Profile for W. J. Murphy > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by W. J. Murphy
Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,041,763
Helpful Votes: 64

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
W. J. Murphy "Hooked on Books" (Yorkshire, England)

Page: 1
Light, Gesture, and Color (Voices That Matter)
Light, Gesture, and Color (Voices That Matter)
Price: £25.83

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but..., 25 Nov. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This book has some really good insights, and I learnt about the art rather than the science of photography. It's not about which aperture value to use. Some off the images didn't work for me, but that's okay. Art is in the eye of the beholder. Not a book for the beginner.

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
Price: £6.64

4.0 out of 5 stars Really Good Starting Point, 28 Aug. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a very accessible book. I'm not sure if creativity can be taught, but it seems that there are ways of optimising what you have. A place to start.

Speedlights & Speedlites: Creative Flash Photography at the Speed of Light
Speedlights & Speedlites: Creative Flash Photography at the Speed of Light
by Lou Jones
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.22

21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flash of Inspiration, 30 July 2009
Good flash photography has always seemed like magic to me: from a distance, there seems to be little rhyme or reason to how it works, but the result is that the mundane is transformed into something special. To me, it is one of the things that distinguishes the professional from the enthusiastic amateur (i.e. me).

Because of that I've recently investing a lot of time in trying to understand that "magic", and when I heard about this book ([...] ), I knew that was what I wanted to read next.

So what did I know about flash photography at the start? I understood that it was a cardinal sin to keep the flash on the camera, and that counter intuitively (at least initially), you often should use a flash in bright sunshine. The flash balanced the very bright sunlight, and that turned out to be called fill light.

As you might have guessed, there's a lot more to it than that, and the main barrier seems to be that success comes from experience rather than memorizing theory. Often when I've tried what I've read about in books, it just doesn't work as advertised, and I realise that I might have read it, but I didn't really understand it.

This book mixes theory with practical examples from real-world shoots. The book is divided up into two main parts. The first explains how flash works using both Canon and Nikon flash systems (hence the title). This is a huge advantage if you're a Canon or Nikon shooter, because you can relate the information in the book directly to equipment you already have, or can have.

The main learning that I took away from this first part was a new and expanded understanding of how TTL systems work. Essentially in the old days, photographers had to do a lot of calculations. They had to know how far subjects were from the flash and the camera, and how much output the flash or flashes could produce etc.

TTL (either Canon or Nikon variety) takes care of all of that for you, and makes life a whole lot simpler. Of course, you have to understand the basics of how a photographer might want to use a flash, otherwise you won't realise just how clever Canon and Nikon have been.

For me, this book really drove all that home. It also explained when TTL might not be appropriate, and I now finally understand why the shutter speed controls the background lighting, and the aperture the subject lighting.

The second half of the book explores what you can do with multiple flashes. What I took away from this section is that for all but the most basic lighting, you need to plan. You need to pre-visualize what you want to end up with, and you need to work out where to put lights. You need think through what types of shadows you want, and exactly what you're trying to achieve. If that sounds like a lot of work, it's because it is. After a while, it becomes second nature, but there aren't any shortcuts.

This is a book that I'm going to read again (and again), because there's so much in it. I tried out what I thought I understood, and I discovered that I had to pay more attention to the text. That's because good flash photography isn't easy.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone who wants to take their photography to a new level.

Black and White in Photoshop CS4 and Photoshop Lightroom: A complete integrated workflow solution for creating stunning monochromatic images in Photoshop CS4, Photoshop Lightroom, and beyond
Black and White in Photoshop CS4 and Photoshop Lightroom: A complete integrated workflow solution for creating stunning monochromatic images in Photoshop CS4, Photoshop Lightroom, and beyond
by Leslie Alsheimer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.95

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A five star book that just needs to be a little more accessible., 12 July 2009
I heard about this book on Photoshop User TV (I can't remember which episode), and it was one of those moments of serendipity: I was experimenting with black and white, and this seemed like a good way to replace luck with judgement. Could the authors pull that trick off?
The book's title suggests that it is specific to Photoshop CS4, but actually it's relevant to CS3 users too. (I'm still with CS3.) In broad terms the book starts with a large amount of background theory and history, which leads into practical advice on how to use Photoshop and Lightroom to turn colour digital images into black and white photographs with impact.
The theory and the history is gathered together into a prologue of about 18 pages. From what I can tell, the purpose of this section is to encourage the reader to think about the what before she thinks about the how. By that I mean, this is more about the philosophy of what you as a photographer/artist are trying to achieve rather than the nuts and bolts of what you can do with a particular slider in Photoshop or Lightroom.
Some people will love this, but others will find it rather heavy going. The authors understand that they are exploring a complex area, and believe they have succeeded in simplifying it through (for example) the use of metaphor. Of course what is a gross simplification to experts in a field can still be perplexing to the lay person.
The highlight of the introductory section for me was "Seeing in Black and White", because it was the first section that offered something that I could directly apply. Still nothing about PHotoshop and Lightroom, but plenty about how to take better photographs that are suitable for transformation into black and white. For me this is key, because software can help turn a good photograph into a great one, but it can't raise the dead. If the original material is sterile, then nothing can be done.
Chapter 1 discusses why colour space is important to black and white imaging. We're still not doing anything to photographs, but we are finding out that the environment within which we work is important. It turns out that there are many ways of representing colour, and that colour itself can depend on the environment you view it within. When you process images you need to understand the environment within which you are working, and also the environment within which they will be displayed.
Chapter 2 discusses how to get the best image as starting material. It talks about using RAW format to capture as much information as possible, and getting the right exposure. There's a really good section on reading histograms, and a section on scanning. I don't scan in photos, so I skipped over it. The chapter finishes with a section on dealing with noise.
Chapter 3 explores the Lightroom user interface, and how it integrates into Photoshop, and it is in chapters 4 to 7 that we finally engage with the business of creating black and white images. These chapters are really well done, and I felt that I learnt a lot about what techniques to use in different situations. I tried out all of the techniques, and at the moment my favoured way of doing conversions is to use Lightroom. You can see the results of my experiments at [...]
So how do I feel about this book? It's not for the faint hearted, but it's worth the effort. It reads like a textbook in places, which might put some off. I think I'd add an example tutorial at the start of the book as a teaser. I think this would give readers a hint of what they will learn if they persevere. Make no mistake, anyone who goes the distance will learn a lot. If I were to score this book for content alone, it would be a 4 or a 5, but I think the authors need to revisit making it accessible. Perhaps interweaving theory and practice would be a way forward. With regret I gave it a 3, because I don't think many people will read all of it. If you really want to learn, you should though.

The Photoshop Lightroom Workbook: Workflow not Workslow in Lightroom 2
The Photoshop Lightroom Workbook: Workflow not Workslow in Lightroom 2
by Seth Resnick
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.80

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lightroom and More, 28 Jun. 2009
There are many books about Lightroom on the market, so it's getting harder and harder for authors to set their particular book apart from the crowd. Have Seth Resnick and Jamie Spritzer pulled it off? I think they have, so read on.
This book steps back from doing an exhaustive and exhausting blow by blow account of the Lightroom module/menu system, preferring at first instead to place the program in the context of a photographer's workflow - hence the title.
Based the experience of running more than 60 workshops (according to the foreword), and an obvious knowledge of how camera techniques and technologies work, the authors lay a foundation that makes the various Lightroom capabilities and features make sense. Once you understand why the features are there, it's much easier to see how they can be useful.
This is what is happening in the first three chapters of the book, where roughly 42 pages are dedicated to helping you understand what a digital camera actually does. This turns out to be subtly different to film photography.
An example of this is where the reasons for actually slightly overexposing your photographs are clearly explained. This is definitely worth reading, because it was rather counter intuitive to me. So much so, that when I read it, I immediately checked it out in LIghtroom on some photographs that I had accidentally over-exposed. Blow me down, it's true!
This has resulted in me changing the default registered settings on my beloved 5DmarkII with very happy results.
Chapter 4 explains how the Lightroom catalog works. This section was less of a surprise to me, because I'd already discovered in another book that all photographic information is held in a database, which can be queried, and that in fact Lightroom is actually a very powerful digital asset management system. That doesn't take away from the clarity and completeness of the description here though.
The remaining chapters are module by module descriptions of Lightroom, concluding with an example workflow that readers can adapt to meet their own preferences and needs. As I wrote earlier, there are many books doing this, but because of the groundwork at the start of the book, I still found myself paying attention to it, and mumbling "ah, that makes sense now". That particularly applies to the chapter on the Develop module, and the sections on printing. If you don't understand how exactly the sensor in your digital camera is recording the light, then it's easy to do more harm than good. Controls that I previously ignored, suddenly became part of my workflow. The Develop module tone curve and its little sampler are examples of this. Now I can control my highlights and shadows with having to use that rather clumsy brush tool!
This book not only changed the way that I use Lightroom, but also the way that I take my photographs. Even if you already understand digital sensors, it's a very good Lightroom reference. If there's any downside, it's that the faint-hearted might be put off by the amount of information, but it's worth the effort. Recommended.

How to Cheat in Photoshop Elements 7: Creating stunning photomontages on a budget
How to Cheat in Photoshop Elements 7: Creating stunning photomontages on a budget
by David Asch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.40

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How to avoid buying Photoshop!, 6 Jun. 2009
So what do David Asch and Steve Caplin mean by cheating? Before I read the book I thought they meant that using Elements rather than Photoshop for post processing was cheating, but in their introduction they say that what's on offer is shortcuts to creating photomontages. The cheat is in the shortcut and in the notion that a montage is a photo of something that does not really exist.
That admission made my heart sink a little, because it's very easy to make a bad photomontage, even without taking shortcuts. By that I mean that when you a "photo" of a giant kitten wandering down Times' Square, you never quite feel convinced about it. Beyond the obvious, there is something wrong that is usually hard to spell out, and at its worst it can just look like what it is, two photos on top of each other.
To be worth reading, this book would have to get past that somehow. Did it? For the most part, yes.
In broad terms, the structure of the book is:
Explain how to make complex selections in Elements 7
Explain how to use layers
Explain to how hide bits of layers non-destructively
Given the previous techniques, show how to make the resultant montages look convincing
Making selections in any package (Elements/Photoshop/GIMP etc) is one of those things where you can pick up the basic techniques in a few hours, but spend years trying to practically master how to do it. This book helps with the former, but only experience enables the latter. That said, the main techniques are brought together in one place, and there are some nice examples. These do look a little artificial, but that's because they need the techniques described later in the book to appear more realistic.
The section on managing layers is perhaps the weakest part of the book simply because it is so short. People have written entire books on this topic, and the examples the authors choose are a little simplistic. There is some good information on layer styles though.
On a more positive note, I quite enjoyed the section on masking non-adjustment layers. Adobe has handicapped Elements by only allowing masks on adjustment layers, and the authors have found a couple of neat ways around this. If you consider the price gap between Elements and Photoshop, this justifies the price of the book all by itself. It is at this point in the book that the authors move from bringing together what most Elements users probably already know to helping readers to make their montages look more than simply a mash-up.
Techniques include how to convincingly change the colour and lighting of objects in an image. The authors also talk about less obvious things that often make the final result hang together very well.
Along the way to montage nirvana, several other nuggets are strewn. We learn, for example, about sharpening techniques, making rainbows and adding motion blue. Faking fire and smoke also get a mention. I had mixed feelings about this. It did seem a little off topic, but it doesn't hurt to have them there.
So were the montages convincing? I think they were for the most part. The authors were at a disadvantage from the off, because the reader knows that the finished images were "faked". That meant that images are more likely to be closely examined for any inconsistencies. There were however several images where the before and after shots made me think, wow, they've nailed it.
This book is definitely worth a look if you're an Elements user wanting to do more. It will put off the financial pain of buying Photoshop for a while at least.

Digital Painting in Photoshop
Digital Painting in Photoshop
by Susan Ruddick Bloom
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.18

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Painting without the Mess, 16 May 2009
I spend most of my spare time immersing myself in photography, but there was a day when I wanted to be a painter. I have a basic talent for drawing, and I'm not bad with charcoal and pastels, but I was never going to set the world on fire (even with charcoal!). About five or six years ago, I spotted a magazine called ImageFx, which is all about painting fantasy art on a computer. I absolutely adored the images, and tried to recreate them using the magazine tutorials, and rediscovered that eternal truth: it's not as easy as it looks!
Happily digital cameras came along, and I could move on to something that I had some real talent at, but that urge to paint has never really gone away. When I saw Susan Ruddick Bloom's book, that urge leapt up and started waving its arms! Here was a chance to combine photography with being a "real artist", or at least looking like one to the unwary. I dived in.
The first thing to say is that the author really seems to know old school artistic techniques. She's not an opportunistic photographer that thought money could be made out of telling people how to apply Photoshop's built in "artistic" filters. There is enough background information and detail in this book to convince me that Susan has been an artist for many years, and knows her stuff. The book is very thorough, and if you try out the techniques as you read about them, you'll be there for a while, and have a lot of fun.
The book is very logically structured. After an introduction taking the reader through the tools of the trade, the author goes on to describe the major techniques in the following chapters. Each chapter is introduced with a brief explanation of the old way of doing it, which is followed by how to simulate it with Photoshop, and then one or more worked examples. Don't skip the first chapter though, because it includes some of the best tutorials on how to use Photoshop patterns and brushes that I've seen.
Charcoals are first up, and I've spent many an hour slowly covering myself in black powder, and occasionally creating a recognizable picture. Being able to do this without looking like a coal miner at the end of it would be handy (if less fun). This is where we really get to grips with the "glowing edge filter" for the first time, and this is a tool that Susan returns to very frequently. It's not one that I'd even noticed in my photo post processing work. The final results look very convincing, and I've made a mental note to try this out on a few candidate photos where the focus and/or lighting is beyond redemption. There is a particularly impressive charcoal of a bride.
Pastel drawing/painting is next, and I have to admit that I'm impressed. Because the author seems to know so much about "real" pastel painting, she really understands what she has to simulate in Photoshop, so the images manage to have texture, and that odd colour effect, which is characteristic of the medium.
She then moves on to non-dry media: water colours and oils. I've never tried oil painting, and my dabbling in water colours was very haphazard, so I had less of an interest in these chapters. That said, the oil images looked compelling, and I'll definitely have a go. The water colours were okay, but I have to admit a bias here. I've never been a great fan of that medium. It's too wishy-washy! :-) I like detail and precision (my engineering background), and perhaps I should try to undo that conditioning. Maybe.
The book finishes off with chapters on illustration and 3rd party add-ons. Both are useful, but I enjoyed the previous ones more. The book is not light reading, but for the best of reasons. At the end of it, you'll know a lot more about traditional artistic methods and techniques, and you'll also know how to use them on a computer. Artistic materials are expensive, and you need a lot of space to try them out in the "real" world, so this is a great opportunity to explore them.
Who would read this book? Anyone who is interested in breaking free of the increasingly competitive pack of photographers. Anyone who is learning how to do the real world techniques as part of a course - you'll be able to play and try things out with total freedom. And of course, people who just like doing art! You'll need to be sitting in front of a computer with Photoshop on it to get the best out of the book though, and the information load will probably make your head swim too.

Inside Lightroom 2: The serious photographer's guide to Lightroom efficiency
Inside Lightroom 2: The serious photographer's guide to Lightroom efficiency
by Richard Earney
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.94

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Old Photoshop Dog learns New Lightroom Tricks, 4 May 2009
I was a late convert to Lightroom, partly because I had trouble deciding why it was different from Adobe Photoshop Bridge, and partly because the user interface hides its very bright light under a bushel. I tried out the trial version, and actually removed it thinking it wasn't for me, mainly because I had to keep jumping into Photoshop all the time. I just didn't get it.
I wish that I'd had this book back then. Being an iStock exclusive photographer, I lived in Photoshop searching out even the smallest flaw in an image, and its quirky interface was almost second nature. Having invested a lot of time getting to know the old eccentric, I had neither the time nor the energy to acquaint myself with the new kid on the block. We met, but neither of us knew what to say, so we went our separate ways. Inside Lightroom 2 is a good way to find out what to do with Lightroom. It "bridges" the gap. :-)
The author starts by saying what Lightroom is, and presenting an overview of basic functionality. You'll already know most of this, but the description is coherent, has a logical flow and provides a context for what follows.
He goes on to describe the type of system that you'll need to run Lightroom 2 well. He covers the usual stuff: processor speed, RAM etc, and talks about the advantages of the 64 bit version. The section has a bit of a Mac bias, which is admitted up front, but it still has enough information to be useful to a user of the Windows version of Lightroom. The sections on backup and archiving will be useful to all users, for example.
Next up is a description of the differences between version 1 of Lightroom and version 2. This aspect of Lightroom has been covered extensively on the Web and in magazines, but it needs to be here. I found that although I knew about the main differences, there were little things that I'd either forgotten or overlooked. This chapter builds nicely on the basic functionality chapter, and by this point I felt that I had a coherent picture of what the software did, and I was ready to dive in deeper.
The next two chapters really hit the mark for me. Chapter 4 does an in depth exploration of how to manage your photos. It explores how to best structure your files on your disks, and keyword them so that you can find them. This chapter really drives home the point that Lightroom is actually a database, not a file browser, and at that point the light dawned! I also realized that it would be wise to use more than one catalog. Doh.
A chapter on an example workflow follows this. This chapter brings what's gone before together, and I'm revisiting my photo collection bringing order to the chaos. I now know what to do with filters and smart collections, and no longer jump into Photoshop at the drop of a hat.
The book goes on to look at presets. This really unpacks how presets work, and if you have the courage & time, it shows you how to edit them in a text editor. This lets you duplicate some of the tone curve functionality from Adobe Camera Raw. I'm going to reread this chapter at some point.
The author finishes by reviewing online resources for Lightroom, some of which I knew about, and many that I didn't. It's handy to have even in this age of Google.
What would I change? I think I'd like another example workflow, perhaps of a portrait to contrast with the one on the landscape.
I'm glad that I read this book, and I'll be keeping it close to my computer. It has changed the way that I use Lightroom, and I now only use Photoshop in my iStock workflow if I have a lot of cloning to do.

Page: 1