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Book Review: How to Photograph Your Life

Bk cover

Quilting teacher extraordinaire Jan Krentz recommended this book to me back in April; I bought it not too long after that, and re-sized the photos for blogging back in September… give you an idea how swamped I’ve been? Anyway, Nick Kelsh has written numerous books; after getting how to Photograph your Family from interlibrary loan (this book wasn’t available), I decided to order this one from Amazon since the price was modest (and it’s a business expense!  self-education for teaching composition and design!; alas, I just checked and something crazy has happened to the price…like over $50 each!  Look for it in a library or used book store, or give it a wait and see if they re-print it and it is once again about $16.

Well, the book applies to quilting as well as photography, and in a nutshell his recommendations are:

–don’t use the flash if you can possibly avoid it, and


The latter, of course, is the part that best applies to quilting, but the book in itself is about composition and design, albeit in an oblique way.  Kelsh is a professional photographer, but he set himself a challenge:  to use his wife’s pocket digital camera to shoot ALL the photos in this book, thereby proving that even with a decent but not exorbitantly expensive camera one can, with a trained eye (including self-taught) and practice, take great pictures.

Note:  all photos are clickable for a larger view!

Table of contents page, Kelsh

Kelsh shows a wide range of typical sorts of photos, using what the average Jane might snap, and then how to improve the photo (remember the mantra:  CROP!):

example 1, kelsh

In this picture, on the left you have the typical shot taken from just up the path, with the subjects hard to see due to the dappled light from the shadows.  In the photo at right, Kelsh moved the subjects to where they are all in the same light (not dappled) and radically changed his position (up a rock or a tree I think) so he is shooting down on them.  Better!

example 2, kelsh baby

This page shows another lesson I learned at least 25 years ago:  take LOTS of pictures, and you’ll end up with a gem or two (or nine).  In this example, the photo on the left has a small bit of sweet baby’s face, and lots of playpen and wall.  In the many photos on the right, you have almost ALL face… and a wide range of a sweet baby being a sweet baby in all their goofiness.  With digitals, we are blessed… it used to be financial agony deciding whether or not to snap the shutter, using up expensive film and more expensive developing.  Now if the shot is lousy, just delete!  So get yourself a large capacity card, and snap at will!

example 3, kelsh portain minus the person

In this example, he shows us how to take someone’s portrait…without them in it.  If you changed the glasses on this one, and the pen, it could have been my dad!

The book is easy to read, and it doesn’t delve into serious discussions of design, composition and whatnot, but it still manages to convey the essentials of composition and design.   If you can get a hold of a copy for a reasonable price, it is worth it, or check your library or interlibrary loan options.

4 Responses to “Book Review: How to Photograph Your Life”

  1. Marie Says:

    A fabulous find methinks!

  2. LoieJ Says:

    Nice book review and suggestions.

  3. Karoda Says:

    I’ll check my library for this…and I’ve also added it to my wish lish on Amazon…thanks for the tip!

    Wishing you a great year ahead!

  4. Maria Peagler Says:

    Sounds great – thanks for the review. I’ve got How to Photograph for Ebay, which actually gives great photo tips for bloggers. I don’t sell much on Ebay anymore. Always looking for a great photo book.