Picture Perfect Practice: A Self-Training Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Taking World-Class Photographs By Roberto Valenzuela

Picture Perfect Practice

Photography isn’t reality. Taking a photo that truly captures the moment unfolding in front of you is different than simply seeing it. Oftentimes the results you get are disappointing. Roberto Valenzuela’s Picture Perfect Practice provides a much-needed set of guidelines that enable you to make art in your camera everywhere you go.

I first heard of Roberto Valenzuela through his appearance on CreativeLive. I was impressed with his straightforward guide to scrutinizing a scene to see it’s photographic possibilities. His method for posing people is practical and well-thought out. Furthermore, it was fun (and funny) to watch as he good-humoredly went through his own catalog of shots from early in his career to show off the worst ones; critiquing them and showing how NOT to do things. Watching an international award-winning photographer broadcast his own early failures was inspiring and showed the strengths of the system of deliberate practice that he since has built. What was even more inspiring was watching the results his students achieved during the two-day course.

This is a book about paying attention to your environment and applying a system to sort through the infinite possibilities of what to include or dismiss to make a great shot. It’s written as a hands-on, practical guide made up of three core sections: Location, Posing, Execution. Each core section is broken down into a multitude of finer concepts and given their own short chapter (patterns and repetitions, framing, symmetry, color elements, etc.) followed by exercises. Although it’s a book I’d recommend for an intermediate level photographer, a beginner could follow along for most of it and benefit greatly from the exercises. The joy of reading this book is that the examples and narrative are lucid and very easily understood on first reading. This book is written from a wedding photography perspective. Many of the examples are of wedding scenes and the entire second section (Posing) is relevant mostly only to wedding photographers. However, I would still recommend this book to nearly anyone looking to improve their skills, no matter their background.

There are too many fascinating sections to summarize them all. Utilizing geometry in the environment for framing along with parallel lines, symmetry, frames, shadows, contrasts, color elements, etc. are discussed with examples. Amongst the more interesting techniques: utilizing a three-color limit in the background of your photos; utilizing shadows to create striking portraits; using an off-camera flash to paint with shadows; posing silhouettes; seeing objects for what they can do, not for what they are; framing with people (not just objects); using walls as reflectors. The section devoted to the five key posing techniques and the inclusion of his posing chart is especially instructive. As in his live presentation, he also utilizes and critiques some of his own shots that didn’t work, showing how he improved them in subsequent shots. The last chapter is devoted to deliberate practice, wherein his discusses the components of continuous improvement and doing a detailed studies of your and other photographer’s work.

All in all, this is a book I’m excited to utilize and refer to. It’s not a book that will sit idly in your library shelf. Expect to fill it with post-its and take notes to go with you out in the field.


Author: Roberto Valenzuela
Publisher: New Riders Press
Formats: Paperback, Ebook
Print: Feb 17, 2012
Ebook: Feb 14, 2012
Pages: 360
Paperback: ISBN-10: 0-321-80353-1  |  ISBN-13: 978-0-321-80353-5
Ebook: ISBN-10: 0-13-285293-4  |  ISBN-13: 978-0-13-285293-7

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