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There are few things I’ve found in my life as a photographer of any real lasting value:  My older pre-ASPH Leica lenses, an old Domke bag I’ve had forever, my hat, and a small library of books – SONY A7/A7R:FROM SNAPSHOTS TO GREAT SHOTS  now being one of those books. The quality hand-crafted into my old Leica lenses is legendary, little point elaborating on those further.  My old Domke bag is still the smallest one sold and still the best damn bag ever made for a Leica M.  Finding the right hat to keep the sun off of my balding head is one of the hardest of tasks.  Most hats have a brim far too stiff to allow me to shoot vertical, while still keeping the sun out of my eyes.  My hat does all of this and more. Two reasons for my small book collection.  First, my collection features the published work of my friends.  The second is space.  Books are big and heavy.  Big and heavy while moving around North America as much as I have means I have paired my collection down many times. Brian Smith’s new book, SONY A7/A7R: FROM SNAPSHOTS TO GREAT SHOTS  has now become a permanent part of my collection. Before I continue with my review, full disclosure is required.  Brian and his wife have been friends of mine going back many years, though living on opposite coasts of the United States as we do has made it difficult to spend much time together.  But we’re close enough to be on each other’s Christmas Card list!


The Smiths 2012 Christmas Card.

Over the years we’ve known each other Brian has been a mentor for me as he has for thousands of others.  I don’t know of a better or more knowledgable portrait photographer.  Brian’s professional credentials are extensive as they are impressive, a Pulitzer Prize included among the many.  Brian is widely known for producing high quality commercial portrait work on demand.  It is his full time job and he is the penultimate perfectionist at executing professional assignments.  Brian is also one of the hardest working men I know who also has that rare quality of enjoying life.  Brian’s suggestion to me to slow down when shooting has saved me hours of editing pains in post while producing far superior execution and a higher number of “keepers” that tell my stories. When Brain told me he was publishing SONY A7/A7R:FROM SNAPSHOTS TO GREAT SHOTS, I had some very high expectations given the source and the subject.  As most of you know, the A7R is now my own primary camera.  I’m happy to report even my high expectations were far exceeded.  Without a doubt in my mind, SONY A7/A7R:FROM SNAPSHOTS TO GREAT SHOTS  is destined to become one of the premier books ever written on the subject of portrait photography, along with a must read for every artist as a guide to using the A7/A7R. Brian’s writing style is as free as he is with his hard won professional photography level tips and secrets.  Make no mistake about it, whatever camera you use, if you want to perfect your portrait photography technique to a new level, SONY A7/A7R:FROM SNAPSHOTS TO GREAT SHOTS is a book you will want to read over and over.  If you happen to own an A7 or A7R, SONY A7/A7R:FROM SNAPSHOTS TO GREAT SHOTS is destined to become your new photography bible.  Whatever your personal proficiency level, every chapter, every sub-topic in this book is well worth reading.  This is a book for everyone, from beginner who wants to learn the techniques of Portrait Photography to the expert landscape photographer just setting up your new A7R. Brian goes into great depth and detail in his discussions on technique, tips and settings suggestions for the A7/A7R, and illustrates both with his excellent professional photography.  It doesn’t get any better.  Highly Recommended for everybody.

Can’t give it all away here for free, but here is a sample from SONY A7/A7R:FROM SNAPSHOTS TO GREAT SHOTS I particularly liked:


Different focal lengths flatten perspective to various degrees. Understanding the feeling that this creates is another tool in creating memorable portraits. For instance, filling the frame results in a certain look, but shooting a tight portrait with a slightly wide-angle lens (Figure 5.16) results in rounder facial features than you get when shooting with a longer focal length (Figure 5.17).”


Same Portrait, Two Different Lens Choices. Wide And Round On The Left, VS. Flat And Compressed With The Telephoto On the Right. ©Brian Smith

Brian covers another hard to understand subject well: shooting action sports portraits using fast shutter speeds and continuous drive,  the 180 degree opposite of the manual focus, 1/250th of a second world of the formal studio portrait.  Brian also shares his secrets for getting a sense of motion into your action photography.  He even discusses bovine adventures.

Brian Practices What He Preaches, Expecting The Unexpected.

Brian Practices What He Preaches, Expecting The Unexpected.

Brian’s section on using fast lenses is one of the better I have read on the subject for the A7/A7R mirrorless full frame cameras.  Though I walk the valleys with shadows and darkness, Mr. Smith guides the way for my A7R using High ISO and Flash.


Brian Smith Shares His Expertise In Choosing Lenses With An Excellent Drawing Signature For Portrait Use.            Image ©Brian Smith.

The extensive sections of Chapter 8 cover high ISO shooting  and a particularly thorough walk thru of how to best utilize flash with the A7/A7R.

Photography is, at its core, about capturing and recording light. ” – Brian Smith

The first nine chapters of SONY A7/A7R:FROM SNAPSHOTS TO GREAT SHOTS cover a lot of ground, especially on the general photographic concepts that apply to most, if not all, shooting situations.  Chapter ten begins the advanced techniques and how to specifically tune your own A7 or A7R to your particular shooting style.
Additional chapters cover everything creative from Macro photography, setting up for shooting an HDR image, Wireless settings, Sound, and almost everything you ever wanted to know about shooting the A7R in various Video modes.  The bottom line, this book is a jam packed set of high quality, well thought out, well written pages to help you make the most of your time creating your own portraits and photo/video stories.  Think of it as a hybrid storyteller’s guide book to the A7/A7R galaxy.  This book can teach you how to polish the rough edges, refine your personal style, and above all, how to go out and have fun creating far better images!
‘Sony A7/A7R: From Snapshots to Great Shots’ is available from AmazonAmazon CanadaAmazon UKBarnes & Noble and Peachpit


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(I receive NO COMPENSATION of any kind on your purchase of this book, but would greatly appreciate your using these links when you do so for tracking purposes)
Chuck Jones

Digital Media Producer, Photographer, Video Storyteller, Cinemagraph Master. Only Semi-Reformed Hippy. Managing Editor of http://TheCameraForum.Com

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