Book Review: Digital Photography Hacks

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by cmpalmer, Nov 22, 2005.

  1. cmpalmer

    cmpalmer

    301
    Jan 27, 2005
    Huntsville, AL
    I wrote this review for my blog, which has an Amazon Associates link for buying the book, but thought it would be of interest to the Nikon Cafe members as well.

    As a computer engineer, I am a big fan of O'Reilly's line of computer books. The "Hacks" series by O'Reilly is an interesting experiment in collecting 100 extended tips and tricks on various subjects. These tips are "hacks" in the sense of a "quick and dirty" solution to a problem or a clever way to get something done, not anything malicious.

    Since I recently bought a used Nikon D70 digital SLR and have been active on Nikon Cafe, I've been looking for good books on digital photography, but most books are either rehashes of camera manuals, books on general photography with a few side notes on digital, or just Photoshop manuals disguised as photography books. Actually, since digital SLRs deliberately emulate 35mm film SLRs, I've found that books on general photography are very useful, as are books on PhotoShop and Paint Shop Pro (which I currently use - I haven't broke down and bought PhotoShop yet).

    Digital Photography Hacks takes a rather shotgun approach to the whole concept of digital photography. That means that there is probably something in here for everyone, but if you are looking for a complete set of tips and tricks that apply specifically to your needs, you might feel the book is incomplete. Personally, I enjoyed reading them all and got a few good ideas from tips that, at first, didn't seem useful to me.

    There are tips for point-and-shoot cameras, digital SLRs, and even camera phones. Overall, I would say the tips are weighted toward point-and-shoot, but that doesn't mean that DSLRs get left out, as many of tips are general enough to apply to any type of digital camera. While I wouldn't say that everything in the book is targetted to the low-budget or build-it-yourself user, there is that hacker or maker spirit in the suggestions.

    I know that many pros and pro-amateurs will disagree with some of the lower-cost suggestions and I know from experience that you often get what you pay for, but this is also a book about making do with you have and feeling free to experiment. Can't afford a big zoom lens? Why not try shooting through a spotting scope or binoculars with a point-and-shoot? The results probably won't make National Geographic (although they might make the National Enquirer if you're aimed through the right hedges), but you might surprise yourself.

    The book is divided into eight chapters:

    Chapter 1. Digital Camera Attachements (1-15)


    This chapter contains fifteen tips on tripods, monopods, flash brackets, straps and bags, T-mounts, and other assorted goodies. These tips apply to all camera users and include direct product suggestions and alternatives. I found this chapter to be particularly useful.

    Chapter 2. Daytime Photo Secrets (16-28)

    This chapter, as you could guess, covers taking photos outdoors. However, it's not just about landscape photography, as tips are provided for making homemade diffusion filters for portraits, photographing children, controlling depth of field, and even making your own passport photos or experimenting with IR photography.

    Chapter 3. Nightime Photo Hacks (29-38)

    Topics here include slow-sync flash techniques, long exposures, light painting, and the use of various filters for night time shots. There is also a very good guide to shooting fireworks and taking basic astronomical shots, such as the moon and star trails. I found this chapter to be very interesting and I can't wait to try the fireworks suggestions.

    Chapter 4. Magic with Flash (39-46)

    This chapter covers everything from basic red-eye avoidance (hint: it's not always to use the red-eye reduction flash setting on your camera) to how to set up a budget, but professional, studio lighting system.

    Chapter 5. The Computer Connection (47-61)

    This chapter was a mixed bag for me. I learned a lot from tips on file organization and creating better prints, and the section on retrieving deleted files might be useful down the road, but it also contains six or seven tips on editing digital video and creating Quicktime slideshows that, while they might be useful to some, felt out of place in a book primarily about still photography. Obviously, they are there because many point-and-shoot cameras and some cell phones can take video clips as well.

    Chapter 6. Photoshop Magic (62-74)


    Personally, I think O'Reilly should just do a Photoshop Hacks book instead of including these tips in the book. Having said that, these are solid tips and I learned a few things and many of them are directly applicable to Paint Shop Pro, as well.

    Chapter 7. Camera-Phone Tricks (75-85)

    I don't have a camera phone, but my wife and daughter do. I read this tips without much enthusiasm and I will have to say this was my least favorite chapter, but there were a few standouts. I would never have thought to use my camera phone as a way to communicate in a foreign country (#79) or make panoramas with my cell phone (#82). There are also good suggestions in this chapter for making home inventories for insurance and documenting rental car damage that apply equally well to camera-phones, point-and-shoots, or DSLRs.

    Chapter 8. Weekend Photo Projects (86-100)

    This is a great chapter, with how-to's and suggestions for creating photo books, digital diaries, greeting cards, digiscoping, photographing zoo animals and many more. The last tip (#100) is my favorite. Astronomers have used low-resolution cameras to take and combine multiple exposures to reduce noise and enhance detail. Since digital cameras are subject to random noise on long exposures and at high ISO levels, this hack gives you a technique for taking multiple long exposures at night, then stacking them in your photoediting software. By properly setting the opacity of the stacked layers, the random noise cancels itself out and you can make dramatic night shots with extremely long exposures with very little noise.

    As you can tell, I enjoyed the book. Sometimes it's fun to look at things from a different viewpoint and get fresh ideas. The book is credited to a single author, Derrick Story, but there are seven other contributors who provided tips and ideas. The credits section of the book gives their bios and links to their website and blogs, where you can find examples of their work as well as much more in-depth information. That is important, because this book gives you the ideas and the basics - if you get caught up in a particular technique or technology, you'll want to dig deeper. There is nothing in this book that you couldn't learn from the right set of other books or from Google, but I think that the appeal of a book like this is as a broad survey of topics.

    You can read the full table on contents and a few sample hacks at the O'Reilly web page for the book, Digital Photography Hacks.
     
  2. It's always helps to have a personal summary of interesting books to read or consider for one's library.

    Thanks for postiing this, Chris.

    Virginia
    aka beaucamera
     
  3. Great and insightful. Chris.
    Another book all of you would really find useful is "Real World Camera Raw with adobe photoshop CS2 By Fraser. It give industrial strength processing techniques and has been easy to understand.
    Dave
     
  4. Gale

    Gale

    978
    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    Thank You Chris,
    Looks like a great book.

    OMG another book. Not time to read them all.
     
  5. dbirdsong

    dbirdsong Guest

    Another Review

    I too wrote a review on this book, a long time ago too. :smile:
    You can read it by downloading the Sept. 2004 Applegram from the Michigan Apples Users Group site.
    As I remember I think I said it was a book wroth buying.
     
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