These 5 lighting tips from Peter Hurley will help you to shoot perfect headshots
If there’s one photographer synonymous with the headshot genre it’s probably Peter Hurley. In this video, Peter walks us through 5 tips that he says will help you light headshots and push your images from good to great.
Point your nose towards the sun and let the shadows fall behind you – Walk Whitman.
- ‘Why are we quoting one of America’s greatest writers in an article about shooting headshots?’ you may ask. Peter is taking this quote literally and explains that if we light people from the side we get “all sorts of shadows”. For headshots you want the face lit evenly and from the front.
- Don’t underestimate the power of natural light. Hurley says that his first four years in business were shooting natural light in his apartment. You don’t need a lot of fancy lighting gear to create beautiful headshots. He says to get really good with natural light, learn how to manipulate it, and then when you do move to a studio you can learn to emulate it, freeing up shooting possibilities on grey and rainy days.
- Try continuous light. Peter says he loves to use continuous light sources rather than strobe because you can see what’s going on, the flash doesn’t make your subject blink and it doesn’t disrupt the flow and communication between him and his subject. Also, he says that he prefers the pupils of the eye to be small so that the colour of the iris is more prominent, and he has found that continuous light achieves this effect well.
- Learn the inverse square law and move your lights really close to your subject.
- Try Peter’s signature triangle set-up. He claims that it’s made him “millions of dollars” over the years, and is a big component of the Peter Hurley brand look. You don’t need to use the exact same geat to achieve this look though. You can try using strip boxes, two angles softboxes with a reflector underneath, even clamshell lighting achieves a similar look, just the catchlights in the eye will look different.
Peter concludes by emphasizing that lighting is ‘huge’ and as a photographer, it’s ‘our thing’. I think what he means by that is that in most genres of photography, having a good working knowledge of lighting and the ability to control and manipulate light will help set you on the road towards mastery in photography.
Do you have any other tips for shooting perfect headshots?
Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe