Brian Smith: Secrets to Outstanding Portraitures

Today we continue with our special “Holywood photography week” (In honor of the Hollywood Film Awards 2019 that took place this month), this time around we bring you Pulitzer prize winner and A list celebrity photographer Brian Smith who talks about his work and shares many tips for shooting outstanding portraitures that apply to both Holywood stars as well as average Joe.

In this video Marc Silber the host of “Advancing Your Photography” interviews Smith and talks with him about his workflow and shares some of his tips for successful portraits. In the interview, Smith mentions an interesting point – people who tend to be in front of a camera all day know, intuitively, in many cases when the lighting makes them look good and so if a photographer makes the effort to bring them into such environment there is a better chance that they will feel more relaxed and comfortable from the get-go.

There are other interesting aspects to shooting celebrities since many of them have been shot by many other photographers you always feel like you need to bring your own A-game into the mix and be more creative and this tends to push photographers and you can certainly see this in Smith’s works.

With celebrities you also tend not to direct as much, making the entire shoot more of a collaborative work where each brings his or her own strengths.

The most important tip and the one that we hear time and time again from long-time pro photographers for starting photographers is to go out and shoot as much as possible and focus as much as possible on people and interacting with people, learn to approach strangers and establish good communication. Try and explain to the person you are shooting what you are doing and why and involve them in the project. Try and approach 50 strangers and take their portrait and show something about themselves – this is a fantastic exercise for a starting photographer that will help you progress with your portrait photography to the next level.

Over the years Smith photographed some of the most famous A-listers including David Hyde Pierce & Kelsey Grammer (Fraiser), Taye Diggs, Alyssa Milano, Jennifer Aniston, Hugh Laurie, and many others – you can see some of his work here and here.

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An older B&H video with a lecture by Brian Smith who shares the lessons he’s learned over the past 30 years capturing the faces of the famous and infamous as a top magazine portrait photographer

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You can check out the rest of our celebrity photographer series here on LensVid.

Iddo Genuth
Iddo Genuth is the founder and chief editor of He has been a technology reporter working for international publications since the late 1990's and covering photography since 2009. Iddo is also a co-founder of a production company specializing in commercial food and product visual content.

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