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Monday, May 14, 2007

Help Me Decide What Book to Write

Okay, another little mind game—and for me, market research. (I just read a fascinating article about publishing that points out several times, albeit obliquely, how little the publishing industry really knows about its customers.)

Let's say you like photography (a safe assumption, since you're here) and you rather like the writings of this fellow Mike Johnston (at least a reasonable possibility, for the same reason). So now let's say you're in your favorite bookstore, in the Photography section, looking for something appealing to read. There, you would encounter only one of the following books:

Proposal No. 1: Camera Lenses. A discursive, chatty, historical / scientific / anecdotal / enthusiast appreciation of the camera lens as an object of lore, fetishism, and usefulness. Includes everything from optical aberrations described in layman's terms to how to test camera lenses by looking at pictures to reviews or appreciations of individual lenses.

Proposal No. 2: Game Theory for Photographers. A book exclusively devoted to how average-to-good photographers can get better and "improve their game." A how-to book with nothing technical in it, but lots of commonsense discussions and many exercises that are concrete and practical rather than theoretical.

Proposal No. 3: Classic 35mm Photography. A book designed to do for 35mm, black-and-white film photography what Ansel Adams's New Photography Series did for large-format black-and-white photography in the early '80s, formalizing everything about the art from cameras, to shooting technique, to darkroom practice.

Proposal No. 4: How to Choose a Digital Camera. My idiosyncratic take on what matters about cameras and how to narrow down your options to what works best for you. To get a sense of what such a book would be like, how it might read, look no further than the point-and-shoot discussions of the past several days.

So my question is, if it were entirely up to you—that is, not based on your guess as to what would sell best to others, but purely based on a selfish appraisal of what you yourself would most want to buy—which of those four books written by me would you most like to find at your bookstore?

Thanks in advance for any answers....


Note: I will eventually post all the replies but I want to hold off for a while until I get a few responses so that peoples' responses are not colored by the consensus (if there is one) in the comments. So don't worry if your comment doesn't show up right away.


Blogger Unknown said...

Proposal No. 1

if not present I would go for Proposal No. 2

IMHO 4 is the most useless of the proposals, way too many resources in internet. A book would probably be outdated in no time no matter how you write it...

3:46 PM  
Blogger amorin said...

Game Theory for Photographers.

No contest

3:46 PM  
Blogger Julian said...

1. Camera lenses might be interesting, but I'd rather research that on a website. I might browse through this book, but probably won't buy it.

2. Yup, this "game theory" book is the one I would buy.

3. I'll probably never do black and white film photography, so this option is definitely out.

4. I'd definitely use dpreview to choose a digital camera and don't need a book to tell me what to look out for. This makes it highly unlikely that I'd buy this book.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Robin P said...

Do the lens book please Mike.
Roger Hicks lens book is out of print & out of date and I for one always enjoyed your Sunday Morning lens articles.

Cheers, Robin

3:53 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Ok, I'll bite.

No. 1 could be interesting, but a bit too technical. I'm kind of stuck with the lenses I can afford for the system I bought into. Anyway, there's enough lens fetishism going on now.

No. 2 - Great idea, I'm sure a lot would love it. Depending on what "improving your game" means, I might be really interested.

No. 3 is mostly up my alley since I'm doing a lot of 35mm B&W now, but hasn't it been done before? I picked up a couple B&W darkroom books, and they all pretty much go over the same stuff (I liked D. Vestal's the best).

No. 4 - what's the point? Digi cameras (P&S's and SLR's) are all so similar nowadays, where's the fun? I think you pretty much summed it up with your post the other day.

4:01 PM  
Blogger MonoNation said...

What might I actually buy? It'd have to be Proposal No. 2: Game Theory for Photographers.
I'll be looking next time I'm in Chapters...

4:02 PM  
Blogger Andrew Evans said...

It's got to be the "raise your game book" for me. The lens book sounds way too technical and would only appeal to a niche market I think. The 35mm book is behind the times. The "Choose a digital camera" book would become outdated very quickly as technology advanced and there are several magazines that already serve that purpose.

I would be genuinely interested in a "raising your game" book and think it would be the best way for you to use your creative writing skills also.

4:04 PM  
Blogger Mark Bridgers said...

None of the above.

What I'd like to see this Johnston fellow write is a book on the top 25 photographs, top 25 photographers, and 25 "less well known, but should be" great photographs since 1985 (or so).

Included would be the back story of the photographs, a bio and a bit on style and working technique of the photos, and the back story on why the less well known photos should be better known.

That should give ample opportunity for both film and digital techniques to be explored, bring some unknown photographers to the fore, and maybe teach us photographers a thing or two.

4:07 PM  
Blogger Richard Sintchak said...

#3, please!

#1, you sort of already did something similar along these lines, no? Sure, it would be great, continue and do more and put that out too.

#2, interesting but it will be one book in a sea of supposedly similar books. Besides I believe people could read all the books they want and either should instead be out getting real experience and learning from that (and others they meet doing that) or they just don't have "it" and no book will help.

#4, could be cool. But it will be out-dated by July.

4:07 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

nr. 2: Technical stuff can be found everywhere, but I can't find nearly enough reading about actually improving the pictures you take.

4:11 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Lenses, definitely.

4:15 PM  
Blogger Andy Radin said...


4:19 PM  
Blogger Doug said...


4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No question -- I'd buy your lens book. This is based on your past writings about the topic of lenses, as well as the fact that it's just such a pleasure to read your writing (imagine -- someone with a web presence who can punctuate properly, and who understands the function of an adverb!).

4:24 PM  
Blogger travis blanston said...

I find #2 the most valuable, helpful and also interesting topic.

I appreciate the kind of information that you don't typically find in a book, but more often only by picking the brains of individuals with experience.

You could even call it "The Photography Underground". Because there are so many tricks of the trade that aren't generally considered for more academic books, so many techniques developed by improvisation...

This may have been a different interpretation from what you were intending with Proposal #2, and if so I apologize. I suppose I feel that there could be room for technical topics.

The reason I felt compelled to comment, however, is because I have the opportunity once a week or so to sit down next to a photographer with a lot of experience, and a lot of stories to tell. It's an experience where I feel I will always walk away taking more than I could ever possibly give in the exchange. It is unfortunate that many photographers, especially the younger ones, will have more and more difficulty connecting with anyone from the "old school".

To me it's the whole way in which photographers are thinking less and less, and relying more on technology to be successful which needs some attention.

Apologies for a nearly unstructured commentary. But I hope I got a few thoughts across.

4:26 PM  
Blogger Adam McAnaney said...

Easy. I want "Game Theory for Photographers". I have often thought that it would be helpful to have a book with "assignments" in it that I could work through at my own pace. A good way to get advice, something to prompt me to try something new, a challenge. And provide examples to inspire us.

Just don't do either of the following:

1. Tell me to obey the rule of thirds.
2. Tell me not to obey the rule of thirds.

I'm looking forward to it, so get cracking!


P.S. Make sure the examples are doable in daily life. While that will vary a lot depending on where the reader lives, I think one example for each of an urban reader, a suburban reader and a rural reader should suffice. Sometimes I feel like everyone who writes photography books or has a photography-oriented website is a landscape photographer. That's great. Next time I travel to the American west, Africa or Mr. Everest, I'll be sure to check one of those books/websites for tips. In the mean time, how about giving me something I can use here in the city in daily life? THAT would be concrete and practical. I don't have a car and I rarely have enough time to leave the city. (BTW, I'm sure that everyone who lives on a farm feels like all the books are full of urban street photography...)

4:28 PM  
Blogger David Wong said...

Mike - I think I would be looking for #2, game theory; A how-to book that will help me take better pictures. Topics such as lighting, composition, rules (rules of the 3rd), and how to break away from the rules!

Most importantly, use layman's terms. My plate's full with all those articles using technical jargons, :)

One question - How the heck do you keep up with articles for your blog? I really enjoy reading your arcticles.

4:28 PM  
Blogger wero said...

I would definitely go for the Game Theory.

If the store's shelf was properly organized, the buying guide and the lens book would not come to my eyes.


4:34 PM  
Blogger Ernest Theisen said...

Well I am glad you asked. Number 2 is the book for me. I have all the cameras and lenses that I need, more than I need and I am not particularly interested in 35 mm photography I want to know how to be better at my photography. The exercises idea really sounds interesting. I want things practical. Maybe some comparisons of two or three approaches to the same image followed by a discussion of the results. As and example; when to crop, when not to crop, exposure issues, single subject point of view, impact of changing camera angle, selecting the best lens for the subject. I respect your opinion and I would like to see it expressed in this way. Looking forward to the book. E

4:35 PM  
Blogger Colin [] said...


4:38 PM  
Blogger MikeWebkist said...

I'd choose "Classic 35mm Photography". I just read Ansel Adams' "The Negative" and, while helpful, it was also dry dry dry. Plus, obviously, dealing with sheet film vs. "miniature" film is vastly different.

4:45 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

In descending order: 3, 2, 4, 1.

Much as I'm not a great fan of 35mm for my work, now, I do recognize that it was a highly popular art-form in its day. That and the promise of the word "classic", hinting at glorious gritty black & white, makes it the most appealing. This one exudes the "film effect", to be contrasted with "anyone can Do Digital".

I'd like to see how game-theory works its way from title into #2. If it's not really about that as well as photography, I'd be disappointed.

I don't need much assistance purchasing digital cameras; after doing the rounds, I'm well entrenched in the land of Nikon dSLRs and unlikely to depart from them again except towards Fuji (since my one foray into olympus in recent years proved a Bad Idea).

I'm really not significantly anal about my lenses, and already have Basic and Advanced Photographer on the bookshelf. It's become as much as cliche as the behaviour-pattern it denigrates, but the line "you should be out taking photos!" has a ring of truth about it.

4:45 PM  
Blogger Apprentice said...

Classic 35mm photography please!

With bits of stuff in the back about alternative printing: lith, cyanotype etc. Thanks.

4:48 PM  
Blogger Paul Mc Cann said...

No 2 by a long shot. While I might have an interest in the others, and might even buy them, if I could only have one it would be number 2. Deep down I know no-one can give me the 'Eye', the ability to recognise a good potential photograph, but hope springs eternal.

4:48 PM  
Blogger author said...

With no hesitation at all I'd go for "Game Theory for Photographers." First off, it's about making pictures, the real heart of the game. Secondly, it's "activity based", a mode of learning well supported by research and in which I'm highly invested.

Now, much as I'd surely enjoy reading the "Lenses" book and even the "Adams Does 35mm" one, these reflect my personal nostalgia for my distant youth, not the future of photography (I hope) and it's possible role in one's personal growth.

As for "How to Choose a Digital Camera," that's far better left to the web, since the context morphs so fast and the audience is split between those who know enough to do it for themselves and those who will not understand what you're saying nor why they should believe you as opposed to the kid at BestBuy.

So when can I "preorder" your "Game Theory for Photographers?"

4:52 PM  
Blogger Andy Johnson said...

I'd buy both 1 and 2. Get writing!


4:54 PM  
Blogger alonzo said...

I'm for #2. Game Theory for Photographers.

4:57 PM  
Blogger Player said...

For me it would be a near tossup between No. 2 and No. 3, with a slight edge to No. 2 (Game Theory for Photographers). If I had to pick just one, it would clearly be No. 2. I added No. 3 because I have a fondness for 35mm film photography.

4:58 PM  
Blogger Jeff Kott said...

I would buy both Proposal 1 and 2 way before 3 and 4.

4:59 PM  
Blogger nc said...

Do the Game Theory one.

5:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Definitely #2.

5:01 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Maybe number one, but you need to recall that your audience, your blog readers, are not into non-technical discussions.

So by aiming a book at people who have never heard of you, you may be dooming yourself to failure.

On the otherhand, I doubt that book on B&W darkroom techniques will have anything other than a tiny audience. Film is dead and so is that market share.

5:02 PM  
Blogger paul norheim said...

I would certainly read Proposal No. 1 & No. 2.
However, the book I would prefer to read, Mike, is the unmentioned Proposal No. 5: the one about your family`s summer house (the one that you perhaps have sold?).
Private memories, the story of your family (related to American history) and a lot of pictures.
I´m sure that would be a wonderful book. But perhaps you`ll wait until you´re an old man living in the past?

I`ve written a couple of books myself (a novel, a collection of poetry, and a kind of travelogue from Africa), read a lot, been a critic and also worked for a couple of publishing houses. My instincts tells me that such a book may perhaps sell less during the first months then for example your Proposal 4 about how to chose a digi-cam. However it may be read long after you have left the stage.

I really want to read that book.

5:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you ask me, I say save your digital book for the blogs. You don't want to write a book whose content has an expiration date... after which it can sit on public library shelves next to a decade old guide to choosing the perfect MS-DOS computer.

On the other hand, the other three ideas could be quite valuable. I think the lens and technique ideas have been explored quite enough already to be honest, but I think you could bring a fresh perspective to them.

My favorite? I think that you would be the perfect person to write a comprehensive 35mm series, and I think the format deserves that sort of respect and attention. These days people look at 35 like it is ready to be obsolesced by digital, like a camera model or something. They are simply two different formats, each with their own attractions, and if you were to do 35 as much justice as Adams did for large format, I would absolutely reference such a book, probably every day.

5:03 PM  
Blogger Klifton K said...

Option 2, no doubt... The other options will be quickly dated I'm afraid.

5:07 PM  
Blogger pxpaulx said...

I would enjoy a book on techniques to improve my photographic skills - something with practical applications of some more detailed techniques. The lens book would also be very interesting, but something I would probably be more interested in a store where you pick it up, thumb through, and put it back.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

Proposal No. 2: Game Theory for Photographers

This is my first choice by a large margin. Just as we see in various forums, discussing the technical side of photography is easier and more common, probably because writing about concrete technical subjects (exposure, process flow, etc.) is both easier than writing about the creative aspects, and because such books sell. Over the past few years I've seen few good books on the creative facets, yet essays and texts discussing understanding and improving creative capabilities are what I seek and most enjoy. For example, I really appreciated Alain Briot's "Aesthetics and Photography" essays over on Luminous Landscape. I participate in the Open Photography Forums Initiative largely because I see there an emphasis on the art rather than the mechanics of photography.

I believe you possess both the background and the writing skills to successfully create such a volume, a rare mix.

Proposal No. 1: Camera Lenses

My second choice, largely because your approach, as described, mixes the scientific & technical aspects with the softer, less discussed history and "why that lens for this kind of image."


5:09 PM  
Blogger Pakwa said...

My Dear Mike,
An other Ansel Adams inspired technical book? or on lenses? or to tell people in a book they would have to buy what they can find for free on the net about digital cameras? (!).
Mmmh... looks to me like strategy planners working on the last war.
What about a book about how to sell the millions of pictures people take every day with their phones, their cheap but good enough digital cameras, etc...?
That would give the opportunity to do a survey of what is out there, from microstock agencies and portals to Reuters launching a commercial service to sell pictures taken by the average Joe with his cell phone, and so on, as well as leaving the possibility to have interviews of current players, give an idea to your reader of how fast the field of photography is evolving, as well as the transformation taking place, changing in dramatic ways what photography is, what it is becoming.
I would guess people are less interested in technique nowadays, and more in images and what to do with them, and even maybe on how they are used and abused.
I am curious to see the various comments when you post them.
Wishing you good luck with this project.
Luc Novovitch.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Classic 35mm Photography

5:13 PM  
Blogger Del Bomberger said...

Game Theory for Photographers is a great title and I think the one I would consider buying. It would actually have to exist on a bookshelf first however.

5:14 PM  
Blogger Philip Storry said...

In reverse order of preference:

Proposal 2: Would be the most useful to me, and I suspect to many others. I'd buy it on the strength of this blog alone.

Proposal 1: Would also be interesting, and would make a great follow up to proposal 2.

Proposal 3: Interesting, but would linger on my "to buy" list for a while longer than either of the other two above.

Proposal 4: I've already picked my camera, as has just about every other reader here. And didn't you learn any lessons from your Sigma review? Plus, who do you hope to reach? Compact buyers aren't going to buy a book about this. dSLR buyers might, but are just as likely to go to DP Reviews or ask a mate/the shop assistant. I mean absolutely no offence when I say that this seems like a very niche, silly book. Which will likely be out of date by the time it goes to print, if you name any specific models - a serious problem.
Make it a chapter of proposal 2, by all means - a chapter on evaluating and choosing kit would be great if it were generic. But not a whole book, unless you particularly want to do lots of work for no reward.

I hope that helps!

5:15 PM  
Blogger Robin Dreyer said...


#3 is an appealing idea for a book--and a bold thought at this moment (as a use of your time, I mean). However, I've got a lot of that information in my head and on my bookshelf. I'd buy book #2.


5:18 PM  
Blogger My Midwest said...

#1 Boring-done to death.
#2 Hot air for the masses
#3 Yes! Are you the one to do it? Only you can answer that. I seem to remember that it took A.A. a number of years to complete the series-with testing materials and equipment. He also had the Zone System for his approach. And You?
#4 Would change and be outdated before the book was published

5:18 PM  
Blogger erik said...

No. 3.

"Camera Lenses" would seem to similar to Erwin Putz's online MTF &etc. ramblings

"Game Theory" implies them teaching you how to shoot like them, which is assumed to be of good technical standing. I'd prefer individuality.

"How to Choose a Digital Camera" is just disgusting for me. A book should not tell you what to use; for that go to a real camera store and talk to real knowledgeable humans in real-time. And books are quite likely to be outdated by the rapidity of digital innovations.

5:25 PM  
Blogger Em said...

I would personally vote for Proposal 2.

I think nowadays we are becoming saturated with technical guides and product reviews. Not that this is a bad thing-- having these resources widely available and for free online is great!

However, ideas and assignments on how to improve one's photography would be more valuable to someone who's mastered the basic technical aspects of the field, much more so than just another technical reference.

Thanks in advance!

5:32 PM  
Blogger ChrisAZ said...

The proposed book on lenses appeals to the acquisitive geek in me, but the proposed book on game theory for photographers is one that, on the whole, would be much more useful and interesting. Sign me up for the latter.

5:32 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

1 and 2 sound interesting, with one being the most different from what I've seen before. 4? Yawn, but would probably sell.

5:36 PM  
Blogger MHV said...

Camera Lenses, without any doubt. You're the only one who could pull it up. I don't want to read a book by Erwin Puts about how great Leica lenses are. That's just useless. I want to read a book about learning how to "taste" a lens, how to get a feel for its color rendition, its tridimensionality, the real effect of aberrations on image quality, how to use flare creatively with old uncoated lenses, etc. I want a whole bokeh buffet, a debunking of the German vs. Japanese battle, and lots and lots of great high-quality illustrations to explain each aspect of a lens. I don't want a compendium or a top 10: I want something that can allow me to put a name and a concept on that "fleeting quality" a given lens possess, just like a wine taster can say "leather, raspberry, and chocolate" instead of just "great, it's like kind of good, y'know!"

There is only one good book that exists about lenses, "The Photographic Lens" by Sidney Ray and of course published by Focal Press. But that's a book to understand how a lens works, how it bends the light. It does not deal in aesthetics, but in facts. We need the wine-taster guide to photographic lenses. Reproduction techniques are good enough right now to warrant it.

There are already too many books on 35mm shooting, it was the most popular format before digital, so there's no point in reinventing the wheel. In practical terms, there is nothing different between shooting a DSLR vs. a shooting a film SLR. Processing 35mm is an exercise in compromise, so there's a limit to what you can extract from it. And what on earth would be an "advanced 35mm shooter" ? A nature/sport/action photographer? She should instead read books about nature/sport/action.

What I could see instead is an entire book on silver gelatin film in the modern world. It would cover pure analog and hybrid workflows. The alternative processes are already well covered by other books, but silver gelatin hasn't been seen much in publications since the late nineties--except when they say that film's dead. Such a book could cover the 35mm world, but also the 120, the LF including odd formats (2x3, plate sizes, etc), and show what kind of nice cheap "classic" cameras are available. Or that could be a book about the whole "rangefinder renaissance" since Cosina entered that market. But I think in the end it needs a more precise angle than just 35mm.

The game theory one, I'm not sure what you mean by that title. You could perhaps call it instead a photography cookbook: let's try to make a product shot, a street shot, let's try to maximize sharpness, to compose with blur, to use the rule of thirds or the golden ration, or monochrome composition, near-far relationships, flattening/expanding space, or two-tones colour photography, etc. It's basically a "now that you know how to turn the knobs, here's what you can do with your toy" type of book.

How to choose a digital camera: you don't seriously mean that? What's there to choose anyway?

5:39 PM  
Blogger barbfi said...

I'd probably opt for #2 provided it wasn't too basic and aimed at beginners. How to pick a digital camera is the least attractive option for me, since I already got one and this is information that can easily be gained from the net.

5:39 PM  
Blogger macdaddy said...

Numbers 2 and 3 would be good sellers, if done right. We're always looking for techniques to try and we could definitely get our game on with a sound treatise on 35mm.
Rob W

5:41 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'd venture to say that all of those except for #2 are readily available in printed and online formats (though from scattered sources). #2, while also ubiquitous, is a more personal subject and therefore potentially more entertaining and useful - of course, this depends entirely on the author and his/her writing style; it therefore earns my vote.

5:43 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'd rank my choices in this order:

Game Theory for Photographers - First place, you nailed me on this one. I'm decent, trying to get better, always looking for exercises and tips to help me "see photographically". Like the Scott Kelby photoshop books, this would be solid nuts and bolts walk through exercises but leavened with photography/philosophy.

Camera Lenses - Tied for second, maybe ahead by a hair. I'm a white male archivist with a perhaps unhealthy love of history, arcania and lore.

Classic 35mm Photography - Tied for second. I scour used bookstores for cool old 70's and 80's photography guidebooks. The language never changes (aperture, speed, DOF, neutral density filters, etc) only the hairstyles on the models. This book would be a mix of nostalgia, vocabulary, history and how to.

How to Choose a Digital Camera - Last by a mile. A printed book on which camera is best is out of date by the time the ink dries. This is why the web was invented; the topic makes no sense in printed form.

5:49 PM  
Blogger Gord Millar said...

First # 2
Second # 1


5:50 PM  
Blogger Sergey Botvin said...

Well... You're welcome to my humble opinion :)

No.3-I'm VERY interested
No.1-I'm very interested
No.2-I'm not interested at all
No.4-God forbid!

Good luck!

5:50 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

I'd go with option number 2. It's the most appealing, and I haven't seen anything like that in the shop.

5:52 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

For sure, definitely, and absolutely book no. 2 about improving your photography. I don't always find that I agree, but I'd love to hear what you say along these lines.

Almost for sure, and as a good second best, book no. 3 about B&W photography, doing for 35mm what AA did for field cameras. Would love it, though not quite so much as the above.

As for the lenses or digital cameras: for me, no. I do read stuff about those things, but really only for practical advice, and whereas the first two would have a potentially unlimited shelf life, the lens/camera stuff would not. Or that's my theory.

But I'm pleased you're thinking of it. Is this you nailing your flag to the mast?

5:53 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Here are my picks in order of my personal interest:
1) Game Theory for Photographers
2) Camera Lenses
3) Classic 35mm Photography

I have a hard imagining the digital camera book staying relevant long enough to be worth a book. I mean I might be interested, if the marketplace ever got more interesting... but I agree with your recent posts-- it seems like it's going the opposite direction. Yawn.

6:01 PM  
Blogger Jon Leighton said...

1 or 2, not sure which.

6:19 PM  
Blogger Bahi said...

Proposals 1 or 2 for me, please. I know from your articles in Black & White Photography magazine here in the UK that you also write very well on the subject of film but right now, that book wouldn't be of as much interest to me.

From most other talented writers on the subject photography, proposal 2 (Game Theory for Photographers) would be the only one to really encourage because it addresses the area in which most of us need the most help - it's way more important than lenses or cameras or any of that stuff. A book that makes the photographer better is worth a thousand books about megapixels or digital noise. Admittedly, there's plenty of apparent competition in the bookshop but one from you would stand out and I'd buy it immediately.

However, since it is you… I have to admit that I've also loved and benefited from your writing on the subject of lenses. It's traditionally a man-in-the-garden-shed sort of subject and beyond the usual things (colour, contrast, CA, obvious distortion of geometry, light fall-off, bokeh – actually, didn’t you introduce this term to English?) I’d usually get bored but you write extremely well about lenses without too much chart-and-measurement stuff going on. For example, you once wrote about the diminished importance of some aspects of lens design in digital photography, mentioning that the way that highlights were rendered during the roll-off as they turn into overexposed areas of film was governed by lens design but (for obvious reasons) mattered much less now. You're right but I didn't realise it till you mentioned it (I primarily shoot digital) and I don't recall reading that observation elsewhere. Things like that will become more important as dynamic range improvements are offered in cameras like the Fujifilm S5 Pro. Your writing made me see things about lenses differently and I’ll bet there's more where that came from. There's also a marked lack of snobbishness in your appreciation of cameras and lenses - again, a rare thing.

A book on buying digital cameras might be better suited to magazines and blogs than to books. Things change so fast and if you stick mainly to principles like the one you've already provided us ('don't spend your time choosing a point-and-shoot camera - just buy one and learn how it works'), there may not be enough for a useful book. For that, perhaps a cheap, often-updated e-book, in the style of the Take Control stuff from

6:20 PM  
Blogger Nemo said...

Proposal 1, of course.

6:28 PM  
Blogger dale said...

I read your blog, not for lens tests or choosing recommendations. I read it for insight and opinion, so the non technical game review is where I find the greatest need on the photography bookshelves.


6:28 PM  
Blogger Mike Meskin said...

I vote for "Game Theory for Photographers". I'd love to read this book.

How about this "game" - "worlds within a world" - an interaction of 2- and 3-dimentional worlds within confines of a 2-dimentional photograph. The simplest example would be a frame-within-frame picture, but could be more complex/interactive. A representation of other reflections of the world within confines of a photograph creates a reality loop - as a photograph is also a reflection.

6:29 PM  
Blogger dale said...

I read your blog, not for lens tests or choosing recommendations. I read it for insight and opinion, so the non technical game review is where I find the greatest need on the photography bookshelves.


6:29 PM  
Blogger Yvonne said...

Hi Mike: Great question: Game Theory gets my vote because that's a unique idea that I'm not going to find elsewhere. Also, like so many amateurs (people who love doing photography), my pictures tend to be derivative. I'm looking for ideas that will let me see the whole picture-making enterprise in a fresh way, and that's something I think you're good at putting into words.

Cheers, Yvonne

6:31 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Number 2, please.

6:32 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Having published magazine articles, for money, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, what is the market saturated with? Right now there are TONS of books and articles on choosing a Digital camera, either P&S or DSLR.

There are also lots of titles directly related to 35mm photography.

To these two ideas what can be brought to market that makes the titles unique and worthy?

The first idea, improving one's photographs with common-sense but generally not thought of ideas could be a good idea. Kodak made such a book years ago and National Geographic has titles that relate to this on different outdoor topics. Again, being unique and worthy are key to getting published IMHO.

A discussion of lenses is going to be a pretty narrow offering. Market share of such a title has to be considered.

Of the four ideas posted I believe idea 2 has the most merit. A working title could be "You Got (Photography) Game" done in such a way that one could read it "You Got Game". Or "Improve Your Photography Game". Short titles that are easy to remember may have a better shot at grabbing attention and also set the tone for the book.

Good luck,


6:32 PM  
Blogger Jeff Greenstein said...

#3, no question. I regularly comb both new and used bookstores looking for books like this, and nobody's writing them anymore.

6:36 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Game Theory, It fits my needs the best.

6:41 PM  
Blogger Dr Hiding Pup said...

Not 4 - choosing a digital camera sounds more like a good magazine article, or series of articles rather than a book - for the simple reason that it's one thing to buy a mag when looking for a camera, and quite another to buy a book on it. How to use it, yes, but which one to buy, no.

No 1 sounds a bit geeky; no. 3 rather late in the game.

Which leaves 2. Yeah, I'd buy two, provided it wasn't too expensive (under $60), had lots of pages and plenty of beautifully printed photos.

6:41 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


I would love a book about "improving my game".

6:44 PM  
Blogger dasmb said...

How to Choose a Digital Camera -- This is a subjec that's covered well enough in the first chapter of every Tom Ang book and it's of limited timeliness. Who knows, by the time it's released all the new cameras could be awesome *crosses fingers*.

Game Theory for Photographers -- Alan Briot just wrote this book, cleverly disguised as "landscape photographers only."

Camera Lenses -- Exciting proposal, I would read it, but overall I think it's of limited appeal.

Classic 35mm Photography -- This is your gold, man. It's timely, it's interesting and who knows? It just might preserve a dying medium.

6:49 PM  
Blogger Mike Fats said...

Hmmm, good topics. I like the "Camera Lenses" idea and would pick it up in a heartbeat. Especially if it had a broad and historical overview, illustrations of the design and examples of images that had been shot with it.

6:51 PM  
Blogger Christopher Mark Perez said...

If I were a newbie, I'd suggest How to Choose a Digital Camera.

If you were to add enough science, examples, and in depth background into manufacturing, covering not just the micro cameras, but MF and LF and ULF too, then I'd probably pick something like that up. But then Kingslake covered the topic nicely. So...

6:54 PM  
Blogger Bart said...

I's go with 'game theory'. There are a million an one 'how to buy' books and 10x more in websites. Classic 35mm photography book might be good in a couple of years when evything is digital and film becomes niche (you could almost say we are there already). Lenses are usually relegated to a chapter in other 'about photography' books....not sure if there is enough material to keep a reader interested for a whole book...

6:55 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Game Theory for Photographers

Even with the cutesy title it would be a book that I'd buy.

7:05 PM  
Blogger happy cranker said...

Proposal No. 2: Game Theory for Photographers for me, I find it very difficult to obtain information like this, you can find plenty of technical stuff, but not very many books/web sites discuss this subject.

7:12 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

#2: quite likely
#1: possibly
#3: doubtful
#4: no way

7:15 PM  
Blogger thechrisproject said...

Number 2, definitely. Number 1 is right behind it. Number 3 isn't entirely applicable, since I shoot digital, but I'm sure it would still be useful, like Adams' series still is. Number 4 sounds like a buyer's guide.

7:15 PM  
Blogger Jasiek said...

As for me, only options one or two counts. Nothing specific to old (35mm) or new (digital) technique, but a general book related to either equipment or photography itself.

I can not decide between the two. I do not know whether I am equipment or photography enthusiast...

7:18 PM  
Blogger visualdensity said...

I would buy Proposal No 2 - "Game Theory for Photohraphers".

This is because for the other proposals, I've already seen (if have not purchased) many online and offline resources out there (though they may not be as detailed or extensive as yours).

What I really one is some tips and tricks into making ourselves better and [possibly] take ourselves one step closer to a professional level (well.. at least we can see better results ourselves immediately).

Hope that helps.

7:18 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I think the game theory or classic 35 mm are more of what the market desires. People want to take better pictures. Your lens book does not help us take better pictures. It just makes my poor pictures have less image aberrations.

7:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1 Lenses, probably the greatest in scope, how one draws compared to another and then spoil it all in digital post processing. Maybe PP can emulate a lens. The old and new

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No. 1 - Ive never seen a book like that and I would be interested to know how my "glass" works

7:33 PM  
Blogger Son of Food said...

Camera lenses.

The last good book on this subject is Kingslake, which is out of print and expensive, if you are fortunate enough to find a copy. Neblette's _Photographic Lenses_ isn't terribly well written or comprehensive, contains a few errors, and is also hard to find.

There's no good book that talks very much about out-of-focus rendering (there is that Merklinger article online), though it comes up in bits and pieces in some of the old advertising material that can be found on and I suppose in the compilation that has been circulating through eBay and elsewhere known as the Classic Lens Vademecum, which I don't own myself.

David A. Goldfarb

7:34 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

#2 - first choice
#1 - second choice

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would love to have an up-to-date book on lenses from you.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Eric Schneider said...


Here's my take on it:

* Camera Lenses: This is a tough one, I'm not predisposed to this one, but I might take it home it it was amazingly interesting and nicely illustrated.

* Game Theory for Photographer: I'd preorder this one based on what I've read from you already. A no-brainer. :)

* Classic 35mm Photography: A maybe, but probably. In theory, I'd like this, but I'd probably want to see the book first. I could very well come home with this one.

* How to Choose: Nah. I try to avoid having to think about hardware. :)

7:38 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

number 3 please.

7:40 PM  
Blogger icexe said...

i vote for #1 or #2. #1 would be quickly snapped up by lens fanatics and collectors; and #2 would be snapped up by people like me :)

I don't think #3 would sell because people don't care as much about the type of medium used to capture an image as much as the image itself. For example, most people who appreciate Ansel Adams would at best appreciate the merits of large format, but since most don't actually own a large format camera, the techniques involved with processing large format images would be meaningless to them. With the rapidly disappearing 35mm film format today, I'm afraid the same would hold true in this case as well.

#4 wouldn't sell because I'm afraid the book would become dated rather quickly, since camera makers seem to pump out new models with new features every 6 months. yes, the general arguments for choosing a digital camera will probably still hold true for the next several years, but people browsing through the book would be looking in it for cameras that they could go out and buy today. two years from now, your chapter on the advantages of buying a dSLR, featuring an image of a Nikon D50, will look rather dated.

7:44 PM  
Blogger Guy said...

Most useful to me would be Game Theory for Photographers (though the title turns me off; a good cover might offset that). I especially like the idea of practical exercises.

What I need most is ways to improve my vision. My mastery of the technical arts--although "mastery" is a big exaggeration--is greater than my artistic vision.

7:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If your main interest is sales numbers, I would go with "How To Choose A Digital Camera." Probablyy not as much fun to write as some of the other titles.

7:49 PM  
Blogger Bill Bresler said...

I vote for #2. Better seeing is what we need, not more megapixels
"How to Buy" titles are out of date by the time they hit the shelves.
What's really needed (by me, at least) is a good photography textbook for the digital age. I have used a different text for each of the last 5 terms. Again, by the time it hits the shelves it will be dated.

7:51 PM  
Blogger Bob Poe said...

The first three all peak my curiosity. Proposal No. 1: The relationships among optical principles and image rendition is usually stated in mathmatical/geometrical terms. I would really appreciate the more inclusive approach that you suggest Proposal No.2: The teacher in me is always looking for new, practical exercises to stimulate fresh approaches.
Proposal No. 3: I have to be a photobook junkie, Every book I've enjoyed usually covers a different aspect of the tools, craft, art of photography. I usually find the practical nut/bolts may be similar to my nuts/bolts, but with a slightly different angle, or organization. I seem to learn a lot by comparing practices. Most of all, I enjoy reading MJ more than any other writer on photography.

7:51 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Proposal No. 5: In Context. A discussion of the roles, responsibilities, and importance of:

photography in society and social history;

bodies of work in Photography, historical and contemporary;

the chain of photographers, their ideas and explorations in photography and society;

our place in that chain moving forward.

7:57 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

#1 and #3 seem like they would be good reads, but have a limited market. If you're interested in actually selling books, #4 is probably a loser. Few of today's consumers are going to read a book to learn how to buy a digital camera, when they can just go ask the teenager at the local big box store. (Plus, how do you expand "they're all crap" into a book? ;)

#2 is the one I would want to read, and to recommend to my students and colleagues. Just my $.02 worth.

7:58 PM  
Blogger Erk Schmerk said...

I suppose... I'd most want to see Game Theory for Photographers. The title might be a bit confusing, though.

7:58 PM  
Blogger BruceK said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:01 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

No.s 1 or 2 I'd buy, 3 I'd consider buying, 4 I'd flick through.

8:05 PM  
Blogger Chris Sheppard said...

My order of preference would be:
2 - 1 - 3 - 4

It was a toss up whether '2' or '1' would be #1. I think writing about esoteric lens lore, in a way understandable to all us poor slow smucks, is one of your strengths. On the other hand, I also think there is a really poor selection of how-to books that do more than talk about equipment and exposure settings.

'3' is an interesting idea, but not of much interest to me. And while your version of how to choose a digital camera would be interesting, it's not a book I'd ever bother to own. That's 'one time' information I'd rather get from the net or a magazine article, not a volume that would have a place on my shelf for reference and re-reading. Just my thoughts.

8:05 PM  
Blogger Peter Simmons said...

Proposal 2 is my vote, as that is what I need at this moment. Proposal 4 would be out of date before you printed the book.

8:11 PM  
Blogger J. Moss Hartt said...

No. 1, the book on camera lenses. I think the market is already saturated with titles covering the other subject areas. But a knowledgeable exploration of lenses strikes me as both interesting and valueable.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Jammy said...

I'm gonna go with option 1 Camera Lenses. There are just a whole gaggle of books out there that come close to the other subjects; however, I've yet to see any non brand specific books on lenses.

8:15 PM  
Blogger giulienk said...

Go with Camera Lenses, that's the one I would buy.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Erik said...

I'd go with proposal No. 2, with No. 1 being a somewhat trailing second. I doubt I would buy numbers 3 or 4 myself.

8:21 PM  
Blogger Steve Beyer said...

Since you want to know the book that I would like and not the book I think will sell. Of the four titles, the 35mm analog photo would be top of my list. My vote is for number three.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Quinbus said...

Hard to say. I read what you write for the same reason I read poetry, not because of the content but because it's written well.

8:40 PM  
Blogger Ulli Mueller said...


For me clearly No.1 would be the most interesting. No. 2, given your entertaining writing style, could also make a good read, although I worry about the sea of How-To books out there, I'd pass on No. 3 & 4.

Keep writing,

8:47 PM  
Blogger Joe P said...

I vote for the game theory topic. As an engineer, I don't have a problem with the technical side of photography but the art side....

An 2nd would be a book on the art of digital B&W printing.

8:51 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Give me Game Theory.

8:52 PM  
Blogger adamei said...

I would definitely choose no. 2.
# 1 is out because, while I don't mind reading arcana about lenses on your blog, I'm not spending my precious few $s on a book about them. I have 3 lenses for my Maxxum 7D DSLR (11 - 18, 24 - 105 and 100-300mm) and it'll be a very long time before my budget let's me spend more money on a (Sony/Minolta-mount) lens. And I can't waste my energy learning about all the great Leica and Elmarit lenses I'll never use. Number 3 is out because I don't need everything about 35mm photography formalized and explained to me. Some of it I know and some of it's history - what I want to do is take pictures and make them better and better. Number 4 is out because I already know enough about what's important to me in the Point & Shoot I wish I had $400 for. As it is I have to drag my Dimage A1 around as my "pocket" camera 'cause I can't afford to go spend hundreds more on a worse camera just because it fits in my pocket (I have a wife and kids after all).
What I can afford to do is learn how to compose better, how to evaluate lighting and exposure better, how to make better images. And I'm so tired of going over the specs of every new toy that comes out or reviewing the toys of yore I want to be a photographer - so I'll buy book 2 when you publish it.

8:53 PM  
Blogger Ken Tanaka said...

I realize that you're unlikely to pay the slightest heed to my suggestion but...

In all honesty, Mike, my suggestion would be to skip the whole idea of writing a techie photography book. The market is brimming with titles, the books generally don't sell well, and authors are generally not well rewarded financially. Even being a renowned tech book author doesn't buy much groceries by today's standards.

If I had to pick a title, however, it would be the lens title; it's unique. HOWEVER, unless you're prepared, and qualified, to present some pretty hard, current, and useful information on lenses you run the risk of being labeled a dilettante and gadfly (ie. Erwin-esque).

You've already sampled the hazards of book publishing so you know it's a very dicey proposition, even for major publishers. (I was recently involved in a book project with a prominent London publisher. The project was stowed in a late stage due to competitive research.) Unless a major publisher begs you into such a project, and offers a hefty advance, forget it. Turn your publication/publicity energies to Internet initiatives instead.

8:53 PM  
Blogger Ed Wolpov said...

I vote for proposal #2... we can all benefit from a book on improving our game.


8:55 PM  
Blogger Intensecure said...

For me, proposal no 2 - "Game Theory For Photographers, which I would buy in a heartbeat. I need practical works like that.
I can't say that No.1 is unappealing to the geek in me, but would be a purely fetishistic coffee table book.
No.3 is dated, and No.4 would be dated by the time it was published, and would fade into irrelevance within months, if not constantly and rather pointlessly revised when the subject could be better blogged about than hard copied.

9:01 PM  
Blogger Yuda said...

I'd say I'm about tied between options 1 and 2. If pushed... I lean slightly towards #2.

I have considerably less interest in nos. 3 or 4.

9:07 PM  
Blogger Lux said...

#2. Game Theory for Photographers. I would find attractive a discussion about the essence of Photography and the ways of making wonder-full photographs.

Camera Lenses is a boring subject to me. Classic 35mm Photography is an obsolete subject, more history than actuality. How to choose a digital camera is a very personal subject and one that can't be printed without becoming old real fast.

Photophilosophy is a more lasting subject. Stick with #2.


9:09 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

No. 2 Seems nice, but No. 4 will sell like coke. Just write No.4 with focus on the grandmas and moms... : )They need something like this. Really.

9:13 PM  
Blogger DelK said...

The camera and camera book market is changing. Skilled and knowledgeable users would prefer the 35mm equiv to Ansel Adams, or the one on lenses. The one that is needed most, the one that would save more photographers' time, is on how to choose a digital camera.


9:14 PM  
Blogger chriscrawfordphoto said...

I vote for 1 and 3. I have always loved your writings on lenses, and I also like 3 because I have recently gotten really heavily into 35mm photography after rediscovering my OM system stuff.

9:14 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Honestly anything you write about the first three topics, I would consider worth reading. The last bit has been done to death elsewehere, and I don't really think it's something you need to waste your time with. Considering a couple of your other articles to date, I don't doubt that you could make a really sensible book about it. Nevertheless, since time and resources are limited for all people I think I'd much rather see what you have to say about any of the other three topics than the last.


9:15 PM  
Blogger Jan Moren said...

#1, definitely, especially if it's comprehensive. Perhaps #2, but that depends in a large part on how relevant I find the individual chapters when leafing through it.

To put it another way, I would buy #1 unseen, based only on the author name and page count (to estimate its depth). #2 I would only buy if I get a chance to leaf through it first and found it to really be relevant.

#3 and #4 - nah. I have no interest in film on one hand, and I have all the expertise I need to choose a digital camera by myself already on the other - and that kind of thing, especially, is stuff I'd rather just look up online, not bother with a soon-outdated book.

9:19 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

#2 for me, although I'd love to see #3 as well, if it applied to BW work in digital as well :-)

9:24 PM  
Blogger Mike F said...

I'd like to think I would buy #2 about improving my photography. But I suspect I'd actually buy #1 about lenses and rationalise the choice by saying "that'll help me improve my photography too", even though it probably wouldn't. Still, whichever one you wrote you'd have a sale.

If I could buy any or all of them I'd probably buy #2 and #1 together, #3 later - and would probably either recommend #4 to others or buy it myself to lend out (being too opinionated on that topic to take much advice for myself).


9:25 PM  
Blogger SteveJac said...

I'd vote for proposal 2-- I need all the common-sense help I can get.

9:25 PM  
Blogger Al Benas said...

I vote for proposal #2 - Game Theory. None of the other titles really provide me with knowledge that I would like, now. Tomes on equipt, especially classic, not-of-my-use stuff, do not pique my interest. However, I have grown fond of philosophical and educational discussions on how to go to the next step.

9:41 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Sorry, but I think they're all losers. None of them are really compelling to me nor to those who are being attracted to photography.

Where is the "application"? Even the best one on improving your game, is all about mechanics, not about the result or the emotion.

9:46 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

"Game Theory". Of all of the photography books that I own, be they manuals, how-to books, monographs, or collections, the only books that I pull out repeatedly and continue to learn from are Brooks Jensen's and Ted Orland's.

That said, I'd probably buy and read "lenses" or "digital cameras" as well.

9:47 PM  
Blogger Thiago Silva said...

The order you presented them equals my order of preference. Actually, I wouldn't buy #4. I don't think there is enough to be said about the #4 subject to fill a book.

9:49 PM  
Blogger Carl Dahlke said...

The non-tech book please. Tech writing is easier to do than writing about the photographer's process and there is tons of it on the web. Thinking about the photographer's process is more nourishing and much harder to come by. I love equipment articles but I don't think I'd be likely to buy an equipmengt book

9:49 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Game theory, of course. Just do not call it anything like that. No matter what neat or even neater toy we lust for after we get whatever is our current neat gizmo, good pictures come from thought, from an idea that spawns a cranial image to be. That skill is most important no matter what camera gizmo one has. That skill is more important than any camera or lens. Simple rules like the rull of thirds, or get closer, for instance, make more good pictures than buying the next neat body or better stabilized lens can do without further development of the conceptualization of the image that the photographer hopes to take.

9:58 PM  
Blogger paul hagood said...

Game Theory for Photographers -
Wow, what a great title! I'd buy it in a minute. The other ones seem like things I've seen before...

10:13 PM  
Blogger R.A. Sasayama said...

No. 2.

10:21 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Definitely the "Game Theory" book. I'm an average photographer (using a DSLR for about a year) and I'm always looking for ways to improve / expand my photography skills.

10:28 PM  
Blogger Mich said...


I am thrilled I found your blog. I had read some of your articles on Luminous-Landscape. I think I hold you partly responsible for all the rangefinder gear I have acquired in the past 8 months. It all started when I read "Why 40?"

Before I announce my book proposal preference, I wanted to ask a question which your introduction to the M8 raised. Insurance. When referring to yours and the gent's who lent you the M8, were you talking about simple house insurance which might cover loss or theft of the camera or a more comprehensive policy which would also cover damage?

I pick proposal #2. I like the idea of exercises. Perhaps there could even be an area in your blog where people could post their results.


Brooklyn, NY

10:33 PM  
Blogger BWJones said...

Proposal #2 followed by #1 for purely marketing reasons. Personally I am more interested in a book on lenses, but also believe that you will get far more sales of a "Improve your photography" title given the increasing digital camera sales.

10:35 PM  
Blogger nextSibling said...

How to choose a Digi.... uh? What? Sorry, you lost me already. Booooooring.

Classic 35mm... Might take it off the shelf and flick through it. More for the pictures than the writing, perhaps. I love classic 35mm photography, but I might think (regardless of the reality) that my bookshelves were already well stocked on the subject.

The math nerd/snob in me might flinch at the abuse of terminology but Game Theory... would get a second look. Despite plenty of evidence of the mediocre nature of my artistic talents I've a knee-jerk antipathy towards how-to books, however. I'd rather decide for myself what works and what doesn't. It's the luxury of chronic amateurishness. If the writing was eloquent, thought-provoking, and original (by whatever unfathomable criteria one might measure such things), I'm not saying I wouldn't be tempted...

Lenses... ohhhhh. Photo nerdery. Gimmie! Gotta love it. Yeah, yeah, the gear doesn't make the art, and HCB shot everything on a single lens ...we all know that. But it's LENSES. Lots of glossy pictures and fancy diagrams, please. What's not to like? The more esoteric and irrelevant (and irreverent) the better.

10:54 PM  
Blogger justin lenz said...

best: Camera Lenses.. i think anyone with good interest in photography will find this useful

2nd best: Classic 35mm Photography.. in a bookstore i would look through the book a bit (unless it's sealed) and if i saw amazing b&w photos and what it took to make them, i'd be sold.

3rd best: How to Choose a Digital Camera.. this seems like a non-specialty book. there is a ton of this kind of advice online.

last: Game Theory for Photographers.. the words game theory mean nothing to me. i've never used them.

11:10 PM  
Blogger h said...

Game Theory.

I'd probably buy a book by you about lenses for a bit of a diversion and I'd have a good thumb through one on 35mm photography, but I suspect that I'd be looking for things that could "improve my game," and therefore back to Game Theory.

As I only shoot film #4 wouldn't interest me in the least.

11:12 PM  
Blogger stuart said...

2 years ago, I would have bought "How to Choose a Digital Camera".

6 months ago, I would have bought "Game Theory for Photographs"

Now, I would buy "Camera Lenses"

10 years from now, I would buy "Classic 35mm photography"

I put it like this because of the rather obvious linear progression, from an absolute beginner, to somebody who's getting into it, to somebody getting their wallet into it, to somebody who's secure enough in both their knowledge and experience to, if all they've done is digital, give film a shot for film's sake.

From what I've seen on the bookshelves around here, there seems to be an abundance of "what to look for" in a camera, because that's what the most people need. As well, I could be wrong as my field research is rather limited, but it seems like most of these are bundled with a compositional section, as well as a few compositional books.

As such, I think your best bet would be to go with either the lenses or the film. Both are rather evidently something you have a know-how for, and I certainly think there'd be a smaller, but more knowledgeable and specific market, and you'd be able to capitalize on your expertise to not only write something you care about, but would do relatively well as well.

All the best.

11:15 PM  
Blogger fivetonsflax said...

#1 by a large margin.

Lenses are common to digital and film photography. They're not reviewed with nearly the thoroughness or thoughtfulness that camera bodies are. It seems we get mostly either numbers, which are real enough but hard to understand visually; or extraordinarily subjective assessments which remind me of wine reviews.

#3 isn't relevant to me as I don't shoot film; #4 I don't need help with. #2 could be interesting, although I feel compelled to mention that I don't see any connection with game theory (which has nothing to do with "improving one's game" and which only means anything where there's an adversary).

11:20 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I would be interested in Book No. 2 or (to a lesser extent) Book No. 2.
Regarding Book no. 3, I'm not sure how I would react until I picked it up.

11:37 PM  
Blogger Mycroft said...

No question for me. #2

And don't be yet another "guru" who only shows the best shot. How 'bout showing what a newbie might take of a given subject and then show how a pro would take the same subject?

11:37 PM  
Blogger kathleen fonseca said...

Of the four you proposed, i'd most likely buy the book on lenses (is this a psychological test?)..the reason is that you have a great talent for the anecdotal, the philosophical, the quirky, the ironic PLUS the technical and historical. I wouldn't touch another book on classical 35 b&w photography or digital photography anything, not even if it was authored by Mike Johnston. Game theory for photogs sounds dismal..yup...i'd go for lenses, that'd be sure to be fun though i'd probably go cross-eyed from all those discussions of mm this and f that, the summicrons and the biogons and the zeiss and the cosina and the sigma and the rokkor and...and...But i'm not a techie sort, so there it is.

Now a 5th choice that would really interest me would be a collection of essays on various photographic subjects, criticisms, witticisms, opinions, technique, historical subject matter as it relates to photography, tying photography in with events of the THAT i'd stand in line for because that's where i (personally) see your real strength..

11:43 PM  
Blogger yoong khean said...

Game Theory for Photographers is my vote. ;)

11:47 PM  
Blogger Curt said...

For me:
"Game Theory..." would be a top choice, though the Lens book would be a close, close second.

12:10 AM  
Blogger Nick Jungels said...

I would vote for the "how-to" book first, and the lens book second. Lord knows, I could use the "how-to."


12:14 AM  
Blogger Sten said...

I would have gone for #1 if you hadn't argued yourself that lens connoisseurship became obsolete with digital. And shooting digital, I'm not the target group for #3 and #4. But I think the game theory book would be fantastic.

(The title is clever but a bit confusing for me, though. Game theory is about multiple players acting and reacting to each other's actions to get a better outcome for oneself from the game-- I wonder if photography is such a situation? But perhaps it is, e.g. for a pro competing with others, selling her work etc it's probably very much a multi-player game.)

12:28 AM  
Blogger hugh crawford said...

Proposal No. 1: Camera Lenses

I'd buy that, but then I have on my shelf everything from a 3 volume set on the history of automobile racing in Czechoslovakia in Czech ( which I don't read ) to a history of the screwdriver , a history of the pencil. and histories of cod, coffee, purple dye, Porsches, and ice.

Proposal No. 2: Game Theory for Photographers. you mean the applied mathematics and economics game theory? Probably not, but that would be a fun book.

Proposal No. 3: Classic 35mm Photography. Aren't there a lot of them around? I haven't looked at one since the 1970s, but there were a lot of them then.

Proposal No. 4: How to Choose a Digital Camera. Probably a great money maker, you could do a new edition every 18 months. If you included "how to get camera X to do what you really want it to do" , that would be useful since the manuals are worthless in that they describe all the features, but don't tell you why you would want them, or how to ignore them.

12:30 AM  
Blogger Dr. Spoke said...

Proposal No. 2: Game Theory for Photographers.

I really like the idea of this one. Particularly the concept of practical ideas and exercises. This is a book I would really like to see!

(The title does not do much for me though!)

12:34 AM  
Blogger Hugo said...

Here my preferences:
Proposal No. 2: Game Theory for Photographers - I suppose there is a considerable (and maybe growing) number of potential readers;
Proposal No. 4: How to Choose a Digital Camera - there should be an immense number of potential readers, but you had to update the book at least once a year - though I doubt that a vast public would be interested in your habitual criteria, ie against the current mainstream.

12:44 AM  
Blogger Dion said...

Game Theory for Photographers

12:56 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

My guess is Game Theory for Photographers because that one seems so different than the other books therefore you have less competition on the book shelf.

1:00 AM  
Blogger areve said...

I'd go for number 2. I don't think I would find 3 and 4 so useful for me (I don't plan on buying any new camera soon, I have a 5D and I don't plan to do any 'classic' photography either). Number 1 would also be nice, especially since you're so good at writing about lenses, but it also may be a bit too 'geeky' :)

1:22 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Game theory

1:24 AM  
Blogger afx said...

Number two would get my vote as I think this has probably the most useful infrmation.


1:26 AM  
Blogger ShadZee said...

I think consumers are either "idiots" or think they are idiots. That's why the "idiot guide to..." series of books are selling so well.

The " Camera lenses", "Game theory" & "classic 35mm" topics are for SMART people. They don't buy a lot of books... besides this particular audience is a "know it all" ;-)

My suggestion:

- A premier (or even an idiot guide to) Home Printing would be a great book. Covering printers, paper, color calibration... etc.

- Or how about a book on "How to exhibit your photography". Covering methods of finding galleries or small art exhibitions to display your art, as well as printing, framing and preparing the work.

1:29 AM  
Blogger Carsten Bockermann said...


there are soooo many books out there with techno-babble about cameras and titles like 'Camera lenses' or 'How to choose a digital camera' would have a hard time raising my interest. 'Classic 35mm photography' appeals to a tiny special interest group as 35mm photography is going the way of Daguerrotypie. IMHO, improving one's photography is far more interesting than anything on cameras, lenses or processes, so I vote for #2.


1:30 AM  
Blogger Boris Liberman said...

Most definitely #2. I think it is by far more hmmm eternal than anything else among the options you presented.

1:33 AM  
Blogger Ray52 said...

Hi Mike,

Can I have 2 votes? I'd buy numbers 3 & 1 in that order of preference.


1:43 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"Game Theory for Photographers" would be my choice. Talking about tech issues is fun, but at the end, what interests me most is the actual part of photographing.

1:44 AM  
Blogger Adrian Malloch said...

Oh yeah! #1 I'd read for sure. Real geeky, but after years of hearing all the twaddle that gets bandied about around lenses, I'd love to get stuck into a book that definitively discusses lensishness.
Game theory for Photogs: That's the book I'd be recommending to everyone who wants to discuss cameras (and lenses)! when they really need to get into the photography. I've gotta couple of exercises that would be brilliant for such a book and I reckon if you ask nicely you would get a whole bunch more from your loyal following.
Number three, the classic 35mm. The more the world goes digital, the more we will want to hang on to something that is simple, real and as fundamentally creative as black and white. And, I'm a through and through digi photographer! (after 25 years of film and darkroom craft).
How to choose digi cameras just turns me off. The sort of people who would buy this have already done the research on the net. There are no quick answers, hence the depth required in a book. But, it won't be read because potential buyers just want quick answers. That said, a snappy little pocket checklist type book could be a huge Christmas seller. Just don't use photos,or examples, of current cameras, cos next week they'll be so last week.
Good luck, keep us posted.

1:46 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'd love to read Proposal No. 2. I'm one of those many hobby-turned-into-passion photographers that have never followed any classes in photography. This means that I usually just photograph what I feel like photographing. I'm never 'forced' to take a challenge and photograph something I'm not used to photographing. So... a book like No.2 with exercises to challenge my current photography skills could be very useful in my opinion. Especially since there aren't that many around that I know of (maybe I haven't looked closely enough).

Don't No.4. Things change so fast it's a waste of time in my opinion, and there are many websites that cover this in detail.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents. :)

1:50 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Definitely #1, but please make it funny as well as technical!

#2: Whilst useful for some, I have personally never found any value in books of these type that I have/would like to discover for myself whilst shooting

#3: I'd be interested, if I had a 35mm. It is on the cards, but not right now.

#4: You're kidding... right? Most oversaturated market ever, even if you're writing is miles ahead. Given that most visitors here are quite camera-educated (I presume), this book offers the least value.

1:50 AM  
Blogger Ke Nest said...

Game Theory for Photographers, please!

2:04 AM  
Blogger Hans-J. Hertz-Eichenrode said...

not to dismiss your list in any way but please let me suggest what I would love to read about:
5. Something like M.J.´s viewfinder, meaning: Your perspective on photography; not a history in a historically objective or teaching sense, just your history to mirror your own photography in perspective of/ in contrast to selected historical and actual "schools". Your preference of street photography, ways of using light etc., maybe a/your view on Gursky art business, strolling through your favourite photo-books and so on.
What I initially thought about your list? Nr. 3 has my sympathies, quite demanding, pure theory for most of potential readers, therefor may not become that many? Nr. 4 might be outdated sooner than it might appear - in fast times an article or a series of articles in a periodical might be more appropriate?
General teaching aspects are covered by classics, and lens-tutorials - well covered and done more up to date by an ongoing series of articles - you did it nice in your former own publications.
But anyway - on demand does not work, just choose where your plain fun is, we readers will share it happily.
Best regards
Hans-J. Hertz-Eichenrode

2:09 AM  
Blogger herrdahlin said...

Game theory! I think I've read the others. :) Nah, not really, but you know what I mean...

2:23 AM  
Blogger doonster said...

I've been thinking about this during the morning, here's what I finally decided: I'd be interested in them all for different reasons but I'd most likely buy no 1 for myself. What I'd be looking for would be a book covering things froms lens theory (how a lens works, DoF, CoC, MTF etc, abberations), lens design (how the designs balance the various objectives - focus, contrast, abberation, the influence of format etc), and a discussion of various forms of lens across the formats with some potted history.

No 2 would only interest me if at least 60% (i.e. more than half) was new to me. I hate reading guides of that sort that confirm everything I've already learnt - I want to learn more.

No 3 would be fine as long as I found content relevant to what I do, or it had a lot of great photos in it.

No 4 I'd recommend to everyone, possibly get a copy at some point myself. It would also be great if supported by a web resource or it was distributed at moderate cost online. for example if something like that turned up at a subsciption site, I'd encourage everyone to subscribe just to get their hands on it.

2:25 AM  
Blogger PeterM said...

Dear Mike,

I really like the idea of "Classic 35mm Photography"


2:29 AM  
Blogger Tim Parkin said...

Definitely the lens book.. There is so much unsaid about lenses that a book could be fascinating. Also little bits on the use of Alternative lenses through adapters could be very interesting (possibly get the involvement of some of the people on the alternative forum on fredmiranda)

2:30 AM  
Blogger Dierk Haasis said...

No 2 Game Theory

Who really cares for all the tchnical stuff, most of that can easily be found on the Net, even with a one-stop to to Wikipedia. Some of your other ideas sound more like essay proposals.

Beside mastering a certain amount of technical expertise, which modern cameras do much better than their owners, isn't photography about creating images? There are hundreds of books out there telling us what to look for in a camera [almost all wrong because all of them rehash the same ole correct tips, nothing revelatory, just clichés], even more on which tools to choose in Photoshop.

Almost none of them tells us WHAT we are doing WHY. Any rules on the language of picture-making are appreciated but as long as they are just handed out as rulings, without reasoning, they are stale and unhelpful.

I am quite sure your perspective would be very interesting, writing not so much about ancient Greek mathematical algorithms [i.e. the Golden Rule] but on why they are good, and when it is good to break them. You will surely write about contents and style, much needed in my opinion.

2:30 AM  
Blogger Alexey Stepanov said...

"Game Theory for Photographers" would be my choice, since there are too many technical "theoretical" books and too few really practical.

2:31 AM  
Blogger Adrian said...

My vote is for #2, though I hope its examples and exercises are a bit less "quirky" than the Freeman Patterson books.

#3 is a bit late... how about "classic digital p&s photography"?

#4 is somehow a contradiction to your recent posts, unless I can read it in 15 minutes which probably disqualifies as a book.

And #1... it's about as interesting as a book about V8 engines, their history, science, sounds, designs and fuel efficency. You know, interesting if I spend my weekends under my car instead of cruising and enjoying the sights.

2:37 AM  
Blogger DBier said...

I'd vote for #2. I'd love a series of exercises to improve my creativity and technical skills

2:49 AM  
Blogger Simon Bromley said...

i'd love the one on classic 35mm photography - my darkroom skills are improving, but i've yet to find a decent enough book that i've found easy to understand.

2:56 AM  
Blogger mikmok said...

Hi Mike,
A couple of years ago I would still have grabbed No. 3 “Classic 35mm Photography” with great appetite. However, like many other persons with a keen interest in photography, I am gradually becoming a digital convert. Nowadays, my photography is almost exclusively in digital even if I sometimes scan negatives (mostly MF) on a flatbed in order to get shorter DOF (among others). Therefore, even if No. 3 is the book that speaks most directly to my heart and guts, my mind would most certainly lead me on to other bookshelves. I would probably not by a book with the topic in No. 1 (Camera Lenses). My needs in that direction are easily covered on the internet and in magazines. No. 2 (Game Theory for Photographers) falls into a difficult species of books. A few brilliant examples exist, and if you make one, I’d by it. But I have become very particular with what I bother to read in this category - and even more with what I by. It’d better be good! And you can be sure that I would delve deeply into the pages before pulling out my credit card… That leaves me with No. 4 (How to Choose a Digital Camera), which would be the most likely choice for me. However, I can’t let go of the idea of combining No. 3 and No. 4 into No. 5 “Classic Still Photography in Digital”. Choosing a digital camera and lenses could be covered in a chapter or two. Shooting technique should be covered. Working with digital files and printing could replace darkroom practice. Everything should be written in your commonsense and pragmatic style, and, very important, the aesthetics of still photography should be reflected throughout the whole book in a non-technical manner. If you write that book, I’d buy it without hesitation.

3:10 AM  
Blogger Pawel Niewiadomski said...

I would start with reading item no. 2 (especially for the exercises :-). Then if I'd like it I would probably go for item no. 1.

3:16 AM  
Blogger Rob Povey said...




3:19 AM  
Blogger nlx said...

Proposal No. 3

3:20 AM  
Blogger said...

I think proposal #2 might end up being the most interesting.

Good luck with whichever you choose!

3:22 AM  
Blogger BaldaZen said...

For me it would be "Game Theory for Phtographers", since I always admired your down-to-earth advices on how to approach photography to get better results.
The other titles seem a bit too technical, perhaps the Classical 35mm photography is necessary in the contemporary photography literature, but I don't think I'll buy it straight away right now.

3:34 AM  
Blogger kay said...

One vote for #1, "Camera Lenses". It is something that can be appreciated by both film and digital photographers, and I really like your approach to the topic of optics. I think you'll have some interesting things to say.

3:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I vote for "Proposal No. 2: Game Theory for Photographers.". Exercises are good. I like exercises.

3:42 AM  
Blogger jedrek said...

Number 2 is the only one I would really be interested in. Enough talking about gear, it's all about the photos!

3:44 AM  
Blogger 65472 said...

Proposal No. 2: Game Theory for Photographers

4:21 AM  
Blogger Priit said...

Proposal No. 2: Game Theory for Photographers.

4:22 AM  
Blogger Rich said...

Camera Lenses for me.

4:24 AM  
Blogger Jacques said...

None of those... But maybe a "De Res Photographica", as in your blog...
It would, maybe, be about the act of taking a picture more then about technique. It could question on what are those pictures meant for in a society that overfeeds itself with images. But could also stress about what happens to the artifacts of all those picture making...
Not really about "Art" as usually defined, but more on how we dwell everyday with that framing of an instant of reality !

4:31 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I would go for number 2, especially if it had exercises aimed at developing an aesthetic sensibility. As a scientist, I find it all too easy to get hung up on perfect technique, sometimes (often) to the detriment of the art I claim to be trying to create.

4:41 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I would have to go with 'Game Theory for Photographers'.

5:05 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Absolutely Game-theory for photographers.
Cameras get easier and easier to use - 9 out of 10 images taken in auto mode are technically fine; taking more interesting and creative shots is the harder thing to do.

How to chose a digital camera sounds like a great book, but the people who need it are precisely those who wouldn't buy it.

5:08 AM  
Blogger sebastian said...

my vote goes to:
Game Theory for Photographers
because is personal and useful as looking at other´s photos

we have lots of "camera lenses" information around the web, both technical, objective and subjective.

"Classic 35mm Photography"
not very useful for many of us (I personally bless the digital era in many ways: cheaper & easier operation, settings records, readiness, etc. I did have 35mm film cameras, and also had lots of film rolls waiting as shelfware to be developed. no more, thanks)

"How to Choose a Digital Camera"
who would bother to read a book about the matter, when "the best advice I can offer with regard to choosing a digital point-and-shoot is: don't waste your time." :D

5:26 AM  
Blogger Eolake Stobblehouse said...


But first I'd hope to get The Empirical Photographer, which I paid for two years ago... :)

6:03 AM  
Blogger Jeremy said...


6:29 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Keeping in mind your average post content, I would expect a Classic Photography book. I would'nt buy other ones :)

6:42 AM  
Blogger said...

Game Theory for Photographers

This seems to be the hardest area to read about and be able to do something to improve.


6:48 AM  
Blogger Peter Williams said...

Book idea No. 2 would be my choice.

6:54 AM  
Blogger Andrey said...

I have read some of your writings about lenses and my position is often very close. I vote for "Camera Lenses" if you lay stress on the pictorial qualities of the lens at least not less than on the technical.

7:00 AM  
Blogger Hermon Joyner said...

Well, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’d buy your Camera Lenses book in a heartbeat. That’s my first choice. Over the years I have enjoyed your musings on lenses. Your rundown of the best 35mm lenses was great, as was the article you wrote about 50mm lenses for the Sunday Morning Photographer. Totally subjective and opinionated, even irreverent, but that’s what makes your writing so engaging and fresh. A book with plenty of example images to illustrate your points and the individual lenses would be fantastic. I see it as a better written, more entertaining version of the Ivor Matanle books, Collecting and Using Classic SLRs and Collecting and Using Classic Cameras, two books I thoroughly enjoy and continue to use as basic references.

My second choice would be Game Theory for Photographers. There’s not enough books and material out there to teach people how to photograph—how to see and react to the world photographically. Something that could be used by any or most photographers regardless of their camera format would be valuable and useful. I’d buy this one as well.

My gut reaction to Classic 35mm Photography is that it might be too late for a book like this, but on further reflection, maybe it’s not. My experiences working with high school photography teachers and students showed me that there is a tremendous interest in just this subject at the moment. It seems like there is a reactionary movement against digital among younger students who have grown up on computers. It’s similar to the movement among some young people to LPs and away from CDs. Both are probably small movements, but significant I think. 35mm cameras and film is exotic and magical to them. The handmade aspects of it have a great appeal to them.

How to Choose a Digital Camera seems like a hard sell, given your recent columns. Very entertaining and I understand your point of view on the subject and mostly agree with you, but it’s not really reassuring to the consumers out there, which is who would be buying it. A hard sell, I think, though undoubtedly useful and honest.

Hermon Joyner

7:02 AM  
Blogger hugo solo said...

The four.

7:03 AM  
Blogger JRG said...

Classic 35mm Photography

7:03 AM  
Blogger Paul Maxim said...


No question in my mind: Game Theory for Photographers (assuming that you're referring to the "mental games" we all play when we're wandering around with a camera). I think 90% of photography is each individual's unique mental process. The rest is the technical stuff. Since there is no scarcity of technical books out there, I would definitely vote for any kind of non-technical effort.

7:08 AM  

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