Author: Juergen Gulbins and Uwe Steinmuelle
Publisher: Rocky Nook
Aimed at: Aspiring amateur & professional photographers and students
Pros: A comprehensive look at the digital process
Cons: Weak on computer technology
Reviewed by: David Conrad
The subtitle of this book is "From Import to Output" and it takes a comprehensive look at the the whole process of taking a picture, preparing it and presenting it.
As the authors say, it is one of the characteristics of digital photography that the quantities of images produced are high. Without the constraint of using up film, a digital photographer often takes a lot of shots on a "just in case" basis. If you add to the files that are uploaded the files that result from processing then the potential for a complete mess is very great. The whole idea of a "workflow" is to find a systematic way of treating digital images so as to minimize the mess and maximize the quality. In the days of film the workflow was dictated by the medium - i.e. you had to shoot, develop, print, retouch, mount, store and so on. Today there is no such obvious workflow.
The first chapter of this book starts off with some basics of digital photography that you are likely to already know - RAW v JPEG, histograms and exposure, backup, file storage and so on. A lot of this is a little ad hoc and not particularly logical but the explanations are good. For example the discussion of the role of the histogram in exposure and in understanding how this effects color reproduction was simple and too the point - other books take note.
Chapter 2 moves on to an overview of the basic workflow and includes "shooting", image transfer, conversion and optimisation, output and digital asset management. Each of these topics is discussed in detail in greater depth later in the book.
Chapter 3 explains color management and the use of color spaces and profiles in particular to make sure that your work looks the same no matter how it is presented. It is surprising now many serious amateurs simply don't realise how important this process is and this chapter will introduce them to the necessary but slightly tedious world of device profiles and calibration.
The next few chapter are a bit of a detour in that it goes over standard image processing techniques. using PhotoShop, RAW converters, Aperture, Lightroom and so on. How useful this large chunk of the book will be to you depends on how much you use the tools described and how much you already know about them. You may also wonder what a general tutorial on image processing has to do with the workflow? The authors do attempt to discuss the the processing in the right sort of order dealing with basic things you should consider for every image i.e. converting from RAW, image formats, tonal corrections and so on. Most of the ideas are explained well and if you have been puzzled about sharpening you should be able to use the technique better after reading the section in this book. There is also an emphasis on knowing and even recording what you have done to an image. The chapter on RAW conversion probably should come before the basic image processing though because it is usually the first step in the workflow. Later chapters - Chapter 8 in particular - deal with more advanced editing techniques that you probably wont apply to every image - layers, masks, noise reduction, painting and so on. Again you will learn a lot from this part of the book.
You could argue that the next few chapters should have been omitted from the book because any one of them could be expanded to a book in their own right. However each of the chapters is a good overview of a specialized topic. Chapter 9 is on multi-shot techniques which, although possible with film are so much easier with digital - super resolution, focus stacking, panorama and HDRI are all covered. Next we have a short chapter on creating black-and-white images.
Chapter 11 returns to a major stage in the workflow - printing and image presentation. Here we have a discussion of printing methods and issues such as resolution, paper type and so on. The next chapter is on a collection of Photoshop plugins and the final chapter returns to matters of workflow with a look at data management and backup. This is far to short a chapter and in many ways is the only disappointment in an otherwise really good book. It doesn't deal with online backup and finishes almost as soon as it gets started. The problem is that to deal with the issues of storage and backup adequately the book would have to leave the topic of photography and move into computing. However this would be worth it if it manged to explain the principles of storage and the practice of backup.
Overall this is a book about digital photography that uses the idea of a workflow to organize its chapters into some sort of logical order. How much you find this book helpful will depend on how much you already know - it would suit the beginner to intermediate photography rather than the expert. It is easy to read and full of useful advice and explanation - you can't help but be a better technically equipped photographer for reading it. Highly recommended unless you are a real expert in all things digital.