Friday, November 14, 2008

Book Review: Mastering Digital Black and White

In general, I dislike books that try to cover everything to do with digital photography because they are usually good on some subjects and poor on others. I feel that these books would benefit from a tighter focus on what the author is really good at.

Mastering Digital Black and White by Amadou Diallo covers a lot of ground, but it focusses completely on digital black and white photography. In fact, it is the most comprehensive book on the subject that I have found to date. What a pleasant surprise!

The author starts by showing some of his own black and white photos, establishing his credentials through the results of his work instead of his vitae. This allows the reader to see the artist, not just the writer, which I value in a book that is about art as much as about technique and technology.

The next chapter is about technology: monitors, printers, computers, software, color management, etc. Since digital photography is, at least in part, about technology, talking about the technology makes sense. The downside is that even when I got the book last year I could not help but notice that computer technology evolves very quickly, so the descriptions become dated just as quickly.

The next chapter is about color management specifically for black and white photographers. I have read entire books on the subject, but I have never before seen a discussion of the specific issues faced when doing black and white work. In case you are wondering: there is a lot that is different from what is required for color.

The next chapter is on digital capture using digital sensors and scanners, which will not be all that interesting if you have previous knowledge.

The next chapter is about Photoshop (CS3) used for black and white work. Other than seeing that there is a grayscale color space, I have never before delved into this topic. Some of the material is quite basic in nature, but it gets more involved quickly. I think the author achieves a good balance between what is required by someone completely new to the software and someone who is familiar with but not with doing black and white work in Photoshop.

Printing in black and white on inkjet printers is next. If you are interested in getting the most from your prints, this chapter is gold. Diallo clearly knows his stuff and brings a lot of experience to the table.

The author puts everything covered so far into perspective by describing how he took several images from capture to print. I learned a lot from this chapter because it shows a number of issues and challenges that I face in my images and how to get the most out of the print in the end.

The author then shares his views on and experience with limited editions as a business model. This is quite interesting if you want to sell your work.

In the final chapter the author explains his approach to portfolios; how to select images and how to present them. Again, this chapter clearly shows a lot of experience.

Throughout the book are several interviews with artists and craftsmen explaining how they work and what is important to them. It is good to see what other experts think about the subject. I really enjoyed these sessions because they give more depth and color (pun intended) to this black and white book.

I really like the thoroughness with which the author shares his considerable experience. Amadou Diallo comes as close to having him there in person as a teacher as is possible in a book. The text is well written, clear, and concise without leaving anything out. I think that a beginner in digital photography can benefit from it as much as an advances practitioner - the book is simply the definitive work on black and white work.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="111" caption="5 stars (out of 5)"]5 stars (out of 5)[/caption]

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