Thursday, November 2, 2017

Understanding Color in Photography

Title:  Understanding Color in Photography: Using Color, Composition, and Exposure to Create Vivid Photos
Author:  Bryan Peterson and Susana Heide Schellenberg 
Publication Information:  Watson-Guptill. 2017. 144 pages.
ISBN:  0770433111 / 978-0770433116

Book Source:  I received this book through the Blogging for Books program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "When I first launched my dream to be a professional photographer back in the 1970s, I began as most did at that time:  by shooting with the less expensive black-and-white films."

Favorite Quote:  "Your photographic vision, which comes from within, is vitally important to your art of image-making. As an artist, you take responsibility for your vision, you own the creative process; the creative process does not own you! Your vision is inside you and is shaped by many factors, not the least of which is your love of color."

A reader's perspective and background is crucial to understanding their review of any book. It is even more crucial in a review of an instructional book such as this one. I am an amateur photographer - a hobbyist. I shoot both with my phone which is always with me and with a larger DSLR camera and lenses whose intricacies I am still exploring.  I work in both color and black and white. My snapshots are of my family; they are more about capturing memories and the moment rather than photographic skill. My favorite subjects for exploring photographic skills are things in nature. One day, of course, my hope is to apply one to the other.

I first explored Bryan Peterson's teaching through online sources. Bryan Peterson is an accomplished photographer and the author of many books and the force behind a photography school. His books have long been resources of photographers looking to learn. This book is no different. Learning to See Creatively explored ideas on really seeing the world around you. This book explores the world of color:
  • evaluating the interplay between light, exposure, and color
  • using color in composition through ideas such as complementary vs. analogous vs. monochromatic colors, the weight of colors, and the color wheel.
  • understanding the psychology of color and using those ides for impact in photographs
  • using tools to enhance colors
Clearly, any book such as this one presents the author's philosophy on the subject. For example, the section on tools to enhance colors are relatively short and at the end of the book. Both the section on filters and photo editing begin with a statement that the author is not a fan of using tool. He does use them, but the preference is not to.

This book is not for the complete novice. It assumes an understanding of the terminology of photography - f-stop, ISO, white balance, shutter speed, and so on. However, it is also not equipment dependent. The ideas in the book can be used whether you have a camera which adjusts for all these settings or a point and shoot with automatic settings. The writing style of the book is also like a personal narrative or conversation (lots of you... and I....), making it more accessible to readers.

This book is both instruction manual and a spring board for inspiration. The setup of the sections is similar - text embedded in a multitude of photographs with each photograph specifying the technical setup of the shot and the story behind the shot. The full color photographs, of course, make this book. Just flipping through the book creates a rainbow of images to enjoy. The photographs are from around the world, but the subject matter is ordinary enough to be found in your own neighborhood - an orange, a street vendor, a bird, leaves, paint brushes, a match and its flame, for example. The key is not have great vistas to photograph but learning to seeing the beauty in the ordinary.

That perhaps is my favorite aspect of Bryan Peterson's books. He makes beautiful photography approachable and achievable. Putting it into play, of course, takes practice, but the inspiration is invaluable.

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

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