There are instructional books, there are instructional videos and over the last few years weve seen rise in instructional CDs (like this one from Alienideas) and DVDs. We all know books are easy to flick through, but provide inanimate content while videos add the animation, but lack easy access. CDs and DVDs have all the potential benefits of video with easier navigation, but you still obviously need a computer.
The most you need to pay for a good book is about 50 and great digital imaging tutorial CDs are available from the likes of Barrie Thomas and Peter iNova for similar price. So with a price tag of 150+vat we expect the Alienideas CD to be the bees knees.
The marketing blurb suggests its the first complete training manual of professional imaging techniques and it has already been described as the industry standard for digital imaging.
When I first installed it into the MAC I was expecting to see some form of auto run welcome screen. Nothing. Click on the CD icon reveals the content files, numbered 1 to 4 starting with a read me .txt file that explains what each of the files is. Theres also a press kit with quotes form previous reviewers and a copy of Acrobat to view the manual which is in PDF format. Currently I am unimpressed!
So lets look deeper. There are two pdf files of interest: the 3Alien8C.pdf which is the Manual and a 4Daybook which is a tips and reference guide (these dont match up with the names on the read me file).
When you open the 3Alien8C.pdf you are greeted with the cover page (right) a posterised-style image that wont be to everyones taste and has a naff sort of filter feel about it. Hardly what I would expect from the first page of a guide aimed at pros and another point deducted (stick with me, good things are coming)
Page 2 to 8 are the chapter descriptions and, taken directly from the pages, are as follows:
A Photography technique introduction
Photography skills from the foundations to professional studio and location techniques. Provides a detailed insight into identifying problem jobs, and the equipment and methods used by leading photographers to overcome them.
A01 Basics of photography
A02 Professional techniques weddings
A03 Professional techniques portraits
A04 Professional techniques commercial
B Digital overview introduction
This section covers why digital technology is changing the way photographers and their markets operate and explains how digital investment is paid off. This includes key quality and efficiency issues. Illustrated examples highlight the principles of applying the technology to differing businesses and markets.
B01 Digital briefing
B02 Market forecast and analysis
B03 Costing digitisation
C System set-up introduction
Commercial imaging involves maintaining the best possible image quality. The starting point is to decide upon the appropriate equipment and set it up correctly. Everything you need to do this is covered in this section. WYSIWYG is vital to get a reasonable representation of how an image will print on your monitor but this also has limitations.
C01 Phased digitisation
C02 Setting-up the system
C03 System overview and maintenance
C04 Monitor profiling
C05 Scanner profiling
C06 Printer profiling, calibration and proofing
C07 Setting a digital photography brief
D Imaging skills introduction
The basic skills required for professional imaging includes scanning, printing, image management and post production effects.
D03 Using a digital camera
D04 Image management
D05 Photoshop montaging and masking
D06 Photoshop special effects
D07 File formats
E Digital proofing introduction
Learn how to make digital proofs, combining still pictures, music and text into multimedia movies which can be written onto CD, video or DVD. How to use these to sell wedding and portrait pictures, or to make an impressive commercial portfolio eliminating the most expensive part of the conventional photography process, proof printing.
E01 Batch scanning
E02 Making masks
E03 Preparing images
E04 Making the movie
E05 Movie special effect
F General skills introduction
Ways to add value and functionality to the digital system.
F01 e-mail, ISDN and the Web
F02 CD writing
G Business skills introduction
This section is intended to start you off on the right track and to encourage you to continually rethink the assumptions you use to run your business.
G01 Administration and copyright
G02 Accounts and management information
G04 Pricing strategy
G05 Business plan
Appendices to illustrate the modules:
- Portrait prices
- Portrait discounts
- Wedding prices
- Wedding discounts
Having read down this list you are probably getting the feeling that this is a comprehensive guide..and you'd be right. I have never seen the subject covered in such depth.
The first chapter A01 Basics of photography is the only let down. While the info is good, having a guide to basic photography in a book aimed at photographers who are or want to turn pro is badly targeted. We assume that if you're thinking of turning pro you are an enthusiast already or if you've landed a job as a pro you would also already have this knowledge. You could, however have bluffed your way through and wasted loads of time trying to understand why your exposure are bad etc. and it's now time to secretly read this section. For the rest of us it's only 10 pages out of 448 and you may at some time need a refresher.
The rest of the section A has some fantastic info on wedding, portrait and commercial photography from the basics of organising groups at weddings to dealing with facial issues in portraiture along with studio and jobbing photography in the commercial section. Each section is illustrated with great photography from the likes of Nigel Harper, Charles Green and author Mike Upstone. It brings together compositional tips, exposure suggestions and lighting guides in digital and traditional media. Fascinating info and highly readable. And at the end of each chapter is a quick reference card that sums up all the section which you can print off and keep with you as a check list.
Section B kicks off with the bold statement "In commercial photography the
cost-efficiency and speed of digital imaging will leave the majority of professional film
origination dead in the water within 3-4 years." Phew, read this or you won't survive!
It is, again, very well produced material with information that I have never seen in books, offering up to the minute cost comparisons of the benefits of going digital with explanations of how you will need to adapt to the new media. Prices are in dollars which is a little frustrating if you are a UK based photographer, but often figures are included in brackets for UK readers.
There's also about 20 pages of A to Z terminology, but you can find this type of material on the Internet for free (ePHOTOzine has a good glossary)
Section C has a very in-depth guide to calibrating your system, including setting up scanner, monitor and printers so you can match input and output to ensure a colour corrected workflow. Great information, but it assumes you have certain bits of kit such as an Epson Stylus 2000P printer and an Apple Mac computer. One of the pitfalls of producing a guide like this is there are too many equipment variables so an author will never be able to describe a set up that will suit all users. Most of the info can be applied to your own kit, providing you have an understanding of your own gear and a bit of common sense, but you may still have a few headaches.
Section D has the same problem as C in that it focuses on specific gear, so camera users need a Fuji S1 Pro or a Kodak DCS 760 to get the maximum benefit. While scanner users should be using a Linoscan 1450 model. Again use this info and relate to your own product. You'll never buy a complete guide that's so personally product specific. D Also looks at some useful Photoshop specific
material that shows you how to improve your results and warns of pitfalls that many photographers make when using Photoshop There's some gems of info in here and although still based around Version 6.0, Version 7 has no surprises from the info that's presented here so the manual will not be out of date in this area.
Section E is all about getting the maximum out of your sales job. Rather than sending out expensive proof albums it shows you how to batch scan your negs, bring them into a digital presentation, add masks and effects to create a visual feast which is sure to bring in extra orders. This won't be everyone's bag, but if you are serious about making the business profitable there's some excellent advice here.
Section F explores the Internet showing you how to select an ISP, how to search, how to save money and which type of connection to have. It's a little dated as it doesn't recommend ADSL (which did have a bad reputation) but things have changed and having used it solidly for over two months we would definitely recommend it.
It also takes you through general skills of burning a CD, scanning text using OCR software and basic design using QuarkXPress...it's all text book stuff, but as I'm realising as I plough through that this author has taken all the dross out of the text book stuff and condensed it so that you just get essential snippets of info. Great for time starved pros as you get just the vital stuff to make your photo business work.
The last Section G is the part that no professional should be without and this section alone will pay back the cost of the CD if you are new to business or a bumbling your way through. This will help new people develop essential business skills and existing pros tighten up and be more effective. It shows you how to sort out cash flow, budget, plan and make business projections. Then how to price up supply quotes, sort out invoices. There are many books on running a business that you could pull some of this info from but it will never be specific to photography. Here's information provided by people who understand your market.
Nearly 180 for a CD and no animation? You've got to be joking! Well that's what most of us would think on first view. I did! Look closer and this is like a 448 page book with highlights from 30 or so 440 page books, cutting out all the drivel and leaving you with a summary that can be read quickly and a perfect aid for any new or existing professional. The PDF format can be a hindrance in navigating pages quickly, but it prints out perfectly on A4 so would be better than an all-singing HTML version (which we're told is coming). Some photographers may not want all elements and the beauty about this is that you don't have to have the whole story. Relevant sections can be downloaded from the web site for around 30 each. To add value we were told that from May all copies will come with a grey card and a A4 colour calibration transparency to ensure you set up your scanner correctly.
Test by Peter Bargh