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The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  1,470 ratings  ·  46 reviews
This is a newly revised edition of the classic book The Art of Photography (first published in 1994), which has often been described as the most readable, understandable, and comprehensive textbook on photography. In his accessible style, Barnbaum presents how-to techniques for both traditional and digital approaches. Yet he goes well beyond the technical as he delves deep ...more
Paperback, 364 pages
Published December 5th 2010 by Rocky Nook (first published May 1994)
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Jan 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
It's a bit up and down this book. I'd give it 6 stars (if I could) for the first 100 and last 50 pages, and two for everything inbetween. Excellent insightful writing on the "why" of photography in the good bits, especially the parts on capturing your emotional response to a scene rather than a realistic picture of the scene. Now I know why I just can't take decent photos of some things, I'm just not interested in them enough to have any emotional response.

The middle chapters are concerened ent
Michael Scott
Apr 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teaching, art, my-favs
I don't really know where to start this review. Bruce Barnbaum's The Art of Photography is a book about art, design, self-expression, and creativity. It's also about photography, from the technical aspects (both film and digital) to a discussion about photography myths. Overall, I learned much and found this book wonderful! Must-read if you are starting to dabble in creative processes and/or are interested in photography. (For the former aspect, I will recommend it to all Ph.D. students under my ...more
Justin Price
Dec 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shifts your thinking when it coming to photography. Some aspects of the book are hard to grasp, but worth re-reading. Help me understand technically why I like some photos and not others.
Kathleen Messmer
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is probably one of the best books I've read on Photography. His insights into individual creative expression are unlike any I've ever heard - even in grad school! Read it. You won't be able to put it down. ...more
Nicholas Doyle
Mar 19, 2018 rated it liked it
A painfully dry and boring textbook on photography. I read as much as I could and had to give up.
Feb 11, 2011 rated it liked it
The images are beautiful. The text is almost useless. Biased towards b&w film photographers, much of the advice is pedantic and too artsy, even for sophisticated digital users. I mean, really. Who uses the Zone System anymore? There is some reference to histograms and other digital tools but the book remains primarily a reference tool for the darkroom artist.

I'm giving it three stars only because film photographers will find this a must have and like I said, the images are beautiful The rest of
Gowrishankar Subramanian
Jul 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favourite-reads
I thought of writing review for this book when I finish the initial chapters on "art side" of photography. I decided then to wait till my initial gush of excitement cool off.

Now that I have almost finished all the chapters relevant to me, it's only apt to say that this one is a classic! Bruce's advice on "photographic seeing" is the most valuable one any budding amateur can get. Chapters on composition, tones, contrast and color are worth a reread.

Had to skip lot of content on developing and pr
Aug 15, 2011 rated it liked it
This is not the type of book that I think one can sit down and read through. It is almost like a text or a reference that you would keep on your shelf and turn to from time to time for technical guidance and perhaps some inspiration. There is a big section on film and darkroom techniques that I skipped over. Worth having for sure.
Damian Karasinski
Very nice book! The author focuses on few important aspects of photography. There are chapters about motivation, composition, analog and digital photography techniques, creativity and the relation of photography to other types of art. At the end the author also gives few suggestions how to improve and think about photography.

Personally, I liked the most the chapters about what the author considers to be the motivation and the drive for making photography and what makes each photograph important,
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: photography
Reading this book is not a small task. I feel many "modern" (read "digital") photographers would get bored with a large portion of this book. A large part of this book is dedicated to the Zone System and different methods of development to include compensating development. Some of these methods will be unknown to digital-only photographers. Luckily, for me, I still shoot a lot of film and was able to follow much of the explanations. However, this book is not for beginners.
The last chapters discu
Mar 14, 2021 rated it it was ok
This book had a lot of great information & photos. However, I read it cover to cover and probably should have used it more like a text book in small bits and pieces. Some sections were totally geared towards very technical film techniques and I probably should have skipped them. Many points were repeated in the book, so missing non-applicable settings would be fine. The book had a lot of value but would be better read as a reference book picking what interests you.
Danial Kalbasi
Aug 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, art
This book is timeliness, at least the majority part of it. That's probably the one reason lots of people love this book.

The book is long and it can get slow pace at certain points, especially in traditional photography chapters. But I highly recommend you to not skip these chapters completely. The author points out interesting facts which are still useful to know about.
Kirill Nikolenko

One of the best books on photography I’ve ever read. Chapters about zone system/negative development/printing are pure brilliant. Highly recommend to anyone, no matter are you using film or not.
Ben Field
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Superb, very informative, very good examples, not pretentious but does elaborate around the art and not doing it by the book. Gave me lots of insights into how I can improve. Would recommend to new and experienced photographers. Will continue to use it as a reference guide too.
Kate Cornfoot
Mar 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Holy moley. What a book! This is the best book on the art of photography I've read. Ever. It was originally published in 1994 - so the book is largely oriented around film photography - but it is completely relevant for digital photography. Perhaps even more than modern books that are devoted entirely to digital. I feel like I learned more, and of a much higher quality, in reading this book than I've learned in countless other books/classes/articles. ...more
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Nice book
Oct 09, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook
This book invokes Martin Luther King Jr at least twice in different chapters to make a point about playing to one’s strengths.
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
(4.5) For full transparency, I only skimmed the centre chapters focused on film development, and the print. If they become more pertinent to my focus I will revisit them.
May 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
A great book about photography. I really enjoyed Barnbaum's style of writing, his humble voice throughout the book made it feel like a caring uncle passing on his knowledge. ...more
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art
A very good book. I start to think photography as an art.
Vanessa Silva
Sep 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Best book on photography I've ever read. I can only recommend it. ...more
Tom Rubendall
Nov 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Parts on the zone system and developing and printing are extremely useful
Tonino Filipovic
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
By far the best book on photography as an art, that I came across so far. Readable and understandable, with some priceless advises to photographers of any skill level (although technical proficiency will certainly facilitate fulfilling your potential as an artist).
While I don't necessarily agree with certain Bruce's views (e.g. his very firm stance against the composition rules, while he obviously uses "rules", or better said "good composition practices" in majority of his photographs), it doesn
Kai Pak
Dec 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Those who chide this book for not having the right technical material or being outdated and too focused on B&W photography are missing the point. This book has little to do with technique and everything to do with Barnbaum's artistic philosophy and what makes good photography--not merely what are the steps to capture a competent image.

I'm at the beginning of my journey of becoming a more serious photographer and found the information contained in this book to be truly insightful. I'm at the poi
Mar 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Really inspiring treatise on photography. While there's plenty of technical info, what really made this book so worth reading for me as an amateur photographer was it's focus (pun intended) on photographic seeing and using photography to capture a mood, an emotion, a sensation. Since I tend to be drawn to abstraction in my photos, Birnbaum's experience and examples provide some really useful information and things to think about (and not think too much about) when I'm out shooting. Although his ...more
Jan 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My first book to read in 2012 and once it got between my hands all I thought of is: Where were I from this book all these years?
Bruce Barnbaum is an amazing photographer who has the ability to create a great visual communication with you through his photography. This book goes in different chapters to help you decide where to start, how and why. I'd recomment it to every photographer whether it has been a month since you got your camera and you want to learn the basics or you're been shooting fo
Mar 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Not just one of the best photography books I've ever read, one of the best books I've ever read. His opinions on art were enlightening, and the value he urges us to place on original personal expression really resonated with me. On top of that, there are down-and-dirty lessons on the technical side of photography. ...more
Vaughn Bender
Sep 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Barnbaum presents how-to techniques for both traditional and digital approaches. His approach is creative and go beyond the technical as he delves deeply into the philosophical, expressive, and creative aspects of photography. This book is for every level of photographer who seeks to make a personal statement through their chosen medium.
Jul 06, 2015 rated it liked it
One very important subject is well described in this book, that is Zone system..
This book is mostly for film camera and development of films..
I don't find it too useful.. i would rather recommend Photographer's Eye in this genre..

For any query mail at / write at
Apr 13, 2014 rated it liked it
I found that the creative aspects of the book were really good and inspiring, but the technical aspects of the book seemed a bit too focused on traditional techniques, specifically with film, and even some of the digital content seemed a bit dated despite its relatively recent publishing date.
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