Photo Book Review: Photo Nuts and Shots by Neil Creek

Here is my photo book review of the second book in Neil Creek’s great photo book series, “Photo Nuts and…” currently with four titles:

You can use a camera … but do you take great photos?

Photo_Nuts_and_Shots_CoverThe web page for this book says it best:

  • The dream – taking photographs that your friends think you paid someone for, not shot yourself.
  • The myth – that you just don’t have what it takes. You need better gear, you don’t have ‘the eye’ and you’ll never understand the skills needed to take amazing photos.
  • The reality – Great photography CAN be learned. This book is the perfect companion on your journey to becoming a photographer. It will teach you the techniques, tools, and thought processes used by the pros to take gorgeous photos. If you think creative photography is limited to those artistic types – think again.

Take a look at the Photo Nuts and Shots Table of Contents.

Shots_TOCBuilding on the groundwork laid in his previous book in his Photo Nuts and Bolts series, Photo Nuts and Shots by Neil Creek starts by showing how to use the Histogram, a graphical display of the distribution of brightness in an image, from light to dark. This is something I’ve not used much, as I never really understood it… but, thanks to Neil’s explanation, plus the two references he includes, I’m beginning to get a better handle on it, and can really see where it helps you get better originals to work with. Going back to the photo schools and seminars I taught for Minolta, I’ve always said, “Start with the best original image possible for the best final result.” Then, no matter how much we mess with it, we will get always get best final results… plus we always have the high quality original to return to, either for nice prints, or for different processing paths – leading to different end results. So the Histogram will lead you to higher quality originals, and then, when you get to post processing, winding up with better final images. Lesson learned? Lesson learned! (I’m looking forward to getting even better with histograms in the next book in this series: Photo Nuts and Post

So beginning by helping us to better understand the Histogram, and the vast amount of data recorded with each image by the camera, is a great way to start this book… but it gets better… much better.

Neil’s next step is… seeing – what we all as photographers need to create great images. I’m not going to rewrite what Neil goes through here, I’ll just say that it is CRITICAL to your photography that you know and understand not just how to take a photograph mechanically, but WHY you are taking that photograph. What Neil suggests, and I agree wholeheartedly, is to, “learn the rules… then break them. But the only way you can break them intelligently is to know, deep in your heart, what the rules are and why they are there. Years ago, a designer I worked with at Minolta used to say, “It’s knowing when you can scribble outside the lines.” But you do have to know the rules before you can break them. Another interesting tale from even further back: I once took photos at a Peter, Paul and Mary concert… and didn’t do a very good job (fortunately, this was not an assigned project!) When I got the slides back from processing, I wound up throwing out most of them because they were poorly exposed, blurred, out of focus, or otherwise no good… as far as I was concerned. A couple of years later, I bought the “Peter, Paul and Mary – In Concert” album (12” vinyl), and almost thought that they got the cover photo of the album from my discards from that experiment… lesson learned: know the rules so you know when, and how, you can break them – and see good images where you thought you only had bad. (You can see the album cover here.)

Once Neil sets us back on the path to seeing good photo opportunities, he then sets off on making sure we make the best image from that opportunity. How, by showing us that the first thing we have to look at is the LIGHT (we knew that right???). The full gamut, brightness, position, size and color (colour for the Aussie Neil), etc. (look in the table of contents to see how broadly he covers it). Light in all its forms need to be taken into account to create good photos, and Neil explores the various ways to use the light to best advantage to create the image that tells the story we want to tell.


And so it goes for the rest of this outstanding eBook. Neil takes us step by step through Composing and Exposing great photos that build on the thinking and techniques he has explored so far. I really like the process he takes us through, “on location.” This is where it all comes together, and starting with looking at the light that is there is the first step to a really great photo.

I could take you through each of the remaining chapters, but I really think that the best thing you can do is purchase the book and learn from it – I know I certainly have… and plan on learning more. That’s one of the great things about photography… no matter how long we’ve been taking pictures (probably around 60 or so years for me), there is always something more you can learn. There are always new techniques – or old ones that you’ve forgotten and want to re-explore – that will lead to exciting new photos for you to print and share. New ways to get that, “How did you take that?!” reaction from friends and family.

Like Neil’s other books in the Photo Nuts and… Series (and all the other books from the Digital Photography School), this eBook is beautifully photographed and produced… lots of love went into it.


You can get the book here:
Photo Nuts and Shots by Neil Creek