By Katie WellerLet me start out by saying that the author, Scott Kelby, is one of the premier authorities on all things Photoshop. He is the Editor and Publisher of Photoshop User magazine and Layers magazine, and he is the current President of the NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals). Mr. Kelby has also authored an extensive number of technology and photography books including one of my favorites: "The Digital Photography Book."
When Monte first asked me to review "The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Book For Digital Photographers" by Scott Kelby (Peachpit Press, $39.99) I was a bit skeptical. After all, I'd been using Lightroom since Beta 2 so I wouldn't really be learning much of anything. I was so wrong. It turns out that this book is worth the purchase price just for the extra little tips and resources scattered throughout. I've learned a lot, and I've greatly improved and accelerated my work flow.
The Lightroom Book is written for both Macintosh and Windows users. Though the illustrations and key commands are primarily Macintosh, Windows key commands are always provided as an alternative. The eleven chapters cover the five Lightroom modules – Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print, and Web – as well as basic editing techniques, fixes for common digital camera idiosyncrasies, how to create gorgeous black & white photos from color images, and sample work flows for wedding and landscape shoots.
So how does it read? Manuals and so-called "how to" books usually frustrate me with their dryness, or they make me crazy by forcing me into a sort of lesson plan. This book is refreshingly different. Despite the long-winded title, the book is easy to read and very down-to-earth. Mr. Kelby has a knack for writing in such a way that you feel like you're sitting right next to him in his office on a Saturday afternoon, sipping Coke and checking out some cool new software. In other words, he strikes a nice balance between quickly and thoroughly teaching you how to do a task while explaining why you did it and what you have effected by doing it. And he does all that in a friendly, no-pressure, guy-next-door way, and with a wicked good sense of humor to boot.
Images and screen shots feature heavily in this book – there isn't a single paragraph that isn't accompanied by a relevant illustration showing exactly what the author is doing or explaining. And all of the example photos that he uses are his own, underlining the fact that he isn't just a tech writer, he's also a world-class photographer.
Confession time. I don't buy paper how-to books anymore. I mean, what's the point? As soon as they're published they're out of date, right? I was pleasantly surprised when I received an email a day or two after Lightroom version 1.1 came out stating that I could log on to the Peachpit Press site (I'd registered the book when I received it) and download a PDF update covering the changes in the new version. I was also pleased to discover that the update was every bit as easy to read and well-illustrated as the book itself. I definitely need to start buying tech. books again.
There are always drawbacks, right? Well, there are very few of them in this case. If I had to put my finger on one thing that I am less than perfectly thrilled with, it's what I'll call the reference-ability of this book. Yes, there's a Table Of Contents and yes, there's a thorough index in the back. That said, each step of the book is presented in a single, sometimes long, uninterrupted paragraph. The steps are easy to read, but it can be difficult to find a sentence or a key command on the page right when you need it.
The other thing that I didn't like - and this is a little, nit-picking thing - is the batch of full-page ads in the back of the book. I've paid my $39.99 for information, not advertising. Slap another $5 on the cover price and take out the ads and I'll gladly pay the extra money. But like I said, this is a nit-picky thing. Your mileage, as they say, may vary.
Overall though, I've learned so much (and even gotten a few chuckles out of the deal) that I think the book is well worth the asking price, and the PDF updates only enhance its value. I highly recommend that Lightroom users of all skill levels purchase a copy and read it.
Posted: Saturday, September 1st, 2007