Monday, May 19, 2008

REVIEW: Beyond Portraiture by Bryan Peterson

If you've read any of the Bryan Peterson books you know his style, and the good thing is that he sticks to that formula in all of his books. If you haven't, then you are missing on great books from one of the best photography educators around right now.

Byran's books follow several concepts based on the topic of the book, with exercises that challenge you to master those concepts. In addition he is bold enough to share his personal good fortunes so you get to see what a $40,000 stock photograph really looks like (which I find EXTREMELY valuable).

This book has the following sections which I'll describe briefly:

Understanding People

In this section Bryan helps you to understand the process of going up to a total stranger, getting them to sign a model release and getting a great picture of them acting naturally in their environment. It all sounds simple, but it isn't and his exercise will help guide you though the daunting process to help boost your confidence.

Working with People

Here Bryan discuss how to find people to shoot, dealing with shyness, posing them versus capturing them and then asking for permission and more. He brings up an interesting concept around people as theme which I really enjoyed. His chapter on Hiring Models is a bit outdated, but still worth reading.

Overall though you learn that Bryan really enjoys people and that he gets to know many people before he starts taking their picture. It is this style of befriending someone and then capturing them in their natural environment that sets Bryan apart from you or me and what helps him to get such great and natural looking shots (even when they are really posed).


The section on Light offers some basic ideas about how to get good outdoor lighting on your portraits. While there's nothing great in this section, it is still entertaining to read as all his sections are. In fact, just the stories alone on some of the photographs make it worthwhile to read even if you aren't a photographer!

Composing Powerful Portraits

This section starts off string with some good advice about getting good portraits with solid composition techniques. The wonderful shots and stories he tells make you excited about the possibilities that are all around you. The last chapter on Lens Choice is a little weak, but I've got a blog post that can help you out with that subject! :-)

Photo Editing Techniques

This is probably the weakest section in all of Bryan's books merely because he's a bit of novice in this area and the concepts he presents are a bit outdated, but you can tell he gets his influence from Scott Kelby for some of his work so it once again reaffirms my belief that The Digital Photography Book is indeed one of the best books for any photographer to own. It seems I am not alone in this belief either as it is now (as of the time of this blog posting) the most successful Photography Book ever.

Other Reading

Here's some links to other Bryan Peterson books on this blog:


Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced
Value: Worth every penny
Recommendation: Highly recommended. It is hard to go wrong with Bryan's books and this is just as great as the others. Learning to See Creatively and Understanding Exposure should be read first, but this is great stuff and a must read if you are into portrait photography.

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