Book review: Secrets of the Digital Darkroom
Peter Cope, Simon Joinson
The Ilex Press Limited
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This full-colour, 192 page paperback has 450 illustrations and is aimed at advanced beginner and intermediate photographers looking to increase their skill set for manipulating images using a computer.
Peter Cope and Simon Joinson are both prolific authors in the field of digital photography, the latter until recently was also the editor of the UK magazine, Total Digital Photography. Simon is now working with Phil Askey at dpreview.com – so the credentials aren't in question!
And neither is the quality of Secrets of the Digital Darkroom. Inside you can find six logically sequenced sections starting with the basics of digital image processing, then on to basic, pro and classical techniques, finishing off with a section on creating a digital darkroom and a reference section.
Each technique section features double page tutorials focusing on a particular task. The emphasis is on the concepts behind each technique described rather than a highly detailed explanation in a particular editing package. This does make the book easier to follow than some. The authors are Adobe Photoshop experts but they have tried their best not to be too drawn into the unique features of that package. No matter which photo editing package you favour, useful information can be learned from Secrets of the Digital Darkroom.
Techniques old and new
There are plenty of the usual hints and tips concerning digital regulars like perspective correction, sharpening, colour adjustments, image extraction, panoramas, etc. But it was refreshing to see some techniques that readers migrating from a conventional darkroom will immediately relate to, including dodging and burning, lith and line images, toning, kallitypes and cyanotypes, reticulation, etc. When was the last time you thought about gum dichromates, for example?
A special mention must be made concerning the quality and selection of the illustrations, all of which are colour, in the book. Most are of extremely high quality. That's an impressive feat considering there are 450 of them in all.
I read a lot of books on all aspects of digital photography and many are uninspiring and poorly produced. Secrets of the Digital Darkroom is one of those relatively rare books that are genuinely informative, easy to read and superbly produced – it wouldn't look out of place on your coffee-table. It's not a bells-and-whistles, hard-core package-specific, user-guide alternative, but it will inspire you to understand image editing and processing fundamentals and try new things with whatever package you use.
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