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:
- Connect With Your Subject
- Find The Place
- Find the Angle
- Tell the Story
- Sweat the Small Stuff
- Don’t Mess with a Good Thing
- Pose, Gesture, Emotion
- Less is More
- See the Light
- Group Portraits Without Formality
- Create the Look
- 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. There are no lighting diagrams or set shots. There are no details about camera, lens, or exposure. Gear talk is minimal, but, again, precise. All of this is fine with me. There are many books that tell you how to manage gear. There are precious few books that give you front row access to the creation of so many iconic photographs.