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Posing Basics for Headshots

Lesson 8 from: The Business of Professional Headshots

Gary Hughes

Posing Basics for Headshots

Lesson 8 from: The Business of Professional Headshots

Gary Hughes

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Lesson Info

8. Posing Basics for Headshots


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

Posing Basics for Headshots

Now we're gonna get into the part that people struggle with a lot. And I'm gonna kinda try and simplify it for you as best as I can. Posing is a difficult thing for a lot of people. Especially when I said when I started ... and I still struggle with this. Posing women is tough for me, naturally. For some women they say posing men can be difficult for them but they're a natural at making a woman look natural, you know. The point is that, in the professional world you don't have to necessarily go crazy, it's a lot easier to master with just a couple of ideas. So don't let the one thing sort of keep you from being able to do this. And I've seen this, very easy to correct, seen this mistake made plenty, plenty of times is posing for professional head shots. And honestly, just the starting point is such an easy thing to do and I'm gonna explain, I'm gonna break it down for you. Start at the bottom. Even though we're shooting head shot posing is gonna start with the feet. If you start from t...

he bottom and work your way up you're gonna make your life a lot easier. Has anybody been trying to pose a client before and they just aren't doing it? You know, like, oh could you just (makes noises) like that and they end up sorta standing like, is this what you wanted? And it happens all the time. I just can't get over how much they look like a news team. Sorry. Alright, not a news team but they could play one on TV. I wanna talk a little about male and female posing. There's a traditional way to look at posing the difference between men and women. And I fall back on that a lot. But I don't wanna get into ... I don't wanna be overly stereotypical. I don't wanna throw gender roles because you're gonna run into clients that are gonna be an exception to every rule. We live in a world of amazing diversity and especially in the United States. So don't pigeonhole yourself into the rules. I wanna set down a couple of basic rules for every single human that works. But we are gonna talk a little bit, especially when we start shooting about how I pose men versus how I pose women and this is a sort of like general rule but you're gonna find exceptions to that. You're gonna find women that look better in a masculine pose and you're gonna find men that are more natural in what would be considered a traditionally feminine pose. So when I say that I'm not trying to put anybody into any holes. I'm telling you what will work for most people and I'm gonna tell ya that to keep your mind open for something that could come in and make the image better, alright? We cool with that? So here are the things that you need to do when posing. Analyze your subject. This is an art that is dying. And if you learn to do this you will set yourself apart from every other photographer you know pretty much. People, they have a setup of lights in their studio and somebody walks in and that's what they shoot because their lights are already set up. Look at somebody. Look at their body, look at their face. Look at their eyes. What are their best characteristics? What are their weaknesses? What are the things that you think they may not like? What are the things that they might be insecure about? Don't ask them (laughs) Are you insecure, your neck is kind of like ( makes noises) waddley underneath. Does that bother ya, you want me to shoot up into it or like, ya know ... You don't wanna do that. You have to look at your subject. I shoot a lot of people and nobody is without facial aberrations. Do you realize that the ideals of physical facial beauty are based on symmetry? Did you ever think about that, one side being exactly like the other? And so when somebody is quote unquote less attractive their face tends to be less symmetrical. That's sort of how it works. That's in our minds, that's how we look at things. Every difference in your face, your nose points one way, I'm not looking at anybody specifically, One of your eyes is smaller than the other, You have an ear up here and an ear down here, you could park a bicycle between your two front teeth. There's so many different things about people that but those differences makes somebody unique and can make them beautiful. So you have to pay attention to all those things. Cause I've met people that have some really what would be traditionally non beautiful things about them that they're really proud of. That's like who they are. Like a nose that goes like this, like Owen Wilson. You know that guy, the actor? Like my goodness gracious. You know, you could look at that guy that's a pretty handsome guy and it's charming and that sort of makes him who he is you know? I mean there are so many things that make people beautiful and diverse. And I don't want you to think that I'm being negative. But it is your job to flatter your client. And so we're gonna talk about that. Analyze them and decide how you're gonna light them, how you're gonna pose them based on looking at them. I, when somebody comes into the studio, not necessarily in volume, when somebody comes into the studio I talk to em for five minutes. Just, hey how ya doin, how's the weather. And while they're talking and telling me about the crap in their life that I don't care about I'm looking at them and I'm thinking, how can I flatter that person? How can I make them look best? How am I gonna serve them? Analyze people's facial features. Because if somebody has an eye that's maybe a little smaller on this side, if you put eye camera forward then you are visually evening out the two eyes together. And people don't think that. If you have somebody who's ears are slightly lopsided, with a little head tilt you can visually correct that. Here's a thing that might blow your mind. Did you know when you look in the mirror your brain corrects your facial aberrations for you? You stare at yourself for 10 seconds then they start to pop up but when you just glance at yourself in the mirror your brain makes it okay. That's why everybody thinks, nobody thinks they're ugly do they? Like you don't go, oh God, no. People go, alright, I'm okay. I look good. And then you see yourself in a picture and you go (screams) you know? Cause your brain's correcting that for you. It's wild, it's the amazing self-preservation of our emotional state of being. Our minds are incredible. But be sensitive to your clients and analyze them. If you are taking the time to look at someone and figure out how to make them look their best, especially when it comes to head shot cause you're really close to their face you're gonna come out ahead of a lot of other people. Flatter their features. This is important. Now some people, by talking to them you're gonna find out, are they confident? Are they insecure, are they nervous? But you have to flatter their individual features. If someone has a larger body you may take a slightly higher angle. If someone is skinny you might wanna shoot them straight on to make them look a little more broad, to fill up the frame a little bit more. There're are kinds of ways to treat people. Consider their position. This is important. By position I mean their job title. If someone is a powerful attorney who is running for governor or something, You're not necessarily gonna wanna make them look friendly and demure you know? If someone is a real estate agent it's their job to look pleasant and approachable. So you want to factor that into your lighting and your posing. A more dramatic light with hard shadows and a harder expression is not gonna be good for Martha from Century 21. But if you have a guy comin in your studio who writes mystery novels that would be really cool for him. Do you understand? Consider their position, consider what they do for a living to decide how you're gonna light them and how you're gonna shoot them. Listen to their opinions. This is the thing that photographers fail to do so much. If they tell you they prefer one side you better shoot the side that they prefer. They will tell you sometimes. People, especially ones who really hate their picture being taken, anybody ever some into your business or come in for a photo shoot and they just start talking about their flaws right away? Like, ah well ya know, I gotta lose 20 pounds (makes noises) they're telling you what they don't want and what they do want. And you have to listen. And if you fail to listen you're gonna fail to please your client.

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