Photography for the Web

*** Oct032010

As a web designer, the title of the book Photography for the Web naturally piqued my interest. I had long been looking for a book written not for the professional photographer or Photoshop jockey, but for someone who would like to create and use photographs effectively in web designs. Photographic elements can take a design from competent to “wow”, but capturing the right image can be difficult, especially on a tight budget, and in most cases stock photography makes me queasy.

Cameras, Light, Action

The meat of Photography for the Web is in the first three chapters: “About Your Camera”, “Photo Basics”, and “Advanced Techniques”. After clarifying the distinction between SLR and non-SLR cameras, “About Your Camera” covers the basics of how a camera works. One interesting takeaway is that not only do you not need a kergillion megapixels unless you plan on making posters out of your photos, but:

Cramming more megapixels onto a sensor is a bad idea for image quality…Adding more light-sensitive sites to a chip of a fixed size means decreasing the size of each site. Smaller sites are less sensitive and so they capture less light. A lack of sensitivity can be overcome by amplifying the signal produced by each light detector, but this can add visible noise. Images produced with very small, high-resolution sensors show much more graininess…

Chapter 2, “Photo Basics”, sheds light on the fundamental concepts of shutter speed, ISO, aperture, depth of field, and the relationships among them. The interconnected concepts are explained simply, and with helpful illustrations (for example the description of aperture on page 31). It also includes suggestions for composing photographs effectively. “Advanced Techniques”, Chapter 3, includes helpful tips on how to improve the lighting in your scene, mostly using materials at hand rather than expensive professional products, and describes techniques for long exposures, macro photography, and taking portraits.

Where have all the figures gone?

Though this book seems generally well-edited, my digital copy (a pdf) is missing no fewer than 7 images (for the record: figures 1.18, 1.19, 2.2, 2.20, 3.31, 5.1, and 5.31). This is fairly shocking in a book specifically dedicated to imagery. If I had paid the $29.95 Sitepoint charges for their “Digital Bundle”, rather than receiving a free review copy, I might be pretty upset.

Photography…For the Web?

The remaining chapters are “Storing and Managing Your Images”, “Editing Your Images”, and “Sharing Your Images”. The author mentions and recommends some specific applications, but the methods presented are fairly general and software-agnostic. The clear explanations of color correction with histograms and lens correction will be helpful for any amateur photographer. However, aside from a couple of mentions of Save For Web functionality, there is nothing specifically geared towards using photography on the web. There are brief descriptions of photo sharing websites and blogging options, but this certainly doesn’t fulfill the promise of the book’s title. In fact, there is even a section called “Sharing on Paper”, which seems entirely irrelevant to the title “Photography for the Web“.

I had been hoping this book would tackle some of the issues specifically associated with taking and using photographs on the web, such as:

  • Sizing photographs in the age of mobile devices, giant desktop displays, and ever-increasing display resolution
  • Balancing image quality with download time
  • Color and brightness consistency across computers
  • In-depth discussion of how to get the best results from Save for Web operations
  • Perhaps even some higher-level concepts such as how to incorporate photos without letting them dominate a design

Unfortunately, this book didn’t address any of these subjects.


While Photography for the Web provides a good foundation for a budding Avedon or Adams to gain a better understanding of photography, and start to improve her pictures, it offers little or nothing specifically for the web designer. It seems Sitepoint tailored the title of this book, but not its content, to appeal to its established audience.

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Author(s)Paul Duncanson

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