Asked to write a "how to". Need opinions

Cygnus StudiosCygnus Studios Commercial PhotographerSan Francisco's North BayPosts: 2,294Registered Users Major grins

A publisher over in the east bay contacted us about writing a how to book on food photography. My initial response was the world doesn't need another one. After many an argument with my agent, I decided to meet with the publisher this morning to discuss it.

The idea they have is as unoriginal as every food photography book I've seen. Spend 50 pages going over shutter speed, iso, f stop, and white balance and never giving the reader any idea of how to get good pics.

My reaction was what is really needed is a one page sample complete with put camera here, use these settings, put light here, use these settings, boom you're done.

Of course the publisher would have a tough job selling a one page how to that actually works and continued to push the idea of regurgitating what has already been done a thousand times.

If you were going to write a how to book on changing a light bulb, do you really need 50 pages on how the electric company generates power and sends it to your house? Of course not, you want to know how to change the light. How it works is irrelevant.

I feel this way with any how to. Tell me how to do it and leave all the "talk" to those who care about why it works.

When leaving the publisher, my agent tells me that I should be beaten with a rubber hose for trying to ruin a deal to make money, but the whole thing makes no sense to me.

So I figured that I would ask here on the forum. Do we really need yet another book going over shutter speed, f stop, iso, white balance, and that is before the ending where I would be debating elements vs lightroom vs photoshop.

Or is a simple one page diagram with specific settings more useful? I could maybe stretch it into two pages if I tell people how to get more or less depth, more or less light simply without going into the whole this is why it works.

Steve

Website

Comments

  • pegellipegelli Major grins BelgiumPosts: 4,672Registered Users Major grins
    edited September 16, 2017

    You could maybe add some text (don't know how much it would fill) on achieving a pleasing composition, bringing out te textures of different foodstuffs, maybe what type of plates or cutlery to use to get an attractive food picture. Maybe also how to get even lighting or a type of lighting that will bring out the best in food, how to avoid distractions in the background etc.

    For me those things would be more valuable then stories on White Balance, Shutter time and Aperture and in the end might lead to technically perfect but still bad or boring photographs.

    But I agree, writing a book about a subject where your heart isn't in it will always be a failure, even if it sells or makes you a profit.

    Pieter, aka pegelli
    My SmugMug
  • Cygnus StudiosCygnus Studios Commercial Photographer San Francisco's North BayPosts: 2,294Registered Users Major grins

    @pegelli said:
    You could maybe add some text (don't know how much it would fill) on achieving a pleasing composition, bringing out te textures of different foodstuffs, maybe what type of plates or cutlery to use to get an attractive food picture. Maybe also how to get even lighting or a type of lighting that will bring out the best in food, how to avoid distractions in the background etc.

    That is an interesting idea, but well out of my experience.

    For my purposes, composition is always about layout and where the text is going, never what is best for the image itself. Plates and cutlery are more often than not chosen for me by the prop stylist for reasons that are never shared with me. As long as those items work with the lighting and don't contrast too much with the food, I never think about them.

    The different types of lighting that may affect the images in a positive way would be cool to explore, but I never get to experiment with that either. With work, time is the factor so I always shoot with the same lights. As a matter of fact, more often than not in the same position. The only time I change the position of the light is when I'm on location and forced to because of ambient light or limited space.

    Backgrounds aren't an issue in the studio where I spend 99% of my time. Even on set, rarely do I have to deal with any background that we didn't bring ourselves.

    Your idea really highlights the differences between creating images for the beauty of it and those for work. I wish that the gap between the two wasn't so vast.

    I agree with you, that is much better idea for a book and one that does seem like it could be helpful. Maybe that is why it isn't done. The goal in publishing seems to be to teach people to buy more books.

    Steve

    Website
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