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There is no doubt that Peter Hurley is a master of expression. With his headshot photography, he manages to capture what many of us will spend much of our careers striving for. This is something that he calls “lookability.” His subjects have natural expressions and postures, which convey something more about their personality than your standard headshot.
Many times with headshot photography, the lighting and editing are spot-on, but there’s a huge disconnect. You see distant eyes, a fake smile and uncomfortable or unflattering posture. As Peter says, “Headshots are 10 percent photography and 90 percent communication.” We get a snapshot of what a shoot with Hurley is like and how he relaxes his clients in the brief video below. If that video inspires you to learn more about Peter’s technique, he has another great video called ”The Art Behind the Headshot,” which you can find it here.
Get them to walk out of here with a little skip in their step.
Expression Over Equipment
Hurley’s lighting style is not complex. Yes, he uses lights, that for the majority of us, are prohibitively expensive but the basic principle is not too difficult. He also says that while he uses a medium format camera with all the expensive gear that goes along with it, the same effect can be achieved with almost any camera. Why? Because it’s not about equipment; it’s about expression. If you had unlimited funds, you could go out today and mimic his entire set up, but would your photos look as good? Probably not.
The key to Hurley’s look and arguably success are 1) how he makes his clients feel and 2) the resulting photos from that emotion. Something I think we can all learn from is that a shoot with Hurley begins at the front door when he greets his clients. At every stage, he engages them in conversation, to the point where hopefully they forget about the camera and are simply having a good time. You can read more on that in the article from Popular Photography.
But That’s Not Me
Maybe you don’t feel as confident as Hurley, God knows I don’t. I think confidence like his, is rarely something that comes naturally to most. It comes with practice. Knowing your gear inside out and being confident that in any situation you can nail the technical side. Once you have that side of things down, you can focus all your attention on your model, subject or client.
To coin another of Hurley’s phrases, what we’re aiming for is “camera invisibility.” Whether you get there by implementing a similar style to Hurley’s or by using your own style, it really doesn’t matter. Just remember, forget about gear for a minute, simplify your setup if need be, and focus all your attention on making your client feel relaxed.