Some time ago in this space in the course of reviewing one of Tom Ang’s many introductions to photography, I noted that Ang had covered the same ground, albeit with minor variations, several times before. Upon reading Miriam Leuchter’s Take Your Best Shot: Essential Tips & Tricks for Shooting Amazing Photos, I realized that the issue is by no means unique to Ang, Leuchter, or any other writer who’s already covered this territory (or has yet to do so). Put simply: the fundamentals are what they are, and there’s only so many ways to state the same fundamental principles.
Especially, might I add, when you’re covering them this briefly. The book’s 240-odd page length is a bit deceiving, since Leuchter covers some 86 topics, ranging from useful equipment and a glossary of terms, all the way up to advice on architectural shooting and portraiture. On the surface, that’s all well and good, but the author rarely devotes more than a page to any of her topics.
That leaves somewhere north of 150 pages’ worth of photos illustrating each of the topics. While I won’t knock the photography, which is as good as you’d expect from the Popular Photography stable, I can see where it might be frustrating to think you’re going to get the straight skinny on, say, macro photography, only to end up with a short blurb and some (admittedly beautiful) photos. Far be it from me to complain about photos in a book about photography, but cliches aside, those photos aren’t going to supply their own thousand words. More in-depth writing about the techniques used to get the shots would have been welcome, even if it had meant fewer photos; a small handful of photos accompanied by case studies or deeper technical information would also have been helpful.
This book’s back cover copy promises that even advanced photographers will find the book useful, I differ (albeit politely) with that assessment. While there are a few bits and pieces toward the end of the book that are useful regardless of skill level (especially the bits on the legal aspects of photography), much of the rest will be review to more experienced shooters (even if, like me, you’re not quite “advanced). The brevity with which most of the subject matter is treated isn’t the most useful thing if you needed, or wanted, a more in-depth explanation of the concepts (though, in fairness, there are book-length treatments of nearly every single topic the book covers, and you could seek those out if you want that much depth).
However, if you’re just beginning your journey behind the lens, Take Your Best Shot represents a good starting point. It’s a brisk and readable overview — illustrated with some breathtaking examples — that can help you hit the ground running.
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