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176 of 180 people found the following review helpful
This book is different. It approaches photography from the artistic side, not the technical side. You occasionally hear comments like "shooting with a small aperture" or "with an off-camera flash", but this is about as technical as it gets. Valenzuela does not discuss camera menus, gear choice, or lighting ratios. If you don't know what these terms mean, you'll need to look elsewhere (these are important things to know, no doubt). That being said, there are literally hundreds of information sources (many of them free) where you get that sort of technical information.

Valenzuela's book rather approaches the topics from a creative/artistic point of view: it teaches you how to recognize geometry in the scenes you are shooting; how to reduce the background clutter by finding "simple" structures that are effective compositional elements; why a picture needs "balance" and how you can use elements you find in the scene to achieve balance; which expressions and messages you send by taking silhouettes; which emotions do you evoke by which method of posing; how do you effectively pose a subject; etc. The book addresses the "why", as in "what's the message you are providing with this method?"; "why would you want to choose this approach?", at least as much as the "how".

And this book does that in an ingenious way: very short chapters, dedicated to one simple concept (shadow, silhoettes, balance, geometry, etc.). You can read each chapter in 5-15 minutes. The chapters are illustrated by pictures that are both excellent, and "approachable". Meaning: while many of the pictures are by all means fantastic, they are not so out-of-this-world artistically mind blowing that you look at them and feel "never in a million years will I be capable of producing something like that". In other words, the author (who is perfectly capable of producing out-of-this-world artistically mind blowing images) choose illustrations for his book that get his points across, and keep you motivated. His purpose is not to prove what a brilliant photographer he is (for that, have a look at the portfolio on his website, you'll be amazed!).

The short chapters always end with an exercise. These exercises obviously are meant to practice what was being discussed in the chapter. But at the same time, the exercises are real. "Take a camera and shoot 5 pictures of squares you find in the room you are currently in". They are of the type that makes you want to do them right away, because you know you can do this, and because you realize that it teaches you something (e.g. recognizing the geometry in a scene).

This book is refreshingly different. I am currently on my third read of the book (got it as a gift 2 weeks ago). First time I read it cover to cover, without stopping for the exercises (which I highly recommend, by the way). For the second read I re-visited some key chapters that I noticed towards the end that I had not completely understood. And now I am slowly making my way through each chapter, actually doing the exercises.

The "Picture Perfect" book would also make an excellent program for any camera club looking to develop an instructional schedule. Highly recommend!
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100 of 104 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2012
I almost didn't create a review for this product because I wanted to keep it as my own little best kept secret but it's just too good not to share. (If nothing else let this be my feeble way of thanking the author for creating it!)

My husband and I have this longstanding theory that no artist is every really going to share all of his/her secrets with you in a book, a workshop or otherwise, and based on every book and workshop I've ever taken I've found this theory to be alive and well. They give you just enough information to *think* you're going to learn a ton but you're left feeling like there was something missing--SOMETHING they just didn't share that would make all the puzzle pieces fit.
Then in comes Roberto Valenzuela and Picture Perfect Practice. He covers so many aspects of good photography it will literally take me years to master all that he has provided for devouring. That's not to say the concepts he shares are difficult per se, it's simply that there are so many things he covers, that to practice them to a point of mastery is no easy task. The book is organized well, by topic, and he provides key tips for practicing. He's really opened my eyes to the notion that photographers see the world differently. Not just during a session but every day. Every object is transformed by the photographers eye and this is percicely what he helps you to develop: your eye.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. I have paid thousands of dollars for workshops that have contained a third of what I've found in this book for under $30. With this workbook and dedicated practice to the craft, I defy you not to become the photographer you are destined to be. Keep on clickin!
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62 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2012
I have read more books than I can keep track of, trying to grasp photography as an art form. While I love photography, I am not a natural at it and have to work for every shot I get. I've pursued book after book to no avail. . . until this one. Within the first chapter I was already having "aha!" moments.

1. It is presented as exactly what I was looking for----"art"---rather than technical jargon. I got what he was saying because it made practical sense, without algorithms and camera jargon to try to understand in order to create pretty shots that grab the heart.

2. It's broken into a chart in the beginning that can be taken to any shoot (pull out the page, copy it down to a small card size, and laminate it) to remind of every concept in the book. From framing to finding the best at the location you're at even when it seems dismal to unique composition.

3. Each chapter has small bite-sized sections with assignments after each section (which hones in on each square in the chart given at the beginning). The assignments seemed too easy at first (find all the main shapes in your surroundings and take pictures of them) but they truly do build up from the foundation on, to add to a newbie photographer's knowledge and skill building.

If you can only buy one book in your pursuit of becoming a photographer that takes beautiful photos that tell stories to their observers, this is THE book you'll want to buy. Unless, of course, you want technical jargon. In that case, any other book on the Amazon list that came up on search, will do.

PS---as far as the reviews that this is a misleading book because it turns out it's about wedding photography, the author states at the outset he is a wedding photographer so those are the photos he uses to teach his concepts. While it would be neat to see his lessons in NON-wedding photos, they are still so point-on in example of what he is teaching, they only lend to his book, not take away from it. I have no desire to do weddings, yet I still am learning so very much from this book even with wedding photo illustrations. If you have doubts, check the content sample Amazon gives, so you can know exactly what to expect when the book arrives.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2012
I am THRILLED to write my first online book review for Roberto Valenzuela's "Picture Perfect Practice - A Self-Training Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Taking World-Class Photographs".

I have read this book as if it were a novel. It's a very easy read and geared toward any individual who takes photographs of people -- from a hobbiest photographer to professional.

More specifically... the book details the tools and thought process to take great photos of people in any location. Roberto breaks it all down on how to create naturally beautiful images.

Roberto Valenzuela is a Beverly Hills-based wedding photographer, however, the practical principles in his book can be applied to any individual(s) photographed.

The book includes three charts created by Roberto on which the book is based:

1) Location - Using geometry for framing, combining vertical symmetry with people, depth with context and more)

2) Posing (key posing techniques)

3) Execution (lighting through direction, beauty through angles and more)

Each chapter in the book goes into great detail on these charts by providing more granular information, how to apply the knowledge when taking photographs and practical, hands-on exercises for the reader complete with goals and explanations.

Nearly every page in the book contains photographic examples that support the content in each chapter.

Roberto's photographs are truly, truly picture perfect. I especially LOVE the photographs on pages 86, 199 and 274. : )

I am confident that my photography will go to the next level applying the knowledge gained from reading Roberto's book.

And, if you're wondering what I'll be doing this weekend... I'll be practicing "The Tourist Test" and the "Bird's Perspective"!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2013
The rating I came up with is based on my recent reading of a collection of other photography books. I also factored in my personal guidelines: below three stars I regret the purchase; at three I am more or less satisfied, at four this is a good value for the money.

The hardest side of photography for me is not camera handling. So when I found this book with such raving reviews I jumped on it. It focuses on composition, poses and some lighting. It does not address the technical aspects of camera handling, file management etc. What it does is propose a method to approach photography, supposedly all photography although it is pretty much centered on wedding photography.

As an engineer I tend to like systems and theories to apply to the problem at hand. Lighting, posing, composition etc. are complex issues requiring lots of attention to detail and to some extent I did benefit from the organized approach. Unfortunately one of the major points the author ends up demonstrating is how artistic matters cannot be shoehorned in theories. They mostly belong to the right brain, not the left one.

Although there are some very good suggestions and Roberto seems to be a talented professional wedding photographer, applying mere recipes just does not cut it. In too many cases an average photo is presented as the result of an elaborated thought process with remarks making sure you understand this is how great professionals do it (see pictures17.38, 18.2...). All too often it looks like at best a happy accident presented as the desired result thought through from the start. Some cases are interesting yet they seem to violate the same "principles" presented by the author - It looks like the really good pictures are the product of the author's talent, not his rules.
In other cases the resulting picture is really interesting, however I am not sure I would try and sell them to a couple as they seem to show indifference or even coolness between them (17.46, 17.49, 17.52, 17.63, even 17.74)

So why this rating?
I initially gave it three stars, probably as a reaction to the five stars average that had raised my expectations. However the book proposes lists of items to pay attention to when shooting, which although naturally not complete present quite a good starting point. The remarks about posing the arms and hands are pretty good as well as the chapters about silhouettes.
It unfortunately presents as rules what are admittedly good recipes, probably applicable to similar situations but certainly not cast-in-stone rules.

It also suggests a collection of composition exercises that I started to do seriously as a way to try and get the best from the book. Then pretty soon (two hours in three sessions) I stopped and wondered what they were bringing to me. I can now recognize a square when I see one. Cool.

Theory **
Photos ***
Explanations of why some pictures work and not others ***

What makes this book still interesting is a solid collection of points to check when selecting a location for a shoot and when posing people. Past the first chapters, almost all examples are in a wedding context but many posing techniques can be used in the studio or in other contexts as well.
If you are looking for a good overview including all other aspects of wedding photography, you will be better off with Glen Johnson's Digital Wedding Photography that covers all the business and technical aspects as well. If what you look for is mostly wedding pictures and don't care too much for the text, check out The Best of Wedding Photography.
For those of you who are looking for books about composition and lighting, there are a wealth of great books such as Master Lighting Guide for Portrait Photographers,Direction & Quality of Light,See It: Photographic Composition Using Visual Intensity or Extraordinary Everyday Photography which focus more on giving you ideas without trying to teach you "my posing system" (p172 in this one).

I hope this helps. Don't hesitate to ask me questions in comments.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on September 29, 2012
Roberto's Valenzuela's 'Picture Perfect Practice' is a very nicely written and inspirational book that gives the reader solid advice on taking better people pictures. While it's obvious that wedding photography is the main genre covered by this book, a lot of the tips are useful for people photography in general. Perhaps the worst thing about this book is its title, which I think is probably too generic to capture what's really contained inside.

The majority of the first part of this book, called "Locations", consists of 15 chapters that primarily contains topics most people would call "composition". You'll find coverage of all of the usual compositional topics (with a focus on its application in people photography), such as lines, balance, patterns, etc. There are some truly excellent images here (and throughout the book in general). I really loved how there are parts where Valenzuela takes a snapshot of the location to show you how ordinary it is, and then shows a spectacular photo that he was able to make from there. These examples were very educational and inspirational. Every photo always had a purpose, and accompanied the text very well. I've read dozens of books on composition, and this one is definitely among the best of the bunch. There are also exercises that accompany many of the chapters in this book, but to be honest, there was nothing particularly special about the suggested exercises.

One thing that I would caution is that this is not a technical book. As such, even though the advice given is very solid, there are only a few clues given on the technical aspects of making the photo (such as just casual reference to the use of speedlights). So, while the images are inspirational, don't expect that you can just take those ideas and be able to make the same shot. You'll still need to have plenty of foundational knowledge about lighting, exposure, and equipment to really be able to come up with something that looks anywhere as good as the images in this book.

The second part of this book covers posing. There are some decent general tips, and then there is a relatively long chapter giving a ton of examples, in the form of image critiques of his own images. This was a bit of a mixed bag for me. While I the flaws pointed out are instructive, it's hard to learn entirely from seeing examples of what *not* to do, rather than seeing more specific examples of how to construct a pose of what you actually should do. Of course, there are corrected photos shown, but these examples were less instructive than they could have been. Overall, I found this section interesting, but not particularly directed (and hence, not entirely practical). The images in this section, of course, continue to be excellent.

Part three is very short and covers 'execution'. This chapter attempts to bind together information from previous chapters, focusing in particular on lighting and composition (simplicity/angles/perspective). There are some more great examples illustrating how great photographs can be produced in places you might not have expected. Valenzuela tries to share his thought process in how he came up with images, although it's clear that this is way harder than it's written out to be.

The final chapter talks about Valezuela's practice methodology, including real practice examples. You have to admire how structured, deliberate, and thoughtful this process is. While this was interesting to read about, I think the main take away is a fairly obvious one: you really have to put in the time to practice to get better. There are many tips here on one way to approach this, but it's difficult to feel particularly motivated by the example practice images of teddy bears and dust pans. Looking at the practice images and reading about the thought process made me think that I would not have had the same reactions on what looked good vs. not (especially with mundane objects), so even if I tried to do the same practice work, I think it would have been less clear to me where I wanted to head with an idea, than what is described in this book, where there the outcome is a very definite new piece of knowledge.

Overall, there's some really great knowledge contained inside this book. To be sure, it's harder than it looks (and there's certainly more to it than what could be described in this book alone), but it's definitely inspirational. While the text itself is probably not the kind of thing you would likely read over and over again, there are so many fantastic images in this book, I can recommend buying this just to refer to when you want some new ideas something to try. If you have interest in people photography, or in particular wedding photography, this book is a great choice.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 10, 2012
I cannot say enough good things about this book. It teaches you plenty of stuff; but, more importantly, it teaches you methods for engaging in photography and for practicing photography so that you can keep on improving and learning on your own. As such, it's invaluable.

It starts off a bit slow. I have to admit, it took me a couple of months to get through the first part. It begins with a discussion of the elements of photography, such as geometry, balance, symmetry, patterns, etc. I've read a lot about those before, so it was a bit tough to get through. Even so, it was laying the foundation for what was to come. But, if you haven't read a lot about such topics, then you may not have the problem I had.

Part 2 starts getting better. It discusses posing in great detail, and does so extremely well. It covers both broad concepts (such as natural posing) and specific details (such as what to do with hands). And it covers a slew of posing archetypes that can be adapted to different situations.

Parts 3 and 4 are a bit short, but they use everything you've learned so far to teach you how to improve generally. Part 3 is about execution, or how to put it all together in the field. And Part 4 is about deliberate practice: he recommends some personal R&D on situations you're likely to encounter so that you'll be able to adapt when you do. What makes this part so great is that he not only gives you a method, but also offers some concrete examples of how practice paid off in a specific way. These two parts are what make the book so incredible for me. They're short, but they don't stand alone: they build on everything you've learned in the first two parts.

The author is clearly a master photographer. But he's also an excellent teacher. His book is very accessible, but also incredibly deep. I'm ashamed that it took me so long to realize how great the book really is!

Although the book is technically about wedding photography, and plenty of the "detailed stuff" is suited to that type of photography, the broader concepts and methods he teaches can be of great benefit to any type of photographer.

I would say that I don't think this book is for beginners. It assumes you have basic technical skills, and doesn't teach them. It's about creativity and execution. You don't have to be a professional to get a lot out of the book -- I'm not! -- but you should be fairly advanced. If you're not yet there, put this book on your wish list for the future and don't forget to come back for it.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2012
I am not a professional photographer, and I do not want to be...I just wanted a book that would help me take better pictures of my family and friends. When I first heard about "Picture Perfect Practice", I assumed that, since it was written by a professional wedding photographer, it would not be a good book for someone like me to use. I was wrong. The book really does take you through a step by step process of thinking about your pictures, and then gives really practical examples of how to improve each aspect of picture taking. The writing is clear, so I can understand it even though I have no formal photography training, and the photo examples are numerous.

What makes this "how to" book different from almost any other book I looked at is that, while most books have plenty of "excellent" photos as examples, Roberto Valenzuela also uses many "bad" that he actually took show you what not to do! Not only was it cool to see someone willing to show us his mistakes, but by seeing the bad photos, along with his explanations, I was able to learn a lot about what goes into making a photo "good" or "bad", and therefore the "good photos" made more sense to me. It also encouraged me to realize that professional photographers take lots of "bad" photos...they just don't give up until they get the good one.

In short, this book exceeded my expectations! I would recommend this to anyone looking to improve their personal picture taking.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2012
I got introduced to Roberto through my affiliation with CreativeLive (I'm a CreativeLive "Junkie" member). Roberto has worked harder than any photographer mentor that I have learned from to approach photography as an art with mastery. That is something that I miss sometimes these days in photography. The exercises in this book are hard earned lessons which Roberto had to develop to hone his own skill but which you get instant access to. You'll see things through the eyes of someone who has evolved himself into a master who now can create "economy proof" images as he calls them. This a man to listen too if you yern to rise above not just the hacks who buy pro cameras and call themselves photographers, but to even excel beyond even established pros (with guided practice).
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87 of 118 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2012
While this book does contain many examples of good photography and is well-produced overall, the title and the description of the book is misleading. This book is written by a wedding photographer, and only contains examples of wedding photography. That fact is not represented in the title or subtitle of the book and is glossed over in the book descriptions. I'm not saying the author isn't skilled or that he doesn't have something to say about photography. But let's be clear in marketing the book. The title implies the book is far more generalized or universal than it really is. While there's nothing illegal about that, it is misleading, and potential buyers of this book deserve to know exactly what they're buying.
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