Friday, November 16, 2012

Celebrity photographer Brian Smith wants to share a few secrets with you

Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
From the book, Secrets of Great Portrait Photography, by Brian Smith.

(Click image to enlarge.)

A little over 20 years ago a Miami Herald photographer named Brian Smith agreed to let me assist him on some of his weekend freelance shoots.

At the paper, Brian was considered a master of location portrait lighting, so getting to tag along with him afforded me the opportunity to learn the basics and fundamentals of lighting set-ups.

Brian Smith.
Brian left the Herald in 1992. He's now considered one of the country's best editorial and celebrity photographers. Magazine art directors and photo editors hire Brian because they know he'll get "the shot."

Over the past 20 years Brian has photographed some of the world's most recognizable celebrities and powerful business leaders: People who are used to giving orders and not taking them.

Many of his shoots are rigidly scheduled and leave no room for error. On most of his shoots, Brian goes in with a preconceived idea of the picture he wants. But getting pictures of people with over-sized and sometimes fragile egos involve challenges having nothing to do with lighting or the choice of a camera lens.

Many times, Brian has had to deal with harried assistants or pushy publicists, even before he gets to see his subject.

But, there are also the pleasant surprises. Richard Branson was easy..."a photographer's dream subject," says Brian. Actor Gene Hackman: "a true gentleman."

For a shoot with major league baseball's bad boy, Jose Canseco, Brian learned that when "your subject offers you a shot that's better than you'd planned for, take it."

Now, Brian has collected all those stories, and more, in a book that hit store shelves back in September.

In "Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous," Brian says he "set out to write the book I wish someone handed me when I was starting out."

This morning Brian told me that his book is more than a book about photography and lighting. It's also a book about "how to sell your ideas," he said.

(Despite his obvious success, Brian hasn't always had great luck selling his ideas. Assigned to shoot golfing great Jack Nicklaus, Brian says Nicklaus walked in and said, "Let's get this over with." And then, Brian writes, "He was gone in 60 seconds.")

Brian is going to be talking about his book this Sunday at the Miami Book Fair.

During our chat this morning Brian told me he'll be talking about how he made some of the shots in the book and what it's like to work with celebrities and powerful people.

And, he told me, "I realize that some in the audience will not be photographers, so I'll also spend some time talking about selling your ideas."

What: ‘Secrets of Great Portrait Photography’ by Brian Smith
When: Sunday, November 18 at Noon
Location: Batten, Room 2106, Building 2, Ground Floor Wolfson Campus, Miami Dade College

Click here for a map to Miami Book Fair.

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