BOOK REVIEW: Picture Perfect Practice

taken from peachpit.comHaha! It has been a long while since I have written a book review. However, I can promise you that I have  been reading–and reading lots. However, I wanted to review this particular book because of it’s pertinence to something I have made to be a hobby of mine–and because it has only enhanced my understanding of the art and practice of photography.

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I will say it right out–Picture Perfect Practice is a fantastic book. Every photographer–aspiring, hobbyist, professional, world renowned (I mean that)–ought to find a place for it on his/her shelf. Roberto Valenzuela posesses the abilities to demonstrate and communicate, through writing and picture examples, what makes his own work so dynamic and powerful, as well as helpfully break down the artistic techniques he faithfully practices into applicable and very doable exercises. But let me get into the specifics on what makes this book so wonderful.

1. Readability. It’s not heavy textually. You won’t feel as if you are reading a textbook. The book shows rather than tells. Every technique is fully explained and subsequently demonstrated with Valenzuela’s own work. Further, and a  huge positive in my opinion, Valenzuela’s tone is down to earth, simplistic, educational–and far from condescending. I feel that he has full faith in the ability and potential of the reader without being assuming.

2. Excellent Examples. Everything in the books demonstrated–and beautifully so. Valenzuela doesn’t give a rule or a suggestion without demonstration from his own work. He’s carefully thought through each practice–and he knows exactly what exercise will hone a specific aesthetic skill.

3. Explains the “Why.”  Let me explain that (yes, yes I know). Many hobbyists (myself included) can take a good picture filled with decent composition, because over time we’ve developed an eye for what
“appears nice” –but we can’t explain why; nor can we explain the technique, nor can we quickly replicate a process or a method of taking a good picture somewhere else in the same way. All we have to go on is “okay, yeah, that looks good right there . . .” But then, stuck in a different situation and we are pressed to compose a good photo (of people or things or places) we can’t find the sweet spot, or it’s laborious, and we don’t know what to do first except trust underlying instincts that aren’t always terribly quick–but yet we know what we’re seeing is going to take a bad picture . . . Okay, now let me explain how Valenzuela expedites the whole trial and error aspect of the “person who only has a good aesthetic eye”. Valenzuela explains and enables the reader, through various exercises, to not just notice aesthetic–but to understand it. And boy, he makes it fascinating.

4. Valenzuela’s photography is gorgeous. If you never fully read the book–but just glance through his photos throughout the book–there is still a lot to be learned. A picture is worth a thousand words–and Valenzuelo’s photos are worth much more than that.

Go, go read it. It’s beautiful.

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