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General Q&A

Lesson 21 from: The Business of Professional Headshots

Gary Hughes

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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

General Q&A

Okay, so do we have time for questions, because I'm pretty good? Is there a general, this is from Debbie B., a general ratio of hair light to the key light in this scenario that you've been showing us? Absolutely! The rule of thumb in traditional, classic setups is you want the key light to be one stop brighter than all of your edge lighting. So if you're shooting at F8, your main light, then if you're using a light meter, then your edge light should be at 5, 6. So you want it to be there ... If you look at the last image, you can see that it's there and that it just gives a little, subtle carving out of the background. But it's not drawing attention to itself. Aww, sad, sad, sad Oscar. Okay, perfect. There are different ways to go about using an edge light. I've seen it done where the edge light is two stops brighter than the main light. And I've seen it work. But in this scenario, this particular instance, what we're talking about is, rule of thumb is the general consensus, if yo...

u were to read a photography textbook, it's gonna be one stop brighter, the main light than the edge light. Thanks. No problem. So we have a question, this came from Vinny Vegas ... Vinny Vegas? Vinny Vegas. Killer name, I really hope you're a pimp Vinny Vegas. That would be the best. Vinny Vegas. Vinny Vegas. Vinny Vegas says great workshop. Low ceilings are a big challenge for me and shooting space. Can you talk a little bit about shooting space needed if you both have the seated subjects and which shooting setups, high key, classic muslin, would work best in a smaller space? Or is there a difference? This is probably what, 20 foot ceilings in here? It's pretty high. My studio has nine foot ceilings and I do all the same things. Sometimes my lights are clear smooshed against the ceiling but I do all these same lighting setups in my studio. I would say to do anything where the light is gonna be on a boom, a nine foot ceiling is a minimum. Because those booms take up a lot of space. If you go into a lot of offices, sometimes you'll find you're working with eight foot ceilings. And that can be a problem. Which is when I would make sure that it would be a question that I would ask if I was going on location. And Julie, when she books all this stuff, my wife who basically runs the business, collects all this information from someone when I'm gonna go shoot on location. How big is the room, how high are the ceilings, what color are the walls? All these things that I have to factor in when I decide what equipment that I'm going to bring on the job. So always a great question to ask. There is a way I could get people into my studio if their location is really like, if it's not gonna work out. 'Cause there's some times it is untenable. We have a whole area of our neighborhood where all the businesses are in really old houses from the 50s, that are all really small, compartmentalized rooms all the way around. And I can't shoot something where I bring lights in there. So I might do something where I would consider using a natural light alternative. If it was a small enough group of people or just one or two. I might just use window light and reflectors and not worry about all this stuff. But again, information gathering is gonna be extremely important. And, do you do, I know we're not gonna necessarily show it in this class, per se, because we're in the studio, but do you do a lot of head shots outdoors? Like with a skyline in the background. Is that something that you offer or is different? Absolutely, yeah. I definitely do location work. The shoot through umbrella and the 20 by 20, these are staples of my arsenal when I shoot on location. And the more people, the bigger the umbrella. I will tell you that. But I charge more for location. And I want it to be significantly prohibitive because if I'm gonna drag my butt outside with all my gear, it's not gonna be for an extra 50 bucks. You know? If you want a customized, on location shoot, with editorial-style photos for you and your staff, it's gonna cost a bit extra for sure. And I would definitely recommend charging extra for that. Your time is worth something. Your time is the most valuable resource you have, actually. And so make sure that you're charging for it. How many shoots a day can you do, if you're shooting on location? Driving from place to place. If I'm in my studio, I can do like 12, 15 sessions in a day, business head shots, back to back, effortlessly. I don't do that a lot, but I could. 'Cause I work on my computer, ding dong, they walk in the door, we walk back, we shoot, they leave, next session comes in. On location you pack up everything, you drive there, you park, you get out, you unpack everything, you set it all up, you shoot, you pack it back up. You get the point. You gotta consider that an on location shoot is gonna take you about three or four times as much time as one in the studio. Thank you. It is so important because we all just kind of say oh sure, ya know, but thinking through all of that time. And speaking of, how much time is your day rate? There are a couple of questions that I still had from earlier today. Is that a number of hours or ... Absolutely, great question. I have a half day rate and a day rate. The half day rate is up to four hours and the day rate is up to eight hours. And those hours have to be consecutive. You will get clients that will say, oh you'll be on site but you won't be shooting from 1:00 to 3:00 so we won't count that towards our eight hours. That doesn't happen. I've been screwed that way before and I'm not interested in that. It's consecutive hours. Half day four hours, up to four. We have a minimum of four hours on a half day rate. If they have two, they pay for the half day. I had a situation recently where we turned down a job because they were insisting that what they wanted was gonna take only two hours. And I said I'm sorry, I can't get that done in two hours. It's gonna be half a day. And they didn't want to pay. And so they were recommended to another photographer and that's fine. It's better if you turn a job away, than for you to get involved in a job that's gonna make you miserable. Do you understand what I mean? Make sure that you know how much time you need to do the job. And it's up to four hours and that's our minimum. Just to follow along to that Gary. How much time do you account for with regard to setup? So if it's gonna take you half an hour to go in if you're going to, say, an office building, how much time does it take you to set up? And is that included as well? Surprisingly efficient. My setup and breakdown is not counted towards their time. And so, therefore, it is shockingly efficient. It is paid for in the half day rate that they pay for. They're paying for four hours of shooting, but I charge enough to where the half hour setup and half hour breakdown, my costs are covered. If that makes sense. They don't wanna pay for you to setup and breakdown. You have a hard time selling that to your client I guarantee it. We had the same question, I love that one. And the in-studio audience and the people at home often always have the same questions. Anymore in the studio audience. We have time for just a couple more. Yeah, Cliff. Would you mind just kind of recapping cropping. You know when you're shooting in camera. Right, okay sure. If I'm doing a classical setup, I will typically leave lots of head room and one shoulder completely in the crop. I don't know why, except to say that leaving room for them to work with it after ... Whatever design team is gonna be working with their stuff online, I like them to have options. Because a lot of times, these images are ending up as square. In LinkedIn, Facebook, whatever they're using online, you find that profile pictures are very often square. And if you shoot in too tight, cropping it square can really compromise the composition of the image. So however you shoot it's never ... I sometimes play a little fast and loose with the cropping and I like to get in real tight. I do. But you always have to consider what the final delivery of the image is. And make sure you ask. If you're shooting for a billboard, for example, make sure that you shoot horizontal with both shoulders and the top of the head all in the shot. Because it's gonna get extracted and used in a hundred different ways. If you're shooting and they send you samples and you can see that they're using it just a regular old vertical composition shot as profile photos on a company website, then you know that you don't have to worry about it as much. You always have to consider where it's gonna be. If you're photographing portraits and your biggest seller is an 8 by 10, you know you need to leave a lot of room because 8 by 10 is gonna chop the crap out of your images for sure. Going back to earlier today, again, about your workflow. We were talking about how much time that you are putting into this to make the most money and be the most profitable. Can you talk us through, just quickly, your workflow with regard to, say you're at a big shoot, with a number of people, high volume. People being able to see their images right there and then and just kind of that workflow once you are there and then like to the delivery of the files. If we're doing the whole shebang at an event, I've got an assistant checking people in. Because we will always get a list of names from the client. Even if it's a list of every attendee at the convention, I'd rather have all their names than have none. And they will check them in and then they will give them a card with their name written on it and a QR code which is assigned to their name. Then they sit down, they see me, I have my photo assistant is gonna lint brush them, gonna fluff their hair, and show them the hand mirror. Then I'm gonna photograph the QR code, and then I'm going to photograph them, and then they're going to get up, and then they're going to go over to another assistant ... This is why you charge a lot of money. On a job like this, I've got three or four people working with me. Because I can't get up off that stool. I'm sitting down shooting, they're coming, boom. I can't move. If I stop ... Sometimes I've got a line with a hundred people in it and I can't stop to help somebody select an image or I can't get up and take the hair off of somebody's shoulder. It's worth it to pay somebody $75 for five hours work, which is pretty decent pay for lint rolling and hair brushing, you know. And showing somebody a mirror. Whatever it is you're gonna work out to pay it's gonna be way more worth it because you're gonna work more efficiently. So they get up and then they go over to my other assistant because the images are shooting across my TV style all the way over to the computer. Light room grabs em, applies an action, and shows them. And they get to see, just in a regular light room viewer, the five or six, seven images that I took and then they select the image. My assistant marks that with five stars. And then I know that when I go back to those images, all I do is sort by five stars and I've got one image of everybody. And it's the image that they selected. So I don't have to sort, I don't have to call, I don't have to do anything. All I do is I take those images and then if I've got a few hundred of them, I do my raw actions, which is like to make sure I perfect the color balance, convert them to jpegs, upload them to my editor. Two days later, I get 400 images back and I FTP those to my client and I'm done. It's the easiest thing in the world. It's super, super easy. I really don't have to do a lot.

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