For many people photography is nothing more than pointing their camera and releasing the shutter. For them a camera is just a tool to capture the moment. There is nothing bad about that but if you want to develop as a photographer you have to look beyond what you see at first sight. David duChemin tries to show you how in "Photographically Speaking: A Deeper Look at Creating Stronger Images." In his fourth book the author addresses the artist in every one of us. It's about the lines, forms and contrasts that hide in plain sight and how we can describe it with words. Whether we want it or not: everything has meaning in our pictures -- even shutter speed or aperture -- and we have to be aware of that.
The first half of the book is more of a philosophical approach on the question what makes an image stronger. It's about understanding the "visual language" of photography and how you can use it to improve your work. In this book you will find some tools to do that. David duChemin writes about lines and how they affect the reaction of the "reader": A horizontal line gives a picture more stability but a vertical line can deliver more energy. This is a simple example and just the tip of the iceberg. There are chapters about the importance of balance in a picture or about different kinds of contrasts. Especially the juxtaposition is mentioned in detail. It is a conceptual contrast like tall and small or poor and rich. I won't go into detail because the author does it much better on 250 pages with so many beautiful pictures to illustrate everything.
In the end it's not about spotting these things only in the work of others. You can use all this to create stronger images yourself. All the discussed elements just have to be at the right place in the frame. For that the writer uses the "Rule of Thirds" or the "Golden Spiral" as a first guideline. He underlines that these so called rules are not more than principles that don't always work. They will help you with your composition -- to gain more balance or energy -- but don't let them slave you.
The second half of the book contains 20 pictures taken by the author and he takes them apart one by one. He shows you how to interpret the picture and what message he wanted to communicate. It's a practical approach based on repetition to help you get some routine. Only through this repetition you will get accustomed to the vocabulary of a photographer. It's only a first step to understand the language of photography but a good one.
The book is nothing for total beginners but if you really are interested in making your images more expressive that might be the one to begin with. It shows you alternative ways to interpret your pictures and gives you new tools to express your emotions and thoughts.
I like duChemin's concept of having a "vision" when taking (or "creating") a photograph. In this book, he explains and illustrates how the various principles of design can be used to create an image that corresponds to your vision, enabling you to analyse why you like or don't like a photograph, and whether or not it achieves its (supposed) goal.
The book consists of two parts: learning about the basics, then applying the theory.
In the first part, duChemin discusses the question of vision, in less detail than in his previous books but enough to make it clear how important meaning in a photograph is to him. He goes on to cover the basics of design and technique, which doesn't sound particularly exciting, as there are tons of books doing just that. However, I liked the fact that he gives an overview rather than trying to cover every last detail, and the space gained from being succint about the theory is used to illustrate the principles of design through his own photographs, often comparing different versions of an image to show the effects of applying or breaking the rules. This makes even the theory part quite interesting to read.
The second part is a detailed analysis of 20 of his own images, based on the principles and central questions covered in the first part.
Altogether a book I can wholeheartedly recommend if you would like to be better equipped to express what you think about a photograph, to understand what it is you like or don't like about it and, eventually, to create better images yourself. (At least I like to think that's the effect it had for me...)