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Books

To see all the books and videos that we've reviewed to date, organized by category go to All Book Reviews.

Color Confidence, The Digital Photographer's Guide to Color Management 
by Tim Grey
ISBN: 0782143164
Paperback, 288pp
review by Pam Stanley

Like most photographers, I have found that digital photography has added to my creativity and has given me more control over the final output of my images. But with that added creativity and control has come more responsibility for understanding what is happening at each stage of the digital process. Most of it involves dealing with the nuances of color management. Enter Tim Grey. His book, Color Confidence, The Digital Photographer's Guide to Color Management, has become, for me, my bible for working with profiles, optimization and output.

Color Confidence is well laid out, discussing the nature of light and color and color profiles to start. Understanding color profiles perhaps is the most important lesson Grey gives the reader: "Color values stored in an image can be thought of as instructions for the device that will display or reproduce these colors. The profile translates these values so that they have specific color meaning and allow consistent colors to be produced by a wide range of devices."

With this foundation, he speaks specifically to Photoshop CS setups and what settings, modes and warnings should be enabled. Profiles and calibrations for monitors are well detailed, walking through the process for choosing monitors and display adapters. Several calibration software packages are reviewed: Color Vision Spyder and Spyder Pro, Gretag Macbeth Eye-One Display and MonacoOPTIX, as well as Adobe Gamma and DisplayMate. Scanners are also covered in some detail, including flatbed and film scanners. Optimizing the scanner color management through two different approaches is outlined.

Grey goes over digital capture in some detail. From features to look for in basic camera settings to RAW capture and conversion and working space issues, good ideas and good working habits are provided. His writing style makes it easy to understand the point he is trying make and he gives the reader specific settings to get them on their way to successful color management. Many times, he suggests making an adjustment to an extreme degree just to see what is truly happening for that control. By then backing down the adjustment, you can fine tune your image.

Optimizing your image allows you to produce an accurate depiction of your image data. It is easy to get caught up in the process of your color-managed workflow. Grey suggests that you continue to look at images with a critical eye. Carefully evaluating the image on your monitor before you print it will ensure that you are getting everything you intended. He is quick to point out, however, that color management is not a perfect science. He prefers instead to call it "predictive." Because of the inherent differences in media, exact reproduction is impossible, i.e., monitors emit light while prints reflect it. Being able to anticipate what your final print will look like based on your monitor display is the final objective.

Color adjustments are discussed in detail. Using Levels, Curves and targeting neutral values, Grey walks the reader through removing color casts and achieving accurate color balance. The book has many pictorial examples as well as showing menus and dialog boxes with specific settings. Color adjustment for black-and-white images may sound incongruous, but Grey recommends using the RGB mode for working with black-and-white because you will have more flexibility with more information that can allow for greater detail and quality in the final print.

A discussion of file formats and retaining all the layers of your adjustments concludes the optimization section and ensures that your image is saved with an embedded profile for use with your selected output method.
According to Grey: "Your goal is have the final display look the way you want it to look." Be it a print, a web page, digital projection or anything else, your preparation with color management will result in the quality of your final output. Most photographers think of the printed image when they think output. The quality of the printer, therefore, is an important part of attaining that quality image. Issues of output size, ink type, number of inks, ink droplet size, resolution, media support and software capabilities are considered.

Printer profiles provide the same translations of color values as monitor profiles do. Printer profiles, however, will be more varied not only because of the different models of printers (and individual printers within a particular model), but because of the types of ink and paper combinations used. Different paper surfaces absorb inks differently, resulting in variations in appearance. Several categories of profiles exist: canned, generic, commercial and custom. Creating your own custom printer profile is outlined step by step, including some software tools available to help build those profiles.

Preparing your images after they have been optimized is the next step. Soft proofing and gamut warnings are tools to use to get a "preview" of what your printed image will look like. Before committing the ink or the paper, you can make further adjustments based on the proofs. Once you have perfected the image, Grey suggests saving the file as your master image file. From this master, you will duplicate the image. This is when you will flatten the layers, resize for intended output, set target black and white values and sharpen for output.

Finally, you are ready to send your image to the printer. Using the Print with Preview feature, you get the opportunity to select your printer properties, including your printer profiles. Grey also covers outputting to CMYK, web, email and digital slideshows.

The last chapter of the book is a step-by-step workflow, incorporating all the components discussed above. I know I will be referring to that workflow, and thumbing back through the various chapters as I work with my images. Color Confidence is a great resource that I recommend be on any digital photographer's desk.

The Photoshop CS Book for Digital Photographers
by Scott Kelby
ISBN: 0735714118
Paperback, 400pp
review by Pam Stanley

If you are like me, you may be astounded at how comprehensive Adobe's photo editing program Photoshop CS is. Perhaps overwhelmed is a better word. It certainly allows you to correct, manipulate, enhance - in short, do anything to -- an image.

But you've worked with Photoshop for awhile and have some basic questions. There are books out there that explain how to work with the Layers palette, or how to use the painting tools, or that show how each of Photoshop's 102 filters look on the same image. But where do you go for the basic "what are good starting settings for the Unsharp Mask filter"? Scott Kelby, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Photoshop User magazine, has written just the book for you. The Photoshop CS Book for Digital Photographers is a great book for the "how-to" lessons you have been looking for.

Kelby calls this a "jump-in-anywhere" book because he didn't write it as a "build-on-what-you-learned-Chapter-1" type of book. And it is just that. It is very well laid out with a topic and descriptive paragraph about a particular problem to be solved. Step by step procedures, with menu and image illustrations, are laid out to get a problem resolved. He gives his recommended specific settings and shows before and after results.

The CS Book covers topics from the file browser, cropping and resizing, digital camera image problems, color correction, masking techniques, retouching portraits, body sculpting, to photographic special effects, color to grayscale, sharpening techniques to showing images to your clients.

This is a Photoshop book, not just a digital photography book. It doesn't cover "what digital camera or printer to buy" and it doesn't explain every aspect of every dialog box. There are few books out there that give actual settings for a particular menu. Kelby presents it the way digital photographers really work - in the order they work - starting with sorting and categorizing, working through optimizing the image, to presenting your images to your clients.

And while this may sound like it is too advanced for you, it really isn't. As Kelby explains a technique, you may realize that "hey, I can do that." For instance, he may show you how to use the Healing Brush to completely remove wrinkles, and most users will do just that - remove all the wrinkles.

The advanced Photoshop user will know that the 79-year old man's face should still have some wrinkles in it. So Kelby goes that "extra mile" and shows you how to duplicate a layer and lower the Opacity, to bring back some of the original wrinkles from the layer underneath. It's not hard, it's just understanding that line of thinking.

As you read through the various techniques presented in this book, you will undoubtedly find one or two (or several!) gems that will be worth the price of the book. Trust me, I have!!

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