Digital Fine Print - The Book
Art, photography, and the decisions that unify the two are the pivotal elements to make photographs with, dare I say it, soul and meaning. You purchase cameras, lenses, computers, and printers, and then you strive to make a print that reflects something you felt at the time of exposure. This is another of life's curve balls - you have a process that sounds so simple yet is amazingly challenging to execute. Many photographers find this difficult because, easy as it appears, it's quite a journey to take a feeling and make it into something you can put in a picture frame. You struggle to translate the reason-for-shooting into an image that has meaning to others (and maybe they'll even purchase it). There's that fundamental breakdown between understanding the original inspiration (why you clicked the shutter) and how to take those raw materials and transform them into a moving, inspiring photographic print.
It's not easy. If it were, we'd all be making a living as artists. Yes, you can read all the technical books to learn about exposure, contrast, and color, but without a foundation of critical expressive thinking, you're on your way to making cliche's at best and mediocrity at worst.
So how can you best approach this combined goal of mastering both aesthetics and technique? And how do you go about designing your personal workflow so you spend more time with the creative and fun parts of photography and less time shaking your head at prints that look nothing like what you envisioned?
Reading this book, you will discover an author who makes the intelligent and much appreciated effort to define the "whys" of photography in addition to the much easier "hows." Indeed you know you're dealing with a photographic artist when he takes the time to explain the difference between ambient and reflected light. Heck, how many digital imaging authors even take the time to talk about light in general terms? In a typical Photoshop book, you're more apt to encounter a longer exploration of the Eyedropper tool than you are to glean any appreciation for the qualities of light that make an image a winner or a sleeper. Bottom line: most of us need as much help with the decisions of aesthetics as we do with the mechanics of photography. Score another point for George DeWolfe's approach.
As something of a digital pioneer myself (the first edition of my Making Digital Negatives for Contact Printing was published in 1995, during the Paleolithic period of digital imaging), I've witnessed the right way and the wrong way to navigate the amazing metamorphosis of photography as it changes from a chemo-mechanical realm into a digital-ink discipline. Anyone who reads books to learn has encountered authors who know how to do things themselves, and in contrast, authors who know how to teach others to do those same things. Happily George DeWolfe falls into the second camp. His style is authoritative but never condescending. He's scientific when needed but never technical for technical's sake. In other words, he takes pains so you don't feel overwhelmed or misled. And, I must add, he is not a computer nerd. His explanations are spot-on, simple, and concise. What more could you want?
You have to decide where your interests in art and technique intersect. George feels strongly that the craft and art of photography are intimately connected. His joined-at-the-hip approach will leave artists with jaws dropped. George certainly explains how to achieve prints with glowing highlights, seductive midtones, and deeply lush shadows. But more important, he shows you how to think like an artist, making decisions about color, tonality, sharpness, and all the rest from years of experience. Yes, this is the stuff that separates the technicians from the artisans and George is a master. On the other hand, if your idea of digital excellence is using as many of Photoshop's blending modes as possible in each and every image, you might want to look elsewhere. Believe me, if flexing technical muscles is your primary passion, George won't be disappointed at losing you as a reader. For the rest of us, we leave his last pages as better artists and better digital printers.
So do you really need yet another "Photoshop book" cluttering your desk or bookcase? The short answer is "Yes," as long as the author has conveyed his passion for photography and has written in understandable language. And guess who has done just that? Yep, George DeWolfe. With his help, you'll be putting more of your own feelings into those picture frames.
- Dan Burkholder (Forward to Digital Photography Fine Print Workshop)