Gregory Heisler Shares the Techniques That Go Into His Portraiture

© Gregory Heisler
A portrait of actor Hugh Grant, which Gregory Heisler shot for the cover of GQ magazine. Read about Heisler's approach to this portrait and others in the excerpts included below.

“The making of the portrait is fraught with unease,” writes Gregory Heisler in the introduction to 50 Portraits, his new retrospective book that showcases images of A-list actors, musicians, athletes and other notable people he’s photographed since the 1980s. “There is always a silent negotiation; a push and pull. The sitter doesn’t want to face reality; for the photographer, that’s all there is.”

Heisler thrives on that tension, and all the intellectual and creative acuity that the process of making a celebrity portrait demands. “It’s exciting but terrifying, thrilling when it works and heartbreaking when it doesn’t,” he writes.

But the book is more than just a collection of the photographer’s greatest hits. Along with the images are Heisler’s engaging stories about his encounters with each subject. He also describes the assignments behind the images, and he provides details about his creative and technical approaches to each shoot. In short, the book is full of how-to and practical advice for photographers.

Heisler explains in the book’s introduction, “As an avid reader and collector of photography books, I have often wished I could mine the mind of the artist to understand the thinking behind the images, and maybe ask a few technical questions.” 

And so he does his part to demystify the art of portraiture in his own book. What follows are edited excerpts from the book, which will be released this month by Amphoto Books, a division of Random House. 

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