All posts for the month March, 2011

As a photographer, I’m often asked by people where they can learn more about photography and techniques to improve their own picture taking. Go to any book store and you’ll find hundreds if not thousands of books on photography. It can be very daunting to figure out which ones are good and which ones will help you improve.

So, in order to help you out, I present to you…..”What’s on My Bookshelf”, a recommendation of some of what I feel are the best photography books for you to further your knowledge and hone your skills. The books I’m going to talk about cover a wide range of audiences from beginner hobbyist to advanced photographer, so there should be something here for everyone! Of course the best way to improve your photography is to get out there and shoot anytime you can. So it’s not enough to simply read these great books, you have to go out and practice these new skills as well.

Digital Photography Book Boxed Set

The first book I’d like to tell you about is actually a set of 3. The Digital Photography Book boxed set, by Scott Kelby actually started out years ago as a single book. As digital photography keeps expanding and changing follow-up books were added to the series.

Scott Kelby is a professional photographer, teacher, and author of countless books on digital photography and Photoshop. He is also the president of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP), this guy knows digital photography! So who better than to write a series of books covering all sorts of topics in digital photography.

These books are geared more towards beginners or people who are new to digital photography, but there are plenty of techniques and “recipes” that even seasoned professionals could use.

The best part about these books is the way they are written. Imagine you’re out in the field trying to shoot a landscape, or composing a portrait shot. Wouldn’t it be great if Scott Kelby were there with you and could give you live tips about the best settings to use for your camera, or where to position your subject? That is just how these books are written, it’s like he’s actually there with you! These books aren’t about theory or jargon, Scott Kelby simply picks a topic such as “Composing Great Landscapes” and then writes about it as if you and he were two buddies out on a shoot together all the while giving you tips, tricks, and real world knowledge for getting the best shot.

To learn more about these books or Scott Kelby visit his website at

The Moment it Clicks

After you’ve finished reading Scott Kelby’s books on Digital Photography I know you’ll be craving more. Maybe something a bit more advanced. My next suggestion is The Moment It Clicks, by Joe McNally. Joe McNally is an internationally acclaimed magazine photographer, whose career spans over 30 years with assignments in over 50 countries. He is also Scott Kelby’s friend and mentor so it’s no surprise that Scott Kelby himself would recommend this  as a follow-up book to his series.

The Moment It Clicks strives to impart photo knowledge through Joe McNally’s unique experiences shooting varied assignments all over the world. He begins each concept with a one sentence introduction that immediately draws you in. Recounting the inside story and techniques of how each of his beautiful images were taken, you can’t help but have several “Ah-ha” moments while reading this book.

I know I had one in just the first couple of pages of this amazing book. In fact sitting here skimming through the pages to write this for you, I really think it’s about time I re-read this great book. You will definitely walk away from it with a greater appreciation of how all those awesome magazine shots you see really get created, for most of them it’s simply a controlled chaos situation where anything can happen. By learning the techniques that Joe McNally discusses and listening to his wisdom, you’ll be able to shoot in any situation that arrises.

To learn more about this book or the author Joe McNally, visit his website at

The Hot Shoe Diaries

If you like Joe McNally then stay tuned, because we’re not quite done with him yet. Let me introduce Joe McNally’s other great book The Hot Shoe Diaries. If you’re a photographer who loves using his or her speedlights like I do, and feels they can be used to light virtually any photograph, then you’re what we call a “strobist”.

Lucky for us, Joe McNally is one too! This book is all about the amazing travels and photographs that Joe McNally has created over the years using nothing more than Nikon Speedlights. As with his other book, he beings by drawing you into one of his gorgeous images and then walks you through step by step on how he created it using nothing more than speedlights. As always there are amazing nuggets of knowledge you’ll pick up along the way from his wide and varied experiences creating these images and meeting people all over the world.

If you’re not a strobist, this book might just change your mind about becoming one, when you see all the amazing images that Joe McNally has created without a single studio flash. Whenever I find myself in a tough lighting situation, or even just feeling I’ve hit a dead end, referring back to this book always gets my creative lighting juices flowing and seems to make anything possible.


The last book I’d like to tell you about is mostly for you beginners out there, and is very aptly named “Photography“. Written by Barbara London, Jim Stone, and John Upton, Photography is the de-facto standard text book on the subject.

That’s why it’s up the ninth, yes NINTH edition! This book is, as the back cover states, the “#1 photography text year after year”. If you’re just a newbie starting out in photography and don’t know your shutter from your aperture, or a more experienced photographer that would like to review the basics then this is the book for you!

To say this book touches on almost any subject in photography would be an understatement. There is even a chapter on film photography and film dark room processing! From basic techniques, to photo lighting and even Ansel Adams’ “Zone System” this book covers it all and does it in such a way that you can’t help but take away knowledge that will make anyone a better photographer.

Although a bit pricey, this is one book every photographer needs to have on their shelf. Wait a min, in doing research for this blog post I just learned that a Tenth edition of this book was just recently released! Looks like I need to get myself a new copy, as should you!

Well these are just a couple of the many many photography books on my bookshelf that I highly recommend. These 4 should definitely give some reading material for the next few weeks at least. Of course I can’t stress enough that the only way to truly learn the techniques presented in these books is to get out there and shoot, shoot, shoot! If you’ve found any photography resources that you enjoy please feel free to post your recommendations, and as always we’d love to see some results of the photos you’ve taken.

Scott Dengrove is a professional photographer from the NYC area. Scott’s work has been featured in many national photography competitions and published in several nationally circulated magazines and publications. In addition, his work can currently be seen in 3 exhibits at Cosi® restaurants in New York and Connecticut. For more information, and to see more of Scott’s work visit his website at and connect with him on his Facebook page at

Welcome back all and Happy New Year, I know it’s been a while since there’s been a blog post but I’ve been very tied up with new photo shoots. I thought we would touch on a topic that is fast becoming a “very big thing” in the photo community for both hobbyists and professionals alike. HDR Photography…it’s a term that I’m sure you’ve heard tossed around, but many people aren’t sure what it is, and what it can do for your photos.

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. Have you ever tried to take a photo of a landscape with lots of trees and a nice bright blue sky only to discover that the photo doesn’t look like the scene in front of you at all? Perhaps the sky is perfectly exposed but the trees are all dark. Or maybe the trees look perfect but the sky is so blown out it almost looks white. What happened?

Perfect sky, dark shadows

Overexposed sky, nice shadows

You think perhaps something is wrong with your camera? Or those damn kids tinkered with your settings again? Rest assured your camera is working just as it should. The real problem is eyes. “The kids have been tinkering with my eyes?” No, you see the human eye is the best camera ever invented. It can see and properly expose a very wide range of light. Wider than any camera ever made.

Think about a night scene, you’re walking along a street, there are very bright street lights, headlights of cars, but when you look up at the sky you can still see the stars and even perhaps a blue tint to the sky. This is because the human eye can actually see a range of over 24 f-stops of light. This range of light is referred to as “dynamic range”. It is the difference between the minimum and maximum amount of light that can be seen at the same time. The very wide dynamic range of the human eye allows us to clearly discern both the bright street lights and the very dim stars all at the same time.

Unfortunately, we’re not so lucky with our cameras. Even the best digital cameras made only have a dynamic range of 10-14 f-stops. This makes our camera’s almost 1000x less sensitive than our eyes. This is why when you try to shoot the same scene with a wide dynamic range of light with your camera it doesn’t look anything like it did when you were looking at the scene through your own eyes. So what can we do to fix this? Do we have to take everyone we know with us when we travel somewhere so they can all see the same scene with their own eyes?

As awesome as that would be, although I imagine it would be tough to coordinate all of those schedules, this is where HDR photography comes in, or High Dynamic Range. HDR Photography allows you to shoot a particular scene with 3 or 5 different exposures and then using special software combine all those photos into one that has the best exposed parts of each individual photo. So now you can shoot that sky and tree scene exposing for the sky in one photo, the trees in another, and all the other pieces in between. Then combine them into one beautifully exposed photo throughout.

The last time I was at Disney’s Animal Kingdom I took these 5 photos of the “Tree of Life”. Each one is exposed slightly differently so that the set covers the full dynamic range of light present in the scene.

Tree of Life -2 exposure

Tree of Life -1 exposure

Tree of Life 0 exposure

Tree of Life +1 exposure

Tree of Life +2 exposure

When we combine all of these together using software capable of creating HDR photos such as Photoshop or Topaz Adjust, the software picks the best exposed parts of each photo to create a single one that represents the entire dynamic range of light that was in the scene. It makes a High Dynamic Range photo which looks like this:

Tree of Life HDR Photo

As you can see this photo now shows everything from the sky to the ground to the tree perfectly exposed. I’ve actually just started toying with HDR photography and it takes quite a bit of practice to get good at it. I’ll be the first to admit that I have quite a ways to go. Like with anything else though practice makes perfect! So the next time you find yourself shooting and the scene doesn’t look quite the same in your camera as it does in person, think about creating an HDR photo.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of HDR Photography in this blog post. It was really meant to be an overview of the process rather than an in-depth how to. There are many people who do this type of work better than I so it would be worth it for you to check out some of their pages and their awesome photography.

The website “Stuck in Customs” is an awesome site created by Trey Ratcliff with a great free tutorial on how to create HDR photos. Don’t forget to check out his awesome gallery as well here. After looking at these photos one thing is clear, you can’t help but be “wowed” by a good HDR photo.

As always please feel free to post your results, leave comments, and ask questions. Happy Shooting!

Scott Dengrove is a professional photographer from the NYC area. Scott’s work has been featured in many national photography competitions and published in several nationally circulated magazines and publications. In addition, his work can currently be seen in 3 exhibits at Cosi® restaurants in New York and Connecticut. For more information, and to see more of Scott’s work visit his website at and connect with him on his Facebook page at