The Visual Palette: Defining Your Photographic Style

Image of The Visual Palette: Defining Your Photographic Style
Release Date: 
November 3, 2015
Rocky Nook
Reviewed by: 

The Visual Palette: Defining Your Photographic Style by Brian Matiash is a book aimed at photographers who are familiar with taking pictures but wish to have a greater knowledge in shaping their own photography and defining their style.

Matiash lays a foundation for the reader through theme-oriented chapters, such as Rule of Thirds, Composition, etc., that are well illustrated. His premise is that every reader is a photographer who feels compelled to take their skills to the next level and see themselves on a journey of growth. Commencing with the Rule of Thirds and Compositional elements, Matiash progresses through themes such as Depth of Field, Distortion, preparations for a shoot, photo gear; Post Processing & Stylization; You, Equals Your Brand; and Sharing Your Work.

Matiash is an excellent photographer and his book is his virtual gallery with his photographs illustrating all the chapters using a variety of cameras (Canon and Sony), lenses, techniques, and locales.

For those who do not take formal courses in photography and seek tips to fine-tune their images and learn on their own, Brian Matiash’s The Visual Palette: Defining Your Photographic Style is an excellent guide eliminating many undue surprises and the disappointment of why an image does not “work.” 

The book is an easy read, although it is text heavy and long-winded. Matiash loves to share anecdotes as a way of illustrating his points along with many examples of the “perfect” shot and explanations as to how they were achieved.

He states, “My goal is to help you explore your creativity. . . .” Unfortunately, the information he dispenses is so general that the how-to in addressing specific problems remains undefined. The first chapters of the book (i.e., rules of thirds, composition, depth of field) indicate that the book is for a photographic novice unfamiliar with basic principles, but there are technical concepts such as Auto Exposure Bracketing and HDR coming seemingly out of nowhere, that show us the book is intended for the advanced amateur. Which leaves one to wonder who this book is for.

For instance, he mentions tone-mapping, HDR, Adobe's Photoshop, Lightroom, ON1 Perfect Effects, Nik Collection, and other software packages that are clearly for the advanced photographer—and there are “before” and “after” examples of tone-mapping and HDR—but there is no extensive step-by-step demonstration of these processes for the novice reader. There is a very brief mention of color correction by utilizing an 18% gray card on a shoot, but a complete lack of discussion or reference to in-camera histograms, expose-to-the-right, RAW files, or computer color calibration.

The Visual Palette culminates in Defining Your Photographic Style. In other words, defining your brand as a recognizable commercial entity with its accompanying “elevator pitch” that sets you apart from the competition. Matiash also delves into how to protect your brand through a consistent message and sharing your content.

The book attempts to straddle both camps: gearing your photography for professional purposes, and enhancing the amateur’s creativity as an end in itself. And while there are sufficient tips to advance the average amateur, there is not enough substantial information to be of use for the aspiring professional.

Matiash’s beautiful imagery may be polished and very commercial, but what shines through is his unequivocal love of photography and image-making, clearly communicated in The Visual Palette. It is a guide for those who wish to specialize in the same kind of outdoor landscape photography with natural lighting that Matiash practices. It is a softcover book that is masterfully printed by RockyNook with hundreds of examples in its 200+ pages.