Head Shots (Peter Hurley Inspired)

Peter Hurley is a famous headshot photographer working in New York City. Last Friday, I got my dad to come to the school photography studio and be my model (which he is pretty good at) to help me try out some of this head shot business.

In this post, I’ll probably reference the movie that we watched in class about headshots rather than an article or a website.

I started with these settings:

LENS: 18-55 mm


SHUTTER SPEED: 1/50 of a second

ISO: 100

These settings were the same for the whole shoot, though at one point I switched to a 55-200 mm lens.

First, I just took a couple pictures and told my dad to just relax and sit as thought he wasn’t being photographed (in other words, just sit plainly and don’t try to lift your chin or sit up straight).

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This was the result.

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Then I told him to cross his arms. He was trying to be funny with his face and I was ignoring it.

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Next, I had him turn his body towards the light to the left, but look at me. I can’t remember if I told him “forehead out” or not, like Peter Hurley did in his video. I also had him smile. I think that this picture is 10 times better than the last, because of the body language and where he is looking.

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In this shot, I believe I had him lean forward a little bit and put his hands on his knees. In the video, Hurley said that heavier people should lean back away from the camera and that smaller people should lean forward. I wanted to try both to see for myself, which I’ll show a little later.

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Here I had my dad push his chin down.

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Here I told him to put his forehead out. See how much better that looks?

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Here, I had him turn the other way just to experiment with different sides. I had him look at me and put his forehead out. This picture is nice, but I think something I could have done right then was zoom in even closer.

In Lightroom…


Personally, I think that head shots look better when they are close up. Peter Hurley demonstrates this in his video. (I think that the eyes are a little blurry here).

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At this point, I switched to my 55-200 mm lens. I noticed that the color changed slightly, but I don’t believe that I switched any of the lights. This is fixable in Lightroom, of course. I had him turn his head towards the light, but he kept his chest pointing towards me. Personally, I’m not a fan of this pose.


I couldn’t tell if I liked it being cropped more or not, so I went without it. I really don’t like this picture, so I don’t think that I would use it if this were a professional situation.

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Here, I was trying to get him to “squinch”, like Peter Hurley does with his clients. He got it down alright, but then he wasn’t focused on putting his forehead out.

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This is a little better (with the forehead out/chin out), but I had a hard time getting him to do both at the same time.

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Next, I had him lean back slightly and cross his arms. I like this pose.

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I told him forehead out, but this is what happened.

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So, I went back to chin up. What I probably could have done was stand on something, like a chair or box, and then point the camera down on a very slight angle while he looked up (but all on very very slight angles, so that it wasn’t too noticeable).

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Here, we had him lean forward on his fist. I tried to tell him to squinch his eyes, and I think he did.

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Earlier, I had said that I experimented with the whole “lean forward or lean back” thing. In this shot, my dad is leaning forward. His forehead seemed to naturally go out a little bit here, so the chin wasn’t an issue.

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Now, in this shot, he is leaning back. But when I said “forehead out”, this was the response. So personally, I like him leaning forward better even though that’s a little backwards from the ‘formula’ Peter Hurley talked about in his video.

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Here, I had him face towards the other light. He didn’t do anything with his arms. I don’t believe that he is leaning back or forward, just siting there. His chin is up a little bit to open up the neck area, which is good.

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Here, he is leaning forward a bit.

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Here, he is leaning back. Personally, I like him leaning forward a little better.

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With this shot, I was trying to get him to do the “forehead out” thing again but it didn’t work so well.

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I like this picture. His arms are folded, he is squinching his eyes, and he is sort of putting his forehead out.

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Compared to the last one, I don’t like this picture as much. He isn’t squinching, he isn’t really doing anything with his chin/forehead, and his face is pretty blank.

Next, I just wanted to try my hand at editing these.

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This was a good assignment, because it forced me to remember the video but it wasn’t so challenging that I felt like giving up.

Some things that I would change if I could go back…

    • Getting in closer to the subject. In Peter Hurley’s video, he was pretty close on his subjects. I think it looked great for headshots, but I forgot about this while I was shooting. I tried to crop a little bit in Lightroom.
    • Positioning. I couldn’t think of any poses until after I had shot, of course.
    • Eyes, Mouth, Eyebrows. In the video, these were the three things that Peter Hurley said you can change/move. While shooting I didn’t think about doing this. It might have helped.



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