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The Photographer's Mind: Creative Thinking for Better Digital Photos [Paperback]

Michael Freeman
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 28 2010

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 goal time and time again.

As you delve deeper into this subject, The Photographer's Mind will provide you with invaluable knowledge on avoiding cliché, the cyclical nature of fashion, style and mannerism, light, and even how to handle the unexpected.

Michael Freeman is the author of the global bestseller, The Photographer's Eye. Now published in sixteen languages, The Photographer's Eye continues to speak to photographers everywhere. Reaching 100,000 copies in print in the US alone, and 300,000+ worldwide, it shows how anyone can develop the ability to see and shoot great digital photographs.

*Written by the author of The Photographer's Eye.

*Provides you with invaluable knowledge on avoiding cliché, the cyclical nature of fashion, style and mannerism, light and even how to handle the unexpected.

*Contains over 400 breathtaking images from real photographic assignments, with schematic illustrations of how and why the images work.


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Review

"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

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.


Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A different kind of photography book April 16 2011
Format:Paperback
I love that Freeman looks beyond the technical and talks about the creative aspect of photography and the process behind it. I would definitely recommend reading The Photographer's Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos first as a lot of the ideas in The Photographer's Mind: Creative Thinking for Better Digital Photos rely on those discussed in ...Eye, but it's not absolutely crucial. Having the things that photographers do intuitively broken down a bit more explicitly has really helped me to look at my own work more critically and make some decisions that I may not have considered before reading it. I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about photography as an art.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars will change you way to see the world Feb. 25 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
you think you can see the world making it look good with your DSLR... This book will help you see the world differently. Please, go with the "Photographer's Eye" first as before; will be a bit more logical.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Photographer's Mind Nov. 12 2010
Format:Paperback
chapter two - worth the purchase price alone!
recommend the book for its discussion about composition
also, the "Google" tags for searching further about different photographers, and schools of design are great
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  62 reviews
115 of 127 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The First Book on Advanced Topics in Photographic Composition/Design Oct. 10 2010
By T. Campbell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is the first book in English to look at topics in photographic composition and visual design in a practical manner from an advanced standpoint. It is the current approach for digital photographers to Ansel Adams's concept of "previsualization."

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.
48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Few and Far Between Nov. 14 2010
By Axeman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As some reviewers have noted, Freeman has written a lot of books. Okay: all thinly disguised envy to one side, this much is true, but hardly anyone has put out a book like this. Once you're done digesting the differences between P,A,Tv and M modes that every other book out there is going to put you through. Once you've gotten your fill of photography manuals that always seem to be more about Photoshop than photography, BUY THIS and read it again and again. This is not a how to do, it's more of a how to BE and how to SEE. This book along with Freeman's "The Photographer's Eye" should be on the shelf of every dedicated professional and amateur out there. As photographer's we're all chasing "the defining moment," and no modern photographer out there other than DuChemin ["Within the Frame"] who's actually writing books understands this impulse and its importance and the road to get there better than Freeman.

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.
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This book could be so much better Aug. 21 2011
By Alan Shi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Like other books I've read from Freeman, I was really hoping to like this book, but came away disappointed. I did enjoy this book more than Freeman's other books, but for the first 2/3 of the book, I thought it was mostly a disaster. Things got noticeably better towards the end, and I came away with the overall impression that this book would have been far better with stronger editing and removing a good portion of the first two chapters.

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.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars teaching you to SEE! Dec 8 2010
By Gregory E. Foster - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I have been involved with drawing, painting, designing, etc., and of course with photography, for nearly all my life, and have (I guess) naturally sort of taught myself how to "see" something beforehand. Thus, I find myself wanting to heap tons of praise onto Michael Freeman for what he has done here with this book to "help" photographers or would be photographers with "what you (can) see is what you (will) get".

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!

~operabruin

*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..... ;-)
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intellectualizing Photography Nov. 13 2010
By Conrad J. Obregon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In the introduction to "The Photographer's Mind: Creative thinking for better digital photos", Michael Freeman notes that art criticism, photography or otherwise, seldom addresses itself to the practitioners of the particular art, photography or otherwise. He sets himself the ambitious goal of explaining how technique can be used to make a photograph "good" (whatever that means). Although he does not say so, if he could accomplish that task his book would be highly useful not only to photographers, but to viewers of photographs who want to increase their understanding of the art.

He begins his exploration by considering a question that has engaged aestheticians since the time of Plato, "What is beauty?" From this jumping-off point he explores ideas like cliché, and techniques like the reveal, which slowly makes the viewer aware of the subject of a photograph. Fortunately the language he uses is far more accessible than that of, say, Immanuel Kant. Next he moves on to the question of style, which consists of the package of tools a particular photographer uses repeatedly to express his or her vision. He does this by discussing concepts of composition that experienced photographers will be familiar with, like the rule of thirds, but his exploration examines why these concepts work, rather than just describing the concept. This work seems to follow up on the ideas presented in his earlier work, "The Photographer's Eye" but a prior encounter with that book is not necessary to understand this book. Generally he focuses on techniques that draw the viewer's attention to the subject of the image. He does discuss styles that vary from the traditional, like what he calls "low graphic style", and others that characterize the more avant-garde photography of our time. In the final chapter of the book he describes what many photographers call "working the subject", that is capturing successive images of the subject, each one hoping to improve on the last, or at least, varying the composition from the prior capture. He also examines "the look" of images, concentrating on approaches that have been made easier through digital processing, like hyper-realistic and luminous images.

Ultimately he fails to clarify what makes a photograph "good" and I am not surprised because this seems an almost impossible task. What he does do is to heighten a photographer's sensitivity to techniques, many of which a photographer may already use. This heightened sensitivity can help the image-smith make an even "better" photograph.

At the risk of criticizing Freeman for not writing the book I would have wished, I think he failed to capitalize on the controversial work of many modern art photographers, like Andreas Gursky or Jeff Wall. It seems to me some further discussion of what makes this kind of work "good", at least in the eyes of some viewers, might have illuminated the techniques that Freeman discusses, even for those readers who find contemporary art photography unattractive.

Reviews seldom comment on the bibliography of a book that is essentially about technique, but if one pursued the books referenced by Freeman, one could make a significant beginning into applying a more intellectual approach to making photographs. Freeman's book is certainly a step in that direction.
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