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

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


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  • Copyright 2012
  • Dimensions: 8" x 10"
  • Pages: 312
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-321-80353-1
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-321-80353-5

Foreword by Skip Cohen

Translating the chaos of the real world into a breathtakingly simple, beautiful photograph can often seem like an impossible task. With busy, cluttered backgrounds and subjects who don’t know how to pose, how can you take control and get a great shot no matter the situation? In Picture Perfect Practice, photographer Roberto Valenzuela breaks down the craft of photography into three key elements–locations, poses, and execution–that you can use to unlock the photographic opportunities lying beneath every challenging situation.

Valenzuela stresses the need for photographers to actively practice their craft every day–just like you would practice a musical instrument–in order to master the art of making great images. With chapters that offer practice exercises to strengthen your photographic abilities, you’ll learn how to approach a scene, break it down, and see your way to a great photograph. The Location section features chapters that cover symmetry, balance, framing, color elements, textures, and much more. The Posing section includes the Five Key Posing Techniques that Valenzuela uses every time he’s shooting people, as well as a complete list of poses and how to achieve, customize, and perfect them. The Execution portion, with sections like “Lighting through Direction” and “Simplicity through Subtraction,” reveals Valenzuela’s overall approach to getting the shot. The book also includes an inspiring and helpful chapter on deliberate practice techniques, where Valenzuela describes his system for practicing and analyzing his work, which leads to constant improvement as a photographer.

If you’ve been frustrated and overwhelmed by the challenges of real-world locations, posing your subjects, or executing a great image–or if you simply want to become a better shooter but don’t know where to start–Picture Perfect Practice gives you the tools and information you need to finally become the kind of photographer you’ve always wanted to be: the kind who can confidently walk into any location, under any lighting condition, with any subject, and know that you can create astonishing photographs that have a timeless impact.

Sample Content

Online Sample Chapter

Use Symmetry to Improve Your Photographs

Sample Pages

Download Chapter 4 Symmetry

Table of Contents

Foreword    xi
Introduction   xiii   
How to Read This Book         xiv

The Location, Posing, and Execution Charts         xvi

Part 1: locations

1 Geometry 3

Geometry for Framing         5

Geometry in the Environment         7

Geometry for Balance         9

Putting It All Together         10

2 Balance 11

Balancing with People         12

Balancing with Objects         12

Five Key Questions for Choosing a Balance Point         12

Balancing with Space         15

3 Parallel Lines         21

Working with Horizontal Lines         22

Working with Vertical Lines         24

4 Symmetry 27

Combining Vertical Symmetry with People         29

Combining Horizontal Symmetry with People         31

Seeing Symmetry Everywhere         32

5 Color Elements         35

Keep Contrasting Colors to a Minimum         36

Find an Area Where the Colors Are Part of the Same Family         36

The Three-Color Limit         38

6 Depth 43

Depth and the Environment         44

Depth with Context         44

Depth for Mood         45

Depth with Movement         49

Shadows         53

The Bright Side of Shadows.         54

Using Dark Rooms Outside to Create Striking Portraits with Shadows          54

1: Shooting from the Shadow Side         55

2: Shooting in the Middle Between the Bright and Shadow Sides          56

3: Shooting from the Bright Side         57

Navigate by the Shadows on the Ground         59

Casting Shadows from Objects to Create Graphical Interest

on a Portrait         61

Using an Off-Camera Flash or Video Light to Force Shadows to

Appear Where Desired         63

8 Silhouettes         67

Vital Components of Silhouettes         .68

A Very Bright Background to Create Contrast         68

Subjects or Objects Should Have Little or No Light Falling on Them         68

No On-Camera Flash         68

Clear and Recognizable Shapes         68

Correct Exposure         68

Creating the Opportunity for Silhouettes         69

Partial Silhouettes         70

Posing Silhouettes         72

Creating Contrasting Silhouettes         74

9 Reflections         77

Reflections Using a Single Mirror                  78

Two Sides of the Same Person         78

Capturing Expressions and Relationships through a Mirror         79

Telling Multiple Stories through a Single Mirror         80

Creating Balance with a Single Mirror         81

Reflections Using Two Mirrors         83

Using Beveled Mirrors         84

Reflections from Water         86

Finding Reflections in Unlikely Places         88

10 Patterns and Repetitions         93

Incorporating Patterns into Photography         94

Breaking a Pattern to Isolate a Subject                  94

Combining Patterns with Geometry         95

Using a Flash to Bring Out the Pattern         98

Combining Patterns with Geometry and Symmetry         99

Working with Repetitions         100

Positioning Subjects Within or Near the Repetition         100

Positioning Subjects to Become Part of the Repetition         101

11 Framing 103

Creating Action Inside a Frame         104

Creating Frames         105

Natural Frames         107

Double Frames         110


Framing with People         112

Framing with Meaning         113

12 Paintings and Artwork 115

Choosing the Right Artwork         116

Removing Context         116

Composition with Paintings and Artwork         118

Technical and Lighting Tips         121

13 Contrasts         125

Old and New                  126

Big and Small         128

Bright and Dark         129

Contrasting Expressions         131

Age Contrast                  132

Contrasting Colors.         135

Breaking the Status Quo         136

14 Lens Flare 139

The Benefits of Lens Flare                  140

Everything in Moderation         140

Moving Halos Away from the Body         140

Block and Crop         142

Setting Priorities         144

Advanced Lens Flare Techniques                  145

15 Walls, Translucent Surfaces, and Textures         147

Walls and Shade         148

Proximity to the Sun         149

Reflecting a Patch of Sunlight         151

Reflecting Window Light in Front of Walls         152

Using an External Flash on Walls         153

Using Walls as Reflectors         154

Think Like a Photographer         157

Using Natural Walls         158

Superimposing Designs on Walls         159

Wall Textures         160

Making Texture Work for You         161

Using Contrasting Textures         163

Translucent Materials         165

Part 2: POSES

16 Five Key Posing Techniques         171

My Posing System         172

Technique 1: Systematically Sculpting the Body         172

Distributing Weight for Natural Posing         172

Symmetrical Posing         175

Technique 2: Posing the Hands         177

Posing Hands in Large Groups         179

Technique 3: Posing the Face         180

The “X” Factor         180

Technique 4: Injecting Expression and Balancing Energies         182

Clichés Don’t Work!         182

Eyes Must Be Posed         183

Technique 5: Give Specific Directions         186

17 Posing Chart 187

Getting the Most Out of This Chapter         188

Traditional         188

Him Behind Her         192

Her Behind Him         194

Walking         197

Kissing         201

Playful, Action, Movement         206

Holding Hands         210

Sitting         213

Together Side by Side         216

Interpretive         219

Distance Apart         224

Hugging         227

Foreground/Background         230

Facing Each Other         234

Kiss Anticipation         238

Featuring Him         239

Featuring Her         240

T-Pose         242


18 Execution 247

Lighting through Direction         248

Simplicity through Subtractio         250

Beauty through Angles         252

The Tourist Test         254

Bird’s Perspective         254

Dog’s Perspective         257

Perspective through Lenses         259


19 Deliberate Practice 263

Perform         264

Discover         265

Technical Problems         265

Location Problems         266

Lighting Problems         266

Pose/Expression Problems         266

Approach Problems         267

Artistic/Creative Problems         267

Breaking It Down         267

Analyze         268

Step-by-Step Practice Session         269

Situation         269

Breakdown Exercise Log         270

Integrating the Location Chart and Previous Practice Sessions         270

Practice Session Photos and Analysis of Results         271

Real-Life Application of New Skill Set         275

Final Practice Examples         277

Weeds or Plants         277

Narrow Hallways         278

Foreground/Background and Silhouettes         281

Ruffled Dress         283

Final Words         287

Index 289


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