Beyond Point-and-Shoot – A good how-to guide for getting the most out of DSLR cameras & lenses – #photography #bookreview

Beyond Point-and-Shoot: Learning to Use a Digital SLR or Interchangeable Lens Camera
Darrell Young
(Rocky Nook, paperback, list price $29.95)

Many people today are perfectly happy to point a cell phone camera at an event, friend or family member and call the resulting images “photography.”

Many others of us, however, are not so easily pleased. We like our phones to be phones, and we want our cameras to be cameras. We don’t want them to have ring tones or let us surf the web.

Furthermore, we like cameras that have interchangeable lenses and offer choices among an array of  automatic and manual controls, so we can override what technology chooses for us and get “creative,” if we want.

If you are ready to feel like a real photographer – again or for the first time – put away your phone, get a genuine camera with interchangeable lenses, and also consider getting this book.

Beyond Point-and-Shoot has gotten some solid reviews from a number of experienced photographers. I am a former newspaper photojournalist who spent many years working with 35mm film. I now use an array of digital cameras and interchangeable lenses both for pleasure and occasional photo assignments. And I am happy to add my recommendation, as well.

Darrell Young’s new book assumes that you don’t have much knowledge of photographic technology, terms or techniques. But it shows and tells you what you need to know to boldly go off AUTO. It explains the technology in basic, but clear and complete terms. And it shows how to make effective use of the many options and settings available in a digital single-lens reflex (SLR) camera.

There are times, for example, when you may want to use the wrong white-balance setting, to alter the color balance for creative effect. You may want to introduce deliberate blurring into the movement of water in a stream. You may need to know how to avoid barrel distortion or pincushion distortion when using a zoom lens – or how to deliberately employ such distortions in artistic compositions.

Young’s book can help you understand the often intimidating array of choices available in today’s digital SLRs. And it can show you how to use many of the choices to great advantage.

He also cautions against putting too much stock in individual negative reviews of lenses or other photography items. “Often they [the reviewers] are simply trying to outdo other reviewers and get more traffic to their websites,” he writes. “One way to get a lot of website traffic is to talk negatively. I don’t know why people are attracted to negative talk, but it seems to be true. If you are interested in a lens, you will learn a lot more from people who are actually using the lens in real life. Talk to people and forums and read reviews that have plenty of pictures taken with the lens. You could even rent a lens for a week from a rental agency and try it before you buy it. Surprisingly, it doesn’t cost much to rent lenses.”

After reading his book, I have become a bigger, and more understanding, fan of my digital SLR’s histogram feature. “The histogram,” he notes, “can be as important, or even more so, than the exposure meter. The exposure meter sets the camera up for the exposure, and the histogram allows you to visually verify that the exposure is a good one. Together they give you the most accurate exposures you have ever made – if you use them. If your exposure meter stopped working, you could still get excellent exposures using only the histogram.”

This is an excellent and approachable textbook for digital SLR beginners.

It’s also a cool reference how-to guide for us old dogs who think we know a lot about photography. Darrell Young can teach us some new tricks, too.

Si Dunn



  • Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, photojournalist, and book reviewer. His published books include: DARK SIGNALS, a Vietnam War memoir; ERWIN'S LAW, a private-detective novel; and JUMP, a novella about a combat veteran suffering from PTSD and alienation while trying to work for newspapers as a journalist. Several of his feature screenplays recently were under option to movie producers. He spent nearly 15 years working as a technical writer and software tester in the telecommunications industry. His current programming interests include Go, JavaScript, Python, R, Angular, and other languages and frameworks. He is a U.S. Navy veteran and a graduate of the University of North Texas.

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