Sunday, October 27, 2013

Book Review: Photography: The New Complete Guide to Taking Photographs - John Freeman

Can a photography book from 2003 be of any use to the modern digital photographer? Yes, most definitely yes. John Freeman, along with Tom Ang and Michael Freeman, is one of those authors that is likely to be regularly stocked in your local bookstore. This particular title dates back to the early dawn of the digital age, but was written in a manner about photography that has withstood the passing years. Like many of the classic "how to" books,  Photography: The New Complete Guide to Taking Photographs maintains its focus on picture taking rather than mere camera operation.

Note: This book was updated in 2010. I am reviewing the 2003 version, which is the copy that I have on hand, and which is often found in many public libraries. 

Generally, books of this nature serve three purpose: to educate, to inspire and to entertain. The education aspect is handled well, as the text is clearly written and accessible to beginners without being to rudimentary for more advanced shooters. It's the inspiration aspect where this book really shines. I've written before that I find Tom Ang's photo books to be technically excellent but missing just a little something to stand out. Not so with John Freeman's photography. I find that it's due to two things: the first being Freeman's straightforward photographic style; he is by no means frugal, but the elements in his pictures usually distill down into one central idea, whether it be portraits or landscapes. The second reason is that scale of the images are well chosen. The same image printed at different sizes will have differing impacts on the viewer, but in terms of layout, the presentation of this book draws your eyes in and holds your attention.

The final aspect, entertainment, is met in that this also doubles as a beautiful coffee table book. Your living room guests can enjoy this book without having a deep knowledge of photography. One caveat: like many photo books, there is a section on nudes. Though it would be cliché to say so, they are tasteful and have educational merit, given the size and clarity in which the pictures in this book are printed, you many find some pages curiously dog-eared if you leave it unattended around young boys.

If you need a more current introduction to today's digital landscape, Freeman's later publications will take care of that, but in all honesty, the way in which these books improve your photography have nothing to do with knowing f-stops and focal lengths. Yes, you do need to know those things, but proficiency in itself does not point the way to artistry. Hence a well written, well photographed book will always have a place on a budding photographer's shelf. Would heartily recommend; this is now my third reading of this particular edition.

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