BOOK REVIEW: Vincent Versace’s Welcome to Oz 2.0

Vincent Versace’s reputation as a photographer and lecturer is strong, and he is a fixture in Scott Kelby’s stable of PhotoshopWorld instructors. However, he hasn’t written many books compared to Scott, Joe McNally or other photographers in his class. The only real example, until now, was his Welcome to Oz: A Cinematic Approach to Digital Still Photography with Photoshop which published in early 2007. It’s highly regarded, and so when he published a “version 2.0″ edition this year I was sure to review it.

Welcome to Oz. 2.0: A Cinematic Approach to Digital Still Photography with Photoshop is really a Photoshop book rather than a photography book: most of the pages are for four long, detailed Photoshop tutorials that improve just four images. I’ve never seen anything like it in a 300-page book. With so many pages devoted to so few chapters, you can bet either the tutorials are masterpieces that cover every detail of photography retouching or lessons that are so packed with steps and Photoshop adjustments that they get twisted upon themselves. I think there’s some of both.

I am a fan of advanced books, since there are so many beginner and “prosumer” books on the market. Welcome to Oz 2.0 is a book for advanced and intermediate readers, and Vincent’s tutorials are not simple or quick but constitute a “deep dive” into many features at once and produce great results. Photographers and retouchers who really want to be the best are the perfect audience for Welcome to Oz 2.0.

However, some of Vincent’s work in Welcome to Oz 2.0 really do go over the top sometimes. There’s value in retouching a background in six steps that, in this book, might take 15. Welcome to Oz 2.0 is not a book for in-house retouchers or photographers who don’t have a lot of time to spend tweaking images. I’ve trained with another highly regarded Photoshop operator, Dan Margulis, and one year he had us work with an image of a woman in white satin. He joked that he got the image from Vincent and gave him grief when he made the image look better than his in just a few minutes. Ironically, that same image is in Welcome to Oz 2.0; Vincent’s retouching lesson on it lasts 60 pages!

Welcome to Oz 2.0 is not just a few Photoshop tutorials. Vincent lets his philosophy on photography shine through in the tutorial intros and also several page in the beginning and end of the book. I think these nuggets of wisdom are the best part of the book. Vincent has thought a great deal about his craft throughout his career and it’s good advice for a photographer at any skill level. I enjoyed reading it, but my taste is for more straightforward and succinct prose.

One more thing: If you enjoy WWelcome to Oz 2.0, you should know that Vincent plans to make the “Oz” books part of a three- or four-book series. From Oz to Kansas: Almost Every Black and White Conversion Technique Known to Man is available now for pre-order. Return to Oz is the third book’s title and the fourth will be Every Picture Tells a Story: Cinematic Digital Still Photography and 21st Century Composition Theory. Like I said, Vincent’s verbiage is rarely succinct.

Welcome to Oz. 2.0: A Cinematic Approach to Digital Still Photography with Photoshop
Vincent Versace
Published by New Riders
US $49.99
Rating: 8/10
Buy at Amazon.com