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The Essence of Photography, 2nd Edition

Seeing and Creativity

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In this fully revised and greatly expanded second edition of The Essence of Photography, world-renowned photographer and teacher Bruce Barnbaum draws upon 50 years of experience and observation to teach the art of photographic seeing and creativity.There is a lot more to photography than simply picking up a camera...
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  • Print and eBook Bundle: $59.99
  • Print Book: $49.95
  • eBook: $39.99



Bruce Barnbaum


368 pages


10 x 10in


Soft Cover - with flaps





  • Finding Your Voice
  • Your Interests and Your Imagery
  • Learning to See
  • Keen Observation as a Starting Point
  • Looking and Seeing: Photographing Versus Editing
  • Who Are You Trying to Please?
  • The Right and Wrong of "Connecting with Viewers"
  • Did It Look Like That?
  • Happiness Via Photography
  • Both Sides Now
  • Finding Inspiration for Realism or Abstraction
  • The Heart of Intuition and Creativity
  • Exercising Photographic Judgment
  • Learning Through Photographic Workshops and Associates
  • Seeking, Accepting, and Offering Criticism
  • Technical Knowledge, Materials, and Equipment for Creative Purposes
  • Technical and Artistic Considerations
  • Choosing Your Photographic Methods and Tools for Expressive Photography
  • Breaking the Rules and Following Your Passion

7 reviews for The Essence of Photography, 2nd Edition

  1. I know Bruce Barnbaum to be both and interesting and quite helpful writer so I am looking forward to reading his second edition of this photography book. The table of contents is enough to make you eager to read: finding your groove, who are you trying to please, did it look like that?, breaking the rules, and many more thought provoking chapter titles.

    Early on the author asks us to employ more of our own personal judgment and discretion when capturing an image. He argues convincingly that “pixels are free“ is not a good reason to shoot all the pix you possibly can at a given time. First, he points out that you then have to go home and cull all those photos. I agree wholeheartedly with the author here because I try to be more judicious in my snapping the shutter. Otherwise, I spend way too much time going through a thousand pics after just an hour’s shoot! Of course there’s also the fact that if we don’t employ judgment in what we photograph, we may not get the photo we would have actually wanted!

    Amazingly, Barnbaum once wrote to Ansel Adams, sending him some of Barnbaum’s photographs, and Ansel Adams responded! I won’t ruin any surprises, but wow. Barnbaum also amuses us: in one section he talks about a photographer he met who worked in a small town photographing weddings, and, who knows, maybe divorces 🙂

    And the author is decidedly not about the money. He tells us that the worst photos he has seen from other professionals are ones where the photographer asks herself: who will buy this? Although I’m not a professional and cannot directly speak to this, I do generally strive to shoot the image I want to see, and I think he’s right to encourage that — even for professionals who have to make a living at it.

    The book has a very useful section on why we should, as often as we can, define for ourselves what we are trying to express. That maximizes your chance of getting the images you envision. Barnbaum points out a couple of potential issues I had not thought of: one is that, in our desire to have dramatic photos, we often misapply technique. For example, too high in contrast, color too saturated, etc. Second, he points out that Photoshop makes misapplication of technique too easy :-).

    And the author has a good response to photographers who are afraid that everything has been photographed: he says that probably yes, most things have been photographed but it’s much more about how they are photographed.

  2. (verified owner)

    I have read Bruce Barnum earlier book and really enjoyed it. I have not yet read this book however; I have every reason to believe it will be enjoyable, helpful and humorous. Bruce is a fun Authour!

  3. (verified owner)

    I bought this book thinking that I would study the photos and breeze through the text. In fact, I am devouring every word of Barnbaum’s writing. He is a thoughtful person, and this comes across in each photo and each paragraph. I’ve already started to think about which of his books I will purchase next.

  4. (verified owner)

    A gorgeous book by a master photographer! The book is beautifully presented and illustrated, inspiring, and full of practical and sound wisdom on the art of photography. More than just another book about taking photos, Birnbaum guides the reader through the process of seeing, experiencing, and creating photography.

  5. (verified owner)

    I am an artist that express my thoughts and feelings with photographs. This book by one of the living masters helped me think deeply about what the act of photographing means to me. It helped me understand my feelings and inner view about the work I produce. Bruce Barnbaum also succeeds in positioning professional vs personal work and the interplay between these two apparently conflicting milieu in such a way as to aiding each other in developing the photographer’s perspective.
    Some of his observations about “photographic judgement”, “who am I shooting for?”, “peak experiences and happiness” explain to me my own experiences in the field and infront of my monitor when developing my images. These will stay with me forever.
    If you want to understand yourself as an artist better, then study the Essence of Photography.

  6. Since I got this book I decided to go back and read the first edition again. It took a couple of days but I realized why I wanted Volume 2 so badly…..and I am not disappointed! Bruce Barnbaum is a fantastic photographer and an even better writer. The book is beautifully published with the writing, story telling, images and ideas. By reading this book and listening to the authors hints and suggestions you can develop a style and genre of your own. Chapter 6 is titled ‘Who are you trying to please’ and that is the hint to the book. The author explains how you can develop your own style and someday photographers will envy your books. GREAT READ!

  7. (verified owner)

    If you are getting into or are already practicing photography to make images that please you, then this book should help you enormously.

    Way too many folks get matters completely backwards and place cameras and lenses and other shiny objects into the top priorities. But when you are making images the most important considerations are really your subject, light, and composition. The order isn’t that important because everything interlocks. Of course gear is important — without a camera you aren’t going to have anything to show for your efforts — but without engaging your brain you aren’t going to get good and great images. Bruce Barnbaum demonstrates visually and in admirably clear explanations why and how to go about thinking about your shots and your photographic practice.

    Barnbaum covers a lot of ground with this book. He promotes very sensible and sound ideas and practices using landscapes and portraits, his favourite subjects, as examples. He suggests some controversial notions like avoiding camera clubs (which I personally agree with) but explains his reasoning and offers strong and convincing arguments for them.

    When you finish this book you’ll be way ahead of most beginners and many intermediate photographers. By keeping an open mind and avoiding pointless and limiting orthodoxy you’ll go far.

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