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Book Bag: Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

6 June 2023

We'd recommend this compact treasure for the photographs alone. Author, editor and screenwriter Henry Carroll, has curated some brilliant images from photographic luminaries that include modern masters rarely glimpsed in one place.

Which may be one reason why this unpretentious 5.5x8-inch tome has sold over one million copies across 22 languages.

But there are no doubt many more reasons, including Carroll's no-nonsense style and two-page lessons that will quickly bring newbies up to speed on the art and craft of photography.

Even before we researched its sales, we did wonder when this little jewel had first been published.

Carroll's otherwise straight-forward advice about aperture and shutter speed, for example, left us asking why he cautioned about using high ISO and avoided any mention of Auto ISO.

So we flipped to the front of the book to find it dates from 2014 when that advice would have been well worth observing. Not so much in 2023.

We'd quibble with his dismissal of Manual mode, too, and his thumbs up for Program mode. But he's writing for beginners and that advice is not inappropriate for them.

We really like the way Carroll introduces the topics themselves as short pieces of advice rather than technical subjects. Under the general topics of Composition, Exposures, Light, Lenses, Seeing, Feeling and a FAQ (along with the appendices), he explores individual subjects like ISO with multiple pieces. And those pieces have engaging titles like "You need a hook" or "Why are you so far away?"

A spread. Images appear on a page of their own, either right or left, with accompany text on the facing page and further study in a side bar.

Each of these short pieces is presented in two pages. One page is the example image with caption and the other is the explanatory text with a sidebar pointing to other examples in the book. We particularly like the sidebar because it encourages you to explore the topic yourself.

The book is nicely balanced between the technical advice new photographers thirst for and the finer points of making photographs, which tend to elude new comers.

Still, as he says at the beginning, "You'll see that taking great photographs is less about technical knowhow and much more about mastering that most valuable piece of kit -- your eyes."

And, as we said, this little book is a feast for the eyes.

Read This if You Want to Take Great Photographs by Henry Carroll, published by Laurence King Publishing, 144 pages, $19.99 at

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