I used to teach beginning photography classes from books that were much bigger and thicker than this one, yet not as clear, succinct and inspiring in the areas of composition, lighting and editing.
The Perfect Photo: 71 Tips from the Top keeps its promise to show readers “the short and direct path to better photography.” It is a fine blend of good images and straightforward tips that can you can put to use quickly and effectively.
But the first thing you won’t do while following this book is start snapping pictures. The first two chapters’ tips focus on helping you decide what types of images you want to take (portraits, landscapes, wildlife, sports, etc.), selecting the right equipment to meet those desires, and learning to use the adjustments and features on your camera and lenses.
In Chapter 3, “Capturing the Best Light,” you learn how work with different types of natural light, and in Chapter 4, nearly halfway through the 128-page book, you finally get to the elements of composition, such as perspective, using details, and telling a story.
Chapter 5 is titled “Impressive Landscapes,” and it does give some good tips and photographic examples. But inexplicably, it also contains instructions on, and examples of, how to get close enough to photograph insects and animals.
Chapter 6 is a good, concise tutorial on lighting and shooting individual and group portraits.
Chapter 7 covers capturing motion or the sense of motion using fast or slow shutter speeds and available light or flash.
Chapter 8, “Effective Use of Flash,” deals with topics such as bounce flash and avoiding red eye, plus using flash to minimize shadows in a daylight shot.
Chapter 9, “Starting Out in the Digital Darkroom,” gives a brief tutorial on how to back up, edit, enhance and store digital photographs and how to reduce picture file size for emailing.
The Perfect Photo will not transform you into the next Ansel Adams or Henri Cartier-Bresson. But, if you are still at the “smiley snaps” stage of digital photography, it is an excellent starting guide.
It can show you what you need to know – and what you need to have — to create better, more endearing and more enduring photographs.
– Si Dunn