You Bought the Camera. Now Buy the Book.

You spend $300, maybe $400, on a feature-rich digital camera. You start by shooting in automatic mode, then experiment with aperture or shutter priority, white balance, low light shooting and maybe a few special effects.

You want to understand image manipulation, image processing, image retouching, but these are not easy to learn, and they are difficult to master.

There’s a large gap between (a) what today’s cameras and software can do, and (b) our understanding of these features and how to use them.

After a Goldilocks routine (too artsy, too techy, etc), I found a wonderful guide in The Complete Digital Photo Manual. Just the right balance for me–written in plain language with lots of helpful diagrams and photographs.

The book begins with an illustrated section about compact cameras–higher end models like Canon’s G10, cameras built for extreme conditions, super zooms–followed by a walk through various types of DSLR cameras and the most common features. There’s an important sidebar about image sensors. Then, it’s on to a similar section about lenses.

Next, the book explains how to set up the camera, explaining each of the features commonly offered on digital camera menus. The are good, clear explanations about metering patterns and histograms, white balance and image sharpness.

And then, about 1/3 of the way through the book, comes the best stuff. Every significant Photoshop tool and menu item is simply explained, often with step-by-step diagrams and abundant examples and illustrations. Two-page spreads include Hue/Saturation, clone Stamp and Healing Brush, Layer Masks, Channels, Hand Coloring, and more.

Then, there’s another group of spreads offering specific direction to, for example, Replace a Boring Sky, Blur Waves with a Long Exposure, lots more.

The last of the truly helpful sections explains how to make good use of RAW images, a feature viable on most serious cameras.

The Complete Digital Photo Manual was produced in association with England’s Digital Photo Magazine.

The book costs less than $25 at Barnes & Noble (and other fine retailers). Think about it: you spent how much on the digital camera? Why wouldn’t you make this investment?

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