Book review: Digital Photography, Expert Techniques (2nd Edition) by Ken Milburn

This book is meant for “photographers who are serious about producing the highest quality photographs in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible.” That would include anyone from advanced amateur photographers to seasoned pros looking for new and more efficient ways of doing things.

Ken Milburn, the author, is a seasoned pro with lots of paid, published experience. He’s also an accomplished writer of technical works like these, in particular ones dealing with digital photography and Photoshop. What’s more, this book is now in its 2nd edition, which ought to tell you that if it was good enough to be reprinted, it’s probably worth your money.

The book is divided into twelve chapters that take you from prepping for a photo shoot to processing the photos and presenting them to the world. A great emphasis is placed on the workflow, and best practices are presented, and I might say, drilled into the reader. O’Reilly has spoiled me, because they always have good TOCs and indexes, and nice intro sections that are good stepping stones to the headier content, and this book is no different. Each chapter is summarized, so the reader knows where to look for things. What’s more, Ken’s writing is approachable and down to earth. You can tell he’s familiar with the subject matter and is also used to explaining these concepts.

Ken teaches the workflow mentioned above using the Adobe Bridge and Photoshop applications. If nothing else, Adobe applications like these have a wide reach, so you’ll be able to replicate what you learn from the book. I like the explanations that Ken offers for shooting in RAW vs. JPEG mode, and for ensuring that you are always ready to take photos, no matter the conditions. Another nice nugget is the method of eliminating noise from your photos by using Photoshop. The book is worth its price for the extensive photo retouching techniques alone. For example, have you ever wanted to know how to eliminate the bags under someone’s eyes, or take out shadows and imperfections? This is covered in the post-processing sections. As a bonus, panoramic and HDR (high dynamic range) photos are also taught. In the last chapter of the book, you’ll learn the methods of editing your photos’ embedded data (EXIF and IPTC), as well as presenting them to clients and to the world at large. This is more and more important these days as photos get posted online and can be so easily copied. Embedding information is one more way you can prove copyright.

There is one error I noticed, and that is in the recommended specs for desktops and laptops in the beginning chapter. Instead of GB, RAM is indicated in MB, as in “plug at least 1 MB of RAM into the motherboard and move up to 2+ MB as quickly as you can afford it.” I had to chuckle when I read this. It’s obvious Ken refers to GB, not MB, and I’m surprised this typo made it past the editors in the 2nd edition.

I highly recommend this book. Being an amateur photographer myself, I looked forward to reading it, and now it’s a worthwhile addition to my reference library. I learned many useful things from it, and I think you will, too.