Book Review: Luminosity and Contrast

Alister Benn has produced another eBook detailing his approach to black and white photography, concentrating especially on how he makes the most of his images by adjusting Luminosity and Contrast

The eBook is fully illustrated with superb images, all in black and white, except on a few occasions when he includes the original colour RAW file to show the starting point of his editing. The photographs alone are worth getting this eBook for. They are, without exception, terrific examples of the best of current black and white landscape photography. Unusually, Alister is just as proficient at producing ethereal high key images as he is at presenting dense, dark, dramatic low key ones. In my experience, most photographers tend to move in the direction of one or the other as they develop their own personal style. It is rare to see someone straddle both ends of the luminosity and contrast spectrum so effectively.

When you first look at this eBook I suggest turning to the chapter summaries before diving into the body of the text. Some photography eBooks contain bland '10 top tips' segments at intervals which just state the obvious. However, Alister concludes each of the chapters with interesting bullet points that reveal his own approach to his photography and contain many pearls of wisdom derived from his own photographic experience.

Unlike many other experts who want to impress you with their knowledge, Alister does not try to make things seem more complicated than they really are. He says that there are usually several different ways of achieving the same effect when processing images and he will normally just choose the quickest option. "The vast majority of these photographs took less than 5 minutes to develop."

Throughout the eBook he emphasises the central importance of luminosity (or brightness) and contrast in attracting the eye of the viewer around the image. Local changes in luminosity can direct the viewer to the important details. "We are like plants, we are drawn to the light". He also shows example images where increasing the local contrast in the foreground attracts the eye into the image by providing a stepping stone on the way in towards the main subject.

Unusually, he also shows some edits of his images that he was unhappy with followed by an improved edit made later. This is encouraging for photographers who are starting out with their own photography because it shows that even the best photographers don’t always get it right first time, every time. It can be discouraging for novice photographers to see a book full of perfect images as it can make you think that none of your images are ever going to look as good as this, and you might as well take up golf instead.

Starting with the Zone System, Alister moves on to using Lightroom or Photoshop to edit his images, then details his use of Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 to achieve additional effects. He emphasises the need for images to still look realistic after editing. Towards the end of the eBook he describes the use of Tony Kuyper’s Luminosity Masks Actions (TKActions v6) which makes targeted masks of the exact tones you wish to adjust. I have seen Adam Gibbs use this technique which can give an almost unparalleled control over each individual tone in a way that users of the Zone System could only have dreamed of.

Alister is obviously a deep thinker and this eBook explains his personal philosophy in some detail. "You can witness by seeing, but you experience by looking" and "If you enter the landscape with no expectation, and instead replace that with a sense of wonder, trust, openness and a noticing mind, nature will reveal its beauty". When teaching others he tries to set them off on their own path rather than getting them to copy his work. He also notes that "Successful image-makers are excellent at judging when something looks how they want it to look, and at the same time confident with that decision". On more than one occasion in the eBook he emphasises the importance of shooting for yourself. "Please yourself and forget about trying to please everybody. You never will".

Quality and layout
I viewed this eBook on a high resolution screen and was impressed by the high quality of the illustrations. Sometimes eBooks can be too highly compressed to speed up downloading. This doesn’t affect the text but can result in the illustrations looking soft or pixelated. This 60 Mb file does all the images justice and shows them off to best effect.

The photographs are presented with a drop shadow which gives an attractive 3D feel to the pages.

This is an excellent eBook, packed with useful information and illustrated with top quality, inspirational images. Highly recommended.

Purchase this 233-page PDF eBook today at the discounted rate of £16 (normal price £23). Click below to download it.

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About Author

David Hay

I took up photography at the age of eleven and have been passionate about it ever since. As a retired biologist I still marvel at the beauty of the natural world and try and capture the colours and forms of natural things around me.

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