Book review verdict: Well worth the read, but it’s not cheap...
This is my book review of Follow the sun – A field guide to architectural photography, which is a pleasingly good read!
James Ewing is an accomplished architectural photographer and educator. This comes through in this book. Ewing has presented his topic in an easy to read and easy to understand book, and provides a realistic introduction to what is needed and expected of an architectural photographer. Best of all, he delivers what he sets out to deliver, a field guide to architectural photography.
Ewing starts out with a look at the background to architectural photography, and goes on to cover planning and preparing for a shoot, along with the shoot itself. He then goes further by introducing post-processing of images, and wraps up with a series of informative interviews with leading exponents of the art of architectural photography.
Students of architectural photography should find this book highly informative, while established photographers will also find it useful.
Ewing addresses the planning process for an architectural shoot in detail, devoting a full chapter to getting to know the target site. He begins the chapter with a section on site access and permissions. This may sound like a simple point, but many books and online resources fail to address it. This is the kind of detail that adds significant value to this book.
Although the book targets architectural photography, much of what Ewing presents can be applied to other genres. The preparation and planning concepts introduced, for example, can be applied to aspects of any photographer’s workflow.
In these times of information overload, Ewing’s approach to his subject is refreshing; the text is clear and accessible to a wide audience. He offers many useful tips and insights, such as markets for architectural photography, the importance of a shot list, using a tripod with a side arm etc., and the usually optimized lens apertures, with consideration for depth of field in architectural images.
The author also provides tips on staging props and furniture to get the best composition.
Having guided readers through the processes to complete a shoot, Ewing then goes on to discuss the critical importance of the portfolio, within a chapter dedicated to presenting the photographer’s work, including the editing process – editing being culling and selection, rather than applying adjustments to images.
Readers should take inspiration from these interviews with established practitioners Peter Aaron, Magda Biernat, Ty Cole, and Elizabeth Felicella. These photographers provide readers with interesting insights into their own situations as architectural photographers that most readers will be able learn from.
Everything comes at a price
The one big downside is the price of this book. Much of what appears in any book on photography these days can be found online in one form or another. Finding that information well collated, and enhanced by a subject matter expert is worth something, but not perhaps the £31.99 that the publishers are asking for the paperback edition, or the £112 for hardback. The paperback price does, however, represent a significant reduction from the original £39.99 shown on the publisher’s website. The fact that the publishers are offering a discount suggests that the book has not exactly flown off the shelves at the original price.
When so much information is freely available, setting a reasonable price for a book is critical. The publishers may have pushed the price to high in this case. To make matters worse, the ebook version is the same price as the paperback, offering no benefit to the buyer for allowing the publisher to avoid printing and distribution costs.
It’s a pity the price is so high, Ewing has produced a well thought out, engaging, and informative text that is definitely worth reading. Students on a budget may well prefer to spend a few minutes scouring the internet, or find a rental solution through university libraries. It’s also a shame that an otherwise positive book review is tempered by the issue of price…