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Understanding Digital Photography: Techniques for Getting Great Pictures

Product Description
• Readers love Peterson’s easy-to-grasp bad image/good image pairings—and every photo in the book was taken with a digital camera

• Covers every popular genre: nature, people, sports, interiors, travel, and more

Using his popular bad image/good image pairings of real-life examples, Bryan Peterson takes the reader through all the techniques need to succeed with digital photography in every popular genre: nature, people, sports, interiors, travel, low-light conditions, travel, weather, commercial portraits, macro, and wildlife—even how to use creative tricks such as reflections. As a bonus, Peterson explains, in straightforward text, the techniques of Photoshop as well as the basics of publishing, printing, and archiving and storing for personal or professional use. Full of great examples for beginners and serious photographers, Understanding Digital Photography makes it easy to create great digital pictures every time.
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Understanding Digital Photography: Techniques for Getting Great Pictures



  • Rennie Petersen

    Reading “Understanding Digital Photography” by Bryon Peterson is a bit like being at a family get-together, and being given a lot of good advice by friendly Uncle Phil over a couple of beers. Then you later discover that friendly Uncle Phil didn’t know what he was talking about! It does mar what was otherwise a good experience.

    What makes me think of a family get-together is the folksy, jocular tone and the amusing comparisons between technical subjects and familiar things. Here are a few of Bryan Peterson’s more colorful attempts at making digital photography understandable:

    - The pixels on the sensor work together like a family, like socialism, and it’s too bad Stalin and Mao Tse-tung couldn’t see this (pg 16).

    - JPEGs are like amnesia or like AM radio or like prepared meat loaf (pg 18, 20).

    - TIFFs are like elephants (pg 19).

    - ISO is like caffeine, and high ISO is like bloodshot eyes (pg 22).

    - Long exposure times cause the pixel family to fall apart and have a nervous breakdown (pg 78).

    - Checking the background is important, although typically not done regarding the person you’re going to marry (pg 96).

    - Over-sharpening a picture makes it glow, which could be used to guide Santa Claus and Rudolph (pg 129).

    This style of writing may appeal to some people, but it’s definitely not my cup of tea.

    The book is richly illustrated with a lot of photographs taken by Bryan Peterson. These pictures do a good job of presenting the various techniques being discussed, and they are all good pictures from a purely technical point of view.

    However, my aesthetic opinion of most of the pictures is fairly low, i.e., they are not the kind of pictures that I’d like to be able to make someday.

    Bryan Peterson favors very colorful photos, and he admits that he pushes the color saturation up on most of his pictures. The composition and subjects of many of his pictures leave a kind of artificial taste, as if the pictures were being made just for the sake of making pictures that will impress.

    Of course, taste is something that is very individual, and Bryan Peterson is a successful professional photographer so there are obviously many people who like his pictures.

    The most serious problem with this book is the large number of technical errors concerning digital photography. Here are some of the more serious examples:

    - “… the more pixels the merrier” (pg 16). Only true up to a point.

    - “Every time you open and close a JPEG file on your computer, the file degrades due to data being lost…” (pg 18). Not true, and Bryan Peterson’s warnings against using JPEGs are mostly incorrect.

    - White balance should always be set to “Cloudy+3″ (pg 26). Poor advice, especially when photographing people because of the need to get skin colors correct.

    - Landscapes should be shot at f/22 (pg 34) and macros at f/32 (pg 118). This doesn’t take the light diffraction problem into account.

    - Depth of field properties of a lens are independent of sensor size (pg 39 and 119). Not true.

    - Noise reduction should be done last in post processing (pg 57). No, it should be done first.

    - Clean the sensor with compressed air (pg 127). No, this can damage the camera.

    - Take pictures under-exposed by 3 stops in order to stack 8 of them in Photoshop (pg 148). Crazy advice, you should change the opacity of the layers instead.

    - “The output size of that file … will be around 2048 x 3000 ppi (pixels per inch) …” (pg 156). Meaningless statement.

    Bryan Peterson tells us that he shot film for many years and only recently switched to digital. This book was obviously written before he had learned enough about digital photography to explain it properly.

    So, I don’t like the tone of the writing and I don’t particularly like the pictures and I don’t think Bryan Peterson’s knowledge of digital photography was up to the task. What did I like about this book?

    Actually, the basic concepts regarding photography that Bryan Peterson describes are good. The importance of getting the picture right when shooting it (as opposed to Photoshopping it later), the way in which aperture and shutter speed affect the picture, the importance of how a picture is illuminated and composed, the value of using a tripod; all of this material represents the core concepts of photography that need to be learned in order to be able to consistently take good pictures.

    Another thing I appreciated was that Bryan Peterson says that understanding the technology isn’t the most important aspect of being a good photographer. “… 99% of all successful photographic images have relied on … setting a creatively correct exposure and … creating a well-balanced and compelling composition” (pg 10). This book is inadvertent proof that a lack of technical knowledge does not prevent a person with the proper basic knowledge of photography from taking good pictures.

    Still, for a book that is targeted at those who want to learn about digital photography, the many errors disqualify it.

    Rennie Petersen
    Rating: 2 / 5

  • electronics fan

    Digital photography is not yet second nature to Peterson as is film SLR photography. For example, Peterson writes “2048 x 3000 ppi (pixels per inch)” instead of “2048 x 3000 pixels”–he just doesn’t speak the language yet.

    Below, Rennie Petersen on May 19 gives the definitive criticism of this book. I own this book as well Peterson’s other two books Understanding Exposure, which I highly recommend, and Learning to See Creatively, which I like having but is second to Understanding Exposure. So my review is really summed up in the title.
    Rating: 1 / 5

  • Bart Willems

    I like Bryan Peterson’s other books (Learning to see Creatively and Understanding Exposure) and I was guessing that this would be a combination of the two with some additional tips towards digital photography. I expected a lot out of the book, and it didn’t come out.

    First of all, the ‘photography’ part of the book is good. Many examples and tips on how to make better pictures.

    But the ‘digital’ part of the book is bad, really, really bad. Virtually every advice Bryan gives is wrong, or given for the wrong reason. You get the idea that mr. Peterson wanted to jump on the digital bandwagon without knowing anything about digital camera’s in the first place.

    I bought the book to give it to a friend who just got his first digital camera, and I wanted to see if it would be a keeper for myself. I’m keeping it, but only because I’d be ashamed to give it to somebody.

    Again, the photography tips are good, and if it wasn’t for the author, I would have given it three stars. But I was expecting something better.
    Rating: 2 / 5

  • Gian D. Fabbri

    I really wanted to like “Understanding Digital…,” after loving “Understanding Exposure” (a must for anyone learning photography), and learning so much from “Learning to See Creatively.”

    HOWEVER, despite this book’s many positive attributes, such as Peterson’s illustrative use of good photo / bad photo juxtapositions to illustrate his points and his sound advice on composition and exposure, this book is unfortunately fraught with misinformation about the capturing and processing of digital images.

    There are many wonderful books out there on the digital process. Unfortunately, this is not one of the best. Peterson’s strengths lie in his eye for graphic composition and color and his ability to explain the sometimes confusing concepts behind exposure in an accessible manner. By all means, every beginning SLR photographer can and should learn from Peterson’s classic “Understanding Exposure.” It is truly fantastic! However, when it comes to explaining digital technology, there are better books available.
    Rating: 2 / 5

  • kandoro

    I used to have some faith in Bryan Peterson’s work when I first started learning photography in earnest, but this book is full of errors…Either he has failed to take the time to fully understand digital cameras and their sensors or he never knew in the first place and/or was given bad information…

    A few of the errors as I see them…

    1…He is using a Nikon with a 1.5x sensor…This sensor is diffraction limited at f/14 and above…Which means the detail and resolution suffer greatly above those apertures…Bryan continues to take these landscape shots at f/22 and up just like he did with film, not realizing he is losing detail and resolution…At least he could mention diffraction differences bewteen full frame 35mm and a 1.5x sensor, but he doesn’t as I can only guess he is unaware…No other supposed professional I have ever seen takes a 1.5x-1.6x sensor above f/14-16…Let alone f/22 as he does on at least 15 shots in this book…

    2…He also fails to realize that a 1.5x sensor exhibits a different depth of field than a film or full frame DSLR at the same aperture…(IE)A 1.5x sensor with a f/2.8 aperture has the depth of field of a f/4 aperture on a film or full frame DSLR…The focal length multiplicaton factor applies to the focal length as well as the depth of field…He flatly states this not to be true…

    3…He highly recommends not using the histogram as a digital camera cannot expose enough stops anyway…Any true professional realizes the histogram is one of the primary advantages of instant digital feedback…Again, he is stuck in the film rut without much of a clue about true digtal photography and it’s advantages…

    4…He recommends using compressed air to blow off the sensor for cleaning…Almost all experts highly discourage this…First of all, you’re not cleaning the actual sensor itself, but instead the anti-aliasing filter in front of the sensor…There are air gaps between AA filter, IR filter, and the sensor itself…Using compressed air has proven to force some dust particles behind the AA filter and between these other layers while then becoming impossible to remove…

    5…Then he claims to be a new found Adobe Photoshop CS expert while stating how to use ND filters filters and then manually layer them together for better dynamic range…Obviously if he really had used CS2 he would know it contains a new function called “Merge to HDR (higher dynamic range)” which automatically merges all same size images that are opened in that function…No filters and no manual layering…

    The list just goes on…Frankly I think Bryan Peterson was rushed into coming out with a digital book while he was obviously ill prepared to present…He hasn’t spent the time to learn about digital, let alone enough to write a book about it…

    I firmly believe if anyone truly reseaches these above items you’ll find the errors I have mentioned…

    As I stated, I used to be a big fan of Bryan Peterson, but no more…

    This book is a definite non buy…Even some of the pics were from past publications…I would have given it 0 stars but it wasn’t allowed…
    Rating: 1 / 5