Nighttime Digital Photography with Adobe Photoshop CS3

Nighttime Digital Photography with Adobe Photoshop CS3
by John Carucci

Peachpit Press
ISBN-13: 978032150354-1
ISBN-10: 032150354-6
230 pages, paper, full color
US: $49.99, CAN: $56.99, UK: £35.99

John Carucci’s Nighttime Digital Photography with Adobe Photoshop CS3 covers those aspects of Photoshop CS3 that would be particularly valuable to photographers desiring to make nighttime photos. Examples of the types of nighttime photography addressed include subjects such as city lights, automobile traffic, architecture, concerts, theatrical productions, sporting events, people, and urban street scenes.

Carucci covers all aspects of taking nighttime photos including equipment, selection, technique, composition, timing, and strategy. Almost as much of Nighttime Digital Photography with Adobe Photoshop CS3 concerns itself with TAKING good nighttime photos as with MAKING them (with CS3). Kudos to Carucci for demonstrating that nighttime photography isn’t just a “fixit” exercise using Photoshop: for best results, a photographer needs to do the right things with his camera before opening his files in Photoshop.

I was amazed at how many aspects of nighttime photography need to be considered and also how efficiently and thoroughly they are covered. Topics such as the wide variety of artificial light sources and color temperature that are often taken for granted by photographers who quit when the sun goes down are amply covered.

I was surprised at how well Carucci provides a sound foundation in selection of photographic gear and computer equipment, as well as fundamentals of using Photoshop and Bridge. Even seemingly minor topics such as printing nighttime photos require some extra consideration, and Carucci presents appropriate information. While Nighttime Digital Photography with Adobe Photoshop CS3 is definitely not aimed at beginners, Carucci makes no assumption that the reader is already an accomplished photographer or Photoshop user.

The twelve chapters of Nighttime Digital Photography with Adobe Photoshop CS3 are divided into three parts. Some fundamental information about making nighttime photographs with a digital camera and getting started with Photoshop is included in Part 1 of Carucci’s book. Some of the topics include: Camera types and the importance of pixel size for minimizing digital noise at high ISO settings, Exposure Modes, Media Cards, White Balance, Tripods, and Electronic Flash. Part 1 also has chapters devoted to Computer Equipment, Fundamentals of Using Photoshop, and Thinking in Layers. Happily, Macs are given equal billing with PCs in these chapters. Experienced photographers and Photoshop users will likely breeze through these chapters, but they serve to ready less experienced readers for more advanced topics in the rest of the book.

Part 2 gets deeper into night photography techniques and using CS3. Topics include: Visual Literacy, Composition, Trendy Techniques, Night and Shadow, Foundation of Exposure, Artificial Light Sources, Proactive Color Control, and Photographing People. These topics are covered at a level suitable for more experienced photographers.

An example of one of the projects in Part 2 shows a harshly lit head shot taken with flash transformed into a stunning portrait by using, but not abusing, the Gaussian Blur filter. Step-by-step instructions are given, as is true for all of the more complex projects. As is the case with other projects in Nighttime Digital Photography with Adobe Photoshop CS3, a folder with photo files can be downloaded from Peachpit to use for practicing the technique.

Another such project in Part 2 involves the color transformation of a nighttime picture of Atlas with St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the background. The project makes use of many Photoshop tools and techniques, including hand coloring. Not for the faint of heart, but the end product is pretty stunning. Not all of the projects in Nighttime Digital Photography with Adobe Photoshop CS3 are as complex as these. One project simply made use of the Shadow/Highlights command to change an unacceptable street scene photo taken at Hollywood Boulevard into one that many photographers would be proud of.

Part 3 goes beyond the basics to Special Effects, Light Painting, and Special Situations, such as Traffic Patterns, Amusement Park Rides, Fireworks, and Star Trails. A chapter is also devoted to some of the more advanced photoshop techniques such as the Camera Raw plug-in for doing things like split toning and lens correction. Other advanced techniques include use of the Lighting Effects, Lens Flare, and Vanishing Point filters. Part 3 also includes a chapter full of Photoshop projects and a chapter devoted to various ways of presenting photos, such as Printing, Slideshows, and a Web Photo Gallery.

Nighttime Digital Photography with Adobe Photoshop CS3 is a comprehensive look at the specialty of nighttime photography. The project downloads from Peachpit make it into a real learning experience for those who want to maximize their skills.

Nighttime Digital Photography with Adobe Photoshop CS3 is well illustrated throughout. Many of the illustrations are of the before/after variety which serves to demonstrate the improvements that can be wrought with various tools in Photoshop. Many photographers would be happy with some of the “before” pictures until they saw how subtle adjustments can make a mediocre or good photo into a great photo. The author’s illustrations are “eye-openers.” They show ugly ducklings turned into swans.

Most of the digital editing techniques demonstrated by Carucci could be accomplished with earlier versions of Photoshop. The photographic technique, equipment, and lighting considerations covered in Nighttime Digital Photography with Adobe Photoshop CS3 are applicable for all readers. The more the merrier!

If someone is limping along on an earlier version of Photoshop they can still attend the party. Peachpit has done itself proud once again with a book of definite value for the intended audience. The book may be a little on the pricey side for a paperback, but for photographers with a serious interest in nighttime photography there is plenty of worthwhile content to justify the price.

MyMac rating: 4 out of 5

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