Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous by Brian Smith

I read this book using Safari Books Online from O’Reilly Media.

Brian Smith is an amazing photographer and has a personality to match. He is able to quickly make a personal connection with people from all walks of life and create photographs that highlight their personality and emotion.

"Secrets of Great Portrait Photography" gives us insight to the methods Brian uses to get close to his subjects and capture images that make the client, usually magazine creative directors, and the subject happy with the results.

This is not a book about how to use your camera, how to pose a subject, or how to make them feel comfortable. It is a book about many of Brian’s favorite pictures and what he did or did not do to achieve them. It does not go very deep into anything, instead choosing to keep things light and easy. The only thing that bugged me was the amount of repetition, definitions and ideas are often repeated.

This photography in the book is fantastic and the writing is very conversational. I read the entire book in a few hours and spent much of that time dissecting the pictures.

I plan on taking his challenge of taking 50 portraits of total strangers seriously and maybe some time in spring or fall setting myself up somewhere very public and making myself ask strangers to let me take their portrait. Interacting with people like that is very hard for me; maybe doing that will give me some sort of insight to myself and make it easier for me in the future.

From the publisher:

In this sexy, bold book, Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer Brian Smith tells the stories behind the photos and lessons learned in 30 years of photographing celebrities and people from all walks of life. Smith’s long list of famous and infamous subjects includes pro basketball players Dwayne Wade and Shaquille O’Neal; billionaires Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Donald Trump; tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams; actors Anne Hathaway, Antonio Banderas, Christopher Walken, Taye Diggs, Jane Krakowski, and William H. Macy; and many more.

You’ll get the inside scoop on what goes on at a celebrity photo shoot in this gorgeous guide to making professional portraits. Smith has mastered how to make a meaningful portrait on a magazine’s budget and on a celebrity’s schedule, which can sometimes be 15 minutes or less. Smith reveals his tips on connecting with people, finding the perfect location, telling a great story through portraiture, getting the ideal pose, capturing emotion and gestures, arranging unique group shots, and lighting the scene just right. You might not be photographing the rich and famous, but after reading Smith’s tell-all guide, you’ll know how to give everyone who makes their way in front of your camera the star treatment.

I rate this book an 8 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone with an interest in taking photographs of people.

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