Book Review: The Photographer’s Eye by Michael Freeman

by Suzy Walker-Toye

I’d highly recommend this book for beginners. And although I did learn a thing or two from reading it, I think there are slightly more sophisticated books for the advanced amateur. However as a companion book to the OCA course it’s unbeatable. The course is clearly based from it and written by the same author so you get more context for the exercises & assignments. If I had one criticism though it would be that throughout the book Freeman often makes sweeping generalisations. My brain immediately thought up exceptions to these and that cast all the rest of the well reasoned concepts & ideas into doubt in my mind.

The book is laid out well into the following easy to follow chapters and illustrated beautifully throughout. Chapter 1: The image frame is all about placing your scene within the frame of the viewfinder. Chapter 2: Design Basics takes that a bit further discussing balanced compositions and other concepts of choosing & framing your scenes. Chapter 3: Graphic & Photographic Elements goes over the effects of various lines and shapes in your compositions. Chapters 2& 3 together partners with the second section of the coursework on elements of design and reading them along with the exercises pads out the coursework text to give you an insight into the authors intensions with each exercise. Chapter 4: Composing with Light and colour goes through colour theory and touches on black & white imagery. It pairs closely with section 3 of the course on Colour which is the chapter I’m currently working through at the moment.

UPDATE 16 Oct 2013 – the review continues…
The book seems to side step the issue of flash & lighting as a main topic (but there are other books on the reading list if guide you through section 4 of the course).

Chapter 5 & 6 (Intent & Process) both pair well with section 5 of the course (which I’m doing now). They cover basic storytelling through compositional choices, hunting for a situation or story to tell, whether your images should be obvious or challenging to the viewer with respect to making them work for the story. The processes or workflows one might adopt getting or constructing the shot, anticipation, reaction times, patience & persistence. Also an outline of a basic set of templates that an image might fall into based on perceptual psychology. Of special interest with regards to the final section of the course are the sections on photo stories & layouts, juxtaposition & returning to a scene.

The last two sections of the book are about post production & how various films & printing, and later digital & photoshop, has affected the syntax of photography over the years. You do shoot differently if you know you have options to change things later. HDR is touched on as more recent option too. I think these two sections are sort of what the next module of the course are about (digital photographic practice).

One criticism I would make is that it ends rather abruptly. One moment you are reading about photography syntax and the next page is the index! Leaving you with a feeling of ‘oh, it’s finished?’ A bit like this review 🙂

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