If you’ve done much searching online for information on trick photography, you’ve undoubtedly run across the name Evan Sharboneau, and have probably heard of his eBook Trick Photography and Special Effects. I recently purchased this book for myself, and I’ve taken a bit of time to read through the material and watch the videos, and I think it’s time to give you my honest feedback about the book. Should you invest your money in this eBook, or will you find better info elsewhere? Most importantly, will you learn the photography tricks to produce images like those you can find on Evan’s Flickr page?
What Do You Get?
For your $47 investment, here’s what you receive:
- Trick Photography and Special Effects pdf
- Bonus E-Book that includes some photography basics, some extra info on using Photoshop and on filters for your camera, and a chapter on making an income with your photography.
- Online access to 3 video modules, consisting of several hours of video, created to enhance what you learn in the book
What Will You Learn?
Just a quick glance at the Table of Contents shows that there are quite a few things covered, but it’s broken into 3 primary categories: Light Painting and Long Exposures, Trick Photography and Special Effects, and Photoshop Projects. In total, it’s nearly 300 pages, so it doesn’t leave much out. The section on light painting, for example, begins with the basic “how-to” but then goes in depth on different types of lights and the effects of using each one, and even how to create your own light-painting lights. You could easily spend weeks (or longer) experimenting with the various ideas you’ll find here.
The next section includes in-camera illusions like forced perspective (like the example above) and rotated perspective where the camera is rotated relative to the way the picture will be displayed, resulting in effects like a person seated several feet above the floor. These are some of the simplest photography tricks, but when they’re done right the effect can be dramatic.
From there, the images and techniques get more interesting, and some involve using Photoshop or other software, though much of it can be done without software at all. The “transparent computer screen” shots are simple to do, can be done with or without software, and are a really cool effect. To do it without software can be a little tricky, but as long as you are patient, it’s not too hard to do. Using Photoshop makes it easier, and the good news here is that you can do this with free software too (The Gimp). Unfortunately, he doesn’t go into how to do that, but if you decide to purchase the eBook by clicking here (be sure to clear your cookies first), just email me your receipt at admin at coolphotographytricks dot com and I’ll send you a free video explaining how.
One really exciting thing that I didn’t anticipate is 3D photography. There are several techniques that are discussed in the book, all of which involve taking 2 shots from a slightly different spot, usually just a few inches apart. He discusses how this can be done using one camera, as well as how to do it with 2 identical cameras. The various techniques require different methods of viewing, but they do not require expensive or complicated technology, with the possible exception of what’s referred to as the “time slice” effect (which is really only mentioned briefly, and would require several cameras shooting simultaneously from different angles).
There is a whole lot more covered in this section as well, along with companion videos on the website. If you decide to get this ebook, be sure to read and watch the videos, as there are things that become more clear when you see it on video, and aspects that are explained in more detail in the pdf, so it really does help to use both.
The final section is on Photoshop. If you’ve ever tried to use this software, you know that although it’s extremely powerful, there is quite a learning curve to using it. The Trick Photography e-book will give you a lot of the Photoshop skills needed to truly get the most from your digital photography. Of course there is still a lot more you can learn, but you’ll be ahead of almost every amateur photographer around by following the guides in this book and the videos.
What Do I Like About Trick Photography and Special Effects?
Really there’s a lot to like here. It’s the single most in-depth resource I’ve found that focuses specifically on trick photography. Sure there are a lot of books and videos on basic photographic skills, but I haven’t found anything else that covers so many of the various types of special effects photos that you can shoot. I especially like the long exposure and light painting sections, and I can see myself spending a lot of time practicing the techniques I learned there. Others may find themselves drawn to other sections, but I think most photographers will find something to appreciate.
Something that’s hugely important is that Evan stands behind his product. He gives you 60 days to try it out, and will refund 100% of your money if you decide you don’t like it for any reason. I don’t see any reason to take advantage of this myself, but it is reassuring to know that I could.
What About The Negatives?
I’d be lying if I said Trick Photography and Special Effects was perfect. There are a few things that bugged me about it, and I think they’re worth pointing out. None of them are deal-breakers for me, but they may be for you.
The biggest gripe for me is that he doesn’t discuss at all how to use The Gimp instead of Photoshop (he does mention Gimp, but that’s the extent of it). A lot of the things he used Photoshop for can be done with The Gimp, and considering that it’s free, I really think a chapter covering that would be helpful. For a lot of non-professionals, Photoshop is out of their budget, and Gimp is a great alternative.
There were also things that he sort of glossed over where I felt I could use more explanation, especially when it comes to the “why” of some of his advice. It may be more useful to know the “how” but when I understand the reasoning it helps me to learn better overall.
My Overall Impression
Overall, I believe that learning the techniques in this ebook will make me a better photographer. I don’t know if I’ll ever use every technique that’s covered, but I love that I have so many new photo tricks I can use. I’m not a pro, so I can’t say if this would be a good fit for professional photographers out there, but if you enjoy shooting photos as a hobby, even if you think you might become a professional in the future, I think you’ll find a lot you can learn here.
Worst case, you check it out and decide you don’t love it. There’s a no-questions money back guarantee for a full 60 days, so there’s no risk in the unlikely event you don’t learn to shoot amazing photography tricks from the videos and pdf Evan has put together. Click Trick Photography and Special Effects to check it out.
What Equipment Is Needed for Trick Photography?
Many trick photography techniques can be learned by anyone, but having the right equipment will make some types of photography easier to do. In this article, I’ll talk about some of the basic equipment that you’ll need to get started, as well as some that’s recommended. You don’t need to go out and buy everything right away, take some time and shop around, and play around a bit with your camera. You’ll get a better idea of the things that will be most important for the types of photos you shoot, and how to budget.
Of course the number one thing you’ll need is a camera. Your cellphone probably already has one built in, and these days you can take a decent snapshot with your phone. Many tricks, though, will require something a bit more sophisticated. Money doesn’t need to be a big obstacle here. Of course you can spend a lot and get a great camera, but if you’re like most people, you’ve got a budget. Point-and-shoot cameras have gotten very affordable, and if you insist on buying new and money’s tight, this might be your best option. Look for one that will give lots of flexibility. It should have a manual mode, and give quite a few choices of settings in terms of shutter speed and ISO setting. Don’t obsess over megapixels — unless you plan on blowing your pictures up to really large sizes, it’s not as important as you might think.
A better choice for the long term is a dSLR. If a new one is out of your budget (they start at just under $500, but sky’s the limit on the upper end), look for used. eBay is still a great source for used and refurbished cameras. Craig’s List is also a good place to look, though it doesn’t have any information about each seller’s reputation like eBay does. A used camera that’s a few years old may not have all of the newest features, but should be very capable of getting some great pics.
If you’re planning to purchase a new camera, one of the best online retailers I’ve found is Adorama Camera.
Once you’ve picked out your camera, there are a few other things that will make trick photography easier. You’ll definitely want a tripod, as it will be essential for so many of the cool photographic tricks you’ll be experimenting with that require long exposures. Get the most stable one you can afford, and be sure it will hold the weight of your camera with your heaviest lens, and then some. The better quality tripods have a detachable head, or may come without a head at all, requiring you to purchase one separately. A ball head will give you the most versatility, and for a lot of photographers it is the only head they need. You’ll also want a remote shutter release for taking long exposures (or you can use the camera’s timer), as pressing the shutter release on the camera will cause a little movement, no matter how stable the tripod. A good zoom lens would be nice to have, as would a good quality flash. You should also get a UV filter for each lens you have, to protect it from scratches.
Take a look at the video below for some tips on choosing the right tripod for your needs.
Photo Editing Software
Of course you’ll also want some type of software for editing your photos. Photoshop is the standard for photography professionals, but it is expensive. You can save a little by purchasing an older version, though it’s still not cheap. If you’re a student or teacher, you can get it at a great discount, so take advantage of that if you can. A cheaper option for the rest of us is Photoshop Elements; it doesn’t have all of the high-end features of Photoshop, but it’s about $500 cheaper, and for amateurs it may be all they need. There’s another option that is almost as sophisticated as Photoshop, at a price I guarantee you can afford: free. It’s known as The Gimp, it’s open-source, and it’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. There’s a steep learning curve with it, but you can’t beat the price. Download it and play around with it, and save your money for equipment. You may end up needing Photoshop someday, but there’s a good chance The Gimp will do all you need.
Of course there is a lot of other photography equipment you may end up wanting at some point. Like any hobby, you can find all kinds of ways to spend your hard-earned money, and there are certainly some gadgets that you’ll feel you can’t live without. The equipment above, though, is all you really need for most types of trick photography. Get started with the basics, and add what you need as you experiment with different photographic effects. Have fun!