Beyond Snapshots
Book Review

Digital Photography: the Missing Manual,
By Barbara Brundage

396 pages
O’Reilly Media

Create Your Own Photo Blog,
By Catherine Jamieson

309 pages
Wiley Press

In the past couple of years, I’ve been reading widely on the subject of digital photography. I’m not alone. The plethora of books published on the subject seems like a monthly occurrence, and the demand for them seems equally great. Serious amateur and professional photographers want to get as much out of the technology as they possibly can. And why shouldn’t we? So much can be done with digital photography that’s it difficult to overlook a good book that shows you some new or different approaches to the art of digital imaging making.

Though I’m not an historian of digital photography, I would say that second wave of the digital photography revolution was the advent of photo blogs. Since digital photographers could easily produce countless photographs with very low costs, and since the internet also provides almost free forms of self-expression, posting one’s photos in a blog format seemed most logical in the evolution of digital photography.

In the digital revolution, you don’t have to get published in a magazine or book in order to gain an audience. You can indeed create a photoblog or website and if your work is good enough it can and will get noticed. And even it doesn’t get widely noticed, you still have a way to get your pictures out of your camera and up for display if only for yourself and your family and friends.

For purposes of publishing your photographs to the world, Catherine Jamieson’s Create Your Own Photoblog is a stylish well written book that respects digital photography and photo blogging as a high art form. Jamieson’s multi-award-winning photo blog, Utata is highly respected in the digital photography community. It’s an extension or departure from sites like Flickr and Fotolog in that it displays mainly works of serious artistic photographs that go beyond everyday family snapshots.

Every page of her book is filled with masterful and inspiring photographs. And though her book is useful to both amateur and professional photographers, it will appeal most to serious shutter-bugs and who seek not only to produce good photographs but who also appreciate a well designed web site to display their work.

She starts off her book exploring and explaining the styles of photoblogs from the well known Flickr community pages to the more independent photoblogs – coded, designed, and maintained by the photographer’s themselves with their own domain name.

Photoblogs typically take on the form photo diaries or journals, practically text-less photo exhibit sites, like Daily Snap, or community photoblogs like Jamieson’s Utata Doc Org. Some photoblogs are topical while others take the form of portfolios by professional photographers.

Of course, Jamieson shows you where and how to set up a photoblog, be it on a Flickr, MoveableType, or through a hosting site like

If you’ve never set up a photoblog site, this book will provide you with everything you need to know to do so. And if you’re seeking to move beyond just posting your photos on a community blog like Flickr or in album hosting sites like, this book will especially appeal to you.

The second part of Jamieson’s book focuses on tips and suggestions for getting and producing good photographs. Her “100 Photo Ideas to Get You Shooting,” is very good and somewhat unique to many of the books I’ve read in the last few years. Each idea is accompanied of course with a photograph that illustrates that idea.

But getting the kind of powerful photographs that Jamieson displays in her book can only come about through taking a lot of photographs on a regular basis. Many require getting out and visiting new places or thinking more creatively about your own surroundings. Often times, it means just having a camera everywhere you go, whereby you’re not just taking pictures of people smiling at your camera, but more importantly taking photographs of things and people where the camera goes unnoticed.

Now Jamieson’s book is not about how to use your digital camera or how to process digital photographs once you export them to your computer. Chris Grove and Barbara Brundage’s Digital Photography: The Missing Manual is the book for novice and some intermediate photographers who have digital point-and-shoot or SLR camera and want to make better use of it.

Though most cameras come with some sort of manual that explain a camera’s control and features, books like Digital Photography: The Missing Manual explain the overall essential knowledge one should have about digital photography.

Like O’Reilly’s/Progue Press’s other Missing Manual books, this one is also well written and illustrated providing step-by-step instructions about digital camera basics (point-and-shoot vs. single lens reflex cameras, memory cards, optical vs. digital zoom, image stabilization, exposure controls, flash photography and the like), digital photo file management, and the editing and printing of digital photos.

This is not the type of manual you’ll carry around in you camera bag. It more useful as a reference book to hold and read in one on hand while your camera or digital photography software is near by. This book offers sustinct suggestions on indoor and outdoor portrait photography, sunset and nighttime photography, wedding and event photography, and the like. Each of these types of photography are explored in other full length books, so this Missing Manual is for those who may just want an all-in-one book that can be referenced when needed.

The book equally goes into information about exporting and editing your digital photo files onto Window’s XP using two free management programs – Kodak’s EasyShare and Google’s Picasa (nothing about Apple’s iPhoto here, which is a surprise to me since Progue/Oreilly Press produces similar books on each of Apple’s iLife software.)

There’s also a couple of sections on managing and editing your photos using Adobe’s Photoshop Elements, an increasingly popular program for digital photography. Entire books have been devoted to this subject as well, but here again the basics are well covered in this Missing Manual.

Like Jamieson’s book on photoblogging, Grover and Pogue include instructions about getting and printing photographs onto hosting sites like Flickr, Shutterfly and Kodak’s EasyShare.

This is an overall handy reference book for amateur shutter-bugs. The only thing lacking is what I’ve find lacking in many other digital photography books: suggested photo assignments or tutorials that readers might try out to better understand the use of their camera. Grover and Brundage provide a slightly better tutorial approach for using a digital camera than many other books I’ve read or looked through, but unlike the how-to instructions they give for using say Photoshop Elements, the instructions for how to achieve particular shots are often too general. I would like to see chapters ending with three or four camera assignments that reflect the various types shooting situations a digital photographer may encounter.

I’ve seen this exact same problem in digital photography classes I’ve taken where instructors spend each class session talking about some aspect of digital photography rather than meeting students at some location and having them practice actual shots using particular exposure settings.

Despite what is lacking in this book, I still suggest Digital Photography: The Missing Manual as a useful reference guide for novice photographers.


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