Extraordinary Everyday Photography, by Brenda Tharp & Jed Manwaring | Book Review

The authors of this book encourage you to apply fresh eyes to the world close to home to capture creative photos and ultimately become a better photographer.

Extraordinary Everyday Photography
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Extraordinary Everyday Photography
Title: Extraordinary Everyday Photography
Author: Brenda Tharp & Jed Manwaring
Publisher: Amphoto Books
Publication Date: August 21, 2012
Total Pages: 160 pages
ISBN-13: 9780817435936
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You don’t have to get very deep into this book to work out what it’s about. It makes the case that there are great photos all around you just waiting to be discovered, seen, and created. They argue that you don’t need to travel to exotic locales to create exotic and interesting photos. It’s a truism discovered centuries ago by painters. Monet painted lilies in his garden, and Van Gogh painted sunflowers on his kitchen table in Arles.

[W]onderful images are hiding almost anywhere, if you just look. [p.9]

Even if we don’t all have the backyard that Ansel Adams had, chances are there’s something visually interesting not too far from your doorstep. It might not be a broad landscape–it might be a very specific detail that just needs fresh eyes to see it.

And as a way to demonstrate that it’s not all about location and equipment, the authors have included in their book examples from all sorts of cameras, ranging from high-end DSLRs to compacts to smartphones. Not every image is going to be gallery-worthy, as the authors readily admit. But as every photographer knows, that’s true no matter where you are or what you’re shooting.

About the Authors

The authors, Brenda Tharp and Jed Manwaring, are both professional photographers. They also teach photography workshops together, and the experience of teaching those workshops clearly comes through in the book.

Book Overview

The book is organized in a progression that builds first on developing fresh eyes, then on implementing and expressing the images.

The first couple of chapters spend most of their time on developing a fresh approach and vision.

  • Chapter 1 makes the case for taking a fresh approach to the things around you.
  • Chapter 2, the Moment of Perception, encourages you to get out and see things without the clutter of everyday life clouding your vision. Its suggested exercises focus on color, shape, and texture.

The next section gets into the practical aspects of finding the photos around where you live and the mechanics of creating something new with them.

  • Chapter 3, Discovering Pictures Where You Live, starts getting much more practical and provides some thematic elements to focus on, such as shadows and reflection, humor, or faces.
  • Chapter 4, titled Expanding the Creative Process, gives an overview of different photographic techniques that can give a fresh perspective on what you see in front of you. Examples are shooting techniques like panoramas and panning to post-processing techniques like adding texture overlays.
  • Chapter 5, Capturing Everyday Moments, is about watching and capturing the small moments in life you see around you every day. It also provides some practical guides for being prepared so that those fleeting, spontaneous moments don’t flit by while you’re fiddling with settings on your camera.

Once you have the mechanics down, the next section focuses on expression.

  • Chapter 6, Finding Your Point of View, looks at perspectives like depth and angle of view. A lens’s focal length is a crucial part of that, and that’s what the suggested exercises for this chapter focus on.
  • Chapter 7, Creating Strong Compositions, is on, well, composition–things like cropping, zooming, the rule of thirds, etc.
  • Chapter 8, Exploring the Light Around You, looks at how the indispensable element of light affects the photo. Because light is such a crucial and variable factor, this chapter is one of the more practical ones in the book.
  • Chapter 9, Photographing at Dusk and Dawn, is basically a more focused extension of the ideas in Chapter 8, but it adds some practical guidance specific to the challenges of photographing in the distinctive light of dusk and dawn.
  • Chapter 10, Photographing the Night Around You, is another chapter that focuses on the opportunities and challenges that come with shooting at night.


Overall, the book is more about inspiration and sparking creativity than a step-by-step how-to guide. The authors have written it as more of a push than a hand-holding guide. Its objective is to give you the ideas to build on so that you can get out and start shooting. So it doesn’t get bogged down in too much detail. There’s not much on gear, and there’s no section on how to use Lightroom–you can get that in other books. What this book aims to do, and I think it does it well, is encourage you to turn the kind of fresh eyes you’d naturally have when traveling to exotic locations back on the world much closer to home.

The book is written in a very accessible style and is especially well suited to photography enthusiasts looking for some inspiration close to home. I can see it being especially well-suited to those in camera clubs due to its emphasis on challenges for new perspectives and suggestions to organize photography playdates. It’s quite a thin book, so you can get out shooting sooner rather than spending endless hours on the couch reading it.


Chapter 1: Finding Fresh Vision
Chapter 2: The Moment of Perception
Chapter 3: Discovering Pictures Where You Live
Chapter 4: Expanding the Creative Process
Chapter 5: Capturing Everyday Moments
Chapter 6: Finding Your Point of View
Chapter 7: Creating Strong Compositions
Chapter 8: Exploring the Light Around You
Chapter 9: Photographing at Dusk and Dawn
Chapter 10: Photographing the Night Around You
Chapter 11: Resources: Apps and Other Software

Find it At

You can find it Amazon in paperback and eTextbook versions. You can also find the ebook version at eBooks.com.

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David Coleman / Photographer
by David Coleman

I'm a professional freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my travel photography here. More »

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