Photography books in the stacks at the Arlington County public library.

I was at the Arlington County library a few weeks back doing research for a book I'm currently writing (not photo related) and found myself in the photography section. I guess I was drawn there by some invisible force.

Anyway, while looking over all the titles and authors the thought hit me that there have been so many incredible photographers over the years and yet for the past couple of years I've only been following current, mostly young, photographers.

In just one small section of one shelf there were books by Mary Ellen Mark, Arnold Newman, Edward Weston, Robert Capa, Man Ray, Annie Leibowitz, Eve Arnold and even a copy of Edward Steichen's The Family Of Man, a personal favorite.

Before I go any farther, this isn't a post about how today's photographers are nothing compared to the pioneers of the past or about how you can't possibly understand the art of photography if you don't study the masters. I suppose what really struck me is just how soon I forgot. Why did I temporarily forget about these photographers.

Unless you are studying photography in college or at a university, is there really a need to look back and see what came before? I've heard and read this question many times, almost as often as whether you can be a true photographer if you never shot film, or for that matter worked in a darkroom.

The first thing I thought as I looked over the titles wasn't just the fact that its been a while since I thought about these photographers, but that's probably because I haven't seen them on Google +, Facebook or Twitter.  For those photographers still with us, do they have a website or blog? You see, more and more that is how I follow photographers and I suspect that is how you follow them too.
The cover of This is War by David Douglas Duncan
The photographer David Douglass Duncan is a personal favorite of mine and in 1995 I built a website featuring his work. The Web was still new and since there was nothing available online, I did my research in the library and copied a variety of Duncan's photographs with my camera. For years after that I would hear from publishers requesting to license those photographs, or for information on contacting Duncan. All this despite a clear disclaimer on the site that I did not represent Mr. Duncan and that this website was produced for a college electronic journalism class. What if Duncan had access to publish his photographs on the Web or participate in Google Hangouts? I suspect as private a person as Duncan was the result would be the same, however I've been surprised by others adoption of technology.

Today's digital cameras and software make it possible for photographers at all levels to take better photographs and then instantly publish and share those images widely, offering new and old photographers alike the chance to grow, improve and even create a nice following. Plus there are a ton of tutorials, many free, to help you along the way, even without a formal education.

So with that I challenge everyone to visit the library and spend some time looking through the stacks where you might be surprised at what you discover. The first surprise you might notice is that not every technique or subject you've viewed on the Web is new. It's only the Web that is new.

So if you find yourself following the same photographers all the time, and are craving something different, I might suggest you start with any book from the photograph at the top of this post.

And keep shooting and sharing.


I received a copy of my first photo book published through and thought I would share the experience with you. I'll state right up front that publishing a one-off photography book is not inexpensive, but to see and be able to present your art in book form, I believe it's well worth the investment. I've received  positive reactions from everyone who has looked at the book. And not just a positive reaction to the photographs which is the ultimate goal, but also to the quality and printing of the book itself. I've shared many of these photos online, but handing someone a physical book still elicits a very different response.

To back up just a bit, this was the first photo project where I made the decision upfront to use Adobe Lightroom 4 exclusively from start to finish. This was a key decision because in Lightroom 4 a new book module was added, making it only natural that I experimented with that as well.

Screen shot of book module in Adobe Lightroom 4.
Screen shot showing the book module in Adobe Lightroom 4.
This post isn't meant to be a step-by-step guide on using Lightroom 4 to create a book, there are already plenty of tutorials out there, including some at, but I will highlight a few that I found incredibly helpful and also discuss how I got started.

As I imported my photos into Lightroom, I placed them in a collection I named Arizona. Within the Arizona collection, I created a collection set named book. As I rated my photos, everything that received three stars or more, was moved to the book collection. In the book module I selected a large landscape (11x13) book with hardcover and dust jacket on premium lustre paper. Total cost was $86.19 for the 60 page book, although I did receive a first time publisher discount, so the total with shipping actually cost around $76.00.

The first video tutorial I found helpful was How to Create a PDF Folio produced by Ibarionex Perello of the Candid Frame podcast and it provided a great explanation on using templates and favorites to quickly get started. The only difference with this tutorial is that in the end he exports his book as a PDF instead of uploading to Blurb.

The second video was Creating Your Own PhotoBook in Lightroom 4 by Scott Kelby. This video is part of the Kelby Training series and is available as a $9.99 rental if you are not a subscriber. And while I'm sure there are many free options, Scott is just a great instructor and he really saved me with his workarounds for creating a custom front cover.

A variety of templates makes it easy to customize your book.
A variety of templates makes it easy to customize your book.
One thing to point out is that there currently is not an option to upload custom templetes, which some see as a frustration. At first I was a little frustrated by this as well, however there really are hundreds of page templates available and I'm not sure I would have designed anything better for the interior pages that was not already available.

Designing the front cover was another story however. This is the one place that I thought there could be more custom options available. That is until I watched Scott's tutorial and saw that from Lightroom he opened the image he wanted on the cover in Photoshop, created his custom design, the saved it back to Lightroom. Then you just drag that image to a basic cover template and it's done. In my case it took one or two tries so that I could get the alignment right for the wrap-around of the dust jacket.

If you have photos you have always wanted to share or present in a different way, I would encourage you to spend time in the Lightroom's book module and let your creativity flow. And please, feel free to share your Blurb books with me.