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The Art of the Photograph: Essential Habits for Stronger Compositions Kindle Edition
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What makes Art Wolfe’s photographs the ideal visual material for this book—aside, of course, from his being one of the most outstanding photographers in the world today—is the amazing variety of subjects he captures. He travels the world, photographing everywhere from the Palouse to Antarctica, photographing people, landscapes, even abstracts. In fact, he advises you not to limit yourself by self-identifying as a particular type of photographer but, instead, to be open to everything. One of the valuable concepts I’ve learned from the book is to be looking for the photograph, not for the subject.
The chapters are titled “Finding Inspiration,” “Discovering the Subject,” “Constructing the Image,” “Camera and Lens,” “The Elements of Design,” “Color and Black-and-White,” “Light and Composition,” “Creative Solutions,” “The 10 Deadly Sins of Composition,” and “Equipment and Workflow.” The chapters offer springboards to help you formulate your own philosophy of and approach to photographing; this is not a “how to” book of the technical aspects of photography.
One of the great strengths of The Art of the Photograph is that it is conceived, in part, as a dialogue between the authors and the reader. This is vitally important. If you’re going to teach something as complex as Essential Habits for Stronger Composition (the book’s subtitle), you have to provide the opportunity for the student to appropriate the material for themselves, to reflect on how it applies to them. This is achieved by questions for reflection at the end of each chapter. So, do keep a notebook as you make your way through the book, not only to jot down your reflections but also to make a note of concepts that pop out at you as particularly important.
One of my favorite parts of the book (as well as the most challenging) is Chapter 9, “The 10 Deadly Sins of Composition.” Here is your moment of honest reckoning, as you acknowledge which of these sins you are guilty of. Come to terms with those “sins” of yours, improve your work accordingly, and you’re well on your way.
One word of caution, and I highlight this because inevitably someone is going to criticize the book for something it wasn’t intended to do: Aside from basic exposure information, Art does not go into detail about how he captured and processed each photo. That’s not the point of having the photos in the book: the point is deftly expressed by another master photographer, Dewitt Jones, in his foreword: “Don’t analyze them, just experience them. You are in the presence of one of the finest photographers of our time; let his images instruct you. Let your eyes understand the lessons that the text will eventually teach your brain.” In other words, make the photos and their individual elements your own; let them help you to be an active learner rather than a passive recipient of information.
Not only is The Art of the Photograph an indispensable resource for the individual learn-on-your-own photographer, but it would also be an invaluable text for a college-level course on composition for photography majors. Professors in art programs, take note.
“The Art of Photography” is aimed at teaching inexperienced photographers about image composition. There are chapters on inspiration, subjects, image design, equipment (to the extent it influences composition) and so forth. There is even a brief section on workflow, suggesting the order of considerations in making a photograph and then processing it in Lightroom. The book is illustrated with Wolfe’s elegant photographs and Wolfe himself has written a brief autobiography as well as short comments at the end of each chapter about particular photographs or series of photographs. Sheppard provides most of textual instructional material in a clear, easily understood manner that is practical.
The book aims at fundamentals and frankly has a lot of competition from other books that cover the same ground because most photography educators agree on the extent and content of the fundamentals. Occasionally the book strays beyond the fundamentals as when it discusses compositing pictures in Photoshop, but this seems to be more to alert the tyro photographer as to what he or she can look forward to as skills develop rather than to actually instruct. In the same vein are the discussions of Lightroom software. Even a whole book devoted to that subject would still leave room for further instruction. But be wary of the title; it will be probably be a long time before a beginning reader will be able to capture Art like Art Wolfe.
Still, for a photographer who has not yet absorbed all the fundamentals, this book ranks at the top of the list. Experienced photographers are unlikely to learn anything new, although they may benefit from the authors’ frequently repeated advice to break out of a limited view of subjects and composition.
am very pleased to report that The Art of the Photograph is the newest addition to my list of favorites. Art and Rob cover all he usual suspects , such as use of line, color, and so on, but they do so in a way which is fresh and engaging. No significant amount of space is wasted covering the usual cliched content which is predictably found in most books (like the rule of thirds, the bigger the light the softer the shadows, the sunny sixteen rule, and so on), I don't know how to describe the approach they have taken except to say that it is profoundly different and far more effective, at least for me. Virtually every page had some nugget of information that made me slap my forehead and say, "wow."
And of course the photography is absolutely stunning. Art Wolfe is a true master, and his photos are a sheer joy to view. This is easily one of the top three books (for ANY skill level) in my library, and I am so grateful to have found it. You will be too.
Over the course of ten chapters, you'll learn about how to approach a photograph, look for and use elements of design in your compositions, identify the characteristics of light, and even use post processing tools to correct or enhance your images. Along the way, there are plenty of sidebars with useful technical tips that are relevant to the particular topic being discussed.
The writing is clear, concise, and well organized, and the sample photographs are equally inspiring as they are instructive. Each chapter ends with a summary of the topics discussed, through a list of questions to ask yourself when approaching a particular aspect of a photograph you wish to make. Between each chapter, there is a two-page segment showing a photo (or set of photos) from Art, and his thoughts about the subject, or idea from the previous chapter.
Outside of a few minor areas where a topic might be over simplified (such as on B&W conversions, where the authors describe the 'best' way of create B&W images), the book does a wonderful job presenting all major aspects of good image making. I wish this book had been available when I was starting out in photography. I've read literally dozens of composition books that always felt lacking, but this book puts everything together perfectly.
While there may be little new to learn here for the experienced photographer, if you're a fan of Art's work, you'll still likely enjoy browsing through the book for the wonderful collection of images. Some of Art's most iconic images are contained inside, and you might find some background of some of your favourites (case in point, the spread on page 168 has Art's "Sunrise on the Ganges" photograph, which is favourite of mine).
Like other Art Wolfe books, "The Art of the Photograph" does not disappoint. If you're an intermediate photographer looking to learn to improve your compositions, this is should definitely be on your short list of books to read. Highly recommended.
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