I was impressed enough with Cyrill Harnischmacher’s book Digital Infrared Photography to request two more of his books to review, Closeup Shooting and Low Budget Shooting. Cyrill’s writing style is clear and he has a strong grasp of digital photography so I found both books to be well-written and packed with good information.
Closeup Shooting: Complex information, good results
How hard can it be to shoot closeup photography? As you read Closeup Shooting, you’ll learn it’s harder than one thinks. The book begins with a survey of basics, such as magnification ratios, depth of field measurements, focal length and how they are all intertwined with aperture, shutter speeds and so on. This is mind-numbing information for anyone other than a serious photographer, which is probably the way it should be. There’s also sections on the kinds of cameras suitable for closeup photography (not al of them are), equipment such as stands and filters, and flash (which can be essential).
The second half of the book is what I think is the most important: discussion of various closeup photography situations, such as shooting during travel, seasons, underwater, product shots and more. Here the reader can learn how to work the camera during situations that fit their needs, and Cyrill does a good job of showing stellar examples and listing the aperture, shutter speed, lens and flash information. These details are probably the most important part of the book.
Ironically, you’ll also find a few pages in the back of the book that outline some do-it-yourself projects pertinent in closeup photography, such as a split-level box, reflector card and hot shoe softbox. The split-level box is really the only one that’s not found in Low Budget Shooting. And if you’re a creative photographer who likes to play with subjects, the “Imaging Techniques” section in the back will teach you how to use lighting and backdrops to create totally black or white backgrounds, freeze motion, make translucent light, fake window reflections and more. I really enjoy this kind of stuff, and there’s just enough information to stoke readers’ creativity.
Creative solutions with Low Budget Shooting
It always surprises me how some of the most spectacular lighting effects and compelling images are borne from simple, do-it-yourself tricks. Joe McNally, in his book The Moment It Clicks, seems to get a lot of mileage out of an old sheet he uses to diffuse light sources. Low Budget Shooting takes it a step further with recipes for a variety of fabricated photography equipment such as backdrops, light sources, reflectors and diffusers, and softboxes and striplights.
In the introduction, Cyrill states, “Please do not view this book as a mere collection of building instructions, but rather as an inspiration to develop your own gear.” This is why the book rarely offers any measurements for constructing equipment: readers are given a rough materials list and sometimes a generalized blueprint of the project, but nothing approaching the detailed directions usually found in do-it-yourself project instructions. I think this was the wrong thinking: I appreciate Cyrill wanting to make the book inspirational and not a simple recipe book, but I’m sure many readers would be happy just to get the instructions to recreate what’s shown in the book, without having to formulate measurements and plans on their own.
Other than the lack of detailed plans, Low Budget Shooting really is an impressive collection of a wide variety of photography equipment. The lightboxes shown are particularly impressive, and I am also happy to see photography throughout the book that demonstrate the effects achieved with this equipment. A lot of amateur photographers have a nice camera but rarely put the same kind of investment in studio and lighting equipment. With Low Budget Shooting, a trip to the hardware store and some ingenuity can be just as good!
I strongly recommend both books for photographers who may not be professionals but are serious about their craft. Closeup Shooting, in particular, will require some devotion and knowledge of photographyâ€”it’s not for amateurs with cheap cameras. Likewise, Low Budget Shooting is perfect for a photographer with a great camera but no lighting equipment. Both books require some study but they’re worth it.
Low Budget Shooting