Book Review – The Art of Black and White Photography

Mar 30, 2012   //   by Richard   //   Photography  //  Comments Off on Book Review – The Art of Black and White Photography
The Art of Black and White Photography, 2nd edition, reviewed by Richard Hamilton

When I first started shooting in the 1970s, I used black and white film and did most of the developing myself. I have always loved black and white photography and was really looking forward to reading The Art of Black and White Photography. However, it appears that the book is primarily meant to “facilitate both amateurs and professionals as they transition from analog to digital…[while helping] you become familiar with digital photography and focus again on the image in the digital age”. I stopped using analog (film) over 10 years ago. I don’t know anyone that has used film in the past five years, so I found it puzzling that the author put so much emphasis on analog photography. In fact, I found it very frustrating at times. For example, he does a wonderful job of explaining color filters and then concludes by saying “color filters just described lose their effect, lead to flat images, and are therefore useless in digital photography”. To his credit, he does then explain what you need to do with digital photography in lieu of the color filters.

The author states that “this book will stimulate you to analyze images in-depth and will motivate you to find your own photographic style”. Unfortunately, for me this didn’t happen. I will admit that this is a very personal opinion, but there wasn’t anything in the book that made me go “wow”. Furthermore, while the photos were okay, I didn’t find them great or inspiring.

Having said this, I think the book would be a wonderful resource for someone who is still shooting film and is looking at transitioning into digital. In Section 3 of the book the author does a good job in discussing and demonstrating the Rules of Composition, including pictorial composition, the golden ration and elementary construction, triangular composition and so forth. I found that Section 4 of the book does a good job providing an overall introduction to the Digital Darkroom (Photoshop CS5) including the steps to convert your digital photos from color to black and white, simulating analog filter effects, brightening dark areas while increasing midtone contrast, adding grain, dodging, burning and retouching the photo. He also spends a chapter explaining how to partially manipulate a photo using the Lasso Tool in Photoshop.

In summary, I think the book would be useful for those individuals that are transitioning from film to digital and have little too no knowledge about digital photography and Photoshop.

Disclosure: A copy of this book was provided to me as part of the O’Reilly’s Blogger Review Program on the understanding that I would read it and provide an honest review. If you are looking to join a review program, I highly recommend that you consider O’Reilly’s. Full details of the program can be found by clicking on the following:

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