Just finished reading the book The Art of Children’s Portrait Photography (amazon) by Tamara Lackey. I really liked this book, but the title doesn’t completely reflect the content of this book.
All the pictures in this book are of children, and the content is definitely geared towards photographers that take pictures of children, but this book sits squarely in the middle of a creative book, a how to book, and a business book. I am not really sure how you can sit in the middle of three different things, but it does.
Keep in mind that my overall impression of the book is very positive, but I may be just the right target audience. If you are already taking portraits, and have some understanding of you camera and lighting, but want some more specific advice on taking contemporary pictures of children and how you could structure your new business and handle workflow, then this book is for you.
Honestly, I think that this would be a good read for anyone that is trying to get any type of portrait photography business going, or is struggling and wanting some new ideas. The last part of the book is all business. But I get the impression that for Tamara, that part doesn’t come that easy to her, which is why she has devoted so much of this book to this aspect.
It surprised me, actually. I started reading without looking at the table of contents. She starts by trying to define contemporary children’s photography, and then follows with probably the strongest chapter in the book, “Working with Children”. There is a lot of great info in here on how different kids are different, and how you can interact with them to get the best photographs to come out of them
The “Basic Portrait Photography Overview” is also a solid chapter, but it really is a an overview, and about portrait lighting in general. It should come as no surprise that many of the same lighting tricks that work for high fashion are not the same as those for little kids, but light is light. This is a really good into to studio and location lighting if you haven’t had one before, and there are enough good ideas and placement tricks in there to make it worthwhile for everyone else. There are some lighting diagrams in there, but tech heads will miss not seeing lighting ratios and camera f-stops. What Tamara is more concerned with is the emotion and spirit she is trying to capture of the children she is photographing. This makes perfect sense, but sometimes I found myself wondering about some of the technical settings in the camera.
The photography through out the book is fantastic. Tamara does a wonderful job of drawing out her subjects. And this is where I got surprised, because chapters 4-9 are all about the business side. How to handle the shoot, what to do after a shoot, digital workflow, sales sessions, even advertising and marketing.¬†There is nothing wrong with these chapters at all, in fact I got a lot out of them. Stuff I am glad to have read that I didn’t know I was going to get to.
However, it almost feels like this book is two books where both need more content. The business section has some wonderful stuff in it, but there definitely could be more in here. These chapters are short, and more specific examples of successes and failures from her own business would have been good here. There are some great stories of bloopers to avoid in the first sections, and some more in this business section would have been great.
Even with the things that I have said about the book here, I still liked it a whole lot. I got this from the library, and had to wait on a long list. It must be well received. I am even thinking of purchasing this book now, because I have to return it, and I want to re-read it.
So, I would recommend this to a beginning portrait photographer, definitely any children’s photographer (if nothing else the photographs for inspiration), and anyone in the starting or struggling phases of a photography business. Hmmm… I think that covers quite a few people.