Gregory Heisler’s 50 portraits

Link to the book.

For a while I had been looking for a book that satisfied the vacuum I felt for a real portrait photography advice. Not tutorials or copy cats, a masterclass, and this book is just it. One of the few books made by a photographer for photographers that manages to be equal parts entertaining and educational.

First of all if you haven’t seen Mr. Heisler’s work give it a look, it’s really worth a google. In this book he takes 50 of his most iconic portraits and tells it’s story. 

Each portrait is accompanied by a short text explaining why it was shot the way it was, and the you get the how, without going down to exactly which light, which lens and camera. This makes for an incredibly fast and fun read. 

The thing that strikes me the most is the thought and concept behind each picture. No picture is just “a portrait”, everything has a reason to exist. 

Let’s take for example Shaq, 7+ feet, superhuman, NBA hall of famer. Now look at his picture:


He looks positively tiny and frail, because the article accompanying this picture was talking about his rookie NBA start. The picture is vulnerable and humbling.

For contrast look at Danny DeVito’s portrait for his debut as a director:

He looks huge and powerful! This book really nails home the fact that photography is first about content and intent, technique and equipment are just tools to get there.

The other part of this book that is very helpful for the upcoming photographer is Heisler’s work ethic and workflow. Before he set’s out on any shoot, he’s done the picture already, and I don’t mean in his head. His ability to replicate what he does in his studio in any place and with short notice is amazing, yet it seems accessible and human. Cannot recommend this book enough.

Also, tilt-shift lens portraits are insane.


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