Book Review: Forget Mugshots: 10 steps to better portraits by David Duchemin

Last week we announced the latest release in the Craft & Vision eBook range, “Forget Mugshots”. We asked fashion and portrait photographer, Natalie Field, to review and share her thoughts on it.

Title: Forget Mugshots: 10 steps to better portraits by David Duchemin

Format: eBook

Available at Craft and Vision,

This 35 page eBook is a quick overview of ten important factors to consider when photographing portraiture. Set out sequentially, these factors are illustrated with anecdotes and accompanying images from the author’s personal experience, referred to as “Picture Profiles”, as well as references to iconic images. There are also creative exercises to encourage the reader to participate in the practical experience of portraiture.

In his introduction, Duchemin places focus on the portraits’ power to reveal something of not only the sitter, but also the photographer and their relationship. He reveals that a “snapshot is a photograph of something, a portrait is a photograph about something” and proceeds to provide various tools the photographer may utilize to capture this revelation and preserve a moment in time.

The first and most significant of these factors is how to relate to the subject matter and so make them feel more comfortable. He encourages the portraitist to look beyond the smile for true emotions and suggests that patience plays a key role in unveiling real character. Duchemin follows this with a look at “the decisive moment”.

Another aspect Duchemin asks the photographer to consider is the choice of lens. He suggests breaking away from pre-conceived ideas that certain lenses should be used on certain subjects and to rather contemplate how one can creatively assign the different lens qualities to impact the mood of the portraiture one wishes to create.

Other aspects to consider include: shooting numerous frames to complete the story you wish to portray, reading the sitter by understanding the smile’s sincerity and creating catch lights in the subject’s eyes to bring attention to the most expressive part of the face. The author also emphasizes the importance of playing with both natural and artificial light to achieve a good portrait and stresses the various uses of the 5-in-1 reflector.

Control over the background is also discussed as the author feels that a good portrait can be ruined by a poor background and recommendations on this topic include the use of a larger depth of field, compression through a longer focal length, or the obvious option of moving your position, or that of the subject. He follows on the topic of physical positioning in the next sector which deals with perspective and shooting portraits at eye level. The final factor he touches on is posing.

In conclusion, Duchemin reveals portraiture to be a collaboration between photographer and subject. With this eBook the author wishes to “recalibrate you a little… remind you of something you probably already knew but may not have considered in the specific discipline of portraiture”.

Review by Natalie Field