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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 43 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0321804143
ISBN-10: 0321804147
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Frequently Bought Together

  • Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous (Voices That Matter)
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  • Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer's Photographer
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  • The Passionate Photographer: Ten Steps Toward Becoming Great (Voices That Matter)
Total price: $99.96
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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 (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #435,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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The title of this book is misleading at best, and outright inaccurate at worst. Sure, this book definitely is about portrait photography, but the meat of the book has nothing to do with 'secrets of great portraits'. Instead, this book is really just a collection of stories and anecdotes about dozens of different shoots. Each story is only several paragraphs long, and a few of these stories have a bolded fortune-cookie-like tip called out, that is ostensibly what the book calls the "secrets".

The real disappointment here is that the talk that Smith did for B&H to promote the book was really quite enjoyable. I liked it so much, I thought that the session would just be a teaser for some great material in the actual book. I was doubly convinced after seeing this as a recommended book on David Hobby's list of recommended photography books. But honestly, the book fell flat in almost every way. In fact, if you watch the video (which I do recommend), I think you'll get everything you wanted out of reading this book (and you'll get it for free). In fact, a huge number of images and stories in video are described in almost exactly the same way (with almost no additional detail) in the book.

The style of the book, where stories behind photographs are described, is not inherently a bad thing. Gregory Heisler's "50 portraits" book is done in exactly this style, and it is phenomenal. But unlike Heisler's book, many stories really lack a point--at least in the sense they do little to shed insights on making great portraits. Also, this book contains tons of stories (rather than Heisler's carefully selected 50), and many are just mildly amusing but hold little to no instructional value (beyond really generic, fairly obvious "tips").
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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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