book reviews

book review: Creative Flash Photography, by Tilo Gockel

Tilo Gockel (website: FotoPraxis), is a German photographer who some might remember from guest articles that has appeared on Tangents. His article on innovative product photography on a budget – Diver’s Chronograph, was particularly impressive when you compare the results with the home setup. You might also know Tilo from various impressive posts in the Strobist group on Facebook. Prolific and innovative.

The subtitle of this book is the best description of what you’d find inside: Great Lighting with Small Flashes: 40 Flash Workshops. Over the course of 290 pages, this book breaks down numerous techniques into digestible chunks – 40 chapters discussion subjects which range from portraits to product photography and macro photography.

What is particularly impressive me about Tilo’s work and this book – the variety in subjects.

The author concentrates on speedlights and affordable accessories. So the techniques are well within the reach of every photographer.

The book starts off with a description of the gear he uses, as well as basic technical stuff you need to know before getting into the heart of the book.

The material in the book is easily accessible – the techie stuff is also distributed in each chapter as Tips, Tricks and Notes. There are also side-bar articles and In-Depth notes within each Workshop chapter, where topics are discussed on their own. There are also notes on any Photoshop techniques he used in post-processing an image.



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book review: Roberto Valenzuela – Picture Perfect Posing

I’ve noticed that articles on Tangents which deal with the topic of how to pose people, gets a lot of attention. Posing is a challenging topic for most photographers except the very best who seem to have an innate gift for it.

Books on posing tend to approach the topic as a list of suggestions – the kind of “1,000 poses” type books. Another alternative offered is flow posing where you maneuver a couple through a number of poses mechanically. Both of these approaches means you have to memorize poses by rote, instead of understanding why the poses work, or how to improve a pose.

This is where Roberto Valenzuela’s book excels. He teaches a system. The Picture Posing System he has developed breaks posing technique down into 15 segments which he then carefully analyzes to show why certain poses work. Instead of recalling exact poses and trying to fit them to the person you are photographing, posing now becomes a series of conscious decisions. And that is what Roberto’s book teaches you – that series of decisions.

The book is divided into two sections. The first discusses the 15 segments to his Picture Posing System. (12 segments for individual poses; and another 3 segments for posing couples or groups.) The final section of the book deals with more advice on posing couples.

The segments discussed include topics such as:
– weight distribution and its effect on posing;
– joints and 90 degree angles;
– hands and arms – (an especially tough element of posing);
– posing with movement, feeling and expression.


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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.


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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 this against the surprisingly low price of the book (only $18).

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.

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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.

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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.The book takes a wide approach to the topic, including maternity photography, newborn portraits and portraits of toddlers and kids. If you think about it, baby photography isn’t an isolated subject.

As a photographer and business person, it should be obvious immediately that there is a long-term relationship that can and should be developed with your client.

book review: boutique baby photography, by Mimika Cooney

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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