Author: Steve Sint
Publisher: Lark Books (Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.)
Review by Conrad J. Obregon
If you want to catch the soul of a subject, this may not be the book for you. But if you want to take a portrait that will show the subject to his or her best advantage, this is a great place to start. (By the way, only a few really great photographers have come close to catching the soul of a subject, and I’m willing to bet that when they started out, they were happy just to produce images that showed a subject to the best advantage.)
This book discusses the fundamentals of formal portrait photography, and not photojournalistic portraiture. Sint starts his book emphasizing the importance of dealing with the subject in a manner that will allow photographer and subject to cooperate in producing a great picture. He next talks about framing the subject, lighting and posing. Unlike other portrait books I’ve read, the author then touches on makeup. Only after going through these subjects does he discuss equipment, and then he finishes up by examining the business side of portraiture.
Through all of this, one gets the feeling of a practical book. For example, in Sint’s discussion of framing, he notes that vertical framing usually works best for groups up to four, and horizontal framing works best for groups of six or more. For groups of five, the format depends on how wide the subjects are! When he discusses cameras, he is quick to say he doesn’t favor the top of the line cameras because they are too heavy and too expensive. When he talks about makeup, he tells the reader how to fold a powder puff. The discussion of posing tells you how to deal with the double chin, the big nose and different size eyes. The business discussion shows how to calculate expenses and income if one want to make a living from photography, and, if they take it seriously, may discourage a lot of daydreamers thinking about turning pro. The business discussion isn’t the only information one would need, but it aims the reader in the right direction.
The book isn’t perfect. I would have liked to have seen a little more discussion of lighting equipment, like flash units and booms, but there was certainly enough information that only a little more research would be required by the aspiring portrait photographer.
The book concentrates on taking portraits rather than post processing. For that aspect of portrait photography I would recommend adding “Skin” by Lee Varis to your list. But for everything up until you take the card out of the camera, this book will provide you with the practical information you need for portraits with which your subjects will be happy (and that might even make you a few bucks!)