Year-End Wrap-Up; Digital Imaging Books

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Books about digital imaging can be a source of information and inspiration. They have the space to provide an in-depth look at programs, plug-ins, or techniques and many of them include CD-ROMs loaded with demo or "tryout" versions of commercial software, shareware, or files of the images appearing on the book's pages, allowing you to see how the illustrations and tutorials appear on your computer unfiltered by the printing process. This feature is especially important for books produced mostly in black and white.

While some photo retailers offer a good stock of photography and digital imaging books, that tends to be the exception rather than the rule. One of the best places to find digital imaging books is on Internet web sites such as www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com and www.borders.com. To keep up-to-date on information about new digital photography books you can register your interests at any of these sites. Whenever a new book on that subject is released, they'll e-mail you information and sometimes brief reviews. If a book sounds interesting, you can place an order and have the book shipped directly to you. One web site that specializes in photography books is The Photographer's Bookstore, which is found at: www.photographybookstore.ca. They're a Canadian company that stocks a large number of photography and digital imaging books along with archival storage and photo management supplies.

Many interesting new digital imaging books were published during 1999 and here's a look at some of the best. Any one of them will make a useful addition to your own library or a great holiday gift for a friend or family member who's been bitten by the digital imaging bug.

General Digital Reading. Start with a Digital Camera by John Odam. Published by Peachpit Press, 1249 Eighth St., Berkeley, CA 94710; (www.peachpit.com) 146 pages, $44.99, softbound. (ISBN 0-201-35424-1)
Here's a book that does everything right. Start with a Digital Camera combines an attractive design along with great-looking photographs and helpful text showing you how to get the most out of a digital camera. The book opens with the inevitable technical section on camera design, resolution, computer requirements, along with what's involved in downloading and managing images. It moves quickly to more fun stuff, such as making landscape and architectural images, as well as photographing people indoors and outside. There's a chapter on digital still life photography, followed by three chapters on image editing and manipulation. One of the book's most practical features is a section that uses a graphic image of a generic photo vest, which the author and designer turned into a chart, indicating the kind of gear you should take for an on-location digital shoot. The final chapters deal with output including working with laser and ink jet printers and tips on printing on material other than the conventional papers made by printer and photographic companies. Peppered throughout with large color photographs, Start with a Digital Camera is a quick read that will help you get the most out of your digital camera no matter what kind you own.

Digital Colour in Graphic Design by Ken Pender. Published by Focal Press, 225 Wildwood Ave., Woburn, MA 01801; (www.bhusa.com) 216 pages, $39.95, softbound, includes CD-ROM. (ISBN 0-240-51527-7)
You can tell by the title's spelling that this is a British book, but you don't have to be an Anglophile to enjoy Digital Colour in Graphic Design. Color management is the next frontier in digital imaging to be overcome so that the average photographer can make sure the image he or she sees on their monitor matches the one rolling off their printer. Apple Computer, Agfa, Epson, and others are doing their best to make this a reality, but in order to understand how color management software works, it helps to have a grounding in digital color basics. That's where Digital Colour in Graphic Design comes in. While filled with examples that, more often than not, use classical painting and artwork instead of photographs, the book provides a practical guide for handling desktop color including scanning, image creation, and manipulation, as well as output on different color devices. The first half of the book explains the principles of digital color including system calibration, color management, and color conversions. The second half shows how to use popular graphics software including Adobe's Photoshop and Illu-
strator, MetaCreations' Bryce Painter, and Poser, as well as CorelDRAW. The author includes a brief but well written glossary of terms found in the world of digital color, and a CD-ROM contains all of the images found in the book.

Easy Digital Photography by Scott Slaughter. Published by Abacus, 5370 52nd St., Grand Rapids, MI 49512. (www.abacuspub.com) 350 pages, $29.95, softbound, includes CD-ROM. (ISBN 1-55755-364-5)
Although hampered by mediocre reproduction quality and frequently too small illustrations, Easy Digital Photography provides an entrée to the world of digital imaging for some computer users but not all of us. With its Windows-orientation (the companion CD-ROM is in Windows 98 format only) Macintosh users will have to look elsewhere. For all of you Windows users out there, the author has provided the basic information needed to get started in digital imaging, including a look at selecting and using digital cameras and scanners. You'll also find information on choosing an image-editing program along with suggestions on projects to get started doing something with all of the digital images you'll eventually accumulate. The author's writing style is breezy, lacking the techno-bluster that authors of some digital imaging books feel compelled to fill the pages with, but even a short glossary would have been useful. Unfortunately, there's none here. The accompanying CD-ROM contains demo versions of imagebase software, including ImageAXS, plug-ins from Alien Skin Software, and an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) program.

The Computer in the Visual Arts by Anne Morgan Spalter. Published by Addison-Wesley, One Jacob Way, Reading, MA 01867; (www.awl.com/cseng) 500 pages, $45, hardbound. (ISBN 0-201-38600-3)
Taking on the entire field of computer graphics, The Computer in the Visual Art features descriptions of software used for digital painting and photo editing, as well as design and layout. The first chapter is the inevitable "history" many authors feel compelled to include and I suspect most readers can skip it and start with Chapter 2--"Digital Painting and Photoediting." There are historical perspectives to be found throughout the book, including stories about pioneers in digital graphics that make fascinating reading. What sets Spal-ter's work apart from many writers in the field is her insistence on making the technical aspects of the medium accountable for aesthetics, too. That's why sprinkled throughout the book you will find examples of traditional artwork along with in-depth captions. She touches briefly on digital ethics, citing the TV Guide cover that placed Oprah Winfrey's head on Ann Margaret's body. There's plenty of technical data here, too; all written with the same easy-to-read style that permeates the book. Overall reproduction quality for the mostly black and white illustrations is about average for computer books, which is to say below what photographers expect from "real" photo books. That mild quibble aside, The Computer in the Visual Arts is a sprawling and ambitious book that establishes the author as the James Michener of digital graphics while providing a solid introduction to using computers for creating digital images.

Apple Confidential by Owen W. Linzmayer. Published by No Starch Press, 555 Haro St., Ste. 250, San Francisco, CA 94107; (www.nos tarch.com) 272 pages, $17.95, softbound. (ISBN 1-886411-28-X)
While not specifically a digital imaging book, there are many, many users of Apple Macintosh computers who work with photographs professionally and for the fun of it. For all of you Macheads out there, this book is far more informative than the entertaining but superficial TV movie Pirates of Silicon Valley that was broadcast during the year. Be warned if you view Steve Jobs as the savior--both times--of Apple Computer, you may have a different opinion after you finish turning the last page. But Apple Confidential isn't a hatchet job on any of the characters who have populated the Apple universe since day one, and reads more like a Bob Woodward exposé taking you behind the scenes to meet the people who both built and almost destroyed the company. Along the way, Linzmayer introduces you to several unforgettable characters, including Ron Wayne one of the three original founders of Apple who later sold his interest in the young company for $800. This is clearly the best computer book of 1999 and belongs in the library of every Macintosh user.

Photoshopping. Some digital imagers, lured by the simplicity of making a few minor adjustments to an image, think that they already "know" how to use Photoshop, but if you've ever watched a maestro, such as Kai Krause, you know there's more to be learned. Many Photoshop books start by listing the program's many basic features for all of those readers who haven't bothered to read Adobe's User's Guide. In the past, there was an excuse for this, but not anymore. Adobe documentation is among the most usable and readable available, but it's a fact of life that people don't read manuals. This has created a cottage industry of books, including the Classroom in a Book series published jointly by Adobe Systems and Peachpit Press, whose titles currently include Adobe Photoshop 5.0 Studio Techniques by Ben Wilmore (ISBN 1-56830-474-9), Adobe Photoshop 5.0 Classroom in a Book (ISBN 1-56830-466-8), and Adobe Photoshop 5.0 Certification Guide by Michael Lennox and Elizabeth Bulger (ISBN 1-56830-473-0). Most of the Photoshop books introduced in 1999 were based on Photoshop 5.0, but Adobe rolled out Version 5.5 in the middle of the year and, so far, only Peachpit Press has announced a book based on the new version. It's called Adobe Photoshop 5.5 Classroom in a Book, Special Web Edition. Other Photoshop books for 1999 include the following:

Photoshop 5 Artistry by Barry Haynes and Wendy Crumpler. Published by New Riders, 201 W 103rd St., Indianapolis, IN 46290; (www.newriders.com) 360 pages, $55, softbound. (ISBN 1-56205-895-9)
While there are many books about Photoshop, Photoshop 5 Artistry uses a "workshop" theme that will have you improving your own images within the first few pages. The essence of this book is found in many of the hands-on sessions that show you how to accomplish various techniques and is the main reason for purchasing the book. These range from the useful examples of using Curves and Layers to improve a photograph of Bryce Canyon to (what I feel is) silly in which faces and bodies of people in a family portrait are combined to produce the best possible result. The techniques used in accomplishing these kinds of alterations may be useful to know, but most photographers would rather work on improving their skills to get the best possible portrait "on the film" in the first place. The photographs are topnotch as is the reproduction quality of the full color book. A CD-ROM contains a demo version of Adobe Photoshop 5.0 along with all of the step by step images in the book.

Real World Photoshop 5 by David Blatner and Bruce Fraser. Published by Peachpit Press, 1249 Eighth St., Berkeley, CA 94710; (www.peachpit. com) 706 pages, $44.99, softbound. (ISBN 0-201-35375-X)
The best book about using Adobe Photoshop gets thicker with each new version of the program. Enhanced by the authors' wonderfully lucid writing and reproduction quality which is above the norm for computer books, Real World Photoshop is a model of what a good digital imaging book should be. At almost 4 lbs, it's heavy and at almost $45, it's not cheap, but it represents the best way to increase your knowledge of the obvious and hidden capabilities of Photoshop. Blatner and Fraser take you behind the menus and show you--in plain English--how to get the most out of your images. Topics include color correction, using scanners, storing images, output methods, essential tips and tricks, and much more. If you want to increase your ability to use Photoshop, put Real World Photoshop on your nightstand and read several pages before you go to bed each night. By the time you've finished the book, your ability to manipulate images will have grown tenfold and the quality of your images will be enhanced by the experience.

Adobe Photoshop 5.0 Productivity Kit by Team Adobe. Published by Peachpit Press, 1249 Eighth St., Berkeley, CA 94710; (www.peachpit.com) 186 pages, $39.99, softbound includes CD-ROM. (ISBN 1-56830-464-1)
This book is part of the Classroom in a Book series that is jointly produced by Peachpit Press and Adobe Press and features all of the hallmarks of the series, including high quality, full color reproduction. Adobe Photoshop 5.0 Productivity Kit is actually a series of 26 tutorials that take you through various projects including digitally handcoloring photographs, creating posters, batch processing images for print or web use, along with some practical applications, such as creating name tags, certificates, and awards. All of these tutorials are easy to follow and well illustrated. While most of the projects use Photoshop, some also require you to use Adobe PageMaker desktop publishing program, but "tryout" copies of PageMaker and ImageReady (now part of Photoshop 5.5) are found on a CD-ROM in the inside back cover.
Innovative Digital Imaging Books. Two new books from Silver Pixel Press stand out by not being "just another Photoshop" book and take the design and content of digital imaging books into new directions and I hope other publishers will follow their example.

The Digital Darkroom by George Schaub. Published by Silver Pixel Press, 21 Jet View Dr., Rochester, NY 14624; (www.tiffen.com) 144 pages, $29.95, softbound. (ISBN 1-883403-51-0)
You have to read the book's subtitle to know you're in for a treat: "Black-And-White Techniques Using Photoshop." The only other book on black and white imagery using Adobe Photoshop is oriented toward designers who need to produce the kind of "screened" files needed for reproduction. The Digital Darkroom, instead, is aimed at photographers who want to use Photoshop to create classical black and white images using digital technology. Extremely well organized, the book includes information on setting up your digital darkroom and workshop sections showing techniques that have roots in darkroom practices. There's even a brief "Colorization" section that addresses the use of color with black and white images, that is far from what Ted Turner hath wrought. This section, like the rest of the book, takes a fine arts approach. Design and layout are excellent complimented by extremely high reproduction standards, making the book's tutorial sections easy to follow while appreciating the artistry used by the author to create the images.

Fantasy Nudes: Digital Techniques in Photography by Jim Zuckerman. Published by Silver Pixel Press, 21 Jet View Dr., Rochester, NY 14624; (
www.tiffen.com) 160 pages, $29.95, softbound. (ISBN 1-883403-48-0)
Behind a cover image that's so subtle, you might pass this book by if you see it on a book store shelf, lies a collection of stunning digital glamour images along with information on the techniques used to create them. Take a look at the back cover and you'll see what I mean. The author quickly glides past the basics of digital imaging before taking you to that space in his mind where he creates the kind of images of beautiful women that exist on another plane of reality. Explanations of his techniques are accompanied by easy to follow text and breathtaking reproduction quality that make this book a joy to read. Throughout Fantasy Nudes, information is provided on how the original image was created as well as the tools and techniques used to create the "fantasy." You'll also find tutorials on compositing two or more images, turning a photograph into a painting, as well as marketing digital nudes. This is a must-have book for glamour photographers, wannabe glamour shooters, and digital imagers.

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