the length of time for an exposure, but rather the ability to capture objects in motion such as clouds or water. Here, long exposure is accomplished through the use of neutral density filters and often times when used in stacks of two or three filters to stop-down the exposure of the camera as much as 19 stops resulting in exposure times of between three and seven minutes. This will give water a silky appearance and clouds will appear blurred with streaks of white.

You will then take a look at a typical workflow for processing this type of long exposure fine art work. This is where the real work is done. Here is where the deliberate creation of your vision occurs. You will see how to process your black and white image using interactive selective gradient masks (iSGM) which is a technique that was developed to give you complete control over your creation. The point in all of this is to remember is that there is not a right or wrong way to accomplish your vision, other than having a final goal in mind and working to make that vision a reality.

From Basics To Fine Art finishes up with a set of pricing guidelines that, while not always realistic for every job, are a target to where you want to shoot for if you are wanting to have a professional reputation. There is also a large gallery of both artists work as well as a listing of equipment and software that they recommend.

From Basics To Fine Art is by far the most complete and well written book on photography that I have read in years. At over 400 pages, I would not say it is an easy read, but more of an educational one. There is no fluff here. It is the quintessential ‘Start at the beginning and continue until you get to the end’ type of book. Throughout I have made notes and essentially dog-eared pages I would want to go back and review. It is that enlightening!

From Basics To Fine Art is a must read for anyone who is looking to make their way into the world of fine art. Yes it does focus on architectural fine art photography, but the core concepts transcend those areas and are really valid for any kind of photography. From Basics To Fine Art can be purchased for € 49 for buyers in the Euro zone, 39 GBP for buyers from the UK, and $59 for buyers from the US and the rest of the world. Currently it at Julia Anna Gospodarou Fine Art Photography as an eBook, but they are currently working on a print version as well.

If you are looking for methods for quickly creating works of art, do not look here, but if, on the other hand you are looking to create artistic pieces that will stand the test of time, if you are looking how to really make a difference in the kind of work that you create, if you are looking for the real world definition of creating a photograph, then I very highly recommend From Basics To Fine Art.


About T. Michael Testi

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

Check Also

Cover Dead Still

DVD Review: ‘Dead Still

If you like your mysteries a little off centre and a bit strange then 'Dead Still' will suit you perfectly. A period piece of a differnt sort.

One comment

  1. Both Joel and Julia Anna have books on videos on how they do their work. They spend about 95% of the time on the basics of taking a photograph which you probably already know if you are thinking of taking on this type of photograph. About 5% is dedicated to processing the part you really want to know (this is the only bit that makes their work different to other architectural photographs). This bit is vague, with major jumps without explaining. It requires a complete mastery of using Luminosity Masks before starting because they don’t explain them. Both charge quite high prices for their books and videos and I have to honestly say they are almost a complete waste of money. They don’t want to give away their secrets but you pay a high price to find this out.