Digital Photography for Dummies
Book Review

On February 25, 2003, in Book Review, by Chris Seibold

Digital Photography for Dummies
Author: Julie Adair King

John Wiley & Sons
ISBN 0764506463
US $24.99

I have never read the any of the “Dummies” books; I always thought they were reserved for people named Lamont (’cause, you know, of Sanford and Son). I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this particular “Dummy” book. Digital Photography for Dummies contains just about anything you need to know about the world of digital cameras: storing images, transferring images, printing etc. and a bunch of (well marked) trivia you’ll never use but you’ll be glad you read.

Digital Photography for Dummies starts off a bit on the used car side, it seems Julie Adair King is trying to sell the reader on just how great a digital camera is compared with more antiquated methods of imaging. Once you get past the pages extolling the many virtues of digital photography Digital Photography for Dummies turns into a useful, demystifying book. The layout is notable (undoubtedly familiar to many) for the icons placed along the side of nearly every page. The icons serve as markers to let you know just what kind of info the text imparts. A bomb, for example, serves as a warning that could save the reader from a major misjudgment (i.e. don’t use flashpix). Throughout the text Julie Adair King offers gentle reminders about what tips a digital camera user should remember and what info one can read and file straight into one’s mental file thirteen. Throughout Digital Photography for Dummies’ 359 pages Julie Adair King’s touch remains light enough that the reader never feels as though reading the text has become a chore.

It seems digital cameras and taking photos with aforementioned equipment isn’t quite enough to fill an entire book. To skirt the lack of material afforded by concentrating solely on the taking a good picture and being done with the whole mess Digital Photography for Dummies includes plenty of pages spent on various digital image-editing programs. This may seem odd to those of you who are used to the way some traditional photography books read (many focus on getting the picture right the first time) but once you accept the benefits of going digital the inclusion of methods to manipulate the image is necessary. As Julie Adair King notes: you can make a pretty average picture into a pretty good picture if you spend a little time with a decent image-editing program. Don’t believe Julie Adair King? That’s okay Digital Photography for Dummies is packaged with a compact disc that contains a bevy of useful software including a Photoshop Elements demo so you can actually see for yourself just how powerful digital photography can be.

One of the better features of Digital Photography for Dummies is the photo examples found throughout. Julie Adair King’s visual examples are the best use of figures I have ever run across. Every point Julie Adair King makes with a figure is very well made. In some digital photography books I have read the authors will refer to a figure where the point is less than clear, thankfully Julie Adair King is very strong at illustrating her points with figures and never makes this mistake. Digital Photography for Dummies also includes something that I once thought I would never see in a twenty-five dollar digital photography book: Color Plates. Jammed right into the middle of Digital Photography for Dummies are sixteen pages of color plates. These pages are particularly informative and you’re not going to get close to Digital Photography for Dummies’s level of instruction with a book that is entirely grayscale.

Still, Digital Photography for Dummies has some miscues and errors. I’ll focus on one: Apparently Photographers are ignorant to the standards of science. I base this on a passage from Julie Adair King’s book. The passage reads:

Kelvin: A scale for measuring the color temperature of light. Abbreviated as K, as in 5000¼K. (But in computerland, the initial K more often refers to kilobytes, as described next.)

There are two mistakes in just 29 words. The first error is the degree sign. See when you’re using Kelvin you don’t use the degree sign (thus temperatures read 0K, 5500K etc.). I suppose this mistake is forgivable, looking around the Internet it seems the mistake is quite common among photographers. The second mistake is a bit worse: K does not mean kilo, k means kilo. No really, it’s part of the International System of Units. So if you write “the image was 5500K” what you’re really saying is “I’m faking it, I have no idea what I’m talking about”.

But that error is minor stuff, on the whole the book is very good. The inclusion of color plates is outstanding and Julie Adair King’s touch with the visuals is remarkable. Go to your local bookstore and toss any books without color plates in favor of this one.

MacMice Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Chris Seibold

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