‘Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous’ from New Riders, an imprint of Peachpit, is a book 30+ years in the making, drawing upon the best lessons learned over the last three decades photographing portraits of the rich and famous, it blends lavish celebrity portraits of a coffee table book with technical how-to insights with a side dish of behind-the-scenes celebrity stories.
The book is based on a talk that I’ve done everywhere from Brazil to Boise including the last two years at PhotoPlus Expo and WPPI, which takes you though all the stages of a portrait shoot from pre-production planning through posing your portrait through perfecting your shot in post-production.
Packed into this 264 page book, loaded with details about my last three decades of portrait photography, each chapter speaks to a different key to successful portrait photography broken down into spreads share the lessons learned from each shoot and details about the shoot itself.
Featured on the cover of ‘Secrets of Great Portrait Photography’ is a portrait from one of my favorite assignments ever – a Time magazine shoot of Richard Branson on Necker Island in the Caribbean for a story on Virgin Galactic space flights. This book tells the story behind the shoot and all the details about how it came together from planning to production to post.
In this sexy, bold, beautiful book, photographer Brian Smith tells the stories behind the photos and lessons learned in 30 years of photographing celebrities and people in all walks of life. Throughout this juicy 264-page guide, you’ll stay inspired by the breathtaking images included of the famous and infamous-Venus and Serena Williams, Gene Hackman, Cindy Crawford, Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, The Bee Gees, Antonio Banderas, Dwayne Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, Anne Hathaway, Ben Stiller, Christopher Walken, Sylvester Stallone, William H. Macy and many more.
You’ll get the inside scoop on what goes on at a celebrity photo shoot in this gorgeous guide to making professional portraits. Smith has mastered how to make a meaningful portrait on a magazine’s budget and on a celebrity’s schedule, which can sometimes be 15 minutes or less. Smith reveals his tips on connecting with people, finding the perfect location, telling a great story through portraiture, getting the ideal pose, capturing emotion and gestures, arranging unique group shots, and lighting the scene just right. You might not be photographing the rich and famous, but after reading Smith’s tell-all guide, you’ll know how to give everyone who makes their way in front of your camera the star treatment.
“Drawing upon the best lessons I’ve learned over the last three decades photographing portraits of the rich and famous,” says Smith, “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 takes us through the subtleties and on past the hard core practicalities of portrait photography of the famous and infamous. His observations and instructions in this fine book define and serve the art of the photo portrait. Any photographer who has digested ‘Secrets of Great Portrait Photography’ will be sure to wield his or her power with knowledge and judgement.”
– Elliott Erwitt / Magnum Photographer and Legend
“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, that have helped him solve the problems every pro encounters.”
– 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
“Equal parts inspiration and people skills manual, Secrets of Great Portrait Photography belongs on every portrait photographer’s bookshelf.”
–Sohail Mamdani / BorrowLenses Blog
“Not only is it a beautiful coffee table book of photography, it serves as an instruction manual for up-and-coming portrait photographers…a must-read.”
–William Sawalich /Digital Photo
“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
“If you have an interest in portrait photography, then I really do recommend this book, you will love the pictures and learn lots from them and the author. I may well have found my new favourite portrait photographer!”
– Ashley Beolens
“If I had to start my career all over again, I would want this book.”
–Al Diaz / Miami Herald
“In the course of 30 years, these are all the lessons I wish someone had told me when I got started and all the stuff I wish I learned in college,” says Smith “With every photograph you walk away with a learning experience, and this book is based on those experiences.”
ASMP BULLETIN WINTER 2013
SCOTT KELBY PHOTOSHOP INSIDER: It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Brian Smith!
STROBIST: Winter Reads: Secrets of Great Portrait Photography
PRO PHOTO DAILY: Preview: Photographer Brian Smith’s “Portrait Secrets”
PIXSYLATED: ‘Secrets of Great Portrait Photography’Book Review
FSTOPPERS: Sneak Peek At Celebrity Photographer Brian Smith’s ‘Secrets Of Great Portrait Photography’
LOWEPRO BLOG: Learn the ‘Secrets of Great Portrait Photography’ in Newest Book from Celebrity Photographer Brian Smith
B&H INSIGHTS: Brian Smith on How to Take Better Portraits
MODEL MAYHEM INTERVIEW: Brian Smith
BORROWLENSES.COM: Powerful Inspiration for Powerful Portraits
INSIDE EDGE: Brian Smith Reveals the Secrets of Amazing Portraiture
RON MART BLOG: Review: Secrets of Great Portrait Photography
AL DIAZ BLOG: Secrets of Great Portrait Photography
ISO 1200: Secrets of Great Portrait Photography with Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Brian Smith
WHAT’S IN THE BOOK?
CHAPTER 1: CONNECT WITH YOUR SUBJECT – The book kicks off with my number one tip for shooting better portraits and learning to make a connection with your subject for an extraordinary portrait.
CHAPTER 2: FIND THE PLACE – Place adds yet another storytelling element to a photograph, as with real estate, photography can come down to three words: location, location, location…
CHAPTER 3: FIND THE ANGLE – Your vantage point can make a huge impact on your photographs. If you’re used to seeing life at eye level, maybe it’s time to look at the world from a new point of view.
CHAPTER 4: TELL THE STORY – Learn the ways to convey an idea though conceptual portrait photography to tell your subject’s story
CHAPTER 5: SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF – When it comes to photography, every small detail matters. Read how styling, props, hair & make-up can make a good shot great.
CHAPTER 6: DON’T MESS WITH A GOOD THING: – For all the planning that goes into a shoot, one of the smartest things you can do is to know when to stand back and let your subject take over. Learn how to strike the right balance.
CHAPTER 7: POSE, GESTURE, EMOTION – Posing is less of a science and more like being a good host. Make your subjects comfortable, relaxed, and engaged so their personalities can shine through.
CHAPTER 8: LESS IS MORE – Read how removing all the distractions from a photo can be important than the elements you put in. Clear the clutter. Eliminate the extraneous. Keep It Simple, Stupid!
CHAPTER 9: SEE THE LIGHT – Understanding portrait lighting begins with a few basic principles of how light works. This chapter shows how the quality of the light affects the mood of the photo and how to create the light you want in any situation.
CHAPTER 10: GROUP PORTRAITS WITHOUT THE FORMALITY – Learn how to arrange group photos to avoid the deadly class photo shoulder-to-shoulder look and loosen things up so that each person in the shot feels special.
CHAPTER 11: CREATE THE LOOK – Post is not an afterthought, but the continuation in the process – the “look” of a photograph affects how it makes you feel.
CHAPTER 12: LIGHTS, CAMERA, LENS – All the gear used in the book is explained here. Once you understand the tools of portrait photography. they become an extension of your vision so you can then devote all your attention to your subject, not your gear.
At the conclusion of this 12-Step Program to Great Portrait Photography, we’ve slipped in special BONUS CONTENT (courtesy of a bar bet I won with my publisher) of assignments to hone your portrait skills followed by a Q+A of your highly insightful questions paired with my occasionally humorous answers.
WHO SHOULD BUY THIS BOOK?
• EMERGING PHOTOGRAPHERS looking for a road map to their big dreams of success, but who haven’t gotten there yet. You may just starting out, or perhaps is still in school, yet you want to know the secrets for taking great portraits and succeeding in a highly competitive and desirable marketplace.
• PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHERS looking to add a new skill or enhance one they already have. This is the book I wish I had when I was making the transition from shooting sports to portraits.
• ANYONE WHO LOVES PHOTOGRAPHY or wants the inside scoop about what it’s like to be on a celebrity portrait shoot.
• GREAT MOMS who see the next generation of superstars at the breakfast table every morning and are willing to share photos of them with the world.
• GREAT HUSBANDS who photographs his kids, but would prefer to be photographing Anne Hathaway . . . Trust me guys, your wife will understand as long a you shoot sexy photos of her and cute pictures of the kids.
• MY BOOKIE if he’s got any hopes of collecting on my bet that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would finish 1-2-3 in the Kentucky Derby.