The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby - Review

The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby – Review


‘What digital photography book should I buy?’

I get asked this quite a bit by readers and while I’ve read quite a few good ones am always on the look out for more recommended resources. So I thought I’d open up the question to readers – what digital photography books have you found most helpful? Leave your recommendations and reader reviews in comments below.

To start the conversation I thought I’d post a reader review of The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby. This review was left in our forums by forum member ny156uk who won this book in a competition here at DPS. I hope you find it helpful.

The Review

The book is set as if you are a buddy of Scott’s out on a shoot. Each page is another tip/’technique’ so you get headings like “When to Shoot Flowers” or “What to Shoot in Bad Weather”. The book doesn’t explain ‘technical’ information about how cameras work/why X creates a small depth-of-field etc. instead it focuses on what settings/things you need to do to capture a specific look.

Throughout the book there is light-hearted humour. This appears to be an attempt to make the book less reference-y. I quite like the less formal approach, but imagine for some the humour may diminish the otherwise clear writing style.

Each chapter spans a specific area covering off the usual (weddings, landscapes, sports, nature, flowers, travel and portraits). It also has a ‘photo recipes’ section with several very beautiful photos, each containing a breakdown of what compositional elements/features make the shot and how to replicate it.

Throughout the book you are presented with short snappy stories from the perspective of a pro, situations they have gotten into and some rather unique little tips (there is a photo showing a method of wrapping your camera-strap around your arm that is said to achieve a sturdier grip for hand-held shots).

Top things I learnt from The Digital Photography Book:

  • A yard of black velvet/valour set a few feet beond some flowers will make a nice dramatic background to your flower shots
  • Don’t cut off people at joints. Always try to cut-off body parts in the middle (between elbow and shoulder/between wrist and elbow etc.)
  • When shooting forests, it is often best not to include the forest-floor
  • When shooting on overcast/cloudy days try to frame your shot to minimize the amount of sky on view
  • Dusk and Dawn are the best times to shoot (emphasised a lot throughout the book)

I found the book an enjoyable read and much of what was suggested was either new to me, or was expained in a more simple way than I had previously encountered. The book requires virtually no technical knowledge, but does focus more on owns of dSlr cameras, but many of the techniques noted could transfer over easily.

My rating: 9 out of 10 stars

This book is one of the best selling digital photography books ever – and for good reason. It’s a must read for those starting out and intermediate photographers alike.

I guess this a little odd, but at the end of the book there were 5/6 pages of adverts. Whilst not a big deal it makes the book feel more like a ‘magazine add-on’ than a real book. Daft of me i’m sure, but i’ve dropped it a star for that reason.

Get your copy of The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby.

Have you read any great digital photography books? Give your recommendations with your reasons why in comments below. Looking forward to discovering some great digital photography books.

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

  • allie December 17, 2010 02:21 pm

    Does anyone have all three? I was just wondering if they all cover different topics or different aspects of the same topic (e.g people, nature, travel). I'm still trying to figure out which book to buy that would fit with my interests (previously mentioned). Not sure if anyone would still be reading this article... but any help would be appreciated

  • Tina May 18, 2010 03:11 pm

    I found versions 1 and 2 of this book on recently for an excellent price of about 26.00 with free shipping. Amazing buy, good time to snatch them before they're gone.

  • Julie December 18, 2009 03:24 am

    Not daft at all. For a retail price of $26 there shouldn't be ads. On the other hand, I just ordered some books and am sorry I missed this post by a couple of days!

  • Ravi December 16, 2009 03:13 pm

    Scott's book of Digital Photography is the first book of photography i read and it really made me fall in love with photography. The style is so simple but the techniques mentioned are very powerful - i think once you see their effectiveness, you are then more interested to learn how they work.
    I also enjoyed volume 2 and volume 3 (though to a lesser extent).

  • Pablo June 20, 2009 01:54 am

    I really liked Understanding exposure, by Bryan Peterson. It is easy to read and I learned a lot with it.

  • Photo June 14, 2009 01:22 am

    your photography is very interesting fo me!
    Thnx for your work)

  • Nadya June 13, 2009 02:48 am

    I love his book. I ordered Scott Kelby's first digital photography book then I read book review, I felt so bad because someone here did not give a nice review. After reading the book halfway, Omg! he is soooooo good! He really writes from the heart. He has this amazing quality of capturing newbies, he always keeps in mind that some of us are newbies in photography, yet he seems to be professional photographer and he doesn't even show it. I would recommend his book to anyone! So whoever gave this "not so good" review I am sorry to say, it was not justified at all and I now not buying it because this guy is the greatest out there! Wish there were more photographers out there like him!

  • wedding albums July 29, 2008 06:44 pm

    Novices very grateful, easy to read and understand, thank you very much

  • John Rosalia January 5, 2008 01:18 pm

    Great book! I like the ways he explains everything. Not too technical. And he's got a good sense of humor too!

  • MB July 6, 2007 04:43 pm

    This is a perfect, in-your-back-pocket, basic, handbook. Easy read. Great for beginners.

  • Michelle Goodall June 1, 2007 12:34 am

    I bought this book and I have to tell you, it is one of the best investments I ever made. It reads like he is talking to you!

  • jin May 31, 2007 07:58 pm

    Bryan Peterson's book of light and composition are great. I gave 10 out of 12.

  • jin May 31, 2007 07:56 pm

    I got this book month ago in a local book store. It caught my eye when I see the title of the number and the SLR camera in the cover page. After reading few pages, without any hesitation, I bought this book. After read it, I think I get the right book. It is like the theory kind of book. But In practice, you need more than that. If you want to learn everything from this book such as compositional, lighting, etc,you can't. But in the combination of books, this book make a summary. I gave 8 of 10 of this book.

  • Renato Targa May 28, 2007 12:36 am

    Both Bryan Peterson's books mentioned above are great and complementary: exposure technique and composition. 10 of 10.

    And since I like the Scott Kelby's "The Photoshop CS2 for Digital Photographers," I'm going to read "The Digital Photography Book."

  • Todd Jordan May 21, 2007 02:42 am

    Thanks for this review. Would like to have seen more about the different topics covered, but this was enough to get me to take a look on Amazon.

    Editorial note, not content related: I found "Throughout the book" a bit cludgy. :)

  • Benjamin May 19, 2007 02:04 am

    I love your photography!
    Thanks for the blog

  • Lee May 18, 2007 10:15 am

    So glad this review was a good one as I just ordered this a few days ago and now I am really looking forward to receiving it!

    I see a few people have also recommended "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson, I am jumping on the band wagon with that one, loved the book, learned a lot and it was easy to read and understand.

  • Richard May 18, 2007 03:47 am

    Digital Field Guide (Digital Rebel Xti/400D) by Charlotte K Lowrie.Published byWiley

    I have owned this paperback for about two months and found it to be a mine of useful information.
    It is a brand new book published this year 2007. 263 pages. Four pages just for the contents alone.
    The book starts with a Quick tour (QT) of the Canon 400D then starts with chapter one running through to chapter eight. This is followed by appendix, glossary and index. I can’t think of anything else left to cover. There is even a section in the appendix for Internet resources. Its all here.

    Two items that particularly appealed to me were

    1/ “Techniques for Great Photos”. Each heading, for example :- Business Photography is broken down into Set-up, Lighting, Lens, Camera Settings, Exposure & Accessories. Each of these headings is broken down into “In the field” and “On your own” Just what you need to get you going.

    2/Custom Functions and Options (which appear in appendix A). I thought Custom Functions was a black art ,but it is all explained here – simple!

    What you have is: -
    An in depth study of the Canon 400D including the software bundle.
    A comprehensive book on general digital photography including stacks of examples all in colour.

    What you don’t have is other manufacturer software such as PhotoShop Elements but then that is not within the remit of this book.

    Easy to read.Very well laid out. I haven’t read every page as I use it basically for reference and in that respect it is ideal as accessing information is so simple.
    I can’t praise it enough. If I had to sum it up in one sentence I would put it this way It does what says on the can, Digital Field Guide. Ten out of ten.

    For further information visit their web site


  • Geoff Wilson May 17, 2007 10:04 am

    If you are taking photos of people, then I'd highly recommend Skin by Lee Varis.

    The book goes through everything you could ever need to know from shooting through a bunch of post-processing techniques. Consider it an intermediate book though, as it assumes you know the basics of using a camera.

  • Cam May 17, 2007 08:24 am

    This was the first photography book I ever read and was a great place to start, then when I wanted a bit more technical info, I went to Bryan Peterson's "Understanding Exposure."

    I personally didn't mind Scott's particular brand of humour... maybe because sometimes I find other photographic publications to be a little elitist in tone.

  • Stuart Hodgkiss May 17, 2007 07:23 am

    This is quite possibly the best Photography book on earth along with understanding exposure. Scott knows how to teach and to be honest I now feel I know infinately more since reading it several months ago. I really recommend you give it a read nomatte how "Pro" you think you are. Stu

  • Micahel Shaw May 17, 2007 05:16 am

    I enjoy Scott's writing and his insights, whether it's The Digital Photography Book or his book about Adobe's Lightroom. I am looking forward to his manual on Photoshop CS3.

    The Digital Photography Book isn't as hefty a tome as some others (I'm thinking of John Hedgecoe here) but it's a good, quick read.

    Regarding Scott's humor...I guess it's an acquired taste like single malt whisky!

  • Richard May 17, 2007 03:36 am

    I would highly recommend "Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Camera" by Bryan Peterson. It's a very good book on the principles of exposure. I also recommend another one of his books that was suggested by Anshul, "Learning to see creatively". The author's style is easy to read and the books are full of examples with large colour photographs.

  • Anshul May 17, 2007 03:05 am

    I really liked "Learning to see creatively" by Bryan Peterson. He manages to convey very clearly the concepts of good composition in photography. It's slightly different from this book in the sense that emphasis is on compositional elements like patterns, colour, light, lines etc. rather than instructions for specific settings (though there are quite a few illustrative examples).

    I found myself becoming a bit more creative after reading his book and experimenting more with my cameras.

  • Simo May 17, 2007 03:03 am

    "What digital photography book should I buy?"

    None. If you want to learn how to use your camera, read the manual. If you want to learn about post-processing, buy a book which concentrates on that area. The only book I have read about that is the "Photoshop Restoration & Retouching" by Katrin Eismann and I liked that. And if you want learn about photography, buy a book which tells you about photography. The only thing that digital cameras have changed in photography is the media where photos are stored so all those good old photography books are still good. I could recommend at least "New Manual of Photography" by John Hedgecoe.

  • Jay May 17, 2007 01:34 am

    Understandin Exposure (Brian Peterson) is a well written and comprehensuive technical guide to taking photographs which applies irrespective of equipment;
    and Jim Krause Photo Ideas Index is a great source of creative inspiration.

  • Jay Adison May 17, 2007 01:33 am

    Hi all, I have found this site where they give-out this book in .chm format. click here to download it free.

  • Jason May 17, 2007 01:23 am

    The Photoshop CS Book for Digital Photographers helped me out quite a bit. A friend recommended it because I told him my Photoshop skills needed a bit of work. This book was easy to learn from because, well, it tells you exactly what to do step by step. You really can't go wrong.

    Can anyone recommend a good book on Adobe Lightroom?

  • Michael Morris May 17, 2007 01:18 am

    After reading several good Digital Photography books I picked up John Shaw's "Nature Photography Field Guide". Although this book is for film, most of the subject matter is relevant to both film and digital photography. I found the book to be extremely well written, easy to understand, and comprehensive. Many books touch on different subjects lightly, Mr. Shaw;s book goes into great depth on each topic and left me feeling as though I understood the subject of each chapter.

    In practice, his techniques and advice have been practical to implement and have made a significant difference in my photography.

    If you wish to understand photography, this is the best book around IMO. I give it a 10 out of 10 rating without hesitation.

  • David Bridle May 17, 2007 01:02 am

    This book is amazing. It allowed me to make better photo with very simple techniques. Everyone should have this book in there photography bags at all times. I to have read it twice from cover to cover, and also dip into it depending on wat I am going to photograph.

  • Amar May 17, 2007 12:48 am

    This book is really, really good.

  • Trevor Carpenter May 17, 2007 12:43 am

    Great book. It came highly recommended and I snatched it up quick. I've now read it through, twice.

    I keep it around as a reference.