Digital Basics by Arthur Morris, Updated January 2009

Digital Basics, a $20.00 94 page PDF file available as a web sent product from https://store.birdsasart.com/shop/category.aspx?catid=32, explains the digital ideas, thoughts, and techniques of Arthur Morris, one of today’s best wildlife photographers, with an emphasis on how its readers can improve their digital photography.

As its name suggests, Digital Basics is intended for those new, or relatively new, to digital photography. Thus, its thrust is to address the two primary hurdles most new digital photographers encounter: computers and the editing software that is critical to producing high quality images. As a result, Digital Basics’s structure is to explain, step-by-step, how Morris sets up and then uses Downloader Pro, Breezebrowser, Photoshop, and (to as lesser extent) Bridge to create his superb images. Little time is spent on field techniques.

This approach is both strength and, unfortunately, a weakness.

The strength is that the step-by-step approach allows those new to computers and/or digital photography’s software an easy to follow protocol and is well done so far as it goes. True, I would like to have seen more explanation as to why various techniques work, but the material presented is excellent, clearly explained (except for the typos), and on point. Some of the particular strengths are Morris’s explanations of the differences between film and digital, what histograms tell photographers, presentation of a cogent workflow, how to deal with poorly exposed images, sharpening guidelines, and how to reduce the time needed to process and present quality images.

However, software in general, and digital photography software in particular, change rapidly. The upshot is that the detailed instructions that were a strength when Digital Basics was first written, are now of limited applicability and, more significantly, potentially confusing to those who have the greatest need for them. True, Morris updated Digital Basics in January 2009. Unfortunately, Photoshop came out with a new iteration since then (it does so about every 18-30 months), and the revisions to Digital Basics are limited to a few paragraphs after the out-dated sections. Thus, it is not until after reading the old portions that the reader finds that what was just read is not how Morris currently works his magic. In addition, no mention is made of newer photography-oriented programs such as Lightroom or Aperture.

The reality is that for anyone trying to create a work such as Digital Basics, there are but two realistic options: 1) create a detailed step-by-step work with periodic, detailed updates or 2) create a work that presents general principles, which change much more slowly than the tools used to implement them, without detailing how to accomplish these principles. Although Morris’s approach is the former, he has not updated Digital Basics with the clarity of the original effort.

Based upon all of the above, I consider Digital Basics worth its $20.00 cost. On a scale of 0 (not worth accepting as a gift) to 10 (perfect and thus beyond the scope of human creation), I rate Digital Basics a 7 ½ and recommend it.

Mike Hannisian

12-29-10