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Book Review: Picture Perfect Practice by Roberto Valenzuela

By Tanya Goodall Smith on August 20th 2013


I recently began cataloging my digital photos from the last 7 years. During those years I’ve been on a constant quest to improve my photography skill. I hadn’t realized just how much my images had improved until I started looking back and seeing how horrible they once were. And then I look at my current work with a critical eye and want to learn how to improve even more.

For this reason, I like to attend a workshop or watch an online class or buy a book a couple times a year in hopes of picking up some new techniques or ideas for honing my craft. I’ve been wanting to step up my game recently, so, when I read the summary of Roberto Valenzuela’s book, Picture Perfect Practice: A Self-Training Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Taking World-Class Photographs, I was intrigued.

From the book’s cover: “Translating the chaos of the real world into a breathtakingly simple, beautiful photograph can often seem like an impossible task. With busy, cluttered backgrounds and subjects who don’t know how to pose, how can you take control and get a great shot no matter the situation? In Picture Perfect Practice, photographer Roberto Valenzuela breaks down the craft of photography into three key elements–locations, poses, and execution–that you can use to unlock the photographic opportunities lying beneath every challenging situation.”

Named one of the top wedding photographers in the world by Junebug Weddings, Valenzuela perfected his portraiture by applying the same work ethic he used to become a skilled classic guitarist. He writes,

The key to becoming an expert at anything boils down to one thing: practice! And not just practice, but deliberate practice.

In this incredible book, Valenzuela introduces the reader to a system he has developed for creating world class photographs at every shoot, in any situation, and is written with the concept of practice in mind. Each 1 to 2 page section is followed by a hands on assignment for practicing the discussed concept.


Being a super nerd who loved school (and would actually like to go back at some point soon), I love the text book-like format of this book. Specific goals and exercises I can check off a list help motivate me to move forward. Valenzuela suggests the reader keep a camera, lens and flash on hand at all times so they can practice the concepts at any moment. Many of the exercises can be performed at home or in the yard. The point of daily practice is to eventually be able to compose the best shot possible without even thinking.


This book does not teach photography basics like proper exposure or off camera lighting. You should be familiar with those things before reading this book. Valenzuela covers, in great detail, subjects meant to help bring your photography to the next level. Sections include locations, poses, execution and finally, deliberate practice.

I’m super excited to get started on this do-it-yourself class in a book and may even blog a little bit about my experience with the practice exercises. Would anyone like to join me? How do you deliberately practice in order to improve your skill?

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Tanya Goodall Smith is the owner, brand strategist and commercial photographer at WorkStory Corporate Photography in Spokane, Washington. WorkStory creates visual communications that make your brand irresistible to your target market. Join the stock photo rebellion at

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Leah Hewitt

    So glad to see a followup to Picture Perfect Posing. That was a really phenomenal book.

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  2. Ipek Amdahl

    Really loved going through this book and practicing!

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  3. Michael Alfaro

    I love this book one of my favorites. I met him last year at wppi on the road in LA and got it sign. Also I wrote a review on amazon and he posted a snapshot of my review it was awesome. Defiantly check out his new book Picture perfect posing. I read an interview on him I think on junebug he’ll be coming out with picture perfect lighting looking forward to it

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  4. Jesse Rinka

    I picked up this book in my hands yesterday among others and decided I wanted to read into some of the reviews a bit first. The reviews all seem to be great so I’ll be heading back soon to pick this one up.

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  5. Wendell Fernandes

    Great read here!

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  6. Behailu Gebremicael

    Per your recommendation I bought this book it is full of wisdom.

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  7. Kurk Rouse

    How did I miss this article ? love this book and instructor

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  8. Kenny

    This looks like a great read. I’m deciding between this and The Photographer’s Eye by Freeman. Have you compared this two books?

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  9. LuAnn Ragge

    This is exactly the kind of book I have been looking for! I’m a serious hobbiest, and I already understand the basics of photography, but I need the type of instruction and guidance offered in this book. Thank you for sharing!

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  10. tanya smith

    Thanks Franzie, I guess I better get to work!

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  11. Franzie

    I would join you on the practice exercises, and will follow your blog.

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  12. jay

    Great article, thanks for sharing! I particularly appreciate your grammar. So many people just don’t care about grammar anymore… ;)

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  13. Tyler Rippel

    Love this book. He’s an amazing instructor, and I own his CreativeLive course on posing, location, and execution as well.

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  14. Wade

    Roberto Valenzuela’s CreativeLive seminar was also very good.

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