Digital photography


Understanding an application, and being able to use it properly, will give more of a speed boost than any clock-cycle jump or extra RAM. Many of us would prefer to have manuals - that's books, not PDFs - included with software and hardware, but they aren't, so an extra £30 or £40 is often the cheapest and quickest way to increased productivity. The number of books available for single applications can be bewildering. When it comes to a subject area - in this case digital photography - it's impossible to track the competing titles. There are manuals aimed at Dummies, Bibles at pros, and books at coffee tables (these technical tomes, however, are more likely to scare off afternoon guests than get them talking). At the beginners-end of the spectrum is the Digital Photography Pocket Guide. This short book covers a surprising number of topics, but it lacks the depth of other guides. There are sections on everything from memory cards to taking outdoor-portrait pictures. The advice isn't limited to the purely technical either: handy tips include "Don't show frustration" - although this is missed out of the 'Take Interesting Shots of Kids' section. Positions and angles are also covered, as are depth of field, aperture control, and more. The language used is simple and precise, but there's little information on image editing beyond getting photos ready to email in Adobe Photoshop - iPhoto is barely mentioned. At only £10.50, this is one of the cheaper books, but it's missing much information. Situation room,/b>
Also cheap, and also aimed at beginners, is Digital Photography in Easy Steps. It's detailed in some areas - for instance, image editing - but sketchy in others. The chapter on taking pictures is less than 20 pages, and the advice is often on specific shots, rather than general tips for many situations. The buying advice is a waste of space in a book such as this. Prices and specifications develop over time - the Web, and, of course, Macworld are much better sources for this. Also unhelpful (when compared to Digital Photography Pocket Guide) is the memory section, which includes advice on floppy disks - no good for Macs. The book does well on image editing, with Apple iPhoto, Adobe Photoshop Elements and KPT Goo covered. However, pictures - except for iPhoto - are exclusively Windows. Unlike the other books reviewed here, it's in full-colour - a massive boon for digital photography. This book guides novices through everything from buying a camera to printing photos - ambitious in a large-typed book of under 200 pages. Although easy to understand, all but the most computer illiterate will outgrow this book quickly. With no hint of Windows bias (or Windows for that matter) is iPhoto: The Missing Manual. This book has all the thoroughness expected from a Missing Manual, and despite the iPhoto tag, goes beyond looking at just that - however, this does not extend to Photoshop or other image editors. The digital-camera buying advice is detailed, with a long list of features to look for, such as manual and automatic focus. Price is also covered here, but in a general way, so suggestions won't date. Again, the language is simple and unintimidating, allowing readers to follow advice rather than decipher it. The section on printing - which can confuse the most experienced Mac people - will answer almost any question. This book comes into its own when looking at iPhoto, pictures and Mac OS. It explains how to create QuickTime files, export to email, make screensavers and picture CDs. This version of the book was published before Apple's iLife announcement, so expect the next edition to feature the more recent iPhoto 2. David Pogue is a co-author of this book, and it shows. The understanding of Macs is unquestionable, and the advice and tips great. Unfortunately, its iPhoto focus means anyone looking for a more general guide will find it limited. However, this is an iPhoto book that delivers more than you'd expect, rather than a digital-photography book that offers less. Digital Photography for Dummies has the pluses and minuses expected from this series of books. As ever, the advice is clear, simple and generally easy to access. On the downside, it sometimes feels patronising - Chapter 2: Mr Science Explains it All, for example - and jokes often fail to reach Bobby Davro level. The book explains the advantages of digital-cameras over film - unfortunately, this section highlights a flaw: US-centricism. The prices are in dollars; although again, the value of having prices in a book like this is dubious anyway. Beyond this minor quibble, the explanations of pixels, colour, image - editing and printing are excellent - and it also uses colour plates to illustrate points. The guides to tweaking pictures in Photoshop are great, but iPhoto - because of the book's cross-platform emphasis - is barely mentioned. Also, all the screens are from Windows, although keystrokes are listed for both Mac and Windows. The chapters on taking pictures are especially useful. The book goes beyond the basics, and makes complex topics - such as white balance - seem simple. For Dummies is the most wide-ranging of the books on test, and contains something for everyone. However, its attempts to be funny can muddle its clarity. For instance, one section is tilted 'Avoid the digital measles', which is easily overlooked when looking for ways to sort blotchiness.
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