Summary and Info
After reading all the glowing reviews of this book, I was expecting something truly remarkable. After finishing the book, I can't help but feel a little disappointed. About 40% of the book has nothing to do with how to take head and shoulders pictures (or any pictures, for that matter), but rather with the business of photography, and how to make yours more profitable. It seems this book is aimed, not at the amateur photographer, but at the pro who's looking to improve his business. He goes on about how to find out what a client wants, how to treat them, what things to have readily available at your studio, etc. This is all good information for those who need it, but perhaps he should have saved it for a book entitled "The Business of Photography" or something. Most of his suggestions simply would not apply to an amateur. For example, he suggests hiring assistants to do almost everything except take the photos, claiming "You make hundreds of dollars an hour behind the camera, but when you sit down at the computer, you're doing the job of someone making twelve dollars an hour." Well, that's all fine, but it's not what I was looking for in a book with the title "Jeff Smith's Guide to Head and Shoulders Portraits". I was hoping for...I don't know...maybe some information on how to take great head and shoulders portraits. It's not like most of the people reading this book are in a position to hire lots of assistants. If I had that kind of money, I'd just pay a seasoned pro photographer to teach me everything he knows.
Mr. Smith goes on and on about how to make your photography business profitable, and basically states that, if you don't follow his advice, you'll be one of those photographers complaining about being put out of business by "soccer moms with dSLR's". He repeatedly emphasizes the importance of knowing what your customers needs and desires are. But he doesn't seem to understand that this book is most likely not being read by fellow professionals, but by the very "soccer moms" and other amateurs he rails against. I believe he has failed to take his own advice and has put out a book that doesn't meet the expectations of his clients.
Now, the reason I give the book three stars and not just one is because it does contain some useful information about posing and lighting the subject, and his portraits are truly stunning. Of course, it helps that he runs a very high-end photography studio, and his clients are the "beautiful people" of California, not the average Joe or Jane. I'm not sure his lighting setup, which leans more toward fashion lighting than portraiture, would be appropriate for most clients. Still, the book shows the lighting techniques and posing very well. He also goes into detail on posing the hands, head, shoulders, and even the eyes. It's just a shame that he wasted so much space on information that isn't on topic. I wish he had gone into more detail on various lighting setups, but apparently he didn't have enough space. Obviously, he felt that including information on how to stock tampons because "the average woman starts her period at unexpected times in embarrassing places and has no hygiene products" was more important.
I'm keeping the book, so Jeff has made his profit off of me, which seems to be his main goal. But I won't be putting him on my list of authors to buy from in the future.
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