Complete Digital Photography by Ben Long - Book Review

Complete Digital Photography by Ben Long – Book Review


One of the first books that I bought on the topic of Digital Photography was Ben Long’s Complete Digital Photography. It’s currently in it’s fourth edition (I bought the third originally but have since seen the latest edition and will base this review upon it).

Book Rating: 4.5 out of 5

I bought it on the recommendation of a friend who told me that it was one of the most comprehensive books that he’d written on Digital Photography and that while there are many ‘light’ and ‘fluffy’ books on the topic out there (light and fluffy were his words) that Ben’s book was a much more comprehensive introduction and exploration of the topic.

I’ll be honest here, my first impressions of Complete Digital Photography were not great, when the book first arrived from Amazon I pulled it out of the package and my first thought was ‘text book’. This is not the sexiest looking digital photography book going around (note, the new version has some improvements in this).

However I resisted judging the book on it’s cover and began to read. I’ve not stopped reading it since.

As my friend said in his recommendation – Ben Long has put together a very comprehensive guide to digital photography.

The information contained in this 576 page epic is solid and very helpful. It covers everything from talking readers through how a camera works to how to buy one, to shooting tips (composition, sharp images etc) through to post production and photo editing.

Ben has the ability to explain some of the more complicated aspects of photography simply and more importantly in a way that readers will be able to apply as they explore their hobby.

I would especially recommend Complete Digital Photography for anyone transitioning from film to digital – Ben explains a lot of ‘digital speak’ into a language that film photographers will understand. I guess it’s first edition was written primary for this audience.

What I like

Comprehensive – This is one of the most comprehensive guides to digital photography that you’ll find.

Clear – Ben writes so well that I think anyone from a beginner level just getting into digital photography to a more serious photographer would both understand and find it helpful.

Included CD – The book comes with a CD with tutorials, software demos (post production) and most of the images in the book. This is a nice extra touch (it works for Windows and Mac users).

Updates – The Fourth edition has new sections that were really needed – even though it’s only been 2 years since the last one. Tehse include detail on working in RAW (right from shooting images through to editing images), a section on flash photography, an expanded ‘shooting’ section (with great tips on composition and other shooting techniques), HD Range Shooting, Sensor Cleaning for DSLR owners etc. Speaking of DSLRs, there’s now a section for those looking to upgrade to a DSLR with buying tips.

What could be Improved?

My main problem with the Third Edition was that it was slightly dated and didn’t have enough on DSLRs and RAW – but Ben’s worked at bringing this latest edition right up to date. I’m still working through the updates but I’m finding it difficult to find much that I’d want changed. This is a truly great digital photography book – congratulations Ben.

Perhaps the only thing is that the size of the book can be a little overwhelming. But once you get into it you find that it’s a great reference.

My Rating:

I’m a fan of Complete Digital Photography and think it would recommend it to beginners through to intermediate digital photographers – particularly point and shoot users or those new to DSLRs wanting to get a little more manual control. It’s sections on post production editing are also very useful for a hack like myself.

I’ve rated the book at 4.5 stars (out of 5). The half a star off is simply as a little incentive to Ben and others to keep developing great resources – I guess there’s always a little room for improvement!

Buy Complete Digital Photography at Amazon.

Read other Digital Photography Book Reviews:

Three other books that readers might enjoy from Ben Long are:

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Brian July 31, 2011 12:57 am

    i agree that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, the book that thought me the most about wedding photography that looks terrible was the best Wedding Photography Contract

  • Teri-Sue Thompson August 15, 2009 07:29 am

    Just read your review on Ben Long's "Complete Digital Photography." I'm in the middle of the 3rd Edition now (recently ordered it "used," not realizing it was an earlier revision at the time). I was delighted to find it so helpful to me (so much more so than other widely-known books I've been reading in this genre) that I returned to Amazon site to order the newer version ... and ... discovered that his BRAND NEW 5TH Edition is to be released September 10, 2009. I, too, suggest to anyone who is looking for a comprehensive treatment of digital photography ... jump on this one! :-)

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  • Dave July 14, 2007 11:19 am

    Thanks for the tip. I need some new reference material since my digital skills need some work. All my shots that have any motion never work out.

  • Thomas René Sidor July 12, 2007 09:31 am

    Matthew - I agree; it's hard to teach creativity or the ability to pay attention to detail through reading. It really depends on experience and your thinking I guess, but hopefully some key techniques and insights can be made from reading about composition, color theory, lighting, etc.

    Thanks a lot for the recommendations - I'll definitely have a look at some of Michael Freeman's work (especially the one on color and light and lighting) and "Learning to See Creatively" from Bryan Peterson.

  • Al Jurina July 11, 2007 12:38 pm

    Learning to See Creatively by Bryan Peterson is an excellent read for someone who feels confident with the mechanics, but wants to understand how to approach photography from an artistic and creative perspective. Its a little dated, but the principles are excellent. Bryan is also the author of Understanding Exposure, so you can be assured that his stuff is pretty credible if you liked that one.

  • Matthew Miller July 11, 2007 09:36 am

    Thomas -- I think I'd characterize what you're asking for as "beyond basic", not necessarily "beyond intermediate". I don't think any book is really going to take you beyond intermediate. (And I say that with all humility as a very intermediate photographer myself.)

    I really recommend Michael Freeman's books on photography from Lark Books. He has a "Complete Guide" book, but the various "Mastering ____ Photography" books are the better ones as they go into more detail. I particularly recommend "Mastering Color Digital Photography", which I found very insightful and helpful. It covers everything from the practicalities of colors paces and theory of color to psychology, culture and meaning of various colors.

    My only complaint is editorial -- there are more editing errors than one would like, and there's a strange tendency for the really meaty information to be in the fine-print (and long) captions on the pictures rather than in the main text.

  • Richard B July 11, 2007 09:14 am

    I'll add my recommendation to this fourth edition of Complete Digital Photography. I just got it this week and have already seen some real improvements in my digital photography. I really like the way that the author explains concepts using the film camera language. Very worthwhile book - nice review.

  • Darren July 11, 2007 07:30 am

    Thomas - I think this book might suit your needs. It is certainly heavier (not only in actual weight) than the other books.

  • Bessy July 11, 2007 07:26 am

    when you reviewed understanding exposure I almost left a comment that I thought this one was better. I have had a copy of both the first and third updated version - #4 sounds great!

  • Thomas René Sidor July 11, 2007 06:14 am

    Interesting review.

    I'm seeing a lot of books for the beginner and intermediate photographers in here, and as I am such, I've bought Understanding Exposure by Brian Peterson and The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby upon recommendations from various posts here at DPS.

    Those are both great books and I’ve enjoyed them a lot, but now I’m beginning to convince myself that I’m moving beyond the intermediate level – I know how aperture, shutter speed and ISO sensitivity affects my photography and all that – and thus I would like something more in depth.

    I would love to read about composition, the technical nitty-gritty of optics – why does the DOF get smaller when using larger apertures, exactly what do 70-200mm mean, etc. – color theory, etc.

    Can anyone recommend some reading that covers these “beyond intermediate” subjects?

  • Andrew Ferguson July 11, 2007 05:38 am

    I'm running out of room on my bookshelves!

    I'll at this to my 'To Read' stack :P