Photography Book Review: The Soul of the Camera, by David DuChemin

DuChemin Soul C1There are plenty of books about how to take pictures by mastering composition, exposure, lighting, post-production, and more. But there aren’t many books about what goes in inside the mind of a photographer, what they think about, and how they approach photography. Prolific author David DuChemin’s latest book, The Soul of the Camera, looks at that aspect of photography: what one should think about to take original photos. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

In this attractive hardcover book, DuChemin discusses the vision that a photographer should have (his mantra, in videos he presents on his website, is “gear is good, but vision is better”). He talks about things like authenticity, improvisation, learning and rejecting rules, and presents a photography that is more creative than technical. Rather than focusing on the latest gear, or some cool Photoshop tricks, reading a book like this can help you find better ways to look at the world, and hence create better photos.

I’m not interested in post-production trickery, and The Soul of the Camera reminds me how important photos are, not their color profiles, Lightroom presets, or anything else. Photographers need to be curious, to seek out new places to shoot pictures, rather than stick with what’s familiar. They need to take chances, even if it means that many or most of their photos won’t be worth keeping. Above all, this book stresses the need to be honest and authentic, rather than just reproducing clichés.

As I delve more into photography, and browse forums, most of the talk is about gear: the latest cameras, lenses, and software. But very few people talk about the soul of their photos, their vision, what makes photos memorable. This book gives a good theoretical underpinning for this part of the craft and art of photography. If you’ve seen some of DuChemin’s videos, and read his articles or ebooks, you know that he can be a bit relentless in his insistence on these ideas, but this book tempers his ardor, and is a bit more laid back than his caffeine-fueled videos. If you haven’t read his work before, this is a good introduction to a photographer who thinks beyond the frame.

In 288 pages, with dozens of beautifully reproduced color photos, this is a book for photographers who want to take pictures, not play with their gear. If you want to think differently about photography, whether you have the latest gear or not, this book is for you.