Book Review: In Camera: Perfect Pictures Straight out of the Camera, by Gordon Laing

In CameraI like photography, but I like the process of taking pictures, not manipulating them in software like Photoshop. I’d rather take a bit more time and find the right composition to capture what I see than to spend time doctoring pictures in software. To be fair, Photoshop and other apps are in some ways similar to working in a darkroom, tweaking prints, but these apps allow you to take a photo and make it very different from what you see.

In his new book, Gordon Laing looks at the types of photos you can take in your camera. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) He shows 100 photos he’s taken as JPEGs, with no post-processing, and discusses their composition, lighting, exposure, and more.

Since today’s cameras are so powerful – they’re great in low light, and you have plenty of lens options – it makes sense to use them for more than just a basic capture. I’d long sniffed at the “artistic” filters available in digital cameras, but since I got my new Olympus Pen-F, I’ve been using them to great effect. (I especially like the monochrome profiles available in that camera.) Laing praises these filters and profiles, and shows a number of photos where they really do make a picture great.

I’ve only gone through about half the book so far, but it’s full of tips and ideas. It’s not necessarily a book to read cover to cover; you can just flip through it and find a photo or two that you like, then read how Laing shot it. Each photo is full page or on a two-page spread with a page of explanations, including EXIF data about the camera, lens, and type of filter or profile used. Here’s an example of a two-page spread from Laing’s website CameraLabs:

In camera spread

Unfortunately, the book has made me realize how useful a wide-angle zoom lens would be in my camera bag; Laing uses this type of lens for many of his photos, and I now understand how it would be useful. And I was trying to stop buying lenses… It’s also made me very interested in trying out a Fujifilm camera, because of the film simulations those cameras offer. Laing uses them for a number of his photos, and they look very nice. (I’m off to eBay to try to find a cheap Fuji camera…)

This is a great book for those interested in learning more about how to get the most of their camera’s powerful features. The photos are lovely, the explanations practical, and it will give you lots of ideas for how to make your own great pictures without Photoshop.

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