Photographically Speaking: A Deeper Look at Creating Stronger Images Paperback – Oct 11 2011
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About the Author
An assignment photographer specializing in humanitarian projects and world photography, David duChemin has been creating compelling stories with a camera in hand for over twenty years. A passionate contributor to the international photography community, duChemin's first book, Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision, received worldwide acclaim for its vision, passion, and depth. David has shot on five continents for assignments and projects covering places as diverse as Paris, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, India, Nepal, and Mongolia. Find David online at Pixelatedimage.com.
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Top Customer Reviews
In addition to the book content exactly matching what I was looking for I find it amusing and easy to read - instead of feeling like I'm learning from a textbook this reads like a conversation with another photographer. There are examples, metaphors, explanations, and ideas to ponder along with uber-inspiring images. I could not have asked for more and am completely pleased with my purchase. I will be buying more Duchemin books!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
On of my biggest frustrations as a photographer when talking to others about their work is how little they are able to discuss why they like certain photographs and what it is about those photos that make them unique to their vision. With so many people creating and showing great images, it is not enough to just be a good photographer. You have to be a creative photographer whose work stands out as different from others. I have found that to understand how your work is different and what your sense of aesthetics are requires a vocabulary/grammar to discuss the work so that you can continue to push those elements in your work that are unique to your vision.
David does a good job in this book by helping the visual artist begin this process. The book starts with some background on how David came to this book and what to expect. He spends some time discussing vision and intention in photography; and how vision is often times lost in conversations of gear, technique and tangible skills. In these early pages, much of the conversation is about the nature and intention required in the building of a "good photograph"
The second part of the book looks at two critical components of a photograph. The first is the elements within the image and their impact on the viewer. Elements such as lines, color, repetition and light are discussed in-depth as a language to discuss images rather than as a set of rules that need to be followed to create a good image. The second component is the decisions that are made when the camera is pointed at the subject and the shutter clicks. From lens choice, focus points, to framing and exposure; all these critical decisions are often made very quickly with little thought while shooting. David provides a chance to look at the impact of these decisions, and how we can use our awareness of these components to make more interesting photos.
The third part of the book is a collection of David's images where he spends a lot of time looking at the application of the conversations in the earlier chapters of the book. We get to look at not only a variety of photographs and subjects, but also exactly how David uses these concepts in the creation and post-production of his own images. I found David's openness and honesty refreshing. He is willing to talk about what worked and didn't work for him and things he might change in the future. Having 20 examples of David's work builds a great foundation to start with before taking on your own work.
As I said, I am a fan of David's work; and I think he has an amazing gift to write so that you feel as if you are talking over a cup of coffee. He finds a way to make the conversation seem to be both educational and conversational at the same time. I have found him to be great mentor over the years and look forward to continuing to use his guidance to improve my own art for many more years.
The beginning of the book talks about photography as a means of communication of the photographer's vision, and defines a few concepts that the author uses throughout the remainder of the book, particularly "Message, Elements and Decisions". The selection of an Element or Decision should enhance the Message. Next he discusses what he calls Elements, like line, light and moment. For Decisions he considers topics like framing, placement and exposure. Finally he presents twenty of his own photographs, explaining how the Elements and Decisions explicate the Message.
Early in the book the author discusses photographers who say they don't need to understand what he means by Message, Elements and Decisions because they say they shoot intuitively. DuChemin charitably suggests that the best of these have probably internalized those elements. The remainder are probably just lazy photographers who would probably most benefit from duChemin's analysis but are those most unlikely to try to understand it. (This harsh conclusion is mine, not duChemin's.)
This is an excellent book and the author's analysis of his photographs will prove useful to readers in trying to internalize the concepts of Message, Elements and Decisions. Sometimes I disagreed with the author's conclusion that a particular technique had enhanced the meaning of an image, but even in those cases, I believed the examination of the technique would ultimately improve my own photography.
The concepts presented are not new and have been presented in many other photography books. In fact as I read, I wondered why he had not stuck to the traditional terms of description and analysis of the arts, like form and content, or technique and product. Although the author does not explain the advantage of a new taxonomy, he obviously feels that it will help the reader to get a better grasp on the underlying concepts. I'm not certain that it does, but on the other hand, it certainly is no worse than the more traditional form. In any event, my own belief is that multiple approaches to concepts help us to get a better grasp, and reading duChemin can only help, even if you are an experienced photographer.
It seems to me that the author's earlier works, like "Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision" served to develop concepts that had not been emphasized enough to photographers. This book covers ground that studious photographers will be familiar with, but the path may be more attractive.
The majority of the book is about the philosophy of photography with the image reviews towards the end. Now, I think this is beneficial to those recently entering photography but for those of us who have been enthusiasts or professionals for some time we already have an understanding of this aspect of the field. I have a hard time believing any photographer who is putting their images on public display didn't think about what the message/point of their image was or why they decided to make that specific photograph, yet David spends a lot of time discussing this very topic. He does touch upon some of the technical factors involved in making a good image, but a lot is left out and if you're already versed in this area David's book won't add any new information. One thing he does mention a lot is image ratios (2:3 vs 5:6) and I've never really seen a photographer spend much time talking about this and I'm not sure what restricting myself to specific ratios adds to my images but I am interested to see how it changes the feel of them.
David's writing style is very verbose and descriptive and is very similar to how I end up writing, that being said he spends a lot of time repeating the same points over and over while taking a great deal of time to get to the point. Again, if you're new to photography this may be beneficial to you but after a while I found myself skimming a lot of the pages.
Towards the end of the book he begins the review of 20 photographs. Now, I didn't read the book description that carefully before purchasing it and didn't realize that all of the 20 photographs would be his. I had assumed some of the photos being reviewed would be David's own but in order to provide better insights one should really review other's images. Obviously David is going to like all of the images he included in his book otherwise he wouldn't have included them. Personally I find most of the photos in the book are fairly bland, they're not bad photos but the subjects and framing are often uninteresting and he applies some post-processing effects that leave me scratching my head without ever explaining why he chose to apply those effects. Post-processing decisions contribute in determining whether or not a photograph is bad, good, or great so for him to leave this topic completely out of the discussion means the image reviews are incomplete. I don't recall him ever saying what he didn't like about an image which he could have more freely done if he had chosen to review other photographer's images, so you really only get partial and one-sided image reviews. He also applies monochrome to all of his images to see if he likes them better that way, this seems to undermine the theme of knowing what you want to express with your photos. Personally I know ahead of time if a specific image is going to be in color or black & white and he seems to use monochrome to "fix" images he took in bad lighting.
If you're a beginner this book would be helpful to you in understanding your approach to photography from a philosophical standpoint and you will learn some basic "rules" of composition and how they can be arranged in order to produce a good photograph. If you're already well versed in photography and you know why you take the images you take then this book likely won't add any valuable information. The images reviewed are so-so (although I think "Unseen Too" is a great photo) and the review is biased as they come directly from the photographer that made the images who also neglects to mention what processing he applied to the image and why.
Using the language of communication, he calls the people who look at the images we produce as "readers', not just viewers and he pushes the photographer to think first about the message he or she wants to convey, and then prompts the photographer to consider the multiple tools available to create the message and communicate it effectively, starting with the basic idea of framing the image in the camera's frame.
The book is refreshing and inspiring as only a good kick in the pants can be. Instead of composing and correcting in post-production, he advocates a conscious act of creation in the camera first. It is well-written and includes images, explanations for what he intended to communicate and full explanations of how he used his available tools to carry out his intended message. I found this to be the very best and most useful photography book I've ever read.