Book review: how we’re using GetSmarter to get better at photography!

“As children, people learn incredible things without even realising that they’re learning because, for the most part, that learning is cloaked as play. As they get older, the sand boxes and crayons and multi-coloured clay get packed away and they’re told that, in order to learn, they need to be serious.”

1048544_10152943050545481_1249675551_oA very rare and very welcome tone, being encouraged to play around while gaining valuable tips is what you get when you pick up the GetSmarter Digital Photography course manual. Created as an accompaniment to the GetSmarter Digital Photography course that is run through UCT, this manual, comprising of 10 modules, is incredibly useful to anyone who wants to learn a thing or two about the art of picture taking even if the course is not in their budget.

Take me for example. Over the last few months, I’ve been taking a manual photography course at an art college in Woodstock and I have relished every moment. From producing photograms, and developing film, to working in the dark room with enlargers, developing prints and playing around with blue and copper toners, the entire experience has been really rewarding. There is only one thing the course does not cover in enough depth: how to take a beautiful photograph.

1048869_10152943050715481_1383428797_oRather than fork out for another course, I set off to find this information elsewhere and stumbled upon the GetSmarter guys. Digital photography and manual photography may differ in their technical aspects (cameras used, photo developing techniques, photo sharing methods etc), but the same rules of artistic mastery apply in both mediums when heading out to capture an image. Knowing about the ISO and aperture necessary to capture images in different light conditions makes a phenomenal difference to the final result. Similarly, composition, despite being the least technical aspect of picture taking, is actually the hardest aspect to get right and one of the elements that has to be mastered to get that striking image.

Of the 10 modules on Digital Photography offered by GetSmarter, I found 7, 8 and 9 to be the most useful to what I was looking for. Module 7 covers the art of composition by extolling the virtues of vanishing points, leading the eye, symmetry and ‘less is more’. Module 8 covers the tricky aspects of portraiture, as well as including a great, brief history of the use of portraiture and some great classic examples of what these images look like when done correctly. And finally, module 9 covers landscape photography, which is the subject matter that I find the hardest to capture. How do you deal with peculiar light conditions and how do you capture an enormous, beautiful space without losing all of the natural contrasts and visual depth? It is easier said than done, but I’ve certainly learned a few tricks to keep in mind for future attempts.


In addition to these, the entire manual covers everything from capturing motion in photographs, to lens advice, playing with shutter speed, experimenting with exposure times, making the most of your flash and a brilliant introduction to editing techniques using Photoshop. I learned a lot and most of all, I will continue to play until I manage to capture images the way that I want them to be. The best thing is that I am more than happy to keep trying.

– Marie-Louise, Paperight Marketing Coordinator

Attention! For R90, you can get all 10 modules from Jetline Thibault Square in Cape Town who are a Paperight registered print-on-demand bookstore. You can also get individual modules for about R25 each. Go to or SMS +27 (0)73 724 2501 to find your nearest print-on-demand bookstore!

Paperight book reviews: The Art of War – Sun Tzu

Some books are great. Some books aren’t so great. Some books, like Sun Tzu’s Art of War, are well-established classics for reasons that some people can’t quite understand. Yazeed Peters, our Outlets Development Manager, is one of those people. For this month’s Paperight staff book review, Yazeed reflects on paintball, collaborative Chinese authorship and about why people would ever think so highly of a millenniums-old general’s advice.

I gasp for air, my lungs struggling to suck in enough oxygen to feed my racing heart. I have almost completed my mission. Many men have fallen in this brave journey through this deadly forest. I scan the area carefully for the enemy before attempting my final dash towards victory. The coast is clear. I jump over the rocks and race towards safety but then, I hear it, that harrowing sound of gunfire. I feel the burning pain in the side of my neck. I’ve been hit. So close. But not close enough to win this game of paintball…

I love paintball. It’s more exciting than any video game would ever be. Victory is the ultimate glory for the avid paintballer, and as any paintballer would tell you, the better strategy often leads to victory. As a somewhat competitive person I decided that I need to find myself The Art of War, written by Chinese general Sun Tzu centuries ago, to improve my chances of victory next time I hit the battlefield. I have never read any review on it but I knew that there’s an action movie which carries the same title. Surely, that proved that The Art of War must be a very good book.

I hurried down to The Office Crew, my closest Paperight registered copy shop, to purchase myself a copy. To my delight,, the Paperight Edition only cost me R25 and I found the printing to be beautiful. Even though I had been working at Paperight for a few months, I had never truly appreciated the benefits Paperight could bring to me personally. Buying The Art of War changed all that.

Continue reading Paperight book reviews: The Art of War – Sun Tzu

Paperight book reviews: The Pat Hobby Stories – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Every couple of weeks (or thereabouts), one member of the Paperight team will write about a book he or she bought and printed at a Paperight outlet, in order to get to know our products and outlets better and to ensure our team’s collective reading health.

Starting this little venture off is communications chief/moonlighting journalist Nick Mulgrew, who bought F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Pat Hobby Stories from 3@1 Cavendish, and who thinks big words make him sound smart. (They don’t.)

As I once said in an author profile on blog a few months ago, F. Scott Fitzgerald didn’t have much of a happy life. With an immense talent matched only by a propensity for self-destruction, Fitzgerald’s life very closely imitated his art.

His best-known works are his quartet of finished novels, the most-loved of which undoubtedly being 1922’s The Great Gatsby, a novel that admittedly doesn’t have the most involved plot  – a popular, nouveau-rich man throws a few parties, dotes on love unrequited, and is shot in his swimming pool – but, as per the Fitzgeraldian mode, is heavy on symbolism: the clash of old money and new, of raining ash and glitter, and the seemingly omniscient eyes of advertising billboards silently watching over a proxy world for the Jazz Age that Fitzgerald concurrently loved and hated.

Fitzgerald’s life was notoriously troubled, and it didn’t have a happy end either. At the time of his death from a heart attack at the age of 42, he considered himself a failure. His books had not yet garnered the legendary status, the motion picture reboots, and the mythology that they enjoy today. He wrote semi-autobiographically: his tumultous relationships with fellow writers and the toxicity of his marriage to Zelda – a socialite and writer blessed with a tolerance for alcohol to rival her husband’s, but only a fraction of his literary talents – only heightened the sense of purposelessness in his novels, as well as his own feelings of inadequacy while trying to make money writing screenplays in young Hollywood in his latter years.

Inwardly, Fitzgerald suffered in movietown – he found the work degrading, and suffered with tuberculosis possibly resulting from decades of heavy drinking – but the external manifestations of his internal strife were, much like the rest of his work, irresistibly entertaining. Not widely-known as part of the Fitzgerald canon, The Pat Hobby Stories are a collection of 17 short stories written somewhat nostalgically about his time in Hollywood, following the exploits and spiralling misfortune of a slightly above-average silent film screenwriter struggling in the newly-dawned motion picture age.

Reduced to a skulking alcoholic, Pat Hobby is a figure of post-talkies desperation, seeking piecemeal work and concocting scams to secure him some screen credit and – ever the driving impulses in Fitzgerald’s work – love, fame and money. Typically, however, Hobby’s bungling schemes don’t work out, only deepening the erstwhile social climber’s misery and humiliation further.

Fitzgerald’s fine-tuned senses of self-parody and perspective save the Pat Hobby Stories from becoming a series of tiny self-directed dirges. Driven by many of the same spirits as 2011’s surprise hit (silent) film The Artist, the Pat Hobby Stories lilt with black humour and wit, and collectively form a comedic, full-length portrait of the sort of man Fitzgerald might have been without the saving grace of his singular talent: a sputtering, disenfranchised hack kicking about the studio lot.

Tragically, Fitzgerald might have thought himself more Pat Hobby than the Great American Novelist he really was, even after the successes of The Great Gatsby and This Side of Paradise, which was published in 1920. After a life of chronic ambivalence, a life then remembered less for its successes than its defeats, he died in the middle of the Pat Hobby stories’ run in Esquire magazine between January 1940 and May 1941. The run didn’t stop with his death: the final stories were published posthumously; effectively the first acts of his legacy, and his slow rise to the pantheon of literary greats.

Testing Democracy – Neeta Misra-Dexter

Our library of over 400 books from the African Books Collective is an incredibly rich resource of African literature and scholarship.

I especially like Neeta Misra Dexter’s Testing Democracy, a wonderfully insightful inquiry of the important relationship between development and democracy. Can a country truly be called democratic if it remains chronically underdeveloped? Is a citizen’s right to participate in the democratic process negatively affected when life is a day-to-day struggle?

Misra-Dexter answer these questions here, using South Africa as a case study, arguing along the way that underdevelopment damages any state’s claims to democracy, leading to single-party states, institutionalised inequality and encroachments on human dignity.

Heavy stuff, then. But a necessary inquiry in any case. I’m happy that these sorts of books are now available through any copy shop through Paperight. It can only do good.