Portrait photography is undoubtedly one of the most popular photographic specialties there is, so it’s not surprising that there is a wealth of resources out there on the subject. No matter whether your subjects are fashion models, celebrities, high school seniors or families and children, you don’t have to look far to find tutorials and guidance on how to photograph them. Gina Milicia has made a name for herself as one of Australia’s top portrait photgraphers, having built up an impressive client list of everything from sports, music, and movie stars to executives and politicians. Gina’s first book, Portraits: Making The Shot, was extremely well received, and many people are still benefiting from it. It broke down the basics of portrait photography and gave readers new skills, ideas, and inspiration to take to their shoots.
Gina has returned to publish her second ebook with Digital Photography School – Portraits: Lighting The Shot. As the name suggests, this ebook builds on the basic principles she taught in her first book and adds lighting to the mix. Of course there in no photography without light, but this ebook will take your understanding of what can be done with carefully thought-out light to the next level. I’m sure you’ve all heard the rants about how “natural light it better” from the haters. That’s fine. If you want to limit yourself to only ever shooting natural light portraits, be my guest. If you want to level-up your portrait photography skills by learning how to light your subjects well, you can’t go past this book!
The ebook is broken up into sections; The Rules, The Gear, The Way, The Style, and Building The Shot. They’re pretty self-explanatory. “The Rules” lays out ten foundational rules that Gina shoots by. A lot of it is basic rules of photography and business that would apply to any photographic specialty. Many of these apply to me as a landscape and nature photographer, as they would to a wedding or event photographer. The one “rule” here that I suspect would be controversial would be #8 (use a light meter), but I’ll leave that up to you to decide.
“The Gear”, again as the name implies, delves into the gear of the portrait photographer. Everything from camera bodies and lenses to tripods, gels, light meters, and remote triggers. Of course, no portrait lighting resource would be complete without covering lights in magnificent detail. Gina covers continuous lighting, speedlights, studio and battery-powered strobes, and mono-blocks. She outlines their common uses, their pros and cons, and suggests examples at different budgets. She even throws in a few MacGyver hacks for the ingenuitive photographer.
Things start getting juicy in the third section “The Way”. This part of the ebook starts to unpack some of the more technical aspects of how light behaves and some of the differences between natural light and flash. It also covers things like how to make artificial off-camera flash look natural, how to use fill flash to complement natural light, and shutter-speed considerations. It includes helpful information about things like shooting at different times of day and weather conditions. The last part of this section on shaping light I found particularly helpful, as it identifies and compares a number of different light modifiers (softbox, umbrella, scrim, beauty dish, etc), how they work, and when to use them, all beautifully illustrated with Gina’s stunning portraits of course.
“The Style” shows you how to put all this technical knowledge into practice and begin creatively expressing your vision. It introduces little touches that can take an image from good to great, like using lens flare and catchlights in your subject’s eyes. It includes a great part on lighting more than one subject, and even groups, which if you’ve done before is not easy! This section really leads you into some of the decision making that will help to define your individual vision and style, something that is relevant for all photographers, beginner or seasoned professional. The practical examples in the final section “Building The Shot” bring it all together to show you how a real-life photo shoot can look and how different subjects call for different decisions. It looks at how to balance light, add lights individually and selectively, and use mood to create dramatic, eye-catching portraits.
Overall, I think Gina’s book would be an incredibly valuable resource for any portrait photographer no matter their level of skill or experience. It’s currently available at the launch price of $14.99 (25% off) and you can also bundle it with Gina’s previous two ebooks for an extra $10.