I have been a fan of Joe McNally’s ever since I read his “The Hot Shoe Diaries” right after it came out back in the spring of 2009. So, when I heard about his latest book “Guide to Digital Photography: Everything You Need to Shoot Like the Pros” there was no hesitation clicking the “Add to Cart” button on Amazon. Nearly everything I know about flash I learned from Joe, via his books, a Kelby Training Live seminar, and Kelby On-Line Training. He was my first exposure to any sort of photography training, and you tend to remember your “firsts.” Also, I like his informal, sometimes self-deprecating style, both in his teaching and writing. Despite his years of experience and many accolades, he is quick to express his doubts about his abilities at times. This is not a guy who is full of himself.
In this Life Books “Guide to Digital Photography: Everything You Need to Shoot Like the Pros” McNally’s writing is a bit toned down from some of his other teachings, but there is still enough color to make it a very readable guide. After a few pages in, I worried that maybe this book was written for the real beginner, as the first chapter called [Light] has a section on the different modes of today’s DSLR cameras (i.e. Program Mode, Aperture Priority Mode, etc.). Being I’ve been at this a few years now, I wasn’t looking to read a book that basic. But, as I read on, McNally quickly dispenses the basics such as Exposure Compensation (EV) for the benefit of the newbies, and goes on showing with lots of beautiful photos how to make great images in all kinds of different light. And, by the end of Part One: [Light], of course he sneaks in some about flash too!
Part Two of the book is titled [The Lens] where Joe discusses the different choices we have as photographers in lens lengths, apertures, and shutter speeds and how they can change our images communicate. All the pages in the book are chocked full of great images with details of focal length, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO of each noted below the image. On one page, there is a series of nine images of the same plant shot at various apertures to illustrate aperture’s effect on depth of field. Part Two ends with a few examples of motion and how you may want to incorporate blur to show motion in some instances and freeze it in others.
The third, fourth and fifth sections of the book are the ones I found most creatively inspiring and beneficial as someone who has been acquainted with the basics for a few years. Part Three: [Design Elements] discusses texture, pattern, and form, qualities which can give your image that creative edge. Part Four: [Color] shows by example how color communicates the mood of an image and how lack of color can quiet and create impact in an image where color would confuse. The final section of the book is entitled [Composition], where all the elements of a good photo are brought together in a pleasing and communicative arrangement in the frame. These three final parts of the book provide even a more experienced photographer inspiration to become more creative.
Although I missed a bit of Joe’s banter in this Life Book offering, I think it is a worthwhile book for any photog, new or seasoned, if for no other reason to have more of his work to feast your eyes on. And, although you may have heard much of it before, the information bears repeating. For the new first-time owner of a DSLR, this book would get them off to a great start without sending them to the land of Nod with the technical. I will certainly recommend it to any new DSLR owners that ask me for advice.
If you would like to purchase this or any other of Joe McNally’s books you can find them all in my Amazon Store.