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

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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...

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

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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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780321803535
  • Publisher: New Riders
  • Publication date: 3/2/2012
  • Series: Voices That Matter Series
  • Edition description: Original
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 312
  • Sales rank: 130,636
  • Product dimensions: 7.90 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Roberto Valenzuela is a Beverly Hills-based photographer, specializing in wedding photography. He has been recognized as one of the world's top wedding photographers by Junebug Weddings, and has won over 50 international print competition accolades from the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) association. He is an active speaker and teacher at photography conferences across the country. Learn more at robertovalenzuelaphotography.com.
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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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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 11, 2012

    One of the best photog books to come along in a long time

    I'm still reading this book, but every chapter has offered valuable tips, insights, and ways of thinking about your photography. I've read all the McNally books, and others, and while each of them has their own value, this one in particular shines above the rest. The exercises are valuable, and relate well to the subject matter. My photography has already improved (I've been an amateur for a number of years). Well written, easy to understand, Roberto helps you think about your approach and photography in ways that will work for you. Highly recommended!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 15, 2013

    Great book

    While Roberto Valenzuela is a wedding photographer, his teachings are applicable to a much wider range of photography. He actually gives you assignments after he has covered each topic. His instructions on how to review your work is very good and he uses some of his own photos to help you understand.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 11, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    great composition ideas

    I am always looking for books to improve my photography,and this book hit the mark. Great practical advice with getting the photo right.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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