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The Photographer's Mind: Creative Thinking for Better Digital Photos Paperback – Sep 28 2010
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"In this volume, Freeman contemplates what makes a photo gripping, appealing, or beautiful, breaking subject matter, lighting, and composition into component parts and defining and discussing each. Filled with examples at each step, the elements of a photo are organized into three sections - intent, style, and process - with examples of the transformations possible using digital technology surveyed in the final section. This is a superb guide, thought provoking and useful for photographers at all levels."--SciTechBookNews
"In Freeman's follow-up to his popular Photographer's Eye and Photographer's Eye Field Guide, he generously shares experience he has gained as a professional photographer to improve the quality of the digital pictures nearly everyone is now creating. The content is streamlined into three chapters, on intent, style, and process, that tackle both the practical and the intangible aspects of photography more thoughtfully than many similar books. Freeman is as adept at explaining composition as he is at discussing the problem of cliché or the philosophy of the sublime. Suitable for all who are serious about improving their photos."--Library Journal
"The Photographer's Mind is Michael Freeman's follow up to his best-selling book, The Photographer's Eye. Containing more than 400 images with schematic illustrations showing how and why they work, the book is targeted at serious amateurs, intermediate as well as professional photographers."--Photography Blog
"Freeman's latest offering reaffirms his place as a skilled photographer and deep thinker with much to impart about the variety of mental processes at play when viewing an image."--DPReview.com
From the Back Cover
The source of any photograph is not the camera or even the scene viewed through the viewfinder-it is the mind of the photographer: this is where an image is created before it is committed to a memory card or film. In The Photographer's Mind, the follow-up to the international best-seller, The Photographer's Eye, photographer and author Michael Freeman unravels the mystery behind the creation of a photograph.
The nature of photography demands that the viewer constantly be intrigued and surprised by new imagery and different interpretations, more so than in any other art form. The aim of this book is to answer what makes a photograph great, and to explore the ways that top photographers achieve this goeal time and time again.
As you delve deeper into this subject, The Photographer's Mind will provide you with invaluable knowledge on avoiding cliche, the cyclical nature of fashion, style and mannerism, light, and even how to handle the unexpected.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
recommend the book for its discussion about composition
also, the "Google" tags for searching further about different photographers, and schools of design are great
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
It is difficult to overstate the importance of this book to the literature on the composition/design (c/d) problem, not only in photography, but also in the drawing/painting arts. For the first time a potential text is available that provides the basis for a spiral curriculum in practical imaging, starting from the elementary writing that dominates the topic, through the intermediate level of Freeman's earlier "Photographer's Eye" (PE), and Mante's and Hoffmann's books, now to "The Photographer's Mind" (PM) at the advanced level. Throughout the text, actually a number of essays, Freeman weaves insights from the standard and highly regarded theoreticians, such as Arnheim and Gombrich, to the more current insights from visual psychology and brain studies on visualization, to art history and other writing on the c/d problem.
PM is a very worthy extension of PE, taking analysis of the structural components of an image done in PE to the next level - the photographer's intent, or the purpose of an image and how to define that and use the work flow of digital photographing to achieve a desired reaction from or convey a message to viewers. The material in PE needs by now to be second nature, done without conscious deliberation for the most part.
PM starts where PE left off, but in inverted order. The fifth chapter in PE on "Intent" is now an entire first section in PM. Freeman examined different kinds of "intent" in PE as contrasting pairs, starting from the most basic, conventional versus challenging. In PM, he moves on to considerations the photographer should make of a photograph's presentational context: what is right in one context may be less effective in another, which may require a whole other "look." He does National Geographic's commentaries on photographing more than one better in his initial chapter on the "layers of subject." Freeman examines this topic in more textual depth and with more illustrations than NG does among most of their books and photographers' commentaries put together. Other topics look at beauty, clarity versus ambiguity, and ending with hiding in plain sight, the visual delay.
The second part of PM, "Style," is not really a continuation of the first several chapters in PE on the nuts and bolts of compositions, but on using those techniques to create a particular style of image. Yes, that's right, a style for potentially each separate image, as opposed to a "photographer's style." Why this approach? Well, digital photography has democratized the act of photographing to the extent that it is a universal activity. It now may be easier to notice who does not photograph or video than who does. It is, therefore, ever more difficult for a photographer to stand out over the long haul based on a "style," but more necessary for one to have mastered the old and the new to meet the need or intention of the moment, assignment, or project. Those who have invested the most in mastering composing and manipulating new technologies to individualize the effects of each image will win and be noticed. Training and mastery count here; this is not the stuff of the "I'm OK, you're OK" art training that prevails today. "Getting closer" eventually becomes a prescription for boring photos, if that is as far as one takes creating stronger images, despite what Capa said.
In the "Style" section, one highlight is the finest, most detailed, comprehensive essay on classical, static, and asymmetric balance I have seen anywhere, especially paired with the one on "opposition." I was stunned with how he managed to apply the musical harmonic measures covered in Bouleau's book to practical photographing in the essay on harmonics - not something I had figured out how to use in quick photographing. He wraps up this section with essays on the main range of styles in contemporary photography defined into four categories. This grouping covers the lens-timing-lighting aspects of composition inherent in the debates and conflicts between modernist and post-modernist adherents who may to greater or lesser degrees operate from behind a manifesto or within a philosophy.
The third section returns to the "process" by which, at least, this photographer solves creative, compositional problems at the time of shooting. In PE, he looked at reactive shooting in depth. He returns to that for a while in the essay on "interactive composition," wherein he examines his own reactions to changes in a situation and his reactions to them. The final set of topics he considers in this section is to define and analyze an image's "look." This concept, with the infinitude of hyper-precise digital processing techniques, is now a much more evident characteristic of one image or a collection of images. Freeman categorizes and examines in detail the stylistic components of what can be manipulated to achieve a certain "look" in a manner that was not feasible to any similar degree with film.
Freeman, among all photographers and painters, is almost alone in his ability to articulate in precise, meaningful ways his thoughts on composing and, in particular, how he manages the task. There is no art critical jargon and hand waving here. Each page is packed with information, often presented in novel ways and using differing emphases. Beyond using text, pages of captioned illustrations, and some of the best instructive diagrams I've seen anywhere to make his argument, he also summarizes or restates a topic or isolates a specific point in boxes - a sort of Power Point presentation within the book, and gives the reader tiny boxes with lists of web search terms pertaining to the subject at hand.
As a first entry in the literature of advanced topics in composition/design, this is a most worthy contribution, on its own merits and for opening a new level of discourse. Both Freeman and his publisher, ILEX, are to be commended for taking the risk to publish this level of material, not aimed at the beginning amateur market, where the publishing numbers are. PE is a best seller by any reasonable measure, and PM is a worthy next step for those who are hungry for objective, well-stated assistance in improving their photography, or, in fact, their image-making in any medium.
Bravo, Freeman and ILEX. May risk in this arena continue to be worth taking. We want more writing on this level and quality.
Sure, if you don't buy this book, you won't regret it because you'll never know what you missed. And if you never take your camera off AUTO there's a lot of other things you won't regret because you won't know what you missed. But the tragic fact is that you will have missed nearly everything. Don't continue to wake up in the middle of the night, screaming "OhmyGod! My entire portfolio is filled with high resolution snapshots!" Buy this book and it will repay you in ways you can't yet imagine.
As with other Freeman books, the text is really dry and uninspired. The writing has a very academic style and often crosses the line into boredom. The first two chapters on "Intent" and "Style" were mostly really tiresome to read and contained very little instructive value. These chapters contained a collection of short, but meandering and pointless essays that contained random tidbits of art history, cultural trivia, personal anecdotes, etc. At times, I wondered whether or not this was even a book about photography. I didn't find any of the information here actionable or instructive.
Things get better past the middle of the book. There was a section on "Leading the Eye" and "Opposition" that were interesting, and Freeman discusses techniques used in painting that also can work in photography. From there, the real highlight of the book were the example photographs and accompanying text. There are some really good insights here into elements of a strong photograph. The main text that preceded the examples continued to provide very little value, though. If these chapters were rewritten to contain more images and commentary on those images, it would have had much more instructive value.
The final chapter on "Process" was thought-provoking. Freeman describes how images fall into different kinds of categories (or "templates" as he calls them), and by analyzing your own pictures, you may find which styles you are most attracted to. This can help you in the process of "hunting" for new images when you are in the field. There was also a particularly interesting segment on "Interactive Composition", which contained a series of photos from one of Freeman's shoots that illustrated the process of creating a photograph. The book ends with some essays describing different "looks" your photograph can have, and how they are achieved (a number of these topics are really about post-processing). These were interesting, but not remarkable.
I almost came away hating this book, and was close to the point of putting this book down and not finishing it because of how awful it starts off. However, I was pleasantly surprised with how the book finished off. I think you could skip the first chapter entirely, most of the second. Instead, read from half way through the second chapter, through to the end, and focus on the photographs and example text rather than the main text. If you do that, I think you'll have a much better experience with this book than you would otherwise.
Seeing beforehand, thinking through, if you will is an amazing helpful and constructive process. I have used it for years in all aspects of my career in the arts/publishing/design industry. Here Freeman walks you through numerous aspects of photo composition that need to be practiced beforehand in order to get the photographs you want, not the ones that you almost got! Everything here is good advice, there are no wrong turns or "wasted suggestions", straight and to the point. Accompanying all of his suggestions and advice, Freeman gives myriad examples of before and after possibilities and results that (should) make it crystal clear to the inexperienced what he/she needs to do to make (it) a better photograph. Remember, the world of Digital is not the same world as conventional, and Freeman points these things out and up for you clearly and succinctly.
Well written in clearly articulated English, I cannot imagine that anyone would not be able to maneuver through this truly great book and NOT come out a BETTER photographer.
This volume is certainly one of the best and most clearly written (therefore helpful) books to aid photographers or "would-be's" that I have seen. I heartily recommend it to both experienced and non-experienced photographers. Unlike many "help" books, this one will not just sit uselessly on your shelves!
The quality* of this book is certainly exceptional, top quality all the way, and this is a good thing when you're reading/thinking about good quality photos....you should be able to SEE good quality printing of examples that the author is teaching you about.
You'll enjoy your new-found "photographer in your mind" and how "it" works to allow you to take great photos beyond your wildest expectations just by "seeing" differently. Remember "beforehand"!
Happy picture-making to you!
*I was in the printing/publishing/graphics industry all my effective working life from age 16, and when I state that something is quality printing and binding I do really know what I'm talking about..... ;-)
Overall, I enjoyed this book and found a lot of the concepts for taking more creative photographs interesting. But I found the level of detail poorly matched to many of the concepts...in other words, there were sections where the author tosses out what seems like an interesting idea but doesn't go into much depth on it, while in other sections he flogs what seems like a really obvious concept absolutely to death. For me, it doesn't really lend itself to being read straight through, as it gets a little repetitive due to the format, although the individual sections are interesting when read in small bites.
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