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Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous (Voices That Matter) 1st Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0321804143
ISBN-10: 0321804147
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The same humor and enthusiasm that have made Brian Smith a popular speaker can be found here in his insider anecdotes about photographing celebrities on assignment. Brian gives clear, step-by-step explanations of all the techniques, from the elegantly simple to the technically sophisticated."
— Holly Stuart Hughes / Editor-in-Chief / Photo District News

"Brian Smith demonstrates on every page of this terrific book that the real secrets of great portrait photography are the warmth, wit, and skill that he brings to every shot. He laces the stories behind his vibrant portraits with loads of useful tips and easy-to-understand techniques. And he shows you how to create a visible connection with anyone in front of your lens, from movie stars to strangers on the street."
— Miriam Leuchter / Editor-in-Chief / Popular Photography

"For Smith, pictures don’t just tell stories; they are stories…go behind the lens to show how a nimble and versatile photographer creates memorable portraits — by trusting in the power of faces, light, story, and relationships."
— David Schonauer / Pro Photo Daily

"Smith’s approach is rather like a cookbook in that it will spur many ideas of your own. His unselfish approach makes this book a core choice for any location portrait photographer’s bookshelf."
— David Hobby / Strobist

"I love the fresh, bold style of the book. The photographs are big and plentiful. The writing is conversational and engaging. You won’t have to read across pages and pages to understand what Brian is sharing. Every two-page spread presents another shoot—each with its own concise insights and tips."
— Syl Arena / Pixsylated

"Secrets of Great Portrait Photography, filled with all of Brian’s tips and tricks to make every person who comes in front of your camera feel like a celebrity. It’s a sexy, inspiring book that’s a must-have for any portrait photographer or fan of Brian Smith."
— Lauren Margolis / Photoshelter

From the Author

"Drawing upon the best lessons I've learned over the last three decades photographing portraits of the rich and famous, 'Secrets of Great Portrait Photography' blends lavish celebrity portraits of a coffee table book with technical how-to insights with a side dish of behind-the-scenes celebrity stories." --Brian Smith
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Product Details

  • Series: Voices That Matter
  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: New Riders; 1 edition (October 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0321804147
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321804143
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Celebrity portrait photographer Brian Smith is a Pulitzer Prize winner known for his bold, iconic portraits of celebrities and athletes. His photographs have graced the covers and pages of hundreds of magazines for the past 30 years. He's appeared on The X Factor and Fine Living Network. His first magazine photograph appeared in LIFE Magazine when he was a 20-year-old student at the University of Missouri. Five years later, Smith won the Pulitzer Prize for his photographs of the Los Angeles Olympic Games. His photograph of Greg Louganis hitting his head on the diving board at the Seoul Olympics won first place in World Press Photo and the Pictures of the Year. Smith was again a finalist for the Pulitzer for his photographs of Haiti in turmoil. Smith's work has been exhibited at the Library of Congress, American Museum of Natural History and the Aperture Gallery. Smith is the President of APA/Editorial Photographers and frequently a speaker at photography schools and seminars around the country.

His books include:

"Art & Soul: Stars Unite to Celebrate and Support the Arts" shot in partnership with The Creative Coalition and Sony combines his celebrity portraits with their handwritten testimonials about the importance of arts funding.

"Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Portraits of the Famous and Infamous" blends lavish celebrity portraits of a coffee table book with technical how-to insights from his last three decades photographing portraits of the rich and famous with a side dish of behind-the-scenes celebrity stories.

"Sony A7/A7R: From Snapshots to Great Shots" is the ultimate guide to getting the most out of Sony's ground-breaking compact full-frame cameras. As a Sony Artisan of Imagery, Smith guides you through the camera's features and the best setting for shooting portraits, landscapes, action and travel photography.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's not every day that Sir Richard Branson shows up on your doorstep in a space suit. But today was the day. I've waited months for the arrival of Secrets of Great Portrait Photography and the wait was worth it.

In 250 pages, Miami celebrity photographer, Brian Smith shares insights learned over 30 years; in a career that has taken him all over the globe and put him in front of the world's most famous and infamous personas. This is a book of great photography and great advice.

I love the fresh, bold style of the book. The photographs are big and plentiful. The writing is conversational and engaging. You won't have to read across pages and pages to understand what Brian is sharing. Every two-page spread presents another shoot--each with its own concise insights and tips.

Brian grouped nearly 100 shoots into chapters; each centered around a theme:

1. Connect With Your Subject
2. Find The Place
3. Find the Angle
4. Tell the Story
5. Sweat the Small Stuff
6. Don't Mess with a Good Thing
7. Pose, Gesture, Emotion
8. Less is More
9. See the Light
10. Group Portraits Without Formality
11. Create the Look
12. Lights, Camera, Lens

Within the chapters, each spread is headlined with a bit of advise, such as: Unclutter Your Mind, Light to Let Them Move, Keep It Real, Leave `Em Laughing... Then, each spread provides one or more portraits and commentary about the shoot. So many photo books get bogged down with pages of words. Brian made sure that this is a book of great photos from cover to cover. Then he balanced the photos with insights that only an A-list shooter could share.

Just to manage your expectations, this is not a book that focuses on techniques.
Read more ›
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I've been following Brian Smith's portrait photography for a while and have been eagerly waiting for the release of this book with high expectations. The book is now available and delivers. Great background stories on the images. Great printing of the images. So many books are all about the "technical" details, but portrait photography is more about psychology and how to work with people. Brian gives the background stories. He talks about how he interacted with the subjects, or with their PR folks. Yes, the technical stuff is still there with chapters covering it, but the overall story is about the interaction. Anyone can list f/stops and ISO, and the like--but those things are usually so specific to a situation and might not apply to your situations. Few authors talk about the experience. That's where this book shines. More important than 1/60 at f/5.6, how do you prepare for your photo session when you only have 15 minutes with your subject? Or how do you turn that 15 minutes into 30? How do you get someone to go along with that crazy idea you have for a photograph? How do you get the best out of your subjects? The start is to read this book. Then go out and make beautiful portraits.
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Some of the reviews are glowing with praise, some disappointed by the lack of clear instruction.

This book is not full of instruction or theory, but has a very consistent structure and approach. I see it the sort of advice an advanced amateur or beginning pro would get if they spent a couple of hours with a likeable, open and knowledgable pro.

The content is largely a rundown on notable photo sessions, explaining why he did things more than how. You can deduce most of the how if you have experience with lighting, and he provides sidebar definitions of most of the more technical terms. The explanations are 'slice of life' style, such as having to wait until the middle of the night to start a 3pm shoot with a rap star, or how he works with stylists. He provides enough information so I can think 'yes, I can shoot that' and he does it without overblowing the details.

You know, it really isn't that helpful to know what f-stop he used or his exact lighting positions or strengths. You won't get that level of detail here. If you don't know how to set up lights and balance with ambient light and depth of field, you might find the book frustratingly missing the instruction you need.

But once you feel you can do that, go have a chat with a seasoned pro who is not going to spoonfeed you, but will give you an insight into how real commercial shoots work. The writing is engaging, open and frank and often inspiring.
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This book is a series of very short stories taken from the authors many celebrity shoots. Focus on the "very short". For instance his shoots with Venus and Serena Williams...the first story is 9 lines long. The second is 13 lines long. The third is 14 lines long...and all of these are 1/2 page lines... Bill Gates is a short 4 paragraph story about how they got the subject (Gates) to wear a black turtleneck. And on and on the book goes. Even a master of the short story would have difficulty conveying anything substantial in such short snipets.
There is very little detail about the shoots, less about the interaction of personalities between photographer and subject and almost nothing about camera technique or lighting. This guy is the real deal...he gets a lot of work photographing the rich and famous. It's just that his writing about his work seems detached...it comes up short...in my opinion...very short.
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