Book Review: Aperture 3 Organize, Perfect, and Showcase Your Photos

Lin Moos

Aperture 3 Organize, Perfect, and Showcase Your Photos
Author:  Dion Scoppettuolo
Published by:  Peachpit Press

Every once in a while you have one of those little “ah haa” moments and there it is,  a new “life lesson.”  My recent life lesson was to “not judge a book by its cover.”  We’ve all heard that a few times, haven’t we.  Really—-the title/cover of the book isn’t sufficient, read the book description before you leap into a commitment to do a book review!

Aperture 3 BookI was looking for a way to ease into using Aperture from iPhoto.  All of the club presentations had convinced me that it was time.  Of course, Aperture doesn’t come with even a basic paper manual so I wanted a hard cover reference manual that I could use to guide me on the basics of the program and allow me to advance my skills over time.  “Organize, Perfect, and Showcase Your Photos” sounded just like the ticket.

When I obtained the book, it included a DVD with media and lesson files included. The “Getting Started” preface to the book described the Apple Pro Training Series.  Opps, more that I had planned to sign on for.  The book is set up with 13 lessons.  Most of the lessons take 90 to 120 minutes to complete.  The total time estimated to work through the lessons is nearly 20 hours.  The lessons are set up sequentially with the first 5 lessons dedicated to creating and organizing your photo library, the next 5 teach corrective and creative image editing, and the last 3 cover sharing your work.  The disk includes images that you manipulate through each lesson in organizing, editing, and sharing.  You must go through each lesson step-by-step manipulating the files before you can advance to the next lesson.

The first problem I encountered was incomplete files for lessons one and two.  The book guided you through steps with images that didn’t exist in the DVD which accompanied the book.  With Guy’s assistance, I found the “corrected files” on line and downloaded those.  Things moved more smoothly then but it is a laborious process.  If you don’t follow the lessons exactly your images will not match up for the next lesson.

This book is for you if you want a thorough understanding of Aperture and all of its functions.  The step-by-step lessons show keyboard short cuts to expedite establishing your library and editing, and demonstrate how to optimize use of the software.  It is comprehensive to the tune of 481 pages.  You are going to need large chunks of dedicated time to complete each lesson and you cannot jump over some lessons to move to the editing functions.  You can obtain Apple Pro certification after completion of the lessons.

If you are looking for a reference book to assist you in specific aspects of Aperture—-something you can pick up and find a specific topic for assistance, you will be better off with a different book.  I have found Aperture 3, Portable Genius to be helpful in addressing some basic questions.

Book Review:  Photoshop Elements - From Snapshots to Great Shots

Sharon Shifflett

Photoshop Elements - From Snapshots to Great Shots
Author:  Jeff Revell
Published by:  Peachpit Press

Jeff Revell chose to write this book about Adobe Elements because it was one of the best image processing programs which did not have a price tag that would break the bank.  Elements has the basic functions as its big brother Adobe Photoshop.  The book was written for MAC or PC and Jeff Revell says “Most of the information will be general in nature and you use the same tools that have been available in previous versions of Elements.  They are the core elements of image processing, and just like f-stops and shutter speeds, they will probably change very little in the future.” 

Great ShotsThis book has been the cleanest, most precise, easiest to understand, and quickest to reference than any other “how to book” for Elements that I’ve read so far.  Every book I have tried, including Elements for Dummies, have been 5 times as thick and very weighed down and not any where near as concise and easy to understand.  This book goes through what Jeff Revell calls “Image processing as a three-step process”:  1.The import, 2. Working the pictures, giving them the right treatment to fulfill the vision that one has when they took the photo and 3. Doing something with the images – like sharing with friends, family or clients. 

Jeff Revell especially believes in shooting raw (Chapter 4) and he gives some files to use through (free) and the books ISBN.  This was so helpful, but what was even more astounding was his explanation on how to process the raw files.  Each function of all of the tools was given so that you could follow along so easily. I had only known about Adobe Camera Raw - the Basic Tab.  There are a total of three tabs on the right side of the Adobe Camera Raw Interface.

The Basic Tab  - I was using it, but really did not know the full explanation of the Recovery Slider (fixing areas in our photo that are too bright without having to make the rest of the image darker) or Fill Light Adjustments (for too many dark areas with no detail).  He gave great explanations of all the sliders in very few words and to the point.

The Detail Tab – I had never clicked on the second tab to find the greatest find I have had so far.  Sharpening, radius, detail, masking, and noise reduction, “yeah”.  For those of us who are new to raw, and are still struggling with noise when using a high ISO, or correcting the exposure on photos that were underexposed, this has been so very helpful.  I figured out what was meant by “shooting to the right”- overexpose by 2 stops will not cause noise, but underexposing will.

The Camera Calibration Tab (camera profiles specific to your camera) – As was explained in the book, “When you look at an image on your camera’s LCD screen it looks great but on the computer it is not so great.  The image on the camera is a JPEG that has been corrected and enhanced by the camera.  Raw strips this away, so to add back that pizzazz; you select a new camera profile from the Camera Calibration tab.”  I shoot a lot of people and the camera portrait works great, but not all the time, as Jeff Revel says “Sometimes you need to play around and see which works best”.  It also has camera landscape, camera neutral, camera standard, camera vivid.  The default is camera adobe.

Jeff Revell was totally off the mark when he mistakenly assumed most elements versions have the Layer Mask feature.  I am using elements 8 which does not have that feature (it shows up in Elements 9 – darn).  I was driven crazy trying to figure it out.  I had to go to the internet to find an Adjustment Layer Workaround.  There were a few other areas covered in the book that my Elements 8 did not have.  Mr. Revell was using Elements 10 at the time this book was published. 

Overall this book was so helpful that I wanted to keep it for a reference book and that is why I decided to do this review.  I did not want to part with it, I wanted to be able to page mark, and highlight important parts of the book. The differences in the more complex functions like masking were the only negative thing I had to say about the book.  If you are new to editing in Elements or you are thinking about shooting raw and are concerned you can’t do it – get this book.  I wish I had it before I did the last years editing in raw (I have only been shooting in raw for one year).  Now I have to go back and do some changes to a lot of my favorite pictures to make them even better.

Overall Rating:  9.5 out of 10

Book Review: The Digital Photography Book Part 4

Robbin Haigler

The Digital Photography Book - Part 4
The step-by-step secrets for how to make your photos look like the pros!
Author: Scott Kelby
Published By: Peachpit Press

Scott Kelby dishes out another round of “this is what I would tell you if you and I were out shooting, where I answer questions, give you advice, and share the secrets I’ve learned just like I would a friend—without all the technical explanations and techie photo speak”.

Scott KelbyThis book really is just that - plain talk, straight answers and usable advice for the beginner and not so beginner photographer.  I’m more the beginner type and have thoroughly enjoyed all four of these books in this series.  Some more than others, some parts more than others.  But that’s the beauty of Scott Kelby’s style - little mini lessons on each page.  The reader can pick and choose exactly what it is they are now ready for in their own personal learning curve.  

The twelve chapters in Part 4 cover a full gamut of photo how-tos, including, shooting people, using hot shoe flash, setting up a studio, and tips on lenses.  Do you need tips on shooting in natural light, landscapes, travel photos or sports?  They’re in here along with information on shooting and processing HDR and DSLR video.  The author wraps up with tricks of the trade for making your shots look better and the popular ‘photo recipes’ to help you get the shot.

I enjoy Scott Kelby’s format in this series - every page is a concept and mini lesson within topic; the easy read and humor facilitate my kind of learning.  I especially enjoy the missing techno babble and truly appreciate the straightforward ‘do this, this and this’ for any subject of immediate interest.  There are parts in it that I have not read yet because I really am not ready for that particular subject.  But it is wonderful to know that when I am ready, I know where to go to get the information that I need.  Part 4 is a wonderful resource book finding a home in my photographer’s library and I’m sure it will be appreciated in yours.

Overall Rating: 5 Star (5 out of 5)

Book Review: The Digital Photography Books (Boxed Set)

Lin Moos

The Digital Photography Books Boxed Set
Scott Kelby
Volumes 1-3
ISBN-13:  978-0-321-67873-7
ISBN-10:      0-321-67873-7        

Digital PhotographyThe Digital Photography Books were written by Scott Kelby to show beginning photographers how to take professional quality shots.  The books are packaged in a 3 volume set with over 200 pages in each book.  The books are set up as if you are on a photo shoot with Scott Kelby and he is directing how to take each photo.  Most of the chapters focus on different photographic subjects - landscape, outdoors portrait, studio portrait, sports, travel, flash, lens, weddings, flowers/macro, and others.  For different photographic subjects Kelby tells you what lens to use, whether to set your aperture or shutter speed (and at what setting), how to set up your composition and position your camera, what ISO to use, etc.  Each page covers a single concept on how to make your photograph better.  The book is written in plain english.  It does not go into a technical explanation of why you should use your zoom lens and set your aperture at f/2.8 to take up a close up picture of a flower, it just says that the photograph will be best if shot at these settings.

The advice throughout the book is very specific and unambiguous.  The range of photography topics…. tips for obtaining sharp photos, studio portraits, weddings, landscape, sports, macro, travel, flash, outdoor portraits, flash, print tips, shooting concerts, shooting night scenes, and other topics cover everything a beginner could ask (and more).  Each successive volume brings more depth to the photographic areas discussed. Each book closes with a chapter on Photo Recipes to Help You Get “The Shot.”  In these chapters Kelby shows some of his shots and then gives the details for how to get a similar shot, including what type of equipment you?d need, what time to shoot (if it?s relevant), where to shoot it, where to set up your lights, tripod, etc.  In essence, he provides a recipe cookbook for how to take very specific photos. 

My favorite chapter in the three books was the Volume 3 chapter “The Truth About Lenses.”  The 25 pages answered so many questions that beginners have - it provided answers to questions I didn?t even know how to ask.  The books also recommend what accessories (flashes, filters, meters, studio equipment, etc.) will be the most useful depending on what photographic subjects you shoot.  The discussion helped identify items that I really don?t need (but thought might be neat) from photographic accessories that have the potential to make dramatic differences in the quality of the images I produce.

Overall I would give the books 5 stars for being comprehensive, straightforward and easy to understand, and full of quality photographs demonstrating the results of the techniques Kelby is recommending.

Book Review: Ten Photo Assignments to develop your photographic skills

Robbin Haigler

Ten Photo Assignments
Amanda Quintenz-Fiedler
110 pages
Rocky Nook Inc
802 East Cota Street, 3rd Floor
Santa Barbara, CA 93103
ISBN: 978-1-933952-79-6

Ten Photo Assignments to develop your photographic skills has a title that immediately grabbed my attention and a general description that sounded like the perfect solution for a beginner photographer wanting to improve her photographic skills.  The general layout of 5 chapters with 2 assignments in each chapter appeared promising and very feasible.  My intention was to have a plan of action where I could put all my piece-meal learning into practice with ten practical lessons as promised in the title. However, it was not the case - it took me three times to get through the first chapter and two assignments, without ever completing the first assignment much less the other nine as a I forced myself to read the entire book and tried to make an attempt at the other lessons offered. 

Book coverThe author assumes you have a good working knowledge of your specific camera on the first page - I think that is asking an awful lot from most beginners and it only gets more technical as she progresses with the first lesson.  She has a recommended equipment list consisting of: a fully manual adjustable camera, tripod, handheld light meter, manufactured digital gray card, a zebra card, a model in a textured white shirt, sunny day, notebook and pencil, computer and photo management software to open files and evaluate exposures. Don?t you think that?s asking a bit much for a beginner? 

It is my humble opinion that this book is too scientific for most beginner photographers - most of the lessons were about calibrating the camera more than devoting any photographic skills.  Because of the technicality of information I do not recommend this book to beginner photographers but rather to those who want to understand the scientific aspect of photography and their equipment.  I?m afraid this book only gets 2 stars out of 5 because it failed to motivate this beginner - there?s better resources out there and I will make up my own ?Ten Photo Assignments?.

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