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119 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Photo Book I've Ever Read
'50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer's Photographer' is remarkably open and honest, both from emotional/personal and technical/photographic points of view. And as beautiful as the photography is, you will not find the pictures the main takeaway from the book.

That last sentence feels strange and somehow sacrilegious to write, but it is...
Published 10 months ago by D. Hobby

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars My Last Kindle Book
I am old-fashioned and love the feel and smell of real books, but I thought I'd give this one a shot on my iPad Air. The book itself is great, but the image quality of the photographs is simply horrible. They're low-res jpgs and any enlargement is a complete waste of time. I will stick with "real" books in the future.
Published 8 months ago by M. Morris


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119 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Photo Book I've Ever Read, October 22, 2013
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This review is from: Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer's Photographer (Hardcover)
'50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer's Photographer' is remarkably open and honest, both from emotional/personal and technical/photographic points of view. And as beautiful as the photography is, you will not find the pictures the main takeaway from the book.

That last sentence feels strange and somehow sacrilegious to write, but it is absolutely true. And the title is actually a good representation of the book's focus. The pleasant surprise is that he is actually a very good writer, and you can hear him sitting and talking with you as you read it.

This is not a lighting book. Although, to be sure, there is a lot of lighting information in it. Perhaps more value in lighting education than any book I have ever read. What this is, is a 360-degree experience. Each of his fifty portraits gets its own little mini-chapter. The segment leads off with the photo, run full-page if vertical and double-truck if horizontal. The accompanying copy begins with the thought process leading up to the photo -- all of the thousand little things that happen before you press the shutter. You are there, with him, inside his thought process.

And in so many of the portraits, I could see the multiple instances in which I would have failed to come up with the solutions to make great pictures. It's disheartening, in a sense. Like watching someone effortlessly navigate all the way through a video game that had repeatedly stopped you.

Except, it's not effortless. What you get from this is a true sense of the work ethic (or "thought ethic?") that being a great photographer requires. And there is so, so much pre-thinking that goes into consistently being able to make great photos. That may be the biggest takeaway from this. It has already changed the way I prepare to shoot.

There is also an emotional openness that is required for intimate portrait photography. This is so alien to me, and I am slowly learning that it is something I need to nurture. On the other hand, it is gratifying to see the hard work and thought that goes into making these photos. It would totally suck if there was just a "great photographer" gene, and I didn't have it and never would.

The second written portion in each segment is "Thoughts on Technique," to which many here will be tempted to skip ahead. But don't. The first section sets it all up -- it puts you there, and gets you thinking. Only then are you ready to consider the more technical and photo-related solutions.

Finally, Heisler includes what he unofficially calls the "Moron Section" in the back of the book. (As in, "For more on this photo...") There you'll find camera types, lenses, film, exposure, lighting gear specifics, etc.:

'50 Portraits' feels like Heisler is writing to his twenty-year-old self. It's the book you'd write if you wanted to put all of the important stuff into one place, as opposed to jus another book on photo technique.

You're a photographer. So the first thing you'll do is flip through it and look at the photos. You'll see many of his most famous images, interspersed with ones you have never seen before. Or have seen, and did no know Heisler took them.

After that, the challenge is this: Do you pop a cold beer and blow through it in one long sitting? Or do you read (and re-read) it slowly, learning as much as you can from one chapter at a time.

I'd vote for the latter. In fact, I am going to slowly go through it at the rate of one photo a week. And just for the record, if I were teaching a photo class in college, this would be my text and I would teach it in chunks, drawn out over the semester.

50 Portraits is the opportunity to rent the brain of perhaps the best living portraitist today -- and to do so to a remarkable extent. That this book costs less than $25 is almost ridiculous. Be glad it doesn't cost what it is worth.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The lack of techincal info is a gift., October 23, 2013
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This review is from: Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer's Photographer (Hardcover)
Years ago, when I was starting out as an adventure photographer, I asked a mentor of mine to recommend a book. He suggested Galen Rowell's "Mountain Light". I read and I read, looking for hard, technical information that I could replicate on my own adventures and came up utterly empty. How could a photography book be so devoid of this valuable information? It was only years later, after I'd gotten over (or at least more comfortable with) my obsession with the technical bits of photography and going back to that book, that I began to understand the opportunity I'd missed.

Heisler's "50 Portraits" is exactly that sort of book. Though you can get the technical info by digging into the back, you would totally miss the best this book has to offer in doing so. The real gift is reading Heisler's words. Image by image, he tells the story behind every capture in intricate detail. From the initial assignment call and pre-visualization of the concept, to the stomach-churning stress of the sometimes chaotic moments preceding the final capture, when all of his plans seemed to be falling down around him like the fractured walls of an dilapidated building - this is the insight that no quantity of cookie-cutter workshops could ever provide. Subject interaction, achieving the proper emotion, selecting the context to match the sitter - all of this and more are what makes up the real value of this book.

There is no shortage of info out there about light modifiers, daylight balancing, broad lighting vs. short lighting and so on. But great photography is about so much more than that - it's about the whole creative process and knowing which of all those tricks will work best to compliment a person or an environment and why. While at times I selfishly wish he was more targeted in his story telling, speaking exclusively to an experienced photographic ear, I found those gaps easily back-filled by the richness of the overall info conveyed. In "50 Portraits" Heisler is letting you inside his head to hear his meticulous creative process and to be a fly on the wall, on-location (and before), while he captures some of the most evocative portraits of our time.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A slow worthy read, page by page. Don't think twice. Get this book!, October 23, 2013
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Med rock NY (forest hills, ny United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer's Photographer (Hardcover)
The words are more important than the pictures. It may sound odd to say, especially about a book on Photography. But it's the truth! Heisler's description on his thought (process) is worth every single penny spent on this book. Building trust with the sitter (subject) is key beyond lighting, camera and everything else. The photos are very good. In fact, you may have seen many of them before -- but the knowledge imparted is exquisite. All in a quite beautiful and large-sized book.

Yes, I would have liked to have seen portraits of ordinary people, not just mostly famous personalities. But maybe that will be in the next book.

Don't think twice. Do get this book if you want to learn more about the artist and if you are looking to stop, pause and reflect upon yourself.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars He not only looks like James Joyce, but he writes like him!, October 22, 2013
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Joseph Klein (Stevenson, MD, US) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer's Photographer (Hardcover)
As a fan of Greg Heisler and his mentor Arnold Newman, I have been waiting for this book since I first learned that it was in the works during a workshop at Maine Media in 2011 with Greg and his captivating daughters and delightful partner. While very few exceed his technical skills, refreshing creativity, and ability to see in wonderfully different ways (just look at those tilted and shifted planes of focus); what comes across loud and clear in this beautiful hardcover book is just how articulate yet down to earth truly is this lovable man. He can shoot. He can write. And, above all he is a true mensch. It is therefore no wonder that his subjects responded to him with such compelling images. Badger & Parr, please make room for this classic. Andrew Roth, you need to change your title to 102 Books. And, what an incredible bargain at $24.00. Many thanks! I am buying five more for holiday gifts.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book to study and a beautiful book to own. It excels in three areas., December 5, 2013
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This review is from: Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer's Photographer (Hardcover)
This book gives you a window into the mind of an outstanding photographer. You see the thought process, the planning, the careful attention to detail that went into 50 photo shoots. And, all too often you see what separates the artist from the rest of us; the ability to adapt at the last minute to changing or unexpected conditions.

You get compelling insights into the personalities of 50 personalities that Mr. Heisler's photographed. That makes for interesting reading even if you are not a photographer. I wonder if his ability to see those non-physical details so clearly has anything to do with the quality of his work? As an aside, Mr Heisler refers to the people he photographs as "sitters". That's a term also used by professional fortunetellers to refer to their clients who play an active role, frequently a more active role than they realize, it their process. But, I digress.

You DO get real, useful, practical technical nuggets scattered throughout the book. Granted, they are not details shoot setup diagrams like you find in Kevin Kubotas Lighting Notebook and there is still a fair amount of technical wealth here. Another aside, both of these books are good, for different reasons, and I would recommend the Heisler book first.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant, November 25, 2013
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This review is from: Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer's Photographer (Hardcover)
When it comes to books about portraiture, you'll find volumes written about lighting, posing, and technique. There are also plenty of books that will try to walk you through a behind-the-scenes description of a location or studio shoot. Most of those books look the same after a while, and share precious little that is truly inspirational or unique. In "50 Portraits", Heisler breaks the mold and shares some truly remarkable images from his work, while accompanying each photo with fascinating details about the thinking and technique behind the shoot.

Note that this is not a primer, or technical book. There's certainly discussion of technical topics that went into creating a particular photograph, but you won't find mundane 'how-to' advice in this book. Instead, Heisler's thoughts on technical topics are for the most part quite general, but give you insights into how masterfully crafted each portrait is (case in point: portrait #49 of Julia Roberts is absolutely stunning, as is the description of how it was put together). His descriptions will leave you astonished at the subtly and care that goes into every aspect of the image.

What's really unique about this book is the thoughtful recording of the ideas behind each portrait. Heisler carefully describes what he was trying to accomplish in each photo and why. You really get a sense for how each image was very carefully planned to communicate something specific *about* the subject, and how those qualities were created. The images are not about his lighting technique, but rather to convey something specific about the sitter.

Whether he's sharing ideas about working with people, giving advice on technique, or describing his thought process behind an image, each segment that accompanies the photograph is both fascinating and thought-provoking. After reading '50 Portraits' I found myself looking at portraiture in an entirely different way, and gave me a whole new appreciation for the art.

The images themselves have excellent print reproduction, and the large, hard-cover binding makes this a great addition to any bookshelf. While this is available on Kindle, I can't imagine why anyone would opt to get a digital edition of this book, when it's the prints that make each photo truly come alive.

Highly recommended for any photographer interested in portrait photography. You'll be hard pressed to find a better book than this one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational and Instructional, August 21, 2014
By 
Robert (United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer's Photographer (Hardcover)
This is the quintessential book on photography for those seeking inspiration and improved technique. My library contains dozens of books on photography, some intended for perusing; others intended for instruction. Some are technical; others not so much. This book contains some of the best photography found anywhere, and Mr. Heisler presents his narrative about each of the portraits in storybook fashion. His prose is on par with his photography, which is quite an accomplishment, given the beauty of his images.

Without trying to impress the reader with technical jargon, Heisler explains in considerable detail how he set up the fifty portraits to achieve the awesome results. This is a book for the coffee table, but also one one for the reference library.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well curated, narrated, and produced book, the print edition is a must, July 21, 2014
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This review is from: Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer's Photographer (Hardcover)
I first bought the Kindle version, but the electronic format did not do justice to Heisler's work. Then, I bought the print edition and what a great experience that was. Books like this cannot be fully experienced in Kindle format. His photography is superb, his narrative is insightful and eloquent, a joy to read. I have listened to him on many videos and read some of his writing online. This is an excellent addition to any photography library with its great selection of photographs and excellent writing. The physical attributes of the book are also up to the task in hand, the paper is excellent so is printing and layout. You will enjoy this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow all I can say is WOW, August 5, 2014
This review is from: Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer's Photographer (Hardcover)
This is by far one of the most breathtaking books on portraiture. Every image is as if a moment was frozen between moments. Combine that with the words of the photographer about what was happening, what he was thinking and the technical considerations that informed his choices to create the final image makes this a book I will read more than once and one I keep on my desk as an inspiration of what one can do.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, January 19, 2014
By 
Mark Kitaoka (Pacifica, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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I finally found a book that made me think "someone else gets what I go through!" His approach to his work taught me a ton. Highly recommended for non pixel peepers.
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Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer's Photographer
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