Point and shoot

And now for something a little bit different...

A product review!

I've been thinking about this for a bit, there are a couple of things I've purchased since I've moved to the north that I think are just great amazing finds... that would be useful to share with others. Sure, I tell my friends / acquaintances here in town, but there's a whole world out there that's yet to discover the world's best rubber boot ... or ipod... or photography guide... the list goes on.

Of course, there's lemons out there as well, but I'm not really interested in dwelling on the negative right now (surprise!).

So this is one of (hopefully) several product-review posts that I'll be doing in the near-ish future. So enjoy!

Upon receiving mini-spy camera for Christmas, I realized that I really don't know anything about photography anymore. I say "anymore" because waaayyy back in Jr. High we had "shop class" and one of the sessions we did was studio photography. Granted it only lasted a couple weeks, but we learned many things I've since forgotten, and I've got a beautiful black-and-white photo of myself ( stuffed somewhere in the depths of my parent's basement) to prove it.

So I set out on a search on Amazon.ca to see what the world of how-to photography might have for me.

Tangent time: I've noticed a pattern I've developed as of late: a book-buying addiction. Any time I go on vacation I pick up a handful of novels, and I've got something like a 100-item-long 'wish list' on Amazon.ca. Hi, my name is Jackie, and I'm hooked on knowledge, haha. But here's the great thing about buying books online: you get to read what OTHER people think of them. There's no way I would have selected the photography book I did if I were to have gone into Chapters. Okay, maybe I would have, because I would have seen some of book's guts... but I bought the book based on the customer reviews. Something you just don't get at bookstores (though, granted, you do get the 'human expertise' from time to time). <end tangent>

So I ordered Scott Kelby's "The Digital Photography Book". Pretty basic title, but it's set up unlike any other "how to" book I've seen. Each page is a shooting technique, complete with an illustrative colour photo, and it's broken down into popular shooting "subjects." For instance, a couple pages into the "Taking Travel and City Live Shots" section, I found something I've ALWAYS wanted to know how to do: "Show movement" in a photo. I figured the answer was to slow down the shutter speed, but I didn't really know how to do that or how "slow" it needed to be.

Kelby explains the suggested shutter speed (1/16 1/8 or 1/4 of a second), exposure time (30 seconds) and other necessary tools (aka tripod) to create the shot.

I also love the helpful-but-snarky tone he uses. It's like if I were to write a photography help book, it would look and sound a lot like this book.

For example, here's an exerpt from the Landscape section called "The golden rule of landscape photography":

I'll never forget the time I was doing a Q&A session for professional photographers. The other instructor was legendary National Geographic photographer Joe McNally. A man in the crowd asked Joe, "Can you really only shoot at dawn and dusk?" Joe quietly took his tripod and beat that man to death. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but what Joe said has always stuck with me. He said that today's photo editors (at the big magazines) feel so strongly about this that they won't even consider looking at any of his, or any other photographer's landscape work if it's not shot at dawn or dusk.

Now I don't really plan on submitting my photos to a professional magazine, so I'm taking that with a grain of salt... but upon reading that page I had to stop and think... about the photos I took in Rafina, Greece. I was "suffering" from a severe case of jetlag, waking up at 5am just about every morning. So I would take my little point-and-shoot and walk around, taking photos. Those are among some of my best photos to date.

So anyways, the long and short of it is this is a great little book (emphasis on "little" it's a paperback-sized book, about 200 pages long), that I really recommend for anyone who's interested in improving their photography. You won't use every tip - some are only applicable to people with SLR/DSLR cameras - but even if you just have a low-end point-and-shoot camera, much of the information is useful.