Fstoppers Peter Hurley Perfecting the Headshot Video Tutorial

When Fstoppers first launched back in 2010, our goal was to share the secrets of successful photographers in a behind the scenes format. One of the first short videos we ever produced was by a relatively unknown but extremely talented headshot photographer named Peter Hurley. After realizing the genius behind Peter’s coaching approach, Fstoppers decided to film a much longer, full length tutorial on Peter Hurley’s headshot technique.

The resulting educational series The Art Behind the Headshot was highly praised by the photography community, and it helped make Peter Hurley one of the top photography instructors in the world. The Art Behind the Headshot was released in 2011, and since then Peter has not only grown into an even more skilled headshot photographer, but he’s also become a much better instructor. Over the past six years Peter has been perfecting his technique and how he teaches it. Welcome to Perfecting the Headshot!

Confidence with Approachability

If there is one main theme behind Peter’s work, it is that every person needs to look both confident and approachable. The number one challenge any photographer has when photographing people is learning how to break them out of the all too common “deer in the headlights” look and make them look comfortable and engaging. In this tutorial Peter dives deep into the human psyche and explains why people almost always have apprehension and fear when looking into a camera. After learning what causes people to look “blank and out to lunch,” Peter teaches you multiple techniques to make your subjects look more confident and attractive.

Strengthening the Physical Features of the Face

Perhaps one of the most difficult skills to master as a photographer is directing people into a flattering pose or position. Before working with Peter, we used to believe that there were good and bad models and attractive and unattractive subjects. Peter turns that mentality upside down and puts every aspect of the image in the photographer’s hands. Peter is a master at manipulating the body, and through creative angle positioning he can either hide or accentuate someone’s facial features. Celebrities and celebrity photographers are masters at this skill but Peter shares the same techniques so that you too can strengthen jawlines, minimize weight, straighten out crooked noses, even out differences in eye size, improve posture, and hide perceived flaws like crooked teeth, large ears, double chins, and forehead wrinkles. By evaluating every client that comes through his door and applying his techniques, Peter can pull out the most amount of beauty from anyone who steps in front of his camera. It’s pretty amazing to view the differences between first image from a session and one taken 10 minutes later when the client applies Peter’s coaching techniques. In many cases the person’s features look completely different and the overall final headshot is a much more pleasing portrait of the person. In this tutorial Peter teaches you everything he uses to make the smallest detail perfect so your clients can look their absolute best.

Crafting Dramatic and Flattering Lighting

One of the most recognizable elements from a Peter Hurley headshot can be found in his lighting. Peter typically uses soft, flattering lighting for his women’s portraits but often adds shadows and dramatic edge lighting to his men’s headshots. Over the years Peter has evolved his signature “4 light beauty light setup” into a more efficient triangular setup, and he explains exactly where to place your lights so that you too can get the most flattering skin tones, shadow density, and general pop out of your own headshot lighting. Peter also teaches you how to chisel out jawlines by adding a kicker light as well as how to manipulate fill light to increase or decrease the overall shadow density in your male lighting setups.

Peter is known for his large constant lights which provides soft, flattering lighting on any subject. However, if using constant lights is outside of your budget, Peter also shows you how you can achieve similar looking lighting with the use of small speedlights as well as by using 100% natural light. Whether using natural lights, hot lights, or strobes, or are shooting inside a studio or outside, this tutorial will teach you how to craft Peter’s headshot lighting regardless of what gear you can afford.

Peter’s Favorite Photography Gear

No tutorial would be complete without talking about photography gear. Over the years, Peter’s gear has changed considerably. Back when he first worked with Fstoppers, Peter was known as the photographer who shot headshots with a Hasselblad medium format camera and a square array of Keno Flo fluorescent lights. These days Peter’s setup is based around Canon DSLRs and his signature Westcott Flex Kit LED lights. Every piece of photography gear that Peter uses on a daily basis helps streamline the headshot process so that more time is spent taking photos and less time is wasted messing with gear. In this tutorial Peter will show you all the tools he uses to produce the consistent style for which he has become so well known.

Hair, Makeup, and Facial Hair

Peter Hurley is very particular about women’s hair and makeup in his headshots but most photographers tend to overlook these details. Peter answers all of the tough questions: Should it fall on the front shoulder, can you put it in a ponytail, should it be straightened or left curly, do you let it wrap to one side, how do you prevent it from covering an eye, how messy is too messy, should you use hairspray to contain flyaways, and how much styling should your hairstylist do when I client walks into your studio? Peter tackles all of these questions and shows you exactly what he likes and does not like when photographing a female headshot.

Peter’s Workflow and Retouching with Damian Battinelli

One of the most important aspects of running a successful photography business is having a streamlined client workflow. Peter Hurley is often shooting 2-3 headshot sessions a day in his studio which leaves very little time to spend delivering specific images to his clients. In this tutorial you will learn how Peter has automated all of his image delivery, proofing, retouching, and printing so that he can spend more time taking photos and less time behind his computer. He walks you through his entire process including culling photos with his clients, backing up his files locally and remotely, creating and sharing online client proofing galleries, outsourcing his retouching, and seamlessly integrating his printing into his proofing gallery so that clients can purchase and download exactly what they need all without contacting Peter directly.

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