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The Digital Photographer's Notebook is well-written, easy to read, easy to implement, and most of all, practical.

Book Review: The Digital Photographer’s Notebook By Kevin Ames

"Photographers live in the moment when shooting and I believe we do the same when in front of the monitor," claims Kevin Ames, the President of Ames Photographic Illustration, Inc., a photographic studio that specializes in commercial photography, retouching, and post production services.

In his book The Digital Photographer's Notebook, the author will attempt to show you what can be done, using Photoshop CS3 (including the Camera Raw plug-in), Lightroom, and Bridge, to manage your portfolio, and create head-turning photographs. He shows you what he has learned in the last 30 years as a professional photographer, and the last 15 while making the transition to digital.

The Digital Photographer's Notebook is 342 pages long divided into 21 chapters and four parts. I will break this review down into the four logical parts. The author wants you to know that this is not a compilation of his articles of the same name that have been published in Photoshop User magazine — rather this is a restating, and updating of the topics, and thought processes, and presents them in the light of the new Adobe products.

Part 1, "Acquisition: From Capture to Computer," begins by talking about the shoot; whether on location, or in the studio, it all begins with the capture. In this case, the location is Africa in 2001. Looking back at the kind of equipment that was available at the time, and what is available now, it is really quite remarkable — both from a hardware, and software point of view. Ames also explains about the problems that can arise from location, such as dusty conditions.

You will also learn about working with Adobe Bridge, and how it can be used to import, and rename your files, why you should backup your files, how to apply Metadata, and how to set your white balance. Next you learn about shooting tethered — that is, your files go directly from your camera into the computer. This can be really good when shooting in the studio, as it gives you instant gratification. You will also learn about getting the light right, and quantity vs. quality of light. He also shows you why you should go out and shoot some clouds.

Part 2, "Management: From Computer to Archive," shows you why you can get into trouble managing your images if you don't take control early on. Here, Ames begins with the Metadata, and how it can be used to manage your files. From here, he shows you how to name your digital negatives by providing some guidance on what, and what not to do when naming your files. Once you have managed this, you need to archive; but just backing up may not be enough. This is followed up with the use of Lightroom Catalogs, and why they should be used.

Part 3, "Showing Off: From Archive to Review," takes us down the road to working with the files. Here you learn some techniques to bring out the best in your images. Ames discusses the differences between JPEG and RAW, as well as what a digital negative is. You will learn more about Lightroom, and what it can do for you. You will explore color correction, and tweaking exposure. He explains about web photo galleries, and how you can take your images to the NET. He also gets into email presentations, and how templates can make your job easier to generate contacts.

Part 4, "Photoshop: From Review to Completion," explores what can be done with using Photoshop to create images. Here composite images are explored, as are Black-And-White conversions; where he uses Channel Mixer to do his conversions. Here you will learn a bit about Photoshop Actions for automation of tasks. He then looks at enhancements, and retouching photos. At this point he shows you how to fix blemishes, clean teeth, and brighten eyes.

Part 4 continues with how to lighten without lights. Sometimes what you see is beyond the ability of the camera to record — at least in a single shot. Here Ames shows you what you can do with HDR, or High Dynamic Range imaging. Here you learn how to create a perfect shot without the perfect lighting. Ames finally finishes up by talking about how to overcome other interior nuances.

I predict that the The Digital Photographer's Notebook will become a classic in the annals of Photoshop books. It is well written, easy to read, easy to implement, and most of all, practical. It is not a "how to do everything in Photoshop" — rather it is a walk-through that makes a lot of sense. It gives you some tips and tricks along the way, much like if you went over to some old friends' to learn how they work, and process through their images. I highly recommend The Digital Photographer's Notebook.

About T. Michael Testi

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

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