Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Lighting and the Dramatic Portait

Another book I recently purchased with Amazon gift certificates (courtesy of you guys) was ϋber photographer, Michael Grecco's, "Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait: The Art of Celebrity and Editorial Photography," from Amphoto Books.

In a nutshell, I loved Grecco's book and truly value it! It's big and glossy and filled with wonderful Michael Grecco images. And because of that, it's tempting to thumb through all its pages, pausing to admire Grecco's work while barely noticing the words. Don't do it! It's in the words that this book's true value resides.

Grecco takes his readers by the hand and takes them on a journey that hits on just about everything, short of personal introductions to his many prestigious clients, you need to know to improve your game. From lighting to color to conceptualization to connecting with your subjects, it's all there. I appreciated the way Grecco included endorsements of certain manufacturer's products with restraint and subtlety: Dyna-Lite's great line of lighting products being the most often touted. I hate it when I'm hit over the head with product endorsements and Grecco resisted the urge to do that.

My favorite chapters were Illumination and The Connection.

Illumination is divided into 8 sub-chapters with titles like Grecco's Laws of Light, Gridspots, and Finding Light. The Connection spans Shooting Egos to Shooting Strangers and plenty in between.

There's a personal note from the author on the page after the Table of Contents. In it, he jokes, "How many photographers does it take to change a light bulb?" Grecco's punchline: "Fifty-- One to change it and forty-nine to say how they would have done it differently."

There's a wonderfully subtle commentary on photographers lying in that joke. I think it's Grecco's way of saying there's no one way to do everything right. Certainly not Grecco's way or any other high-profile, wildly successful, pro's way in spite of their successes. Instead, there are many ways. And all each photographer can do is approach their art and craft in their own way, perhaps considering how others approach it and incorporating some of their tips, advice, and techniques, and then making it all work for themselves and calling it their own.

If you're interested in checking out some of Michael Grecco's striking work, you can do so by clicking HERE.

The model at the top is Faye. Leesa and I went over to Faye's apartment last week for an evening of just for fun shooting. Leesa did most of the shooting but I was able to grab a quick set with Faye, just outside her apartment's door in the courtyard walkway. Faye did her own makeup. I used two lights: one with a small, shoot-thru, umbrella for my key light and the other, from behind her, with a six-inch reflector and a 20-degree honeycomb grid attached to the front of it. Canon 5D w/85mm prime. ISO 100, f/2.8 at 200th.

Below is one of Leesa's many, MANY images of Faye. Leesa has a more editorial eye than I do. Her pictures often tell some kind of a story while mine, for the most part, are simple pretty girl pics. (Hey! It's a living! Sort of.) Leesa captured this one in Faye's bedroom with a Canon 5D w/28-135 zoom, ISO 100, f/4 @ 100th. She used two lights: A barebulb with a 6 inch reflector -- the honeycomb grid fell off when the modeling light melted the sticky stuff on the gaffer's tape that was holding it on the reflector... and I was in the other room, not immediately available to assume my assistant's duties and step 'n fetch it and tape it back on -- plus another light, off to the side, camera right, with a small, shoot-thru, umbrella attached.


Lin said...

Excellent book review!

Good Lord. I've just realised that PGS shows only ONE pair of uncovered boobies this whole month.

I am now very worried. Do I need to start a "bring back the boobies" campaign, or are you just having a month off?!

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's 2 book reviews in a row of books that I have (and cherish). I'd put money on the odds of you reviewing something else from my collection next. ;)

Michael said...

There is nothing wrong with just thumbing through the book looking at the images. In fact I recommend you look at the just the images. Pretend its a coffee table art book. Enjoy the beauty.

Then read the book. Study the images. Its really two books in one. Art and How-To.

jimmyd said...


You're right! And that's exactly what I did. I'm just glad I didn't stop there, treating it ONLY as a coffee table book. There's so much of great value to shooters in the text.