Peter Hurley: Perfecting the Headshot

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 facial features by directing the body position

 Removing Fear And Adding Confidence With Approachability 

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. 

Straighten A Nose With Just Lighting

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.

Learn Peter's Soft, Flattering Lighting and His Men's Shadow Lighting

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. 

Learn Peter's Lighting with Speedlights, Natural Light, and Studio Strobes

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. 

From tethering to lighting grip and everything inbetween

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.

Find Out Which Of These Styles Peter Loves and Which He Hates

Peter also addresses some of the issues you might have when a male client wants to shoot both with a beard and freshly shaven. You can add a lot of value to your clients simply by not only allowing them to change their clothing and hair but by also shooting them with and without their facial hair.  When it comes to hair, most photographersleave it up to their clients but Peter shows you why you should take charge so that your clients look their absolute best.

Facial hair along with different backgrounds and clothing can have a dramatic effect

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. 

Learn how Peter backups his images and manages his client's orders

For the first time ever, Peter has also teamed up with high end retoucher Damian Battinelli to show you the exact steps Peter takes to perfect every image that goes on his website. Together Peter and Damian talk about what they like and dislike in headshot retouching and why you shouldn't overly retouch any of your work. Damian then takes you into Photoshop where he walks you through three full edits as he teaches you some of his favorite retouching techniques he uses to retouch Peter's work.

High End Retoucher Damian Battinelli Shares 3 Full Retouches

This Download Includes:

  • 10 1/2 Hours of Content
  • 21 Video Files (14.5 GB, 1080p 23.98fps h.264 mp4 files)
  • The Peter Hurley Headshot System
  • Lighting for Women and Lighting for Men
  • Peter's Setup with Constant Lights, Strobes, and Natural Light
  • The Chameleon Approach and SherlockHolmesing
  • Understanding the 4 Different Types of Clients
  • Minimizing Weight
  • Reducing Glare in Glasses
  • Picking Your Lens and Flattering Focal Lengths
  • Shooting Headshots Outside
  • Accentuating and Hiding Facial Features
  • Working with Children
  • Peter's Favorite Tips on Hair and Makeup
  • 3 Full "Real World" Client Shoots
  • Understanding the Business of the Headshot Market
  • Retouching Headshots with Damian Battinelli
  • Peter's Entire Client Proofing and Workflow

The comments below are intended for those with questions about the tutorial and for reviews from those who have bought the tutorial.  All other comments will be deleted.  

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20 Comments

Ian Johns's picture

Once again, take my money now! Can't wait to grab this latest one!

Steven Fogarty's picture

Peter Hurley is da man! The Jerry Ghionis of headshots.

I have not looked all the way through the tutorials I have already purchased, and of course have not yet looked through this latest one, but ... I would find it more helpful to see him photograph normal people, the kind of people who show up to tradeshows, people who are not actors and models.

Regular people like this http://www.stevenjosephphotography.com/category/headshots/

Can anyone tell me, does he really get into that anywhere?

Michael Coen's picture

From the preview above, it looks like he does get a few everyday, average Joes to mode for him. He talks about lighting folks who tend to be larger in a way that's more flattering.

Patrick Hall's picture

Peter had a lot of normal people come through his door while filming this tutorial. We even asked a girl from the restaurant downstairs to stop by. Peter has an entire lesson on making overweight people look their best by photographing a guy who used to weigh 350+ pounds but is now 250 pounds.

Hurley does a great job explaining that your goal isn't to take a world class image with anyone but rather it is simply to take the best photo that person has ever had taken of themselves. That is a very realistic goal and I feel many photographers under cut their own confidence by believing that the "average trade show" person has to look like a super model. That's simply not true and that shouldn't be the goal.

I think of the 17 people we photographed for this tutorial, maybe 8 were actors, entertainers, performers, etc. The others were hair stylists, musicians, photographers, former police, etc.

Andy Foster's picture

Steven, seems like you have a good business model there, and decent shots on your website why not join Peters Headshot Crew and aim to become the the Headshot Crews first Associate photographer in Las Vegas.
Looking at your website, some of the things that Peter coaches and critiques weekly could have helped some of your shots to be even better, even if you only shoot with them for a couple of minutes at your trade shows.
After you have watched all the way through the tutorials you have purchased, and maybe then buy this new one, ensure that you put all that learning into practice on the Headshot Crew. 28 Headshot photographers in Las Vegas, none of them have made Associate, (Only 84 out of 13,000+ registered have made Associate) Check it out
https://headshotcrew.com/locate?lat=36.1699412&lon=-115.1398296&a=Las%20...

As Patrick Hall states above, the aim is to get the best headshot a person has ever had, but with a few more tweaks you can make them look rockstars

Steven Fogarty's picture

Andy, thank you, I have just committed more to Headshot Crew. I would love to get my work to Associate-level worthy. Thanks for the encouragement. I'll see you up there.

Don't know if it's just my browser, but the before/after shots above aren't working for me. There should be a headshot both right and left, right? But in all the above, either the left or the right one is cropped off.

Patrick Hall's picture

yes, it sounds like your browser is not able to render the before and after plugin. Make sure your version of Chrome, firefox, IE, or Safari are up to date. If you are on an iphone or other iOs device it should def work there.

Thanks Patrick. I use Chrome on a PC and its the latest version (it's OCD about updating itself :-)

JBrister photography's picture

I just bought this new installment of the headshot series last night. I love Peter's teaching style and way of simplifying things.
I bought his original headshot video he released in 2010 and I recently also bought the Wedding Photography video, which you guys did a great job on.
They are all great and every time I download and watch the videos that FS has made it always brings my photography up a level.
Keep up the good work guys.
#SHABANG from deep in southern Louisiana.

Patrick Hall's picture

Awesome! I can't wait to hear what you think of the new course compared to the first one. We have come a LONG way since that first tutorial. Keep rocking it down in LA

Ok, I've just gone through the first hour of your tutorial/course and it took an extra glass of wine for me to keep my b*** on the chair. So I'm writing this "under the influence" sort of speaking. Peter, you are my the "go to photography teacher" and I will buy your next course (no questions asked no reviews read) which I assume will be 20 hours long. You become Leo Tolstoy of presentation, this edition is the War and Peace of your teaching. This is exactly the same feeling I had had as I remember started reading the colossal masterpiece I've just mentioned. May I suggest you take some presentation classes/coaching. You need to be mindful of other people time. It is the 21st century. Time is the most valuable asset we possess these days. Please work on becoming a "zen" educator where you present relevant facts in no time. It really is not about the quantity. Don't get me wrong it is a promising beginning. Please take this as my sincere "in vino veritas" kind of review.

Patrick Hall's picture

Hey Zoran. Thanks for the comment. We try to make our tutorials as concise as possible and remove any bit of info and run time that is not necessary. That being said, many of the sections in this tutorial are much more psychological in nature and Peter really wanted to dig deep into the mind set of both the person in front of your camera and the photographer taking the photos. So yes 10 hours is a long time for any tutorial but I feel confident saying that this tutorial covers more than anything Peter has ever taught while also being much shorter than some of the others where the cameras run non stop with no editing of the content (more of a live lecture style).

My hope is that we divided the content well enough that you can skip the topics that don't interest you while also being able to quickly reference the topics that do interest you. In the end, our goal is to always give the most value for the money while also covering everything the instructors want to teach.

Jasmin Omerovic's picture

Is this a good fit for someone who is just starting in Headshots or is the first one something where we should start?

Patrick Hall's picture

I'm sure we are going to get this question a lot so I'll try to explain it best here. The first tutorial is still very useful but Perfecting the Headshot is by far more thorough and complete. Peter has had 7 years to "perfect" his teaching style and is much more aware of even the tricks he used years ago. Because this tutorial sort of replaces The Art Behind the Headshot, we have lowered the price of the first tutorial and even bundled it together for $99 if you buy the Art Behind the Headshot together with Perfecting the Headshot.

But yes, this tutorial is perfect even for someone who has never shot headshots.