With the redesign of the blog, I decided to put more emphasis the books I read to learn about photography, video and imaging. To prove that I actually own these books, I have taken a picture of each one, and there are a few more on the way too! One of my favorite of the stack is The Photographer’s Eye. While the title targets mostly photographers, I think videographers can learn quite a few things from it too since it talks mostly about composition and what makes a good image.
It is not a technical book per say. It never tells you things like: use spot metering or under-expose by X stop like what you could find in Understanding Exposure. Yet, it has to be the most technical book I have read about what makes a good picture. There are a lot of explanations about how to approach a scene and how to exploit the color/contrast/lines to your advantage. It made me feel like I was back in school, but in a good way since I was actually interested in the stuff.
One of the many things I like about the content of this book is the way each fact is justified and backed by a scientific concept. Sometimes the explanations might go a bit too philosophical for my taste but most of the time I could relate to them.
The author identified all elements/concepts that could be used to make a picture and describe their impacts on the overall image. He starts with the simplest of them all (the dot) then building on top of it to more complex shapes (ex: curved lines). The approach works very well, especially if you pause every few pages to go out and experiment with this new knowledge. For example, after reading the section on framing, I gave a try to square aspect ratio (which is not that practical when you have a 2×3 viewfinder). It forced me to see my subject in a new way and make better use of the space. Now, when I am shooting a subject that is not suited for a 2×3 ratio, I instinctively check to see how it would look in a square frame. As in this picture:
This is just one of the many ways this book has changed my shooting style. Some of the other interesting topics covered are: framing/cropping, colors and shapes relationships, how to shoot with an intent, etc. All of this knowledge is mandatory for anyone who is taking his photography seriously and can translate very well for video too.
The pictures and presentation
The book covers a lot of topics, most of them over 2 pages, and illustrates each one with relevant pictures. This is one of the strongest point of the book: each picture with its annotation is easy to understand. Actually, you can be lazy and just look at the pictures and you are probably going to grasp 80% of the book content. This by no mean means that the content is too simple, it is just a testimony of the illustrations quality.
This is not an art book, each picture was inserted to illustrate a specific concept. The author has taken great care in his selection to pick images from around the world (with a focus on Asia) and often give some background information which is always a nice touch. I also liked the fact that many versions of an image/scene are often used to illustrate a concept (ex: framing). Always good to do because, sometimes, pictures are stronger than words…
I got this book because I wanted to increase the artistic quality of my pictures. What I did not plan for was that my level of self-criticism would increase too. So I end up with a better skill set, but I am still aiming higher… I guess that is the only way to improve!
You can pick the book from Amazon here.