Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Bird Photography Field Guide Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: The Bird Photography Field Guide
Author: David Tipling
Publication: Focal Press, March 2011

My Star Rating: 2 Stars out of 5 = I Don’t Like It

Summary Statement: Tiny Sized Book (4.5 x 6 inches) with Tiny Font Unreadable –Major Focus on Digital Editing with Computers

I'll divide my comments into sections, one for the book's content and the other on the book's size.


I was disappointed to learn in the introduction that the credit for taking great bird photography is thanks to digital photography and its ease of digital editing on the computer (Photoshopping). The impression is given that, to put it bluntly and in my own words, you are screwed if you expect to get excellent photos without editing. The editing is not just about cropping but involves what is actually major editing. Using the techniques in the book a mediocre photo can be transformed into something that never really looked so good even in real life. What a great photo! It never could look that way in reality! Something bothers me about the idea of being glad for "making a photograph" that could never exist in real life (kind of strange like photographers who like to change people's eye color in portraits).

Another issue is that it seems that advice is more general and would apply to any type of photo that a person was editing digitally, in other words, if you get to know your digital photo editing software well you probably won’t need the advice in this book as it would be too general and not with key information necessary to use your software.

The content in the book can be divided into three categories.

One section is about special equipment to use in the field for bird photography. Here is where you also learn you will need to spend thousands of dollars (maybe on just one long zoom lens) to get a mediocre photo that still needs digital editing.

The next section is about field techniques which mostly is about different types of birds and their characteristics that you should know if you are trying to stalk them and not scare them off.

The last and most important section is how to digitally alter the photos, yet this is perhaps too general and not specific enough to the software you own or plan to buy.

I am interested in becoming a better field photographer with about a thousand dollars already invested in my DSLR camera. I am not a professional photographer and didn’t want to spend nearly another thousand or even more just to get more lenses (sometimes one lens is over a thousand dollars). I personally do not want to spend hours doing Photoshopping of my images, so I felt let down by the book.

Book Size:

Shame on me I didn’t realize that when Focal Press has “field guide” in the title that is a red flag to go look at the product description’s size of the book in inches to realize it is tiny before placing the order. This is the second Focal Press Field Guide I own, so I’m kicking myself for forgetting this about Focal Press.

The book is 4.5 x 6 inches and the font is teeny-tiny. It must be smaller than size 6 font. I am in my 40s and not yet wearing reading glasses but this book made me want to run out to the eye doctor ASAP. The small size stinks not just for people like me who may struggle to see it: having tiny bird photos examples and illustrations was just not as inspiring or helpful as a normal sized book. The worst are the illustrations on how to digitally alter the photos, the images are just too small to be helpful. Even more challenging to read was the white text on black background which is not the majority of the text, thank goodness.

Perhaps the biggest reason to dislike the tiny size of this “field guide” is that the info in it is mostly not stuff you would reference while in the field. One does not need the 2/3 of the book that discusses which equipment to buy and how to digitally alter the photo, when they are in the field – so why would the publisher feel that anyone would carry this book with them into the field and thus require a small and lightweight book? Even the other section with tips on how to shoot birds of certain types is not the kind of information that I’d be reading about while perched in the bush – one would have read those sections ahead of time and would probably be on a targeted trip i.e. shore birds or urban environment.

I rate this book 2 stars = I don’t like it. If I really wanted to be harsh I’d have given it a 1 star = I hate it rating.

I received a review copy of this book from Amazon's Vine program for the purpose of reviewing it on Amazon.com. I was not paid to write the review. For my blog's full disclosure statement see the link near the top of my blog's sidebar.

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