A “Better” Way to Begin
I started dabbling in photography in the summer of 1969 when I inherited my grandfather’s 8mm Kodak movie camera. Later that year I worked at a summer camp where I shot and later edited what I considered to be an entertaining eighteen minute movie of my seven weeks as a camp counselor. At the end of summer I showed the movie to the camp director, his family and the other counselors. They liked it too. That night I loaned the film to a counselor so he could show his family. He passed it on to still another counselor. I think the movie then went to the camp director’s family and probably after that to another counselor. With time I forgot who had it. I never saw the movie again and that was pretty much the end of my cinematographic endeavors.
In the Fall when I returned college, I took with me the Fujica Compact Deluxe 35mm camera I had also inherited. I enrolled in my first photography class and learned how to hold a camera, make a decent exposure, develop Tri-X film and make a print. I was hooked… And since then I have never been far from a 35mm camera or the digital equivalent.
Browsing my local library in the early 70’s, I discovered The Amateur Photographer’s Handbook by Aaron Sussman. There weren’t many books available for beginning photographers back then, so I checked it out and started reading. The book offered detailed answers on film types, metering, filters, when to use flash, how to take candid people pictures, developing film, dodging and burning prints and much more. Two months and several library renewals later I finished it. At 562 pages, the book was not an easy read, but in its day an important book for any young photographer. First printed in 1941, The Amateur Photographer’s Handbook was in continuous publication for over forty years. In 1976 I was given a copy and since then have reread and browsed many time through my tabbed, yellow-highlighted and dog-eared copy.
I have an eighteen year old grand-daughter who shows a lot of interest in digital photography, but I’m not giving her a copy of the old book. Now out of print for around twenty-five years, it is still a classic, but too long, too detailed and has too few photographs for a beginner. I don’t want to scare Elizabeth away while she’s still in the early stage of her photo development (No pun intended.)
Instead, I gave her a copy of BetterPhoto Basics – The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Taking Photos Like a Pro by Jim Miotke (published by Amphoto Books).
Over the years, I have read dozens and dozens of photography books. BetterPhoto Basics tops my list of books for beginners eager to learn camera and photography basics. Each topic (such as capturing a sunset, preventing red-eye, how to crop for impact and much more) is covered in one or two pages. Explanations are well-written and there are colorful example photos on almost every page. Author, Jim Miotke, also points out if a technique works best with point & shoot cameras, digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras or both.
If there were a required text-book for the digital photography classes I teach, this would be the one. It is a terrific learning tool, good for beginners and for old-dog photographers who need to be reminded every so often why the basics are so important.
That’s why I bought two copies; one for my grand-daughter and one for me.
January 28, 2013