First Look: Secrets of Great Portrait Photography

My new book Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous drops this week. It’s a book that’s over 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.

I set out to write the book with one simple thing in mind – to write the book I wish someone handed me when I was starting out.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 taking you though all the stages of a portrait shoot from pre-production planning through posing your portrait through perfecting your shot in post-production.

Secrets of Great Portrait Photography is available from Amazon


Secrets of Great Portrait Photography by Brian Smith

Here are the sexy details from my publisher:

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.


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.

Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Connect With Your Subject

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…

Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Find the Place

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.

Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Find the Angle

CHAPTER 4: TELL THE STORY – Learn the ways to convey an idea though conceptual portrait photography to tell your subject’s story

Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Tell the 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.

Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Sweat the Small Stuff

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.

Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Don't Mess With a Good Thing

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.

Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Pose, Gesture, Emotion

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!

Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Less is More

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.

Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: See the Light

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.

Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Group Portraits Without the Formality

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.

Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Create the Look

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.

Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Lights, Camera, Lens

At the conclusion of this 12-Step Program to Great Portrait Photography, we’ve added 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.

Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Questions and Answers

The early reviews are in:

“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

“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


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3 thoughts on “First Look: Secrets of Great Portrait Photography”

  1. Brian,
    Good morning and congratulations on your new book. This looks great and I for surely will want to buy one. When will the book be available inside the book stores (Barns and Noble)?

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