Heisler Inspiration | 50 Portraits

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So, I’m long overdue for another installation of Inspiration here on the blog, and I thought I would bring it back by reviewing one of the masters – Gregory Heisler. When you want to learn or you’re going through a creative slump, you can always turn to the greats and really dig in and see what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Not just how they light or post-process or what gear they used, but how they interact with their subjects, pose them, and capture the raw emotion they are looking for. Heisler is a legend in every aspect and regard as any photographer will tell you, and his book 50 Portraits is an absolute must have for any portrait photographer who wants to dive into the mind of a long-term professional.

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His ability to work with a subject and capture 30 frames that look fairly similar yet pick the one that – to him – clearly stands out. He’s right every time and the results are epic. His shots of Olympic great Michael Phelps are a perfect example. He was able to take Michael “to the pool” without actually being in a pool just by posing, selecting a background, and lighting it properly. If this shot was done on a white backdrop it would lose much of its impact, instead it has become one of the iconic shots of the great swimmer.

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Every page is filled with this intense knowledge and Heisler’s write-ups about the shoots, set-ups, and ideas are just as inspired as the images and can work wonders on the creative imagination. The hardback book is definitely worth the money and the time to look through once and poor over time and time again for countless hours just to learn and train your mind to think differently.

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That’s the key isn’t it? To continue to learn and train your mind. In college, we were told that as biomedical engineers what we were currently learning would be outdated in 3 years from graduation. Crazy right? That’s a lot of time and cash to learn something that was going to be close to useless in 3 years. That wasn’t the point though, the point was that we were being trained to think, compute, and problem solve in a specific way. Creativity and the creative process is absolutely no different from physics and mathematics. Your brain is a muscle just like everything else and it can learn different movements, concepts, and thought-processes just like a hamstring or bicep. In that same sense, we can’t keep doing the same things over and over again or our creative process will get boring or atrophy. Train to think differently and look at the creations of the greats to see how they trained their minds to create the inspired images, paintings, drawings, and concepts that have become staples in our society and history books. Until next time, keep reading, keep creating, and keep being inspired!

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