Sean Arbabi is a Californian commercial travel photographer whose clients include The North Face, Backpacker, Outdoor Photographer, National Geographic Adventure and Traveler, the New York Times, and GEO Germany. Arbabi’s most recent book The Complete Guide to Nature Photography: Professional Techniques for Capturing Digital Images of Nature and Wildlife, published in late 2011, is being advertised as “The authoritative guide for photographing nature in today’s digital world”. Does it hold true to its promise?
First and foremost, the book’s 239 pages are packed with outstanding images that not only illustrate the topic well but also furnish evidence for Arbabi’s own photography skills. You could simply use this book as a coffee table book, flip the pages, look at the pictures and be perfectly happy.
Regarding the content, this book is different from many others of its genre. Arbabi starts off with a chapter that talks about “Safety in Nature”, “Packing and Planning”, and “Pre-Visualizing your Shoot”. These essential aspects of nature photography are not included in many other publications of this kind, which is one of the many reasons Arbabi’s book is better than those of his competitors.
The majority of the book’s content is targeted at photography beginners. When it comes to the technical basics, Arbabi – like many other writers in his field – does a good job at explaining topics like metering, white balance, and histograms. However, that’s not why you’d buy the book. So, how does Arbabi do when it comes to equipping the reader with skills for shooting wildlife and landscapes?
Given that the target audience for this book is beginners, I found most of the essentials of outdoor photography – such as the use of filters, panoramic landscapes, macro shots – covered to the appropriate depth. Where Arbabi really shines is when he gets into teaching practical skills of shooting in nature. So, if you want to learn from a practitioner how to capture wildlife, how to “hunt with a camera”, or how to use camouflage, this is your book. If you’re looking for in-depth advice on how to post process your shots, or if you’re already on a more advanced level, you might want to look at other options on the book market.
What I liked best about The Complete Guide to Nature Photography are the parts in which Arbabi teaches the reader how to communicate with animals through body language and how studying the animal’s behavior can move you closer to getting a great shot. Everything else, from turning the knobs on your camera to the direction of light, can be learned from other books as well. What makes Arbabi’s book unique, is his intimate knowledge of outdoors photography that is based on his many years of shooting in the field.
Overall, I found this book to be one of the best in its genre and although some more advanced photographers might consider this book not detailed enough, I very much enjoyed the author’s precise and to-the-point approach. If you’re new to outdoors photography and you like practice oriented instructions, this book is a must-buy.