Many courses promise to teach you the basics of your camera and the first steps into photography.
Today, I’m looking at a hybrid, ebook/video course by Photography Concentrate, called ‘Extremely Essential Camera Skills’.
Read on to find out whether it’s the right choice for you.
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What You’ll Find in the eBook‘Extremely Essential Camera Skills’ comes packaged as a ZIP file. The file contains all the different components of the course (including the videos). First of these, of course, is the ebook itself. It’s a PDF, which means it’s not dynamically scalable. Read it on a large enough screen, like a tablet (you will enjoy the images more, too). But there’s more to this product: there are also videos that support the content of the ebook. They blend seamlessly, and there are links in the ebook pointing to them. As a bonus, you also get a ‘Field Guide’ that you can print and bring along with you on photo trips.
‘Extremely Essential Camera Skills’ covers what the title says, and not much more. It’s a cohesive summary of all the basic camera skills that you’ll need to start out.
Once you get to the end, you’ll be able to comfortably use manual mode and (after some practice) instinctively use your camera.
The ebook consists of six main chapters, all split into several subchapters. The chapters are:
- The Camera
- Depth of Field
- Camera Settings
Have a sneak peek at the table of contents.
The ebook is 89 pages, and circa 20000 words long.
There are seven videos which are designed for you to watch together with the book. They cover sections of the PDF with greater detail and more real examples.
They are available offline, and you can access them straight from the ebook. This hybrid concept is well thought out, and I’m surprised I haven’t seen it before.
The videos are the following:
- Parts of the Camera
- Shutter Speed
- Light Meter and Exposure Indicator
- Exposure Compensation
- Manual Mode
They are 25 minutes long in total.
About the Authors
The team of Photography Concentrate created this course. The primary creator is Lauren Lim. She is a photographer from Edmonton, Canada, and a long-time educator.
I have reviewed another one of their products, ‘Incredibly Important Camera Skills’. I quite liked it – you can read my review here.
At the time of writing, ‘Extremely Essential Camera Skills’ is available for purchase at $97. This price is well above the average for beginner photography ebooks.
Of course, the extra videos add to the value. It’s up to you to decide if that’s worth the premium.
What I Really Liked
If you’ve read my review about ‘Incredibly Important Composition Skills’, these won’t come as a surprise. The following are true for most of Photography Concentrate’s products.
One of the features that stands out is the visual design and the arrangement of elements. The extensive use of bright and vivid colours makes for an inspiringly-looking ebook.
The text is organised in a way that it interacts with the other elements. Its formatting supports easy readability and transparency.
There are plenty of illustrative infographics, too. They are the perfect way to show visual information that would be difficult to explain with words.
The PDF file you get is interactive. Everything possible is interlinked. At the bottom of every page, you’ll find buttons that direct you to relevant parts of the ebook. On the top, there are buttons for the six main chapters. The whole table of contents is clickable.
The images used throughout the book are original and, for the most part, pretty. And there are a ton of them. Almost every point is illustrated with relevant photos.
Together with the graphic design, they make for a cohesive, polished, and beautiful ebook.
A lot of thought and effort went into building a logical structure for the content. Chapters follow the right order. Consecutive subchapters support each other. The flow of learning is thus great. Despite the amount of new information, you won’t have problems with understanding it.
I very much liked the inclusion of a glossary at the end of the ebook. It’s a collection of the most used photography terms. Thanks to the internal links, you can check it while reading, and then jump right back where you’d left.
Areas to Improve
My key concern is the accuracy of some of the content in the ebook. It’s normal to sacrifice some precision for simplification and understandability. But, I felt that the effort was somewhat too excessive at places.
Let me point out one as an example. One section advocates the focus-and-recompose technique over anything else. As a seasoned photographer, I don’t agree with the advice. In my experience, this method can be very limiting. It only works for non-moving subjects when you have plenty of time to recompose.
I agree that a beginner should learn to use this technique first, but it is by no means superior.
There are similar accuracy issues across the ebook. Still, this issue is not so prevalent as in some other products I’ve come across.
While the content of the ebook is written and organised quite well, it could cover more. Of all the beginner products I’ve seen, this one is definitely one of the least extensive.
Here, you’ll only find information about how a camera generally works and the skills you need to use it. And that’s where it ends.
Without the need for completeness, I would have included chapters about:
- Basic compositional techniques,
- Using other gear, like tripods and flashes,
- Basics of the most popular genres of photography (like landscape, portraits, family),
- Types of cameras and their advantages.
These sections would increase the value of ‘Extremely Essential Camera Skills’.
The style is friendly and welcoming throughout. That said, I don’t quite like how the ebook sometimes addresses the difference between ‘you’ and ‘the photographers’. It felt like Lauren thought there was an imaginary frontier between these two.
Take a look at this page below. It indicates that photographers ‘speak’ in vague technical terms and overcomplicate things. The ebook offers a solution: ‘Realspeak’, a simple, understandable version of photographers’ language.
This is not how it works, in my opinion. Both interpretations are valid and rightful. The one on the top is a technical definition of exposure (and not good exposure). The one below is a practical and popular interpretation of good exposure. Also, it’s not the author’s own definition.
Let’s see some of the options you could go with instead of ‘Extremely Essential Camera Skills’. Both of the following video courses sell for roughly the same price, and our ebook is much cheaper.
Digital Camera Mastery
This a video course created by Photography Pro. While it also has issues with accuracy, it covers a lot more, and you get access to a thriving online community, too. The downside is that you cannot download the chapters. You have to watch them online, which can be quite limiting. Read my review or check it out here.
Photography For Beginners
We, too, offer a video course for beginners. Check it out here.
We also have an ebook aimed for beginner photographers. It’s much cheaper at $10 while providing approximately the same knowledge, or a bit more in some areas. Take a look at it here.
If you prefer reading over watching video-only tutorials, ‘Extremely Essential Camera Skills’ is the right choice for you. It’s cohesive and logically structured. It could cover more, for sure.
After acquiring the skills you need to handle your camera, you can jump right up to more advanced courses. Those will teach you the techniques and approach you need in great detail.
$97 is quite a high price for a not-so-extensive beginner course. However, if the advantages of the hybrid model (as mentioned above) are worth it for you, you won’t go wrong.
Learn more about ‘Extremely Essential Camera Skills’ here.