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

*All refunds are outlined in our terms of service.

*No refunds will be given for bundle purchases.

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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Previous comments
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.

I've just finished watching this course, and for those on the fence....$299 if you're strapped for cash is a fair risk to take - you don't know if it will be worth it and I totally get that. I took the risk. Man! This is not a tutorial, it's the entirety of Peter's working practices in video form. It's astoundingly good. The level of detail that this goes to is so far and above anything else I've watched that I'm struggling to take it all in - it must have taken an age to put together. If you are serious about your headshot career, this is the best go-to course that I've come across so far, by a considerable margin and when you've watched it, you, like me, will be slightly embarrassed that you only paid $299 for it. Go for it!

Patrick Hall's picture

Thanks for the review Stephen. Curious if you watched the first tutorial or if this is your first time learning from Peter. If the later, welcome to a whole new way of thinking about photography.

I'm glad you appreciate the deeper level of thinking that is required with Peter's process. On the surface is seems so easy to take headshots (and to be honest they aren't THAT hard) but to nail everything down the way Peter does really does take years of practice. Anyone can get cool lighting on their subject's face but making people give the camera energy is something much harder to master.

Hey Patrick. This is the first tutorial I've bought in regard to Peter although I've seen a bunch of stuff in the public domain already (YouTube etc) so he's well known to me. But as I mention above, I don't think I was ready for the sheer amount of stuff that's revealed in this. And you're right, the human factor insights were fascinating and informative. Also, for me, the nitty gritty detail pricing, proofing and delivery workflow were equally important - something that many (dare I say most?) tutorials leave out completely.

In my opinion, there were areas of weakness too, though, where the course could be improved.

First, the section on speedlights was good but concentrated on the men's lighting only. I feel that many people (me included) use speedlights and that whole area was skimmed over just a little. Fair enough - Peter doesn't use them.

The second was the retouching. That was very weak in my opinion. Arguably a whole separate course could be dedicated to that side of things though, so it's not really a complaint.

Now the only issue is, I need to go back to watch the whole damn thing again....see what I can remember and what I've forgotten!!

James McCann's picture

I haven't purchased a tutorial here through Fstoppers, but this has me incredibly intrigued. What is the distribution method? I mean. Can I only watch the videos if I'm logged into Fstoppers and streaming? Can I or do I have to download the entire thing? (in one go?) (in what ever chunk I'd like?) And my biggest question is, can I essentially re-watch it down the road? If I get through the whole thing now, and in a year decide to revisit a section or the entire thing?


When you purchase any of our tutorials you will get to download all of the files and you can copy them onto any of your devices and watch them as many times as you like.

Great video so far but his comment about mirrorless camera thinking many don't have viewfinders was beyond stupid and shows a huge lack of knowledge of what's going on in the photography world!

Hi, can someone list all the files that are included in this tutorial? Will there be RAW files, presets or diagram just like the ones in Joey Wright's Swimwear? Thanks in advance!


Why not support Arabic

Is there any section specific to Corporate headshots by any chance or is it mentioned during any of the videos?

Patrick Hall's picture

Yes he has a section on corporate headshots and marketing towards that since Peter is doing more corporate stuff now than actors.

Don Atzberger's picture

One more question on this video. Patrick has already explained how this tutorial replaces "The Art Behind..." but are the techniques in "Illuminating the Face" also covered here and if so, which of the two videos gives more detail on these techniques? Many thanks!!

Illuminating The Face is mostly a lighting tutorial. This is mostly a coaching/business tutorial.

Don Atzberger's picture

Thanks, Lee, that clears it up.

rong zou's picture

What is going on? I want to purchase this product but this msg keeps poping up
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