"Close-Up Photography" by Michael Freeman
Review Date: August 20th 2004
"Close-Up Photography" is one of four books in the Digital Photography Expert range, all written by professional photographer Michael Freeman and published by Ilex. As the name suggests, this particular book concentrates on the world of close-up, still-life and macro photography from a digital point of view. The book is aimed at the photographer who wants to learn as much as possible about the theory, techniques and beauty of the close-up world. There are 160 pages brimming with 400 full colour photographs, lots of technical tips and real-life case studies to help illustrate the author's points. It's certainly a very well-presented book that belies its £17.95 price-tag, but will the advice inside actually help to improve your photography skills? Read my short review to find out.
Customers outside the UK can also order - please contact ILEX before ordering.
"Close-Up Photography" is divided into 3 main sections. The first, Another World, looks at the technical theory of close-up work. The second, The Art of Still Life, looks at the many techniques that go into creating a close-up photograph in an indoor studio environment. The third, Nature in Detail, focuses on capturing the beauty of the outdoor world, where you don't have so much control over the subject. Each section is roughly split into 50 pages of content, and is then split again into double-page spreads. So on pages 54 and 55, the author writes about composing a still life, on pages 56 and 57 he looks at the topic of minimalism, and on pages 58 and 59 props are the subject. This structure is rigidly followed throughout the book, making it easy to follow and also to browse through.
Within each of the 3 main sections, the book covers a wide range of subject matter. In the second chapter, The Art of Still Life, for example, Freeman covers photographing subject matter like glass, jeweler, food, liquids and coins and stamps. In the same chapter, he also introduces techniques about lighting, creating a white or black background, digital composites and backgrounds and settings. Each topic is limited to 2 pages, which makes "Close-Up Photography" appealingly diverse. As with the book "Digital Photography Hacks" which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, this is one of the main strengths of "Close-Up Photography", but at the same time it doesn't read as though the author has tried to pack too much into it, or on the other hand not included enough information.
Another similarity with "Digital Photography Hacks" is that "Close-Up Photography" is a book that you will probably read by dipping into, rather than straight through from front to back. One of the first topics that I turned to was creating shadowless white photos on page 70, hoping to improve my product photography for the digital camera reviews here on PhotographyBLOG! The book's division into 3 main chapter and then 2 page topics means that you can read a few when the mood takes you, then return to the book later and read a few more.
Interspersed throughout "Close-Up Photography" are a number of Case Studies (7 in total), which are usually a step-by-step guide to a real-life situation. On page 68, for example, there is a case study in which the author presents his tips and techniques for photographing a small jade horse for Smithsonian magazine. The case studies help to bring the book alive and illustrate what Freeman has been talking about in the rest of the book. I would have liked to seen a few more than the 7 that are included though, just because they are such a good idea.
Overall the book is an extremely well-written introduction to the many different facets of close-up photography. Michael Freeman hasn't sold more than 1 million books by not being either a good writer or knowledgeable. Despite being part of a series called "Digital Experts, there isn't actually too much information that is specifically about digital photography - film users will get as much out of this book as digital users. There are a few topics that will only apply to digital users - Composite Focus is a great look at combining two images together to achieve maximum depth of field - but the majority of the book will apply equally to everyone, regardless of the medium that you use.
(out of 5 stars)
"Close-Up Photography" is a superbly presented, informative introduction to still-life and nature photography, written by somebody who employs the techniques that are presented in the book on a day-to-day basis. It strikes the right balance between covering as many areas as possible and not skimping on the detail. So OK, if you're only interested in food photography, for example, then this book won't be for you, as there are only 2 pages devoted to that particular area. If you have a more general interest in close-up photography and want a well-balanced, informative introduction to as many aspects of it as possible, then "Close-Up Photography" is a great place to start.