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Photography Book of the Year

Heisler: 50 PortraitsAs you know, I love photography books (even though I make videos for people who don’t like to read books…)

I keep an ever-growing list of my favorite books on my Resources page for you, and a new book has just claimed the top spot:

Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits

Heisler is arguably the greatest living portrait photographer.

And as if that weren’t accomplishment enough, he has now written what may be the best book on photography that I’ve ever read.

It’s a perfect blend of left-brain and right-brain, art and technique.

The book is just what the title suggests: 50 of Heisler’s best portraits, laid out for you in full-page or double-page spreads. (Kindle version? Puh-lease. This is a book to own in hardcover—and it’s a big, satisfying hardcover with plenty of thump-factor.)

Heisler Bush Portrait


But the great value resides not primarily in the portraits (although they are amazing and an education in themselves), but in Heisler’s thoughtful analysis of each one.

I’ve never read a photographer better able to recall and capture the intimate details of thought that went into creating a shot. From his first conception, to the fumbling, sometimes aborted experiments, to the final epiphany that solved the puzzle, Heisler lays his process bare to us.

Heisler Mourning Portrait


And he somehow manages to provide just enough technical detail to satisfy our inner mechanic without becoming a boring tech-head.

The balance is perfect.

Heisler Roberts Portrait


I actually think Heisler’s text in this book is as much a work of art as the portraits, and that’s saying a lot.

I originally intended to savor this book over a long time, reading one chapter each day. But that’s like trying to eat one potato chip.

I ended up reading the whole book, cover to cover, in a few evenings, telling myself “Just one more, then I’ll go to bed.”

Every photographer I know will be getting a copy of this from me for Christmas.

Holiday shopping—done!

See the book on


And of course, if you buy from my Amazon links you buy me a beer!

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  1. Sylvia Gardner-Wittgenstein says:

    thank you for sharing this.

    I NEVER can understand why publishers would place a photo (especially in a photography book) across the fold of the pages – as here with the image of Julia Roberts –

  2. Dave Jones says:

    I was just about to type in the very same comment as posted by Sylvia Gardner-Wittgenstein … I don’t understand why the publishers do it either ??? It ruins the image … surely the photographer has a say in the layout ?

  3. This looks to be a fabulous book to own – a great Christmas wish idea.
    I use Lightroom and thanks to your excellent tutorial, am very happy with the difference it has made to processing my images.
    I have a question to which perhaps many travelers would appreciate advice: I will be in China for a week…will, no doubt, shoot like crazy! Other than downloading to a laptop, what would you advise as another method to back up my pictures, during the trip? Regards – Leigh

  4. roland suarez-ontog says:

    On top of my Christmas list!
    How would you lay out a/an horizontal photo vertically? like the photo shown…of Julia Roberts.

  5. Thanks for telling myself and others about book.
    Im now looking forward to Christmas seeing your sending me a copy with all other photographers that you know… thats very nice of you…lol

  6. Jack says:

    This is an outstanding recomendation. I thought Yousef Karsh was the premier portrait photographer. Just changed my mind and I do owe you a beer for I just placed my order with Amazon!!

  7. Mike says:

    Can’t wait to read this book. Seeing the portraits will be an added bonus. Thanks for the recommendation.

  8. Michael says:

    Many thanks Phil – awesome portrait book, especially from a photographers perspective with tons of insights about shot setup, lighting, settings and psychology of the photo. BTW, the Kindle version did not spoil the photo of Julia Roberts (no creases).

  9. I trust Phills’ recommendation and believe that it holds much more value in it than what it costs to have it in your hands. I’m looking to buy it as a present for myself first!

  10. Lynne Bardell says:

    Fabulous book, only got it yesterday, opened it today to start reading it and I can’t put it down, what an artist, breath taking images. Many thanks for recommending it, early Christmas present to myself, but will definitely have finished by then!

  11. Federico says:

    Great book! thanks for sharing

  12. Adnan Mansour says:

    I am thoroughly enjoying the book, it is just wonderful.
    Great imagery( a Visual candy!) and insight into the thinking process of a brilliant photographer. Phil thank you for the recommendation .

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