Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Review of 'Photocraft: Creative Mixed-Media and Digital Approaches to Transforming Your Photographs' #Photocraft #LifeImitatesDoodles #Journal52



Recently, one of the authors of this book, Susan Tuttle, held a giveaway, and I was lucky enough to win a copy.  It's a nifty book, so I thought I'd review it for you.
Many how-to books start with a section explaining who the target audience is--in other words, who is the book for?  This book did not, but I'll venture a guess.  It is aimed at people who would like to know how they can improve their photography, manipulate their photos with software, and learn cool mixed media techniques that can be used with photos, or on their own.
Those who take their photos with an iPhone and have Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 will benefit the most, but you may be able to adapt many of the techniques to whatever camera and photo-manipulation software you have.
As I mentioned above, the book covers photography, photo manipulation and mixed media.  All three are well-covered with dozens of examples and tips for iPhoneography, 16 stepped out digital techniques and projects, and 13 stepped out mixed media techniques and projects.  With so much content, you know the step outs will be brief, but I found them reasonably clear.
The three types of techniques and projects are mixed through out the book.  This is fairly kinesthetic, strengthening the connection between the photos you take and the art you can make.  Some readers will appreciate this take. Others, who have more interest in one area than the others, might have preferred grouping by type.
The photography tips cover basics such as settings for your camera and composition, as well as exploring emotional expression, and breaking the rules.
Some of the photography manipulation techniques concern basics, such as sharpening and color enhancement. Also explored are gradient fills, texture layers, vignettes, cross processing, replicating the Polaroid look, veiled shooting, and custom brushes.
Some of the mixed media projects include foil transfers, painting photos with pan pastels and watercolors, resin floats, encapsulating photos in beeswax, wood burning and upcycling old photos. (Note that some of these techniques require a laser printer, though you might have success with some inkjet printers.  This is pretty standard with transfer techniques).
Contributing artists include: Pam Carriker, Samantha Kira Harding, Misty Mawn, Claudine Hellmuth, Linda Plaisted, Madelyn Mulvaney, Susanna Gordon, Pilar Isabel Pollock, and Michele Beschen.
Contents:
Introduction Letters
Christy's Essential Mixed-Media Toolkit
Susan's Essential Digital Tools + Techniques
Taking Great Photos -- Focal point: Document your day with a cell phone camera
Defining Photos Through Light + Texture -- Focal point: Texture ready
Transforming Photos into Art -- Focal point: Still life photo shoot
Timeless Photographic Techniques -- Focal point: Veiled shooting through found materials
Altered Reality + Dreamscapes: Expect the Unexpected from your Imagery -- 
Focal point: Photograph your favorites in different ways
Your Words, Your Images + Unique Photo Journaling -- Focal point: Photography a poem
Upcycling: Creative Uses for your Forgotten Photos -- Focal point: Making old photos new again
Unfortunately, I have neither iPhone or manipulation software capable of applying many of the techniques in this book.  However, I did find many tips that I'll use in my photography, and the book will help me use the software I have to better effect.
I do take a lot of photos, though not as many as I should -- I'm always wishing I had my camera with me.  I was familiar with some of the techniques in this book, but learned some new ones.

One of the projects in the book 'Resin Floats' was a good fit for the 9th prompt in my Journal52 art journal, so I'm using that for my example in this review.  The prompt was 'Color Swatch Inspiration', which was to use something as an inspiration for your color choices.  I took a photo of my Montana Markers, which I then used to color the page.  The shadow was added with a brush pen. I sealed the page with resin and drizzled liquid acrylic paint into it.  I used some clay tools to scrape texture into the paint, and then added the drips of green.  I felt the darker blob on the left competed too much, so once the resin dried I used a gel pen (which is actually yellow, though it shows white in the scan) to add some flowers.

Overall, this is an excellent book with a surplus of interesting information that is well-presented and well-written.  However, like all books that revolve around specific technology, it will have limited value for some, while it would be just the bee's knees for others.  The mixed media projects are fantastic, but might not be enough to justify the price for everyone.  I hope I've given you enough information to help you decide if this is the book for you.  If you can possibly find a copy to flip through before buying, I would recommend doing so.

Disclaimer:  I won my copy of the book, and was not asked to do this review.  I wrote it so that others could determine if this was a good book for their needs. All opinions are my own.

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