Some photographers have the wonderful ability to marry creative technique with technical application, and then convey this to us in a way that is genuinely interesting and educational. I picked up three such books this year and would describe them all “inspir-cational” - a wonderful mix of both inspiring work, combined with a high level of educational value. If you’re looking for a little learning as well as something to inspire in the New Year, I can heartily recommend all three.
The first of the three is “50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer’s Photographer” by renowned portrait photographer Gregory Heisler.
Heisler started his career assisting Arnold Newman, the godfather of the environmental portrait. Greg has put together the perfect mix of some of his classic, inspired portrait photographs he’s shot over the years, along with a brief two-to-three page summary of how he captured each shot and a comment on his technique.
Without fail, there is something wonderful to learn from each and every chapter. Sometimes it will be the technique itself – how the type of light, camera, or lens used produced the effect Heisler was searching for. Sometimes it’s about how limited time, a challenging client or something unexpected happened (and how the unexpected event was utilized for the final shot). All of it is inspirational, and his articulate and straightforward commentary is highly educational. Whether it’s technique or something less tangible, this is truly a wonderful book by a fantastically talented, articulate photographer. If you enjoy portraits or making photographs of people, you simply must check this book out.
The second book, “Creative 52” by Lindsay Adler, is a book I believe will do more for your photography than almost any other book on technique out there, particularly (but not exclusively) if you enjoy photographing people.
Lindsay bridges the divide between highly creative thinking and technique, describing her ideas, inspiration and how she works to realize her vision.
The book is jam-packed with bold, mesmerizing fashion images Lindsay has shot, but more than just nice eye candy, she has the ability to blend creativity and technique, breaking down the process to how she set out to realize her vision in a fun, easily digestible way. The techniques in the book are multi-applicable which is why I’ve recommended the book to those who photograph people in all walks, whether it’s fashion-orientated or not.
Each chapter represents a possible idea to push yourself each week, forming a foundation for an entire year of creativity and development. At a time when many people will be getting new camera gear from the holidays but wondering how to be inspired or to push themselves, this is the perfect book to help expand horizons, nurture our creativity and back it all up with simple, straightforward technique.
This book is perfect if – like me – you are in a creative rut for whatever reason and want to kick off the new year with a new focus on creating personal work for yourself and working some of the new technique into your client work.
Although I do shoot at night, it tends to be environmental work out on the streets of the city. I wasn't sure if this book would have much relevancy for me when I initially picked it up, thinking it was more likely to be aimed at those who take night shots of buildings or long exposure night sky type work. I was most certainly wrong!
These guys bring highly effective concepts for nocturnal night photography across all sorts of disciplines and it’s fascinating to see what they've shot, how they ended up with the image, and how the techniques and gear is put to best use. The night shots in the book are simply beautiful, and Gabriel really covers the full gambit in his book, even a section around street photography at night, something I definitely found enjoyable and informative. This book did what I wished all books like these would do - turned my initial doubts into a inspiring drive to go out and shoot outside of my comfort zone, and specifically to stay up late and go shoot more at night or early morning!
As I read through, I realized that Gabriel and Tim, like the other photographers I’ve mentioned, are able to take often dry technique and inject it with a sense of fun, discovery and their own character. These are the qualities I love when reading books like this, because you get a sense of passion and drive behind why the photographer is out there shooting this stuff to begin with.
Whether it’s the beautiful underside of the Brooklyn Bridge at night or abstract illuminated blue lines from a bridge, captured quickly from the passenger seat in a car, Gabriel provides inspired imagery with solid and straightforward descriptions of the techniques and thought behind how( and why) he shoots what he does.
It’s pretty amazing to see how many disciplines of photography are covered in this book – from landscapes, to architecture, to people - it’s all here and full of technique that can be applied from one particular situation or discipline to another.
This year, I’ve genuinely been surprised by how much I’ve gotten from these books. Most of my inspiration usually comes from photo books full of beautiful glossy images and little to no text. There is a definite growth in demand for books like these, books that offer both a visual feast for the eye, as well as provide insight and descriptive technique behind how we can look at creating such beautiful work for ourselves.
If you’ve read or came across any books that you found inspiring and useful, please do share them in the comments below. After reading these, I'm feeling inspired to add more to my 2014 reading list.