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Craig Utley Somniferous Bloviations

If you’re reading this site, chances are you’re a geek. Being a geek is normally a good thing, but technologically challenged friends and family probably look to you as their IT support, whether it’s hardware, software, or anything related.

If you have cringed when a friend or family member, whose technical knowledge is sadly lacking, has mentioned they want a digital camera and look to you for support, you owe it to yourself to give them a copy of Digital Photography: The Missing Manual by Chris Grover and Barbara Brundage. This is an excellent book for those just getting into digital photography, covering everything from selecting a camera, taking photographs, transferring them to a computer, editing them, and uploading them to a sharing site.

Creating an overview book is a daunting task, and the decision about what to eliminate is likely more difficult than choosing what to include. The authors begin with a chapter that attempts to demystify the cameras themselves, covering point-and-shoot versus SLR, megapixels, types of memory cards, resolution, file formats, and more. They even discuss the oft-misunderstood area of DPI and printing. They then move into actually taking pictures, discussing composition, portraiture, nature photography, and many other subjects.

Next the authors move into transferring and organizing files, and the authors chose to focus on Windows XP, EasyShare, Picasa, and finally Photoshop Elements. These represent some of the most popular programs for organizing photographs and the authors do a good job covering what these applications can do. Unfortunately this is one area in which the book will fall out of date quickly; Windows Vista includes significantly enhanced tools for organizing and editing digital content, and Adobe recently released Photoshop Elements 5.

Grover and Brundage discuss sharing photos with EasyShare, Snapfish, Shutterfly, Flickr, and much later, They also deserve kudos for including a chapter on backing up and storing photos, something few people do adequately, especially those with who refer to their entire computer as “the hard disk.”

The book also covers basic editing with Picasa and EasyShare, but four chapters are spent on Photoshop Elements. Elements is a fantastic program with many advanced features, but it is not as approachable as many other applications for those new to computers. The authors finish with sharing photographs by printing and emailing. Emailing, especially, is an area where newbies struggle, as many fail to understand why it is a bad idea to email 30 3MB files at once.

Is this book perfect? Of course not. There’s no way such a book could cover all possible applications for organizing, sharing, and editing photographs. By covering the applications it does, the book is sure to fall out of date quickly, although the concepts are more important than the specific applications; and the book does well with the concepts. There are some errors in the book: For example, page 13 states that a 50mm lens “will seem more like a 150mm telephoto lens on most digital SLRs.” In fact, a 50mm lens will work like a 75mm lens on most Nikon SLRs, while it will work like an 80mm lens on most Canon SLRs.

These minor problems aside, this book is excellent for those new to digital photography or those who are asked by a family member or friend, “Can you show me how to use a digital camera?”

Posted on Thursday, October 19, 2006 10:06 PM Photography | Back to top

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