The Weekend Photographer | PHOTOGRAPHY BOOK REVIEW

This is my review of The Weekend Photographer by John Van Put, a book aimed at amateur photographers shooting for themselves while traveling.

The Weekend Photographer by John Van Put
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The Weekend Photographer by John Van PutPublished in 2012 by New Holland Publishers Australia. 272 pages. Available in Paperback.

The author says from the get-go that he’s not a professional photographer (although, with the book published, it would seem a distinction without a difference). He writes in the introduction:

From the outset, I should make it clear that I am not a professional photographer nor is it a profession I should wish to pursue on a full-time basis. As the name of the book suggests, I only do photography on the weekend unless I am on holidays over a prolonged period of time.

But, he says, photography is an important part of his life, “a great form of escapism from the day-to-day grind of my everyday job.”

As a weekend photographer, I am my own critic and the manner by which it is done is not considered or commanded by anyone else. I sense that if it became a major source of income or a deliverable item for someone else’s expectation, then I would lose the very basic principle and fabric for what I currently do and enjoy.

In short: he takes photos for himself. And he does it for the fun of it. And that’s the reader the book is aimed at.

As a photographer, Van Paul has an eye for the dramatic. The photos are culled from his collection taken while traveling abroad in New York, Washington DC, Florence, Rome, Hong Kong, Paris, and Amsterdam, Niagara Falls, and Baltimore. But Van Paul has the good fortune to live in a world-class area for photographers: Sydney. And it’s Sydney and its environs that contribute are the subjects of most of the photos in the book. The book is organized thematically into chapters on City, Nature, Seascapes, High Definition Range (HDR), Night, Landscapes, Sepia and Monochrome, and Sunsets and Storms.

The gist of the book is: “Here are some photos I took that I like. And here’s how I did it.” Each photo has shooting information with it. Many of them just have exposure settings. Most of the shots were taken with fairly expensive higher-end gear like the Canon EOS 5D MkII rather than entry-level DSLRs, Micro Four Thirds, or point-and-shoots.

While the book is nominally focused on taking the shot, most of the photos are heavily cooked in post-processing. For many of the most dramatic shots, you can’t simply go out and shoot the photo that’s published–it requires the help of processing software, especially with HDR, or high dynamic range, photography. But the nuts and bolts of the post-processing is never explained except in passing. For a part of the image-making process that is so integral to how these images were made, that’s a significant omission.

The book contains minimal text. When there is, it typically explains how the photographer approached the challenges of shooting in that particular location or some brief remarks about the location, but it rarely offers much detail that you could apply in your own shooting.

Bottom Line: This isn’t a book that every photographer is going to love or find useful. If you’re after a detailed guide, there are better options available. If you’re in the target audience (amateur photographers taking photos for themselves) and you are looking to take dramatic location photos, this book will give you plenty of examples of those kinds of shots and provide some insight into the decisions that went into those photos. Nearly all the images are heavily processed–many with HDR–and that can either be a positive or a negative depending on your photographic tastes.

The Weekend Photographer
  • Van Put, John (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

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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 »

2 thoughts on “The Weekend Photographer | PHOTOGRAPHY BOOK REVIEW”

  1. I have to say , i have bought this book and agreee with all the above in short .
    But how ever for once i am kinda glad its not to heavey in text , he just gives the basics on how he set up each shot , i do like the images alot but i was telling myself through out the read there must of been some heavy processing going on here , i cant imagine pulling these out of a camera.
    For me im happy just to pick up the book and randomley open a page or three and look at the image and question why he would use these settings .
    I use this book as a casual lite read because im so nackerd from my work at the end of the day and i do alot of hard reading with other and more indepth photographic material.
    I do wish he had touched a little on what he had used for processing or the names of the soft wear
    This book is not for the beginners theres to little info for value of money .


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