It’s been a long time in the making and I have been slacking off in my review material, so I am going to get right back in the mix of things here by giving you a couple reviews in these days leading up to the Holiday Season. Today, the long overdue Food Photography piece by Nicole Young (aka Nicolesy). As in the past, when reviewing books, I try to look at five main features: Readability, Length, Writing Style, Photography, and Educational Value, so let’s just dive in!
Readability: In my last book review, I indicated that there are some photography books out there written by people who really can’t write that well (no offense to Moose Peterson). Granted, it’s a difficult task to master, because you have to be informative, but you also need to be able to communicate effectively. A strong grasp of both written and verbal communication skills is important, and the ability to transition speaking skills to the written word is extremely difficult to master. If you don’t believe me – look at some of the more popular blogs out there. Nearly always, there is proof-reading, editing, and revisioning done to ensure everything is done correctly. Meanwhile, other blogs and published content languish on the outskirts simply because of bad grammar, ineffective communication skills or (at worst) bad spelling! Nicole is one of the few people I would trust to ensure all the T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted. It flowed so well and seamlessly, that I can honestly say this is the first book I’ve ever reviewed that has not included at least some skimming of content. I almost don’t want to pay this one forward, but in the interests of keeping some consistency, the book goes back on the giveaway rack! 4.0
Length: At 270 pages, this is just about the perfect length for being both concise, and yet detailed at the same time. You get a chance to really sink your teeth into it (pun intended) without being overwhelmed. It’s also an easy read – that is to say I never found myself going back to try and let something sink in from a comprehension perspective. I was able to get things the first time – and as I get older, that’s always a good thing! So, kudos to Nicole(sy) for keeping the length about perfect. There were enough examples, photos, and explanations to keep me both engaged and not bore me with being overly simplistic. She did leave me wanting a little more, but I guess that’s the mark of a good book, right? Nearly spot on here Nicole! 4.5
Writing Style: As mentioned above, the content was quite well balanced. There was some discussion of technical details, while also addressing things like post-production as well as insider tips and tricks (i.e. how to quickly char a chicken, add grill marks, and even making a picnic table!). Her use of both before and after pictures really were also helpful so that the full effect of prepping food properly could be seen. That was quite an eye-opening experience to see that kind of attention to detail. ! She even threw in some content that discussed compositional approaches, including angles, colors, lines and curves, while also giving her personal insights into other nuances like depth of field, use of the Rule of Thirds, and more! I felt like I was having a conversation with her (albeit one-sided), which made it that much easier to digest! 4.5
Photography: This is a tough one, because the shots of her end results were very tantilizing, but I found the setup shots more helpful here (the final ones just made me hungry). The problem with that is the setup shots aren’t that “inspiring”, but rather informative and educational. Much like a photo of a computer motherboard showing the hand inserting the RAM chips. It was well-lit, clear and useful, but these would probably not be considered part of any portfolio. 3.5
Educational Value: With some books, the read is an educational one (David DuChemin), while others are entertaining (i.e. Tom Clancy), and another genre I consider is that of reference material (think the O’Reiley series). This book is an interesting blend of all three of these genres, because it was both educational and would serve as a great reference piece. The entertainment factor wasn’t really there like some others have attempted to crowbar into their books (a la Kelby), but I didn’t really miss it. Cheesy jokes are okay once and a while, but sometimes you just want to get into the meat and potatoes (again, pun intended).
A score of 4.2 on a scale of 5.0 is substantially impressive…making this almost a “must read” on my barometer. If you’re at all interested in becoming a food photographer, that of course raises the bar another notch or two again, so consider that in your decision-making process. Special thanks to Nicole for contributing the book, and if you’d like to own your own copy of this book, check out the December Giveaway Bonanza where you can get that plus a bunch of other cool photo books and gear. More stuff is coming on that in short order here too, so be sure to share your images in Flickr! If you can’t wait for this book to be given away, then I would also recommend picking up a copy from your own favorite retailer, whether it be B&N, Amazon, or from the publisher direct (Peachpit)! It’s really one of the better books out there. Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow for a few more book reviews…
Until then, happy shooting (and reading)…