This book is unlike every other photography book I’ve read, and that’s why I like it.  It doesn’t attempt to teach you how to be a great photographer, and it certainly doesn’t waste any space showcasing the authors’ work.  It addresses a very different -and very real- need for photographers: a place to turn when you are feeling less than creative.  The authors don’t want you to sit down and read a book, they want you to get out, take and make photos.  Their job is to give you ideas that can easily be put into action.  …action that will inevitably spark some inspiration.

The book is divided into two parts.  1.) Crafty things to do with your photos, and 2.) ideas of what and how to shoot next.  Personally I enjoyed the second part much more than the first, but in light of the economy and the fast approaching Christmas season I will certainly be implementing some of their crafty ideas for my gifts this year.

No matter where you are in your photographic pursuits there are plenty of things in this book you can benefit from.  If you’re feeling stifled creatively then it would be well worth your time/money to pick up this book. …but only if you’ll actually DO some of the things they suggest.  =)

Take Better Family Photos

by Steve BavisterFirst of all, the title of this book is little more than a marketing gimmick. I fell for it, so at least it works. This book reads like any other general photography book, but the author (or maybe it was the publisher) makes an attempt to relate everything back to taking pictures of people, specifically your family. The reason I got this book in the first place is because I was supposed to teach a session on shooting portraits, and I figured I could benefit from learning a bit more. The good news is that this book is loaded with little tidbits of “do’s and don’ts.” It provides a decent foundation for how to pose and capture people in almost any environment. The bad news is that the book is largely uninspiring.

Were You There?

by Ron DiCianni and Neil WilsonNot only is this book a collection of outstanding paintings, but each painting is accompanied by a short story designed to immerse the reader into the artwork and the events that inspired it. The stories are written from a first person point of view, so you can’t help but let your imagination run a little bit. The artwork is simply stunning, and the stories are rich and vibrant. It’s kinda hard to rate a book like this because I find myself thinking, “Well, I didn’t really learn anything,” but that’s not the point. The paintings and stories are a way for us to escape from our world and worries for a bit and hopefully come back feeling refreshed and yet curious. The book does just that, so if you’re looking for a break, it’s a great and easy read.

Learning to See Creatively

by Bryan PetersonAh yes, another photography book. If you’ve read the preface to my photography book, then you already know how I feel about them in general. Unfortunately this one succumbs to the same shortcoming I see in most every book about photography. It starts off with great enthusiasm, but it doesn’t take long for it to become redundant. As is often the case there are a few great tips sprinkled throughout, but I don’t think it justifies the purchase. Readers should note that this book was written as a complement to his other book Understanding Exposure. This one focuses on the creative, artistic side of photography (at least, it claims to) while UE helps explain the technical details of aperture, shutter, etc. If you’ve never read a photography book before, then it might be worth your while to pick up these two (of course, you’d probably rather read mine =) but otherwise I’d tell you to spend an hour skimming through it at your local bookstore.

The A – Z of Creative Photography

by Lee FrostFrom my vantage point in the bookstore this book looked promising. Each page describes a new technique which means they have to be short and to the point. After 3 minutes of flipping through it I thought, “Man, I just learned a few really cool tips.” Sadly though, in addition to being a bit dated, that’s about as far as this book goes. The author understands the over saturated market of photography books, so he attempted to create a niche with this one: creative techniques (i.e. photo ideas). It’s a good source for quickly generating some ideas, but so is the internet. The main advantage this book has can also be a disadvantage: it explains how to achieve various techniques. When you ask yourself, “How’d he do that!?” you end up teaching yourself by thinking about it until you come to a conclusion that satisfies your conscience. That’s an education far greater than this book.  (Note: there is an updated “digital” version of this book that I have not read, nor do I plan to.)

[Digital] Lighting and Rendering

by Jeremy BirnThere were many times when I had to put the book down, and pick up my jaw while reading this book. It is phenomenal! This book is loaded with tips and tricks that you’ve spent weeks trying to figure out. The author explains things so well, you can’t help but understand it. He offers real, usable advice straight from his experience working in the industry (at Pixar, last I knew). Don’t hesitate on this one. (Note: there is an updated version of this book which was readily added to my wish list.)

[Digital] Texturing and Painting

by Owen DemersPretty good book. Moral of the story: observation is key to creating believable textures. Lots of practical advice, but it didn’t wow me. I guess the thing that makes it hard to write a book like this is that it is really an art, and therefore up to personal taste. I think this book is definitely worth the read, as it reveals a lot of common mistakes 3D artists make, but I don’t find myself referring back to it often. It’s probably worth reading a second time though.

[Digital] Cinematography and Directing

by Dan AblanGood stuff! …really good stuff. There’s a lot of highly useful guidelines in this book –clear definitions and great examples. It really focuses on a traditional art form in a digital world –something that most books don’t do. It really helps you get beyond the mouse clicks and menus of 3D programs, and encourages you to really think about the story you’re telling. Quite unexpectedly this book has influenced my photography more than any other book. It’s all about telling your story visually. I can’t think of anything negative to say about this book, but there’s something stopping me from giving it the 5th foot. I just can’t put my finger –er, toe– on it. =)

Practical Photography

Practical PhotographyAlthough this book is quite dated now it gave me a solid foundation for what I know about photography today. It starts off well with some good descriptions of when, where, and why to use certain equipment and settings. However, as the book progresses it becomes redundant, as if the photographer was flipping through an album with you explaining why he took the pictures the way he did. You can learn a lot from that approach, but it becomes little more than personal taste after a while.

Figure Drawing

by Anthony RyderI struggled to pull any useful information from this book. The author is undoubtedly a talented man, but fails to cover the anatomy and structure of the human figure. As is often the shortcoming of many art books, it feels like little more than a collection from the artist’s portfolio. Stick with Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and you’ll be better for it.