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Anne McKinnell’s Excellent Photography eBooks Part 1

In my mission statement on the Home page of this site, I promise to discuss problems and difficulties I have encountered in my photography hobby over the years, and to present the solutions I found. This blog is an effort to fulfill that promise.

In 2016 I was living in my 5th wheel RV trailer 7 miles west of Whitefish, MT. I was keeping busy skiing and shoveling the snow off my roof. I was also trying to get used to a new camera I had purchased. The scenery where I was living was beautiful. But my photo results were abysmal. I had good cable internet, and I went searching for solutions.

On one of my favorite websites,, I read a tutorial by Anne McKinnell. Her writing made an immediate impact on me; it was clear and easy to understand. She explained technical subjects in such a manner I could grasp them on the first read. I ordered her ebooks and subscribed to her newsletter. One of the best photography moves I ever made.

I am introducing you visitors to my blog to the instructional materials Anne has written by outlining/reviewing her 7 ebooks. I will also discuss her Launch Into Lightroom video course. Having read each ebook, and used the LIL video when I converted from DXO to Lr editing software, I believe that if you make use of her teachings, you will become a much better photographer in a short period of time.

Because of the amount of information in these 7 ebooks, I have divided this outline/review into 2 parts. There are 2 ways to use this review:

1. Read it straight thru in its entirety so you can get a feel for the depth of Anne’s photographic knowledge these ebooks convey to you. It is about a 20 minute read.

2. Look at the contents list and decide which topics pique your interest, then go to that book or books and read the review.

Two points I would like to make before I begin this review:

  •  Anne has priced these ebooks inexpensively. Three of the ebooks are FREE, one is $4.99, and the other 3 are $9.99 each.  Launch Into Lightroom is $29.00 You can order them at her website

  • Because these are ebooks, shipping is free, and delivery is almost instantaneous.  


The 7 ebooks are:

Part 1

Taking Control  Essential Camera Skills For Beginners

The Compelling Photograph I   Techniques For Creating better Images

The Compelling Photograph II  Techniques For Creating better Images

Part 2

8 Ways To Accelerate Your Photography How To Speed Up The Learning Curve

22 Landscape Photography Mistakes   And How To Avoid Them

Before The Shutter  Planning Your Next Travel Photography Adventure

8 Types Of Natural Light  That Will Add Drama To Your Photographs

Launch Into Lightroom   A Video Course

 Book 1

Taking Control

Chapter 1: Your Equipment            Chapter 4: Focusing

Chapter 2: Basic Camera Settings        Chapter 5: In The Field

Chapter 3: Exposure And Light

Chapter one begins with a discussion on cameras, the first piece of equipment a novice photographer purchases. Anne differentiates between a point and shoot camera, a DSLR, and the newest type, a mirrorless camera. Well done is a graphic display of different sensor sizes; she points out it is prudent to buy the largest sensor you can afford. Listed are the other features important to taking control of your camera, and your images. The discussion on tripods comes next, ahead of lenses. This conveys how important using a tripod is, and how much they contribute to taking good photography. Then come the lenses and filters with details on zoom lengths and buying lenses specific for your camera. A brief introduction to filters is next; she explains the UV filter and circular Polarizing filter, along with what size to buy for your lens.

Chapter 2 outlines the difference between JPEG files and RAW files and explains how RAW files contain much more data and versatility for editing. These reasons are why most serious photographers shoot RAW files. Next, Anne explains the four shooting modes with examples of what situations are best photographed in Aperture mode, Shutter mode, Manual mode, etc.  To end the chapter, a discussion on White Balance with 2 photos that help make the topic clear.

Chapter 3 is an in-depth look at the Exposure Triangle and F-stops. This chapter is a good example of Anne making a subject easier to understand through the use of graphics and photos accompanying the text. If you are discussing exposure etc. then it is necessary to explain metering modes.. She covers the 4 modes along with the recommendation on which to use. To keep track of your exposure, you must understand histograms. You need to learn histograms early in your photo career and here there is an excellent explanation, again with nice graphics.  The discussion turns to Exposure compensation and bracketing next, followed by the chapter ending Long Exposures.

Chapter 4 explains the 4 Focus Modes and the Focus Points. I liked how in this chapter, as in others, there is a gray-shaded Tip box. These boxes contain practical nuggets of knowledge that help you apply what the chapter is teaching about.

Chapter 5 is a step-by-step guide outlining the 10 things beginner photographers need to think about when out in the field taking images. It ends with an inspirational paragraph of 6 things that will get you out there taking photos.

Book 2

The Compelling Photograph 1

Lesson 1: Textures               Lesson 5: Silhouettes

Lesson 2: Lines                  Lesson 6: Closeups

Lesson 3: Colour                 Lesson 7: Frames

Lesson 4: Reflections            Lesson 8: Twilight

Looking Forward

Lesson 1 is all about Textures. Photography is in the details and texture is all about the detail. Anne explains the lights involved with different textures; sidelight, diffused soft light, etc. She talks about lens specifics for shooting textures. Each textural category, rust, trees, rocks, sand, water, etc., is replete with 1 or 2 colorful photos and an information box with further discussion below the photos. The lesson closes with an assignment for the viewer.

Lesson 2 covers lines in your images; horizontal, vertical, diagonal. Beautiful photos accompany each type and illustrate the talking points in the discussion. And as with each lesson, there is an assignment at the end which Anne heartily desires you do.

Lesson 3 is about composing with colour. (Did I mention Anne is Canadian?) In Anne’s words “Colours determine the viewers emotional response to an image. They set the mood and determine what part of an image gets the most attention”. She then discusses colour theory; primary, secondary, complimentary. The discussion moves on to colour hue, saturation, and luminosity. And also two combinations of colours; blue and orange, green and red. There are examples of the energy of vibrant colours and the calmness of pastels. The lesson concludes with 3 tips and a 3 part assignment.

Lesson 4 covers reflections.  Provided are examples of reflections in calm water, not so calm, and  the ocean.  Anne shows how sometimes just the reflection is the main subject of the image. And she points out that reflections are everywhere; cityscapes, mountain lakes, ocean beaches. There are examples of reflections of colourful objects in rippled water giving an abstract effect to the image. Her tips at the end of the lessons includes one on graduated neutral filters, very applicable.

Lesson 5 is about silhouettes. She explains the three elements of a silhouette; light, shape, and colour. In combination they introduce intrigue and mystery.  We often photograph them in difficult light situations such as a setting sun. Anne explains the steps in how to expose your image under these conditions. Shooting into the setting sun results in lens flares and she gives tips on how to deal with these. She discusses polarizing filters next, then the lesson concludes with 5 great tips and an assignment.

Lesson 6 covers close-ups. The lesson discusses how close-ups and macros can be complementary to the larger landscape. She says that seeing the details in our world will give your viewers more context and story. And since macro photography is a specialized niche, Anne goes over the equipment needed, tripod, lenses, lights, etc. There is an in-depth discussion on focusing your close-up image, which leads into the subject of Depth Of Field. She finishes the lesson talking about finding the small details in a scene.

Lesson 7 explains the use of frames inside the boundaries of your photo. This is a frame besides the edges of the photo. Surrounding the subject of your image within a frame adds interest and creates a story. Anne provides 12 beautiful images to help explain the concept, including architectural and natural frames. She also discusses the difficulty of getting the exposure right with a bright subject and a dark frame structure.

Lesson 8 clarifies the difference between the Golden Hour and twilight. Twilight is the time after sunset (or before sunrise) when the sun is not visible in the sky. Anne explains that Twilight is characterized by pink and then blue pastel shades of light. 7 very nice photos show the subtle differences in colour shades at twilight. Anne explains that as the light darkens, HDR or graduated Neutral Density filters may be of benefit. The lesson concludes with 10 Tips for shooting in twilight, including wearing warm clothes!

Looking Forward is a personal note from Anne ; she gives insight into her next ebook, The Compelling Photographs 2. And invites you to join her in using her ebooks and eCourses on your journey to being a better photographer.

Book 3

The Compelling Photograph 2

I found the introduction to this ebook insightful to Anne’s purpose for writing this series. “These books are designed to show you a combination of camera skills, the elements of a good image design, and creative photography techniques to give you a solid foundation on which to base your vision “.

Lesson 1: Patterns                       Lesson 5: Shapes

Lesson 2: Symmetry                   Lesson 6: Depth Of Field         

Lesson 3: Leading Lines            Lesson 7: Long Exposure

Lesson 4: Curves                         Lesson 8: Minimalism

Looking Forward

Lesson 1 is a tutorial on patterns. A pattern is an element that repeats, such as a line or a color; 3 or more repetitions makes up a pattern. Anne postulates that patterns are everywhere and the 14 masterful photos in this lesson bear that out. She states that patterns can be regular, or irregular: they also occur in combinations. Patterns can fill the entire frame of your image, or they can just be the main subject and not fill the entire frame. The lesson concludes with 3 tips and the assignment.

Lesson 2 covers symmetry in your images. Despite what you may have learned about the Rule Of Thirds, we associate symmetry with beauty. Anne teaches symmetry conveys balance, equality of proportions, and harmony. And she explains the differences between the ROT and symmetry using images and text. Next she explains man-made symmetry and natural symmetry. The lesson finishes up with a section on a related subject, Balance. 4 tips with photos and the assignment conclude this lesson.

Lesson 3 continues on the theme of lines, horizontal, vertical, and diagonal, but now these lines are leading lines. Anne explains how leading lines are a pathway for your eyes to follow through the different elements of an image. Leading lines can be roads, fences, bridges, just about anything that lines up in a row and takes your eye into the image. She points out they are man-made or natural. Leading lines don’t have to be straight; S curves are very effective and well shown by her images. Anne passes on the tip “Leading lines are the key compositional element that carries our eye through the photograph.  We can use them to tell a story, to place emphasis, and to draw a connection between two objects”.

Lesson 4 carries on the thought curves can be leading lines with the distinction they add sensuality and grace. Anne explains that curves are of different types, C-curves, arches, S-curves, circles, spirals, and implied curves, each illustrated in striking images. She asserts that curves can overlap, intersect, and converge; lines and curves can interact in ways limited only by your imagination. 5 tips and the assignment end this lesson.

Lesson 5 discusses shapes. Anne begins the lesson by splitting shapes into two categories: real and implied. She explains that real shapes are tangible, a solid object. Implied shapes are a relationship between objects and created in our minds. For example, in an image of the moon overhead and two boats on the water, our minds created the implied shape of a triangle. Anne lists the shapes; circles, triangles, squares, and the emotional impact of each. Include in this list is “other shapes”, any subject with a  strong shape.  The lesson ends with the thought “shapes are everywhere, you must learn how to include them in your compositions as effective tools of visual communication”.

Lesson 6 is the important subject of Depth Of Field (DOF). Anne begins by making the strong statement “Out of all the major compositional tools, where you choose to place the focal point has the greatest effect on how people will view your image”. She details large DOF and shallow DOF. This leads to an in-depth explanation of three things that control DOF; aperture, your lens, and the distance between you and the subject. I have mentioned before in other lessons or chapters how she accompanies the text with images and/or graphs; in this section on DOF, Anne has taken it up a notch. Each point has one or several supporting graphs or images. I have read articles about DOF before but never this well written.

Lesson 7 covers one of my favorite techniques, long exposures. Anne explains that a long exposure uses a slow shutter speed to achieve an artistic effect. She points out you may use long exposures for blurry effect, but also, you may be in a low light situation and need to use a long exposure to get the photo. The sub-sections in this lesson are A Firm Footing (use a sturdy tripod), How Long Is Long(HLIL), and Cut The Light.  Accompanying HLIL are 6 images that visually explain different exposure times. CTL gets into Neutral Density filters and how to use them. She concludes the lesson with a discussion on Stops and calculating shutter speeds and aperture settings.

Lesson 8 is  Minimalism ; “Less Is More”. Anne makes the point that “In photography, the images with most impact, tend to have fewer objects in them.” Minimalism takes this to an extreme. Four suggested ways to do this are: 1. leave lots of empty space around your subject 2. use fewer colours 3. isolate simple lines and curves 4. cropping and cloning. She explains each and adds support with images. She finishes this lesson with 6 tips. And the assignment.

Looking Forward is a personal note, Anne expresses the importance of doing each lessons assignment She mentions other services such as eCourses she offers; please go to her website for current information.

Please go to Part 2 of this outline/review