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Expression Sells the Image

Lesson 12 from: The Business of Professional Headshots

Gary Hughes

Expression Sells the Image

Lesson 12 from: The Business of Professional Headshots

Gary Hughes

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Lesson Info

12. Expression Sells the Image


Class Trailer

Class Overview


Getting Headshot Clients


Headshot Pricing Models for Individuals


Headshot Pricing Models for Groups and Companies


Payment and Delivery for Groups


Six Styles of Business Headshots


Headshot Lighting Gear


Posing Basics for Headshots


Basic Standing Pose for Headshots


Basic Seated Pose for Headshots


Head Position for Headshots


Expression Sells the Image


One-Light High Key Headshot with Male Model


One-Light High Key Headshot with Female Model


Two-Light High Key Headshot with Male Model


Two-Light High Key Headshot with Female Model


Two-Light Standing Pose Headshot with Male Model


Two-Light Standing Pose Headshot with Female Model


One Light Low Key Headshot with Male Model


Two Light Low Key Headshot with Female Model


General Q&A


Constant Light: Low Key Classic Headshot with Male Model


Constant Light: Low Key Classic Headshot with Female Model


Constant Light: Standing Pose Headshot with Male Model


Constant Light: Standing Pose Headshot with Female Model


Setting up the Background for Extraction Shoot


Shooting for Extraction Headshot with Male Model


Shooting for Extraction Headshot with Female Model


Shooting Low Key Modern Headshots for Extraction


Basic Headshot Facial Retouching Techniques


Basic Headshot Eye Retouching Techniques


Basic Headshot Retouching Techniques: Dodge and Burn


Basic Headshot Retouching Q&A


Extracting a Single Subject


Creating a Headshot Composite


F-Type Headshot Lighting: Equipment and Principle


F-Type Headshot Lighting: Execution


Shooting Headshots in Volume


Lesson Info

Expression Sells the Image

Here's the thing that's going to sell the image. Oh by the way, guys, smiling picture, in your face. I do them, I promise. Speaking of which, the expression is the thing that sells the image. It doesn't matter how technically excellent the image is. The truth is that your average person can't tell the difference between an image that's pretty good and an image that's excellent, most of the time, if they can't see past the fact that they don't like the way they look in it. You understand what I mean? When you look at a picture of yourself that somebody else took, for me, the first thing that I do is, "Does my beard look good?" That's very important. Yeah. (laugh) The second thing is, "Do I look heavy?" Once I get past that, I can start to enjoy other things about the image. But if it's from the wrong angle, and I look fat, I'm like, "I hate that picture, I never wanna look at that picture." You can't tell me nice things about that picture anymore. And we're all kind of that way about ce...

rtain things. If you're sensitive about, you think you have a weird smile when you drink three martinis, and then you see a picture of you after four martinis and you got a weird smile, you're expecting to see it, you see it, and you're not going to like it. Expression is key. You can be a mediocre photographer, and if you can get great expressions from people, you're going to be successful in business, because people will like the way they look if they like their expression, more than they'll like the quality of the photo. I promise you that. Anybody ever do children's portraiture, and the ones the parents pick are never the ones you pick? Because, they like them for different reasons. They're not looking necessarily at technical excellence. Alright. Expression sells the image. Use a tripod when possible. I will tell you that when you can get your hands off the camera, and you can bring your face from behind the camera, so they can hear you and interact, you're going to be able to interact with your client more. So when I'm in the studio or when I'm on location, I'm shooting headshots, I'm using a tripod. Now this is kind of crazy, because I know that a lot of people don't like to use them, but when your hands are free, you can engage more. When you don't have to direct the client, when you're very smushed up against the camera, you can talk to people. It's a little more open. So you can focus at the camera, I can have my finger on the trigger, and I can say, "Okay, man that looks great, that's awesome. "Hey, nice gold tooth." "Bling!" Like, whatever you gotta do, you know, you can engage more. I would encourage you to try it. When I first started tripod shooting, it's really awkward, because you have to learn to work within the tripod's range of motion. But after a few sessions, you'll start to be, now I feel completely naked without it. If I go into a headshot session, and I don't have my tripod I don't even know what to do with myself. Here's number one. That should have been number one. Stop looking at the stinking camera. I know we have, do your test shots and make sure your exposure is good, and then stop looking at the camera. Every time you stop and look at the camera you break faith with your client. You're basically going, "Am I doing good?" "Do I know what I'm doing?" "Did that turn out okay?" You should know that it's going to turn out okay. And even if you don't you should pretend that you do. I have, one of my very first photography mentors used to make me tape up the back screen on the camera with electrical tape and then go out and shoot, you know. And man, does that feel weird? You just got the shivers thinking about it. (laugh) You did! You just got goosebumps. Imagine shooting without my LCD screen, holy crap. Yeah, they used to do that a lot, you know. They used to kind of be all they had, except for Polaroid. But truthfully, I use it as you know, I'm a little less old school because I don't use light meters most of the time and stuff, but I am using the camera to check my exposure, and I get my test shot, and most of the time I will test with an assistant, or on myself, so I'll have everything set before the client walks in. So I'm not fiddling around with my equipment. I know that the exposure is good, that the lighting is good. And I have my basic set up. And so, when they come in I'm mostly ready to go. But if you're taking like 12 test shots, 13 test shots, 14 test shots, 15 test shots, and then when you start shooting, you say, "Okay, we're going to shoot now." You know, we've been shooting for 10 minutes already. Every time you look at that camera, you're going to seem a little less like you know what you're doing. Alright. Remember and use their name. This is, I'm telling you. When I shoot a wedding, here's a trick for wedding photographers by the way. If you remember the name of one person in the bridal party, they'll think you remembered all their names. That's a true story. You're like, "Hey, uh, Brad, why don't you bring the guys over here and let's do a photo." I've had people say, "Oh, and they were so impressed with you that you remembered everybody's names." I'm like I know Brad. It works. If you use, remember and use somebody's name, and as soon as they walk out the door you can forget it. You can literally put it in the recycling bin and click empty, because you probably won't need it. My wife deals with them after that, so I won't need it anymore. But, just being able to use somebody's name and talk to them puts them at ease most of the time. And it's a sort of thing, it's just a very small thing, to show that you are actually paying attention and that you care. So whatever trick you have to use to remember their name, remember it. And if you don't remember it after the first time they told you it, it's okay to ask again because they probably don't remember your name either. You know. In fact, here's a trick. When I want to remember somebody's name, "Oh, uh, how do you spell that?" Especially if it's an unusual name, they're like, "How do I spell it?" "J-O-H-N you idiot." I don't know I just have a friend who spells it J-A-W-N, and I just wanted to see if you did too. Alright. Okay, so find a common ground. This is so important. People when they talk about something that they're interested in, or they're excited about, they'll relax. It's all about getting somebody to relax in the studio. And so, a lot of times I'll you know, You ask a couple of questions, the basic questions. My favorite is, "Are you local? Where are you from?" "Actually I'm from Cincinnati." "Oh, you know, I've been to Cincinnati, I was there, city of seven hills man. That's a really cool place man, I had some chili mac while I was there. It was an unbelievable place." And then you talk about Cincinnati. Or if they're an architect in your town, find out what building they've designed, and learn a little bit to have a conversation. That's a three-minute trip on Google. To figure out something about them. Not creepy stalker way, just to be interested in what they do. It's really, really easy to do that. And most people don't take the time to do that anymore. Treat the shoot like a conversation. For me, when I'm in a session, an individual session, not necessarily the high-volume stuff, it almost gets to feel like the taking of the photographs is secondary. Does that make sense? So, you want to basically be the photographer that they have a really good time. If they had a good time making the picture, they're going to like the picture. So treat it more like a conversation rather than you're the- Sometimes you'll go, "Oh, I forgot we were supposed to be taking pictures." If somebody's talking and relaxed, they're going to be comfortable.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

6 Styles of Headshots
Gear List

Ratings and Reviews

Melville McLean

Gary Hughes is possibly the best teacher I have seen here and that is a very high compliment. His business analysis is simple and to the point. His set ups and techniques are simple and straight forward, no easy task in itself. His interactions with his models/clients are finely developed and reduced into the fewest but most important key exchanges. He teaches by example how to interact and direct. If you are a high volume photography with brief time per sitter, you might especially appreciate his tips. It is extraordinarily difficult to keep a tight, well structured class going live for so long at a time. His intelligence, wit and personality are all in his favor but it is the content itself that is most impressive. I am not a portrait photographer but I have 30 years of commercial studio experience. He knows what is most important, leaves out the rest and has organized the material in anticipation of most difficulties that arise so that it rests in a seamless, smooth, coherent learning experience. All of his practical advice is excellent. Just understand that his work is about doing a relatively large number of shots in the most efficient way rather than a lot of time spent on a few clients for a completely different format [presentation like very large prints. In fact he is especially pragmatic. He emphasizes that you do not have to own the most expensive equipment but you absolutely do have to know how to use the equipment that you already have. And I am telling you this as someone he makes fun of in his course with fancy cameras and Profoto lighting gear. He is an advocate of all thought out approaches as well as relying on skills and knowledge. You will understand how and why to make all of his key, conventional light and posing set ups. He makes everything sound simple and doable -- and with his help -- it is. What you have to appreciate is that it is up to each individual to acquire the specialized skills to make our work compelling enough to be competitive. The unspoken truth that we all face is that talent plays a key role as well and that it takes time to become every accomplished. But I have also seen concentration, commitment and hard work result in developing innate talents that blossom in very successful careers. Mr Hughes reduces every step into the clearest, most essential components. He is self effacing both as a photographer and post process retoucher but he is very good indeed and does not waste time overdoing images that cannot benefit from a larger format presentation. Everything is appropriate and practical. He has already removed everything that does not matter for his purposes for us that would only interfere with the concise, clarity of his presentation.


I am so glad that I had the opportunity to watch this course. It has not only provided valuable lighting set-ups, but also great basics for posing.!. The Photoshop extraction technique Gary demonstrated was icing on the cake. Gary did a great job teaching and I greatly admired the technique in which he taught. Thanks for a great class!


This was an excellent class! The class covered so much information and great tips and ideas. Gary is funny and has an easy going approach, which makes the class that much more enjoyable. As a struggling pet photographer, I have been trying to find something to supplement my business with that does not involve children/babies, or shooting weddings again and headshots seemed to be a great option. After watching this class, I feel confident building up a headshot component to my business. Definitely recommend this class!

Student Work