book reviews

book review: Shoot to Thrill, by Michael Mowbray

- Speedlight flash techniques for photographers

I have a distinct bias when it comes to good books on photography – they are highly under-valued. Here again you have a book which sells for only $21 on Amazon, with 150 pages of info to dip into and learn from, whenever you want. Books are a bargain!  But then, as As an author of several photography books myself, I have a very strong opinion about the value of photography books.

The focus in this book is on using speedlights on a variety of shoots – on location and in the studio. Since the focus is on the use of speedlights, the material in this book is accessible to everyone. We should all own a speedlight or two as a matter of course. But then, I am biased there too.

The format of the book is straightforward and ideal for dipping into – there are 60 examples as quick lessons, each as a double-page spread showing you a main image, and explaining how the author-photographer achieved it.


Learn more inside…


book review: Gregory Heisler – 50 Portraits

Gregory Heisler is an undisputed genius when it comes to photographic lighting. If ever you get the opportunity to attend a seminar by him, do yourself a favor. The story behind each portrait, and the motivation and the struggles to create those images, don’t just make for entertaining anecdotes – and Gregory Heisler is an entertaining speaker – but the stories are insightful. Educational. But not just educational in a do-this-do-that explanation of technique. It’s much more than that.

In this book he has collected 50 of his his best portraits he has taken during his career, and he discusses the thought-processs behind each image. He offers insight in how he came to take specific images, and how he decided why to set up up certain portraits in certain ways. Gregory Heisler’s humility, and the way he allows glimpses into the frustration and disappointments along the way – the struggles to get to iconic images – all this is told in entertaining and thoughtful way. There is also much to learn here.

This is a book to devour, and then dip into again and again. What truly impressed me about Gregory Heisler, is how innovative he is. He seems to want to steer clear of repeating formulas that work, and come up with portraits based on ideas that are challenging and full of risks.

Something I also found refreshing are the “Thoughts on Technique” at the end of each photograph’s description. Here he discusses technique – but not in the statement of bland numbers, but again, always with the thought-process in mind. And this is where the value lies in what he shows us – the way his mind works. The why and the how.I highly recommend this book.It needs to be on your shelf! For a mere $25 you have an amazing collection of images and words in hardcover, from a man who is endlessly inventive when it comes to photography lighting! That’s incredible value for money. This is a book to immerse yourself in, again and again, and feel inspired by.


Learn more inside…


book review: Humans of New York

Chances are that you’re following, or at least heard of Humans of New York / FB page. Brandon Stanton is a photographer who has walked countless miles every day for nearly three years, photographing people on the streets of New York, and recording their stories. Their stories are visual (as in the impromptu portraits of them), but what really makes this site so engrossing, and endearing are the anecdotes. The life stories and insights. The way that people reveal themselves to his camera and to the world, through the portraits and a little glimpse into their lives … this is what makes the website so fascinating. These stories are endearing, but very often, quite touching. If you haven’t been aware of that site, time to check it out.

The big news then is that a compilation of many photographs in Humans Of New York (and some new photographs), have just been published as a hardcover book – Humans of New York (Amazon). If you’ve been following the HONY site, you’ll be well aware of this though. It’s quite the event.

304 pages of engrossing images, and snippets of anecdotes. I assume that for brevity, the anecdotes were truncated. In a way this is a pity because the HONY site has become as much about the stories and anecdotes, as the images. Two other (minor) negatives – the book is quite small – 9.7″ x 7.3″ – personally, I would’ve liked to see the images larger. Also, the printing quality is merely okay.But I have to balance the surprisingly low price of the book (only $18) against this.As it is, I would highly recommend this book to any photographer who loves people. In fact, I would recommend this book to anyone. It would take a hard heart not to be captivated by these glimpses into the lives of New Yorkers. A solid 5 stars!



other photography books


timelapse photography – a complete introduction

When I got my Nikon D4 and found that it made the compilation of time-lapse clips so much easier, I was hooked. It’s a fascinating niche in photography. Here are some of the time-lapse clips I created.

However, as with everything in photography – or as with everything in life really – there is a learning curve. Then you have two options. You can reinvent the wheel, and figure it all out from scratch by yourself … or you can do some homework and study what people before you have done. There are several websites that are loaded with information – and then there is this book by Ryan Chilinski. Everything you want to know about Time-Lapse Photography, neatly encompassed.

Learn more inside…

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

boudoir photography

Baby portraiture is an unexpectedly difficult branch of portrait photography. You have to work around the baby’s schedule, and then there is the added challenge of making a baby which doesn’t move much, an interesting subject. It’s not like this little kiddo is going to hop, skip & jump around. With that, everyone can use some advice and guidance to get an edge on the baby, and take some pressure off as the photographer.

First of all, I have to mention that I have a slight bias here – the author, Mimika Cooney is also originally from South Africa. So there is some pride in someone “local” doing great and becoming successful … and write an (excellent) book.

book review: boutique baby photography, by Mimika Cooney

Learn more inside…

{ 1 comment }

boudoir photography

Boudoir photography seems to have a surge in popularity in the past years. More and more interest by photographers – and it’s no wonder. As much as boudoir is a fascinating genre, it is also quite challenging.

The pressure is on *you* as the photographer to get the best images you can of someone who is most likely feeling quite vulnerable. So not only are your lighting skills and posing skills and your general skill as a photographer tested … your people skills really need to kick into gear too. Boudoir photography is personal photography on so many levels.

book review: boudoir photography, by Critsey Rowe

Learn more inside…


favorite photography books

December 19, 2011

best photography books

Someone recently asked me which are the photographers I have learnt the most from. I immediately took that to be the photographers whose work I studied in books and magazines over the years. Books have always had a special place in my heart – even more so the beautifully printed Art Photography books.

This beautiful volume, featuring photographs of Monica Bellucci (Amazon), arrived on my doorstep the other day. This book has images by a diverse number of photographers who had the opportunity to photograph this stunning Italian actress / model. Interesting to note how varied their approach was. Just paging through it after taking it out of the Amazon box, was an experience. The printing in this large book is gorgeous, and it is already one of my most favorite photography books.

Coupled with my latest purchase, the book of Vivian Maiers’ photography (Amazon), this triggered me to share the list of some of the best photography books on my shelf.

Learn more inside…


Vivian Maier exhibition in New York

One of the most interesting stories unfolding in photography in recent years, was the accidental discovery of an incredible body of work by an unknown photographer, Vivian Maier. Incredible in terms of quality and the sheer volume of photographs. If you’re not familiar with the backstory  –  in 2007, John Maloof, a real estate agent in Chicago, who was working on a project documenting the one neighborhood in Chicago, discovered and bought a vast collection of negatives and prints of a completely unknown photographer, Vivian Maier.

What makes this story so interesting, is that Vivian Maier had an eye for street photography on par with the great names in photography. Then there is the fortunate twist to the story, in that the images and negatives landed up in the hands of someone like John Maloof who realized what a treasure he had stumbled upon and took care of this legacy with the attention it needed.

Learn more inside…


book review: Classic Modern Pinups, by Robert Alvarado

When I first heard news that Robert Alvarado was (finally!) publishing a book of his best pinup photographs, I was excited. I’ve been a huge fan of his work ever since I first came across his portfolio on Model Mayhem and several other photography forums. I even attended a workshop where he explained his lighting and posing of the models, as well as his Photoshop techniques.

Drawing inspiration from the classic pin-up artist like Gil Elvgren and Vargas, Robert Alvarado had steadily fine-tuned his skills as a photographer in this style. Alvarado photographs beautiful women in this stylized way, and then finessing the images with Photoshop to give a glossy air-brushed look … lending the images a look that is definitely and recognizably his.

Learn more inside…


book review: Speedliter’s Handbook, by Syl Arena

Speedliter's Handbook

Syl Arena has steadily made a name for himself amongst photographers with his blog, Pixsylated. Followers of his blog would’ve noticed that Syl was on hiatus for several months in 2010, while busy writing a book on Canon speedlites. Having spent the most part of a year on writing, you’d expect something great. And it is. In short, I think Syl might just have written the definitive work on flash photography with speedlites.

If you’re a Canon shooter, this book is essential. If you’re a Nikon or Sony or Pentax shooter, you’d still do very well with this book. Within its 376 pages, 812 photos and 26 chapters, all the essential stuff is covered, and more.

Learn more inside…