If you have a short attention span or if you think this post is going to be boring here is the quick answer -
If it is recommended to you by someone who's opinion you value.
Personally I don't like to give up on something I've started, but occasionally when I get bogged down in book, I put it away and move on to something more inspiring. Recently though I had a booked recommended to me that is possibly one of the most boring books that I have ever read, but I was still compelled to finish it. Whats more the book changed the way I work, improved my efficiency and save me a lot of wasted time and stress. The book is Digital Asset Management for Photographers by Peter Krogh. Apologies to the the author for being rude about the book as it is very well written, the content is very useful and relevant. It is just that the subject matter is dull so it was never going to be a thrilling read.
The title does give you a big hint that the book is not a thriller so why did I even pick it up. I spend a lot of time photographing inaminate objects (buildings or food) and last year I was looking to enhance my photography of people. Part of my work is to tell the story of my clients. So after doing a short course on photo journalism I was lucky enough to be mentored by Stuart Freedman. For those of you who may not know, Stuart is an award winning reportage photographer whose work has featured in many national and international publications like Time, The Sunday Times Magazine, and Paris Match so he knows his stuff. Whilst we were reviewing my portfolio together he asked if I had any pictures showing a particular theme (I forget what theme it was now). I hunted for that particular photo on my laptop, but couldn't find it. I could picture the photograph in my head but couldn't remember where it was stored on my hard drive. You need to read "The Dam Book" Stuart told me.
My photography of people had dramatically improved in the short period I worked with Stuart. I learnt how to structure a photo essay and how to capture compelling images that would help me tell the stories of my prospective clients. So when he recommended the book I trusted his opinion and ordered a copy and started to read it. The hard back version was very heavy going so I then went to the authors website and found the electronic version. This included instructional videos and made the book a whole lot easier to cope with. I can't say I ever found the book exciting, but I did find it extremely useful. It tells you how to organise a photo library, how to store your files, how to label and categorise them. How to organise keywords and assign them to the photos so when someone asks you for a specific photograph you can find it quickly and easily.
I take close to 10,000 photographs a year. Many of which I don't need to keep longer than a few months, but many that I do need or want to keep for future use. That leaves me with a catalogue of more than 35000 photos. I'll admit to being not very good at housekeeping because admin bores me, but now I do know that within my catalogue I can isolate all the shots that I will need to delete easily and quickly. I have a well organised library that allows me to find photographs of any subject in less than a few minutes. This saves me a lot of stress, and helps me avoid missed opportunities. If I need to find all my best food shots to prepare a pitch to a new client I can find them in seconds.
If Stuart hadn't recommended Peter Krogh's book I would never have heard of it, let alone read it. Maybe that says more about the power of recommendations than about the power of boring texts. How about you? Have you read anything boring that really helped you?- let me know in the comments section.