There is one thing just about everyone needs: a headshot. Once used only by actors, headshots are now something everyone needs, whether it’s for their company’s website, a dating app, Facebook, or a LinkedIn profile.

Peter Hurley Headshot - iii

Peter Hurley is one of the country’s best-known headshot photographers. He believes that, because everybody needs a good one regardless of gender, age, or profession, headshots are the biggest growing genre of portraiture. Because of this, all photographers should add headshots into what they are already doing. Anytime there is a person in front of your camera, there is an opportunity to give them a great, new headshot.

Taking a good headshot doesn’t need to be complicated. Hurley, who teaches courses on CreativeLive and also for his Headshot Crew, shares his top five tips for making the best headshots possible.

Peter Hurley Headshot - 2

1. Start With The Jawline

Facial features look much better if the jawline is out to the camera. Getting the jawline out towards the camera will make an enormous difference with subjects who are carrying some extra weight, but even for subjects who are in shape, getting their jawline out towards the camera will help tone their features. Ask your subject to move their forehead towards the camera to get their jawlines where they should be.


2. Find Their Good Side

It’s critical to know your subject’s good side before you start shooting. Everyone has a “sweet spot” which is their best angle and as a headshot photographer, you need to be able to find it. About 90% of the time, people part their hair on their good side, so this is a good place to start when looking for the best side to put camera forward for a headshot. When people put their best side forward, it will give them confidence, and this will come through in their photographs.  Sometimes you will have to convince people what their good side is since what people see in the mirror is the opposite of what comes through in a photograph.

[REWIND:  The Key To Capturing Your “Good” Side: Lighting 101]

3. Work the Eyes

Confidence and fear both come from the eyes. It is essential that a headshot conveys confidence. To achieve a confident look, Hurley recommends the squinch. You read that right – your subject will need to squinch, not squint. In a squinch, the lower lid comes up,  but the top lid does not come down. As Hurley demonstrates in this video, the squinch goes a long way towards creating confidence. The squinch is a sure-fire way to avoid the “deer in the headlights” look that wide open eyes create in headshots.

Peter Hurley Headshot

4. Mind the Mouth

It’s important that a headshot makes the subject look approachable. While confidence comes from the eyes, approachability comes from the mouth. If your subject doesn’t have at least a hint of a smile, they will look mean. The trick is finding just the right amount of smile. According to Hurley, “A tiny smile is great. A big smile will look fake unless it’s a genuine reaction.”  As a headshot photographer, you need to work on getting a genuine reaction and smile by interacting with your clients until you get the right expression.

5. Forget About The Camera

Everyone looks better when they are not paying attention to the camera. Just as you would never ask a portrait client to say “cheese,” don’t prepare your headshot clients for their photo by counting down or giving them any other indication that you are about to click the shutter. Instead, focus on getting to know your client, figuring out how they feel about themselves, and getting their personalities to show.

To learn more about lighting headshots, check out SLR Lounge’s Lighting 101 and Lighting 201.

With a little practice, you should be able to start incorporating headshots into the business you are already doing. Besides, if you don’t start taking headshots how else will you get to say “squinch” on a regular basis.

CREDITS: Photographs by Peter Hurley are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.