Saturday, August 17, 2013

Book Review: "How to Photograph Absolutely Everything" by Tom Ang

It goes without saying that if you really want to study the art of photography, you have to look at a lot of pictures. Now that we have the internet, half of that is possible, but the understanding part of the equation can go missing with the constant back-and-forth that goes on in today's photography forums. Enter the old-fashioned world of books. How to Photography Absolutely Everything is a beautiful book with lots of practical advice for beginners and late-beginner photographers. There's not a lot of discussion about technical matters, which suits it's purpose as Tom Ang does a good job of keeping the reader focused on the act of image-making rather than getting bogged down in details. Think of it more as a book of inspirational material rather than a technical Bible. Eventually, the reader is going to want to move on, but for the intended audience, taking more pictures is likely just as important as taking better pictures.

This isn't a very deep dive into the craft of image making. Compared to Michael Freeman's "The Photographer's Mind", this is both larger in page count but paradoxically shorter in the amount to read. There is instruction provided, but it's a more fundamental level. Rather than a lengthy dissertation on each subject, it's the pictures that do most of the talking.

However, if I'm honest, while gorgeous, Tom Ang's books sit on the shelf next to a few other excellent authors... such as the aforementioned Michael Freeman and the venerable John Hedgecoe. Ang's photography displays the technical expertise that you would ask of a photography teacher, but there's just a bit missing in terms of craft making. I find that I can learn a lot from Ang's pictures, but they don't always have that compelling sense of wonder that would qualify them as "the best" in terms of image making. Call it inspiration or elevation... there's just something missing that's not compelling me on a personal level; otherwise the competence is clearly there.

However, How to Photography Absolutely Everything is nonetheless beautiful, and aside from being an educational read, it also doubles as a coffee book, which is something the publishers ostensibly had in mind  as the dimensions of the hardcover version are a tad on the awkward side for holding while reading.If that is the case, you could do worse than having an accessible teaching source ready at a moment's notice in your living room.

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