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Vision & Voice: Refining Your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Paperback – Jul 12 2010
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9 out of 10
“David duChemin’s images of people and landscapes never feel posed or artificial. There is a dignity and intimacy to his portraits of people living in impoverished conditions...This book is highly recommended for photographers seeking to refine their voice and style.”
From the Back Cover
What if your image could only communicate one thing: one major idea, overarching theme, or driving emotion? If you identified this, you'd discover your vision for that image—the internal, invisible guiding principle that directs both how you capture the image and how you develop it in the digital darkroom.
Without vision, you likely find yourself flailing both behind the camera and in front of the computer—indiscriminately shooting and arbitrarily moving sliders in hopes of stumbling upon something great every once in a while. With vision, you bring direction and intention to both the creation and development of all your images.
Vision & Voice: Refining Your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroomis about identifying your vision and using Lightroom's Develop module to give voice—that outward expression—to your vision. Photographer David duChemin begins with the fundamentals of a vision-driven workflow, where he discusses everything from vision and style, to the importance of mood and color, to the crucial role of histograms and of getting the best possible digital negative to work with. After demonstrating how the Develop module's tools affect the aesthetics of your image, duChemin then offers a straightforward approach to developing your images in accordance with your own personal vision: identify your intention, minimize the distractions, maximize the mood, and draw the viewer's eye—all while leaving room for play and serendipity. Finally, duChemin applies this approach to 20 of his photographs as he takes you into his own digital darkroom and, beginning with the original RAW file, works step by step through the development of the final image.
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The book starts out with a few chapters devoted to explaining what the author means by vision and voice. He says that every photograph really contains three images: the one the author had in mind when he took the picture, the one captured by the camera and the one created in post processing. He then goes on to discuss a vision-driven workflow, emphasizing intention, aesthetics, and process. He lays out a few principles next, like making blacks black, utilizing the histogram and even shooting in raw. He then discusses each of the tools in the develop module of Lightroom, but rather then give you a technical explanation, he offers his ideas about how those tools can contribute to the photographer achieving his or her vision. He finishes the book with twenty of his own images (much like Ansel Adams, in "Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs") in which he provides step by step descriptions of how he used Lightroom to transform those images into what he envisioned. There are copies of the images on-line that one can download to follow duChemin as he works the digital captures.
If you are one of those photographers who is interested in images that look as much like what was before your lens as possible, this probably isn't the book for you, although from my point of view, this book is probably just what you need. But if you are interested in creating (dare I say it) art, you must read this book.
As I read this book, I felt like I was watching a high-wire artist. So many authors say they will tell you how to be creative, and then end up explaining exposure and focus, but losing sight of the creativity. I kept waiting for duChemin to fall into the same trap, but he kept his footing all the way. Even when he told you that he had set, say, clarity to +90, I understood the artistic purpose of the move.
If you are familiar with Lightroom, you can just read the author's description of how he processed each picture. However, even skilled photographers will benefit from following along with the downloaded images.
This book will also prove useful to Photoshop users since the Adobe Camera Raw engine is the same as the Lightroom engine, although the latter has a more intuitive interface.
A great critic, Mark Schorer, spoke of technique as discovery, indicating that it was through the application of technique that the artist revealed his or her vision. David duChemin demonstrates the principle in this book.
Next, a threat. If you bought this book thinking it was an item by item how to, and then trash it online, I'm going to break a chain letter rather than send it on to you and you'll have 7 years bad luck. Seriously, though. If this isn't what you thought it was when you bought it, return it or sell it. That wouldn't be the book's fault.
Finally, the gold star review...
DuChemin has several titles that talk about vision and voice. Many of them are very inexpensive eBooks available on his website,[...]. It's taken me about a year to understand what he's saying. I've got the voice part down, thanks to this book. When you see a picture from Ansel Adams or Anne Liebowitz, you don't need to see the signature to know who took it. In other creative genres, when you read about a hard-boiled detective, you know it is Hammet or not. Same with Monet or Picasso. They all have a voice.
Vision is a little harder to explain. When you take a picture, there was something that made you choose what to include or leave out, something that drew you to put camera to eye, something you wanted to capture. When you begin post processing, that initial view is rarely what you had in your mind. Vision is taking the image and making it tell the story you intended to tell, the way you wanted to tell it.
The first third of this book tries to explain both of these complimentary concepts in much more detail and in a much clearer manner than I've done here. (And with apologies to the author if I've messed it up; these aren't easy to define in a few words.)
After that, David takes you through his process, starting with a zeroed image (the RAW file from the camera) and explains what he did and why he did it from before he clicked the shutter to the moment he was ready to print. You do get to see sliders and adjustment brushes, but you see them in action; in context.
As David goes on to explain the process of realizing his vision (and by extension, as we readers use the concepts and techniques to realize ours) he talks about how people process images. He has a ten point bulleted list of what the eye goes to first. Things like Sharp before soft, warm colors before cool, etc. Then he writes a sentence that sums it all up, "This is the WHY of this book: understanding how to gently lead the eye through the image, to say to your viewer, 'Look here,' and to do them the courtesy of creating images that don't tire them out from the effort to discern important elements from unimportant ones."
If you are at a stage where you can benefit from guidance on how to make better pictures, as opposed to how to simply better exercise the features of your camera and software then this book is for you.
For me, it came at just exactly the right spot on my learning curve. More than that, when I read it again next year it will provide a second boost since I'll be able to absorb ideas that are still beyond my ability.
This book has my highest recommendation.
Then, along comes duChemin with this gift: a philosophically driven, technically sound book on putting Adobe's Photoshop Lightroom in its appropriate place... behind the artists vision... as instrumental for expressing one's voice. The technique isn't the end with this work... it's the means.
At first, I was nervous at the scope of ambition this book took on. But, in the end, the author does not disappoint. Making the case for placing vision central but then giving technical insight on what, when and how demystifies Lightroom as a tool while giving context to why its function can so ably serve its master... namely, the creative wielding that tool.
This is both an inviting book for the new photographer and reframe for those of us who've been at it for a while. I was genuinely inspired as I read and was moved to see my world a little differently because of it. More than inspiration though, it went one critical step further and offered me what I needed to more ably make good on my new dreams thanks to Adobe's powerful tool (the unsung hero in this review).
I believe this is the third book penned for photographers by deChemin. I hope he's just getting started though. When it comes to vision and voice, he's certainly found his. That said, I believe his legacy will be in how he empowers an industry to go further still.
This is a brilliant work and I highly recommend it.
Almost all digital photography books are geared toward one of these two audiences. David du Chemin, however, has written a book for the rest of us.
This is a Lightroom guide that dares to begin not with endless screenshots of menus, but with several chapters on Vision and Voice. In other words this book is as much about why one is bothering to take an image in the first place, as it is the step one takes to create final processed image in Lightroom 3.
It is about intention. It is about having an emotional roadmap. Because what difference does it make that you can use an adjustment brush to selectively adjust the Clarity on a portion of your image, if you don't understand the effect that will have on the mood of the overall image? And what good is it knowing that you can make a Clarity adjustment to affect the mood of the image, if you don't know what mood you wanted to create in the first place?
But with that said, this is not a stodgy, anti-software book. Far from it. In fact, du Chemin is unapologetic about in his advocating that digital post processing is an essential part of modern photography, with unique tools (compared to film photography) that are worth exploiting to their full capacity. Because it's not about what you do to an image, it's why.
And this book will show you how, as long as you are first thinking about the why.
To that end, you will not learn about every, or even most features, in Lightroom. This is not the only Lightroom book you'll ever need, if you are new to using the program. But, especially if you've been tinkering for a while--or have another Lightroom manual that has made you dizzy with its in depth coverage of every Lightroom feature--this book will effect the way you process your images, and make you more deliberate in your choices. And, yes, you will learn plenty of step-by-step techniques for adjusting and refining RAW images into the finished ones featured throughout the book.
The book begins with 90 pages about finding your voice that I didn't connect with, followed by an introduction to most of the adjustment panels, and then 20 examples of processing RAW files. Kudos to the author/publisher for providing DNG files for the images for download. The best way to learn post-processing is hands-on.
Processing the 20 DNG files in the second half of the book will work pretty well as a Lightroom primer for beginners. If you've already gone beyond the Basic panel in Lightroom and are already using tone curves and local adjustments, there may not be much here for you.
As an experienced Lightroom user and instructor, I had two major issues with the techniques presented in this book:
1. On multiple image examples the Exposure is pushed beyond clipping and Recovery is used to pull back the blown highlights. Setting the white point with Exposure and then using Brightness to control the Lights would yield better highlight protection and image contrast. Only use Recovery when necessary.
2. Clarity is over used in many cases due to completely glossing over capture sharpening. Balancing lower Clarity settings with more attention to capture sharpening can give you more control and subtlety.
I don't want to downplay the importance of experimentation and play that are core to duChemin's thesis -- these are hugely important ideas that are key to keeping your work creative and fresh. However, it's important to note that most beginning and intermediate photographers who want to learn Lightroom would be better off reading Martin Evening's book first to develop strong fundamentals as a springboard to heading off into these more difficult territories of vision and voice.
Everyone reacts differently to teaching styles and methodologies. Just because I didn't connect with the author's style doesn't mean you won't love this book. I recommend checking out duChemin's blog and affordable Ebooks to see if his way of explaining the art side of post-processing is for you.
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