Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Learning to See Creatively

Title:  Learning to See Creatively, Third Edition: Design, Color, and Composition in Photography
Author:  Bryan Peterson
Publication Information:  Amphoto Books. 2015 (third edition). 1988 (original). 144 pages.
ISBN:  1607748274 / 978-1607748274

Book Source:  I received this book through a publisher's giveaway free of cost in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Blogging for Books.

Opening Sentence:  "All of us who are blessed with sight can see, but why is it that someone right net to us can see something of interest yet we somehow miss it?"

Favorite Quote:  "Creativity is perhaps best described as a combination of inventiveness, imagination, inspiration, and perception ... These are challenges that continue to be part of the wonderful world of image-making, challenges for which the sole responsibility of success or failure rests squarely on your shoulders."

You may be able to buy the most elaborate, expensive camera around. You may have a whole arsenal of lenses and equipment. You may simply be walking around with a camera that fits into your pocket. Equipment definitely helps, but what matters the most in photography is the eye of the photographer behind the camera. You create your images. Do you just point your camera and shoot or do you make conscious choices as to where and how you point your camera? What do you see when you look through the lens? According to this book, you can teach yourself to "see," and the more you practice, the more natural that "seeing" becomes.

The book expands on the process of seeing in many ways:

  • Lens choice - a telephoto, a macro, a wide-angle and others, talking about the difference between what the eye sees and what a camera sees and the difference between what different lenses see.
  • Design elements - line, shape, form, texture, pattern and color
  • Image composition - what you choose to include and what you choose to exclude, with the focus on the fact that it should be a deliberate choice
  • Light - after all, what is photography other than to capture light
  • Editing - use of Photoshop to convey your artistic vision for an image.

Each section includes many photographs in full color. The book itself is published on heavy photo paper. What is wonderful is that the photographs, many of which are taken from Bryan Peterson's own portfolio, show the same scene shot in different ways to illustrate the concepts he is discussing. The caption for each photograph includes information on the camera, lens and various camera setting used to create the shot. The text talks through why the photographer made the choices that resulted in the image. It is that walk-through of the creative process that is the art of "seeing."

Reinforced throughout is the idea that the more you practice, the better you get. This is not an art that can be learned by simply reading a book. The book can help, but you have to go out and do it. Sprinkled in the book are some exercises for you to practice with. After all, Bryan Peterson is not just an accomplished photographer; he also had authored many books and runs a photography school.  Bryan Peterson's books have long been resources of photographers looking to learn. This book is no different.

Mind you, this is not really a book for the complete novice photographer. It assumes an understanding of the terminology of photography - f-stop, step it up or down, ISO, an XXmm lens, shutter speed, and so on. Yet, the before and after examples alone would benefit any photographer for they show the change in the image due to the change in the choices of the photographer. The writing style of the books is also like a personal narrative or conversation (lots of you... and I....), making it more accessible to readers. If, as a novice, you are willing to look up and learn unfamiliar terms, then this book can help you to "see."

For an amateur photographer as myself, the book is a great expansion of the resources I have to improve my photography. What I love about a photography is that behind the lens of a camera, I do indeed see things differently. I learn to focus on the wonder and beauty that surrounds us each and every moment. I learn to slow down enough to notice. I learn to pay attention to the moment and the environment around me. I learn a valuable life lesson - sometimes to see differently, you don't have to change what you are looking at; you simply have to change your perspective. This book, through its lessons and its vivid examples, reinforces these ideas. I will definitely keep it on my shelf for inspiration and for reference. I look forward to getting out with my camera and practicing my ability to see the world around me.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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