[T]oday, thanks to David Hobby, Zack Arias and JoeMcNally, good old natural light portraiture is getting less and less love. Not that there is anything wrong with lit portraits, but it's simply not my cup of tea, hence the review of this gem of an ebook by fine art portrait photographer Wayne Radford.
Wayne is what I consider a crafstman photographer, he is the kind of photographer that goes for quality, not quantity (my kind of guy), he is after THE shot that will capture the essence of the person photographed. I really resonnate with him on his quest for timelessness, because I have seen too many shallow portraits and strive to do the same. His ebook was written as a handy natural light portrait guide, but I think that the information given is handy for all types of photography. I tend to see photography books in black and white (pun non intended), they either teach you something, or they just rehash the same thing that's out there, well I am happy to say that this is one of the books that really teach you something.
What's in it?
The book is 126 pages and is divided into 3 main categories: facial positioning, lightning and composition.
The first part talks about facial positioning, how to pose the subject in order to have more appealing photos. There is a lot of good information in this section, it will teach you to always be mindful of facial composition, how a slight shift in facial angles will make or break a good portrait photograph. There is also information on the different types of facial poses like 2/3 view, facial view and how to have the best optimal photograph on each of them. This section is very useful for natural light portraiture (duh…) but also for lit portraiture and even street photography, of course for portraiture the photographer will guide the subject but for street, it will make you more aware of the facial position of people, and will allow you to anticipate better angles.
The second part is on natural lightning, using strictly window light or occasionally a reflector. While the temptation is to simply slap someone in front of a window and shoot away, this book will set the book straight and make you more attentive to details like the catch lights, and tells you how to better using short or broad lightning. The amount of information in there is simply very useful and will allow you to do many creative things with God's good ol' light.
The third part of the ebook is on composition, and the author has it nailed for portraiture. He goes over the classics like golden rectangle, rule of thirds, perspective, etc but illustrates these concepts very well in a portrait setting: he deconstructs his own images and reveals their foundations (his images are overlayed with the composition helpers), and he tells you why he made these compositional choices. It's like being in the head of a master portrait photographer.
Who is it for?
Any amateur with knowledge of the basic mechanics of photography (Depth of field, aperture, focal length, etc) will find this book tremendously useful, but the information contained in the book is so good and timeless that it can allow a mom with an iphone to take good photographs (sans shallow depth of field of course). But Wayne has been doing portraiture for so long, and studied it so much, that any photographer at whatever level will have something to take home, I sure did. And it really doesn't matter what kind of photography you do, if you ever pointed your lens to someone, this book will be useful. The end of the book even has a very useful (read: Put in in your smartphone for reference) chart on what the best head placement is for the different types of faces like round, long, etc.
Why get it?
Wayne spends his time mainly taking natural portraits, that makes him finely tuned to the details that goes into making one. Think of this book like the essence of what he learned for all of his time as a portrait photographer, the subtle lightning, head placement, eye placement, etc. It allows you to learn what he learned in the span of his career, that's a steal in my book, and best of all it is not the kind of information you will get anywhere so the admission price is well worth it.
Where to get it?