Portrait Techniques for everyone DVD: Overview
For those of you unfamiliar with Monte Zucker you're not alone as his website explains; "Few people know who Monte Zucker is today. He keeps reinventing himself. Photographs that he continually creates" "carry his unmistakable signature only if you know his signature style."
Mr. Zucker talks you through how to recreate his particular style of formal portrait. He starts with the lighting scheme he uses for all his shots, (he only ever uses one apparently) through to posing your model and then finally editing the images in Photoshop, which is covered on a separate CD ROM.
The poses that Monte teaches require a stool and a 'posing table', which can be set at various heights for the model to lean on. The studio equipment used includes one of those cloudy backdrops (in this case, a green one) three softboxes and a large reflector.
The majority of the DVD is set in the studio, where Monte takes you through two basic posing schemes and one lighting scheme that he believes work for everyone. I couldn't help but think that the poses often look quite unnatural, (one example on the DVD cover looks as though a man is trying to pull a lady's chin off) but that is apparently all part of Mr. Zucker's signature style. He then goes on to expand these posing schemes for couples before explaining how to shoot people in profile. Monte comes across as being quite a character, but without being over the top. His explanations are clear and easy to follow.
So far so good. As the DVD is really targeted towards refining the basics of formal portraiture, there is much that a budding studio photographer who wishes to create these kinds of images could draw from. I say so far because the next chapter on the DVD is an advert for Canon cameras, with Monte sat outside his studio (with the sound of traffic passing by) explaining why Canon cameras and printers are 'a winning combination' in a kind of video out-take meets over zealous salesperson way. I have nothing against Canon cameras, or advertising and sponsorship, but the way this is dropped in the middle of the DVD cheapens the whole package for me.
Back on track after that brief interlude, Monte wraps up by taking you through how to recreate the lighting set-up using window light and a reflector, which could be very useful for those who have limited studio kit. Again the level targeted is fairly basic, but they are basics that could easily be expanded upon. After this he takes another look at his studio set-up (which seems a bit repetitive to me) before filling the space left on the DVD with a less formal portrait. Production values are good and the editing and sound quality of the DVD good enough, with Monte's instructions always being clearly audible. No music is used at any point in the DVD, which is better than poor music in my opinion.
On the accompanying CD ROM there are five Quicktime videos with step-by-step instructions of Monte's editing process. Even here he can't resist getting the odd plug in for his plugins, but at least he explains how to achieve the same results using Photoshop's standard tools. These videos are very easy to follow, even for those who are not too advanced with Photoshop. A few sample TIFs are included on the CD for you to practice the techniques on, which is a nice touch.
Portrait Techniques for everyone DVD: Verdict
Here's how the image looks before following the tutorial.
This is the finished edited image.
Having watched the DVD I feel I could comfortably recreate this kind of portrait if I wanted to and I feel that most others would feel the same way. The level this package is aimed at is fairly basic, so if I were a budding portrait photographer who needed a little more guidance in how to take better formal portraits, the £80 this DVD costs could be worth so much more to your business. However, if your level as a photographer is fairly advanced, or you prefer to practice a more natural style of portraiture, this DVD may not be for you.
Portrait Techniques for everyone DVD: Plus points
Instructions are clear and easy to follow.
The section on portraits by window light is great for photographers with limited equipment.
Photoshop tutorials with sample files are concise and simple to follow.
Portrait Techniques for everyone DVD: Minus points
Monte's posing style won't be to everyone's taste.
Advertorial section cheapens the package for me.
Techniques taught leave limited scope for creativity.
£80 seems expensive for what you get.
QUALITY OF ADVICE
Portrait Techniques for everyone costs $139 which converts to around £76 using the Reuters currency converter. Take a look at the Software Cinema website here for more details.