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Book Review: The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography

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Digital Photography School, a remarkably popular and highly renowned online photography blog, have recently released their very first stand-alone eBook. Entitled The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography, it covers everything you need to know about portraiture and taking photos of people.

In this review, I'll be offering my thoughts on the book and highlighting a few parts that really stood out and taught me something new.

An Overview of the Book

The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography is designed to cater for anyone with a basic knowledge of photography, wanting to learn how to shoot better images of people. Whether that's individuals, groups, children, or even yourself - various different types of subject are covered.

The eBook also goes into detail about different techniques that apply to any subject including depth of field, posing, utilising wind, lighting, and general tips for taking stunning portraits. Each section is laid out well with regular subheadings and plenty of high-quality example photographs. A three-column landscape layout also significantly aids readability, something that's particularly important for an on-screen eBook.

In all likelihood, this is a resource that you would pick up and use as an occasional reference, rather than reading straight from start to finish in an afternoon.

Book IntroductionBook IntroductionBook Introduction

My Top 3 Highlights

I've selected my favourite three chapters of the book to share with you in a little more detail, as I feel that they give a good feeling for what to expect throughout

20 Ways to Take Stunning Portraits

The first section of the book dives straight into a useful collection of advice for portraiture, covering several different areas that I wouldn't have considered when picking up my camera. These are clearly structured and well explained, going into just enough detail to cover the point in question.

It acts as a great "prompt" before starting a portrait shoot, to ensure you're bearing in mind all the different techniques available to you.

Example LayoutExample LayoutExample Layout

The Human Side of Portrait Photography

Another section I particularly enjoyed looked at the human side of taking portraits - how to ensure the subject is portrayed in a natural way, feels comfortable, and enjoys the whole process. This is something that's far too easy to overlook when focused entirely on taking the perfect photo, and it's important to remember that a relaxed subject will lead to a much improved end result.

Bonus Interviews

Finally, the eBook concludes with a series of interviews with highly talented portrait photographers; David Duchemin, Jack Hollinsworth, Chase Jarvis, Bert Stephani, Neil Creek, and Kris Krug. These not only include some remarkable examples from their portfolios, but invaluable advice to bear in mind when photographing people.

Various questions are posed to each interviewee, including "what do you know about photographing people now that you wish you’d known when you started out?". Predominantly aimed at beginners, these elicit some really insightful answers, and make for fascinating reading.


One slight criticism is that new chapters don't start on a new page as you would expect with a traditional book. I appreciate that this is a minor detail, but it means that you don't have the expected visual cue that one chapter has finished and another is beginning.

In addition, it's no surprise that the book does read like a series of (albeit excellent) blog articles. As it's based on content previously posted on Digital Photography School, this was always going to be the case. For instance, the first article is made up predominantly from two posts previously published on DPS.

That said, I don't feel like this should put you off purchasing the book. It's presented well, offers a concise way to learn a great deal about portrait photography, and does still include a great deal of original content (such as the various interviews with different photographers). There's certainly enough value added by the book to justify the $19.95 price tag.

How to Purchase

On the whole, I found the eBook to be a valuable resource. It's filled with useful information, laid out in an easy-to-digest fashion.

If you like the sound of the book, it's currently available with a 25% discount on the usual price of $19.95. You'll need to act fairly fast, as this offer is due to expire within the next few days. More information is available over at the book's website, and it comes with a 30 day money back guarantee if it doesn't meet your expectations.

Portrait Tutorials on Phototuts+

If you're interested in taking better portrait photos but don't want to purchase the eBook, we do have a selection of great articles offering advice here on Phototuts+. Here are a handful that I'd really recommend as good resources - for beginners and pros alike:

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