Those of you interested in Lightroom 4—with the caveat that you need to be the kind of person who learns software well from books (not everyone does)—might want to check out Martin Evening's new Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers. Martin has a reputation for producing the most comprehensive and complete instructional books, the corollary being that they're not the most accessible (try Scott Kelby's The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Book for Digital Photographers, due May 18th, for that). I'm not the least bit qualified to actually review this book, because I don't use Lightroom and I'm a bit of a nitwit with software anyway, but it's a magnificent book—hefty, thoroughly organized, and copiously illustrated. I suspect most people wouldn't read this per se but will use it like a one-volume encyclopedia, looking up whatever they need to know at the time.
Here's another interesting-looking book that's gotten a bit lost in the shuffle. Following the phenomenal success of Joe McNally's The Moment It Clicks, which was a big bestseller in its category, another editorial/assignment photographer of equal stature has produced a visual tour of how he works. Vincent Laforet's Visual Stories gives a good selection of his work with explanatory text and a lot of practical advice and technical details along the way.
Just as knowing a subject and teaching it are not exactly the same skills, being very good at something and writing about it engagingly are not exactly the same skills either. Publishers churn out these books at a furious pace, and in many of them you "feel the churn." To put it perhaps a little more bluntly, Vincent's pictures are better than his book. The prose is a bit leaden, and the tone of the advice is of one who is, shall we say, not entirely accustomed to giving advice to adult photo enthusiasts (I don't know about you, but I don't need to be told to leave the lenscap in the camera bag and that the purpose of a UV filter is actually to protect the front element of the lens). But, throughout, you do get a very good sense of what it's like to be "out there," constantly faced with the challenge of coming up with something new, good, and different in the context of a specific assignment. There's plenty that's practical in the discussions, including some bones thrown to the gearheads.
The book comes with a DVD that has several dozen short QuickTime movies on it. As you know, I don't generally care for videos (it means I have to turn the music off). But I have to say that, as with the book, I found these (I only watched a few) to be a bit undercooked. For instance, the pictures are only shown at the beginning and the end, whereas the time you want to see the image is when he's talking about the specific elements of it. Most of each video is "talking head," except you also see his hands coming into and back out of the frame...so, I found myself distractedly watching his hands fly about as I listened to him say a bunch of stuff that's already in the book. I think it might have been better to do the opposite—begin and end with the talking head shot and show the picture as he talks about it. Also, I see absolutely no point in showing each image starting zoomed in and then slowly zooming out on it until you (briefly) see the whole thing—it's not appropriate when the entire still image is the point of the discussion. The technical information at the end of every video is of little interest and has the feel of filler (feel the churn, baby, feel the churn).
Vincent Laforet has a superb feel for B&W. This picture, taken for the front page beat that he covered for a full two years, had to include a recognizable New York City locale—here the planetarium at the American Museum of
Natural History on Central Park West.
As for the pictures, there are, as you might expect, some great ones, and then some really great ones. You certainly get a strong sense of the vast range required of an editorial photographer. Oddly enough, considering most of his work is in color, Vincent Laforet seems to have an uncommonly good feel for black-and-white—or maybe that's because only his very best B&W shots made the book. He's very fond of anti-tilt-shift, or whatever you call that style—using a tilt-shift to limit depth of field (diorama mode?). It's a technique I don't personally care for—although you might, and he's good at it. He's particularly good with aerial photography, so Visual Stories will be of special interest to anyone who likes aerial photography or wants to try it. (I've only done it once, but I really enjoyed it, and highly recommend the experience.) There are aerial photographs throughout the book.
All in all a reasonably informative albeit not terribly entertaining session spent looking over a top editorial photographer's shoulder.
There's also an eBook version of Visual Stories available from the publisher, but it costs more than Amazon's price for the printed one.
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Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Bahi: "Opinion about Evening vs. Kelby for Lightroom books compares to opinion on the Mac vs. Windows for operating systems, though there are peacemakers in both areas.
"I've supplied dozens of these books to photographers while delivering Lightroom tuition and have two recommendations that come from the results of that ongoing, multi-year experiment using Kelby's and Evening's LR 2 and LR 3 books.
"First is that if you can afford it and if LR is your main image editing app, you should get both—they're different and offer complementary approaches. As you say, Mike, Evening is very thorough and a good reference.
"The second recommendation to any photographer is to not dismiss the Kelby as having too little information, based on the chatty writing style—Scott has the enviable ability to help you learn without your realising that you're learning. (A rare gift.) Even people who don't particularly like his writing style do find themselves learning quickly using his books. There are now other good LR books appearing, too, the Bampton in particular.
"For those who prefer video learning, Messrs. Reichmann and Schewe do a good turn. They're quite the Vic and Bob of workflow, those two."
Featured Comment by Eamon Hickey: "In case anyone is interested (and begging your pardon, Mike, for gauchely referring people to my own story on a different web site), I wrote a short article on Vincent Laforet's excellent aerials for Rob Galbraith's website a few years ago. It's got a lot of how-he-does-it info for folks interested in the nuts and bolts.
"It also leads off with what is still one of my favorite photographs, an aerial that Vincent shot over Central Park that is one of the most lovely and visually unexpected (yet simple when, after half a second, you grok it) images I've ever seen. For those who like pictures better than articles, you can see it at Vincent's website without my accompanying ramblings."