Peter Hurley's "Squinch" Helps To Make Better Headshots

You would have to be from Mars not to know who Peter Hurley is at this point. He was one of the first photographers to let Fstoppers into his studio, and together we produced the wildly popular The Art Behind The Headshot tutorial where he shares all of his secrets. Today Peter is publicly sharing perhaps his most important tip for making people look good in front of your camera, and it is appropriately named "squinching."

A typical "Hurleyism", Squinching is a made up word for something Peter has been trying to explain for years. Peter argues that when people have wide eyes they look vulnerable, scared, fearful, and overall uncertain. Those qualities usually do not work well for headshots which typically need to portray confidence, approachability, mystery, and intrigue. For Peter's actor clients, they only have one chance to show off their personality to a casting agent, so they need to look their best. And what Peter has found is people look their best with a slight bit of squint in their eyes. The results are pretty amazing.



As you can see, Peter has taken each of his clients from an uncomfortable state in front of his camera to an ultra suave, cool looking demeanor. Now you might be saying that this technique is obvious but the bad news is most of your clients have never heard of this technique. What is even worse is you are going to get really bad results if you simply tell them to squint. The good news, however, is if you can teach your clients the Squinch, you will drastically improve the overall vibe your clients are giving the camera instantly!. And don't think this technique only works for actors; I've been using this technique for everyone who finds themselves in front of my camera. That means brides, friends, models, families, musicians, and....well everyone!


If you enjoyed this tip, check out Peter's first viral video below where he talks about creating stronger jawlines in your work. Nothing is worse than having a double chin and Peter shows you exactly how you can get rid of that in 90% of your clients.

If you want to learn every technique from Peter Hurley in person, Peter will be teaching at our first ever 2014 Fstoppers Workshop hosted at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas. Check out Peter's full class schedule here and watch the video below to see other learning opportunities in paradise!

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Previous comments

Makes Perfect Sense!!!!! it turns the "Deer in the Headlghts look" (Hunted) into "the Predator" (Hunter.)

Peter got a spot on Fox 5 News here in the NYC area this evening just for this... I have been seeing a lot of photogs in the news lately... I guess that is a good thing... no?

I agree... people have been talking about this for some time... though they way that he describes it and the name he uses for it may be a little different.

Lee Christiansen's picture

The biggest thing I picked up from Mr Hurley is to say every shot is awesome, amazing, the "best-you've-ever-had" or stunning every 5 seconds or so.

Find techniques that have been around for ages and make them your own.

Promote yourself very hard and if in doubt, shout at the camera...!

For me, many of these "improved" poses are worse - and I'm suspecting they do little to convey the true character of the person.

Headshots are about giving a casting director an idea of what you truly look like - so unless you are "squinching" every day in real life then this is defeating the object. By all means have variety of poses in a portfolio, but the tutorial suggests that THIS is the way to pose.

The eyes are key in almost every headshot I do - they tell the story and convey the personality. This is a useful trick to be sure, but like many here, we're taking some of this with a pinch of salt as a Peter Hurley discovery!

Learn your clients' personality, help them convey that on screen tell the back-story behind the eyes... but force a false look on every frame... mmm no.

If you want to look at some truly amazing headshot work then take a look at some of David Muller's stuff - blows all the Schazamm out of the water....!

Patrick Hall's picture

Obviously Peter's way isn't the only way to a successful headshot but I'd be willing to say most of his tips and techniques are pretty consistent in what makes a great headshot. Peter always refers to celebrity poses and almost all of them are using 3/5 of Peter's main tips.

As for David's work, I love his color, contrast, lighting, and style. It's great seeing images like this that deviate from the standard soft light/solid background. This is my honest opinion though, for me only 1 of the first 5 images on his website make his client look their best from a mouth/eyes perspective. Some of those faces do not portray confidence or approachability at all, which like Peter or not, should be the first impression in any headshot.

I think the ultimate test for this sort of thing is 1) how often are these people getting called back for in person casting calls from their headshots, and 2) how often are these clients return clients for the photographer. If you can pass those two tests then keep doing what you are doing.

Lee Christiansen's picture

Absolutely... If my clients keep booking me if I shoot upside down with a blue tint on my pics - then I'll be off buying blue gels and a harness...

If they keep on coming back then you're doing something right for that market.

Personally I think Peter's biggest strength is his ability to sell himself - and I guess his big personality works in that respect.

Patrick Hall's picture

Couldn't agree more. Funny thing is Peter was so hesitant to share anything publicly back when we first approached him. It's awesome to see him let loose, but his personality def helps a lot. Just reminds you that you really can't have a meek personality if you want to be the best potential photographer.

Lee Christiansen's picture

I'm not so convinced about him being the best photographer - from a pure photography point of view... I guess he'd be fun to work with (although I'm guessing us Brits may take him differently...)

If he could stop telling us how awesome everything he does is... then I think he'd be more palatable (at least to our English way of thinking...!)

leethecam, I'm a brit. Born and raised in Perivale, Middlesex. And Peter is a genuinely brilliant and passionate friend. I have no problem with my British way of thinking with him.

Lee Christiansen's picture

Ah... just down the road from me - in Uxbridge. Small world.

My comments were tounge in cheek of course. I find that "showmanship" is received differently around the world, (remember the unexpected reaction to David Blaine's glass box event in London...) and Peter is certainly a showman as well as a successful photographer.

I'm sure Peter is lovely, and you feature his work on your site... Now I have to ask, did you manage to raise your lower eyelids like he says, (because I can't move mine independently - ha...!)

Kurt Langer's picture

OK there are a few people in the outside world that like this stuff.

Kurt Langer's picture

Yeap - I think only North Americans can dig stuff like this. No way can I even contemplate watching or listening to vids like this.

Lord takes me higher, did someone just call this guy "the best potential photographer"? LOL, I went out my way to visit his online portfolio, his work is mediocre at its best, the lighting on the face is so flat, and based on the catch light on the subject's eyes, he just surround the models with lights from all direction, also the headshots looks distorted probably not using the right mm, overall, they are just not that good! "Bang!!" plenty photographer do better work .

I might sound too harsh, but hey, if he is so high key: teaching and making DVDs, if I were him, I would have taken a tough look at my own work and ask myself: Am I good enough?

And by the way, don't invent the "brand "headshot photographer", there is no headshot photographer, come on!

Let it be known that I do not care for the photography nor teaching styles of one Peter Hurley. No Peter, I don't want to buy your roll up background. No peter, I don't want to spend 2 hours and be "metro". No Peter, you don't need to speak louder.

If Anyone wants to see a classic headshot/body posing tutorial, this is the best one I ever saw, Classical Posing & Portrait Lighting by Frank Dispensa, it will be worth your every minutes:

I'm always inspired by the little techniques that Peter teaches.
Cheers and congrats on the video going VIRAL!!

Thanks! Great Video, but please, the guy should get a video editor..
15 minutes for each video??
and the jaw version