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Tips & Tricks

Small Adjustment, Big Impact: The Secret to a Strong Headshot by Peter Hurley

By Megan Kennedy on January 15th 2014

We’ve all had those self-critical clients who just want you to use your “magic” and make them look better than they see themselves. Whether photographing a model or a businessperson, if  you are shooting headshots you are flexing your expertise so that your subject can put their best foot forward in their profession. Well, in this oldie but goodie video, Peter Hurley lets us in on his big secret for shedding the ten pounds the camera supposedly packs on: to Hurley, it’s all about the JAW.

Watch Peter Hurley‘s, “It’s All About the Jaw!”

No one wants to be stuck with a double-chin, certainly, but in taking posture to the other extreme with Hurley’s “forehead out and down” technique to tighten the skin over the jaw,we can see the strength and separation created, and the nice shadows that wrap around the jawline. Slight adjustment, but big difference in appearance!

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[REWIND: How to Look Better in Photos | Mastering The Squinch]

As a former model himself, Peter Hurley shares many directorial gems in this video blog, and I would encourage you to look past the simplicity of the posing suggestion and take note of the client relation tips he reveals along the way. Here are some that I found helpful:

How to Ask Our Subjects to “Feel Weird to Look Good”

  1.  Make the request clear: you want their forehead out and down (talking chins can confuse).
  2. They probably still won’t get it: So, demonstrate the pose yourself and have a good laugh at the awkwardness (photos of your subject laughing is always a bonus).
  3. Stay in the subtleties: Keep it relaxed, and make sure they stand up straight rather than leaning toward or away from camera. This direction is for the head, not the shoulders.
  4.  Finally, prove it to them. Show them their pictures so they can see the difference and believe you when you say looking good is worth feeling weird for! After all, if the best pose was to stand like a normal human being, than what would they need us for?

To see more of Peter Hurley‘s tips on mastering the headshot, check out the Peter Hurley Headshot DVD.

Have you utilized Hurley’s posing in the past, getting your clients to jut that jaw for the camera? What tricks do you find most helpful when asking your clients to pose outside of their comfort zone? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments below.

With roots in nonfiction and commercial video production, Megan found a passion for still photography in 2009 while traveling through Ghana. Today she shoots weddings and portraiture with an adventurous bent with her husband at Rogue Heart Media, as well as continuing her work in video production. Connect with her on Facebook or through their website.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Graham Curran

    Seriously good advice. Saved for future reference.

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  2. MARTIN MIANO

    i always look forward to such articles they all are a great learning experince

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  3. Kurk Rouse

    would have loved to see him in action at the fstoppers workshop

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  4. Matt Walsh

    Hurley completely changed the way I shoot my headshots.

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  5. Amy

    Fantastic!! This is such fabulous information!! I can already see how this will make a difference in how I shoot. Thank you for sharing something so simple but so valuable.

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  6. Mike

    Close your eyes, you’d swear it was Jarred Polin talking. :) Seriously, this is one precious nugget of information and I’m glad I came upon it. Thanks for sharing !

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    • Megan Kennedy

      It is amazing how a simple adjustment can make such an impact! Glad Mr. Hurley was willing to share his trade secret with us, and that you were able to find it here!

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  7. Grainne Aitken

    Great tips, Peter. We had an experience with your team at WPPI last year and loved it. Hope to see you again this year! Grainne and Gordon

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  8. frankdaniels.de

    Schabäääm! Thx for those hints :-)

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  9. Aku Pöllänen

    Amazing! I think this was the most helpful tutorial i’ve ever seen! Just amazing! Thank you Peter Hurley for taking my portrait photography to the next level!

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  10. Kishore Sawh

    I’ll watch pretty much anything with Hurley now, he is actually candid and entertaining. He does a great job verbalizing things I was conscious of, but never articulated. Marks of a great teacher, to be sure. Nice post Megan.

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  11. Hanssie

    I’m going to practice this so I look better in pictures. And then, of course, I’ll pass along the info to my clients during a photo shoot, too.

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