Rosanne Olson tells it like she teaches it. In her previous books, there never has been anything left unsaid. The Art of the Portrait (Amherst Media, 2016) follows in the well-worn path. Whether you are a beginning or mid-level photographer, there is something for you in her newest book.
I have been a fan of her work for many years, and have always been surprised at the level of her commitment to her craft. Whether it is working with a pin-hole camera or utilizing the latest technology she is at home with either.
With this release, Olson adds another memorable title to her library. She shares her personal “secrets,” and doesn’t hold back on the technical aspects of fine art portraiture.
In the introduction, the question is asked: “What makes a portrait?”
And the answer is given: “Truth be told, there is no quick answer to that question. Portraits come in many forms.” And it is in those many forms that Olson shines.
“The Table of Contents” tells you, immediately, what to expect. There are no esoteric terms with little actual meaning. No fluff. With examples like those listed below, you can go to the section that immediately appeals to you.
Table of Contents examples:
• Who is in front of the camera: It’s not always about you. In order to achieve truly great portraits, you need to spend some personal time with your subject(s).
• Find a starting point: When you first meet a client, invite them for coffee. Get to know them.
• Location or studio: My advice is to keep it simple and make sure you and the client are comfortable with either choice.
• Coaching the subject: My usual approach to a portrait is to spend some time talking to the individual before we begin the actual session.
• Pets & their people: What I like about photographing pets (and babies!) is that once they are comfortable with the situation, they are completely themselves, until they decide they are done.
• Commercial: Even though we are working, sometimes, with people who are trained in what they do, making a personal connection, getting to know whom we are working with, and connecting with humanity and humor are ways to get more character out of the photo shoots.
“In the age of Instagram, Facebook, ubiquitous cellphone cameras and selfie sticks, Rosanne Olson makes a compelling case for the professional photographer, who brings to the task of capturing individuals a raft of insights into lighting, a laundry list of minutiae that can make or break a photo shoot, and a wise heart that listens to the subject and collaborates to project the subject’s character and individuality.” (John, Amazon)
“I have just now had a chance to read and view this book. It is wonderful. Rosanne is in each paragraph. And so accessible. The writing is clear, examples plentiful and her attitude encouraging. She is a gifted teacher, even on the written page. Her precision and grace appear in every photograph and she treats each story with honor. This book will benefit the casual photographer as well as the most serious among us.” (Margaret, Amazon)
Each section is illustrated with wonderful images that show how she creates a partnership with her client. As many of you know who have worked with portraiture, this is a necessity. If you approach the shoot stiffly, that is exactly how the images will look. From looking at the images in “The Art of the Portrait” it is obvious each part of the formula listed in the “Table of Contents” is there.
If this were a coffee table book of fine art images it could stand on its own; but it isn’t. It is an instruction manual, first and foremost, taking one by the heart and leading them by the hand in the right direction to better understand how to proceed in an efficient and effective manner.
It would be easy for some to simply this book as just another of the dozen or so released each year with this subject matter.
With Rosanne Olson in mind as you leaf through the pages you never forget she is “in each paragraph. And so accessible.”
I recently found this book after receiving it last year, and am very appreciative I did. As a photographer who shoots very simply, I was pleased when I found a section on my kind of work. Timmy likes it!