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The Perfect Portrait Guide – How to Photograph People – Book Review

I recently went on a buying frenzy of photography books over at Amazon.

One of the books that I purchased was The Perfect Portrait Guide: How to Photograph People by Michael Busselle and David Wilson.

Portrait photography has always been the main focus of my own photography and so I was keen to read this book (recommended by a reader of this site).

I’ve spent the last few days reviewing the book and have really enjoyed doing so.

I should say up front – this is not just a digital photography book. Most of the techniques in the book are applicable to digital photographers and film photographers alike but it is not specifically targeted at digital photography.

While there are a lot of photography books out there with a very technical approach – The Perfect Portrait Guide is much more practical in it’s approach and uses A LOT of case studies as the basis for it’s teaching on portrait photography – this in my mind makes it a very useful book.

The structure of the book is fairly simple – there are four sections:

  1. Informal Portraits
  2. Formal Portraits
  3. Lighting
  4. Cameras and Equipment

Sections 1 to 3 are largely case studies. Each page covers a different aspect of the section’s topic and has at least one photograph taken by a Pro Photographer. The photograph is then talked about in the sections of:

  • Seeing: the story behind the image
  • Thinking: the challenge of the photographer – what they wanted to do
  • Acting: how the photo was taken
  • Technical Details: the gear used
  • Rule of Thumb: (not on every page) – a technique or rule that photographers can learn from the case study.

Section 4 tackles the topics of Choosing a Camera, Choosing Lenses, Camera Accessories, Lighting Equipment, Apertures and Shutter Speeds, Understanding Exposure, Choosing Film and Finishing and Presentation. Once again – this is not specifically focussed upon digital photography.

My Opinion

This book is not focussed upon teaching advanced techniques but gives a good overview of many of the topics a beginner to intermediate portrait photographer will want to learn in their craft.

The fact that it’s not focussed upon digital photography is at times frustrating (why a book published in 2002 has such a focus upon film photography I do not know) – however most of the techniques mentioned are just as relevant (for example composition techniques go across both mediums).

I really enjoy learning by seeing what others have done and so found the format of this book to be worthwhile. The example images are great and give inspiration for trying new things.

If you’re looking for a technical book then this is probably not the book for you

If you’re looking for an easy to read book for beginners to help you improve your shots of friends and family – you’ll probably enjoy this one – especially if you learn best by watching how others do things and then imitating them.

Get the The Perfect Portrait Guide: How to Photograph People at Amazon

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Portrait Photography

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Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse

is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals.

He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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