Fstoppers Original: Peter Hurley exposes the perfect headshot

Fstoppers Original:  Peter Hurley exposes the perfect headshot

Update: Fstoppers has just completed the full 4 hour tutorial with Peter Hurley. Check it out here.

Peter Hurley is a true inspiration. Not only is he an amazing headshot photographer but he is also one of the most fun, energetic, and encouraging photographers I have ever met. Let me tell you why.

I was first introduced to Peter's work through Lee Morris a few years ago. As the story goes, Lee emailed a bunch of photographers while he was in college and one of the only ones to respond back was Peter Hurley. I'm sure Lee would have never thought five years later he would be shooting a behind the scenes video of Peter in his midtown studio in NYC.

If there is one thing that separates Peter Hurley's approach to photography it is that he clearly knows exactly what he is doing at all times. He is completely in control during his photoshoots with both his lighting and his interaction with his clients. If you have ever had to get a particular emotion out of your subject during a portrait session you know it can be a tough task. Peter's approach is to make his clients crack a smile by saying some of the most ridiculous comments I have ever heard during a photoshoot. Sometimes he will joke about taking yourself too seriously in front of the camera and other times he will poke fun at a funny mannerism you might accidentally express. Whatever it is he is saying, it is bound to get you smiling which he instantly captures in each frame. At first I thought a typical client might not open up so freely but after just 10 minutes of watching Peter shoot I realized he has mastered the art of making people feel comfortable in front of his camera.

Peter is also one of those guys who knows exactly what the final product is going to look like and how to achieve that perfect image. Many photographers approach their photoshoots with no real game plan, or they may treat it as an artistic experiment but hope in the back of their mind they can pull something off that looks great. Peter KNOWS that he is going to create something great. He told us so many stories about apprehensive clients or about actors he has worked with that lacked the confidence they needed to produce a solid headshot. In every case, Peter broke down the wall they initially had during the beginning of the photoshoot and they left with headshots they are still using today.

Some might say that his success can be attributed to his white backgrounds, or his soft lighting, or his talented clients but honestly it all boils down to his personality. Of course all of those other aspects help contribute to his style and images but it is truly his connection with his subjects that makes his images sing and allows him to feel 100% confident that by the end of his 2-3 hour session his clients will have a handful of headshots that will get them into the door of a casting agency.

We hope you guys enjoy this latest behind the scenes video and hope we can do Peter Hurley justice. I'm kind of kicking myself for not asking Peter to shoot a quick headshot of the fstoppers team; maybe next time. Check out more of his work at www.peterhurley.com and be careful of who you email, they may just email you back :)

Fstoppers Original: Peter Hurley shoots the perfect actor's headshot from FStoppers on Vimeo.

Written by Patrick Hall. Patrick Hall is the cofounder of Fstoppers.com and a wedding photographer in Charleston, South Carolina

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Patrick Hall's picture

If you want to see what happens when Peter gets a natural in front of his camera, check this out: http://peterhurley.com/news/2010/halle-morse-in-action/

Peter Hurley's picture

It's 5:37am, I can't sleep because tonight is a big night for my LOST exhibition. I open up facebook to see this link right at the top of my profile page. One click and I was blown away! All I can say is WOW! Lee and Patrick, you guys are truly amazing. I love that you captured me being me. So glad I responded to that email! Next time you are in town it will be my pleasure to get you in front of my camera!

Anonymous's picture

Hey Peter, What kind of lights do you use in your studio as shown in the video?

Fenix Fotography's picture

Buy the video. It's in there.  Downloaded mine this week--LOVED it.

Luca's picture

Very talented and amazing shots!
Thx for sharing!

Nour El Refai's picture

Amazing work, and the equipment rocks, I don't think I can ever afford them in hundred years :) I live in Egypt, you know. But besides that I loved the way he treats his models, and his experience in how to talk to them and how to show their natural expressions, I think it is not easy at all.
By the way the shots of Peter while he was a model is great too.

Thanks for sharing your amazing BTS videos

Stephen Pena's picture

WOW great stuff guys!!!! Damn he has awsome equipment! haha. not to many people could do so much with just a headshot. best headshots ive ever seen. and the video editing is perfect. hopefully once i finish up mine itll be worthy of that D300s! haha

Nick milak's picture

I Love this video!! except you can see The "other" Nick a few times... not as attractive as me... just saying... but i like your style Peter! I really like the whole "your not laughing at my fucking jokes" line.. haahaha :) well done Lee, Patrick, Peter.... and that other not so cool Nick...

Sterling's picture

Fellas, this is one of my all-time Fstoppers favourites! Thanks!

Alessandro Bellino's picture

Very kind Person.
Every people can see that his photography rocks, but we have the opportunity to know the Man before the Photographer.


David Keller's picture

Great job again yall. Shot and edited well

Patrick CN Wong's picture

I LOVE THIS INTERVIEW. Thx Pat, Peter, Lee, and anyyone else who has worked on this video.

Harvinder's picture

This is inspiring stuff - Peter can work some serious magic!

Dave Gruentzel's picture

Great video and inspiring photographer!

Jon Chiang's picture

Great video!! Keep up the awesome work guys.

Andrew Bright's picture

Bonus points for world's most versatile hair! Seriously dude, how many people are you?

Patrick Hall's picture

@Andrew haha, don't hate cause he has many looks. I personally love growing both the beard and the hair from time to time too. This just proves PH is a badass; straight and simple

Peter Hurley's picture

What can I say I like to mix it up. Grew the hair out after shaving my head completely 2 summers ago.

Jerrit Pruyn's picture

I am jealous guys as always. Great work from everyone. Now to sell some organs to get that camera.

Toby K's picture

Great video, these bio's are just the best.. Peter this was VERY inspiring would love to see more of your behind the scenes work.

Joe Federer's picture

Great video -- awesome mix of 'behind the scenes' and simple interview...

Tony Galic's picture

Just awesome keep up thanks for sharing ...

matt's picture

nice work willis...you have come a long way since the "wan!"

Isaiah's picture

I seriously wanna be able to do what this guy does in my town when I grow up. lol.

Kon Iatrou's picture

Fantastic insight into Peter. Seeing the behind the scenes look at how he shoots and the lighting set up was an amazing AHA!!! moment for me. I shoot Executive Portraits for the last few years and I have my styles and lighting set ups and know them so well I don't have to think about the set up and power of the heads, it's like legos you can do it blind folded. BUT, with that said I've been looking around for new looks and new techniques to up the anty and push myself more to get a new looks and create some new feelings and get more out of photography for me and for my clients. And seeing Peter and his studio and listening to his words - inspiring. Just this week I created some new ployboards/bookends and am painting them black. Never used boards with black before just controlled the light to get the look. The sharing of knowledge is awesome I thank you guys so much for getting FStoppers going. Keep it up!!

Emmanuel H's picture

Great Video! I just have a question about the focus software. Where can i find to purchase this software?

Carlos R. Dueñas's picture


Salman Suhail's picture

Hey guys...

would LOVE to know how you mic'ed this interview up on the rooftop (where im guessing there was quite a bit of wind). Wireless mic on his collar? What brand could you let us know?

shabirali patel's picture

i really love love the bts of peter hurley.. fstoppers is doing great job .. love it.. keep it up...

vijay katkar's picture

i like this inspiring video. great job

Gennaro's picture

You're a natural Pete! Congrats. I'll be bringing a few more guys your way!

Carlo Parducho's picture

Cool vid. It's fun and pleasing to watch and is ACTUALLY inspiring.

Clarence Johnson's picture

This was a GREAT interview on a lot of levels and a strong calling card for Peter Hurley.

Kenneth K Nielsen's picture

Hello FS

Amazing shots you got there Peter. I was just wondering. What kind of lighting do you use? I know you mention a bit in the interview but there is a lot more to it I think. Thanks for your reply :)

Kind Regards
Kenneth K Nielsen

David Strauss's picture

Awesome work, both the shooting the video and the head shots themselves. I think the thing that inspires me most is Peter's person-ability.

John's picture

uhh not inspiring at all.

Martin Bentsen's picture

After watching this video yesterday (for the second time), I realized that there is so much more to headshots than I though. Peter Hurley is an inspiration and i learned a ton from this video. Thanks so much!

Iris Nelson's picture

Awesome work by Peter Hurley. Thank you for sharing this interview.

Maximilian Rivera's picture

This was deff. inspiring I'm amazed how awesome model/photographers can do both and be amazing on both sides of the camera. Love your work!!

Kesara's picture

Inspiring and good work!

Matthew Kuhl's picture

wow! great interview! you guys truly inspire me to start taking my photography to the next level! Thanks!

Amy Hoek Kubik's picture

I just ordered some diffusion cloth! Great inspiration to know that he started so simple...

Let's Go DSLR's picture

Coolest photographer in the world? I think so.

hey guys, do you know the name of the video's music track?

Alvinus Melius's picture

Great Stuff!

Joe Gunawan's picture

Wow! Thank you Fstoppers for featuring another great photographer that I want to learn from and hopefully work/assist with in the near future. 

Zach Holz's picture

how does he light his backgrounds?  

Patrick Hall's picture

he fires Alien Bees at them

colleenpf's picture

Great stuff, love Peter Hurley and his work. I'd like to know if he has any tips for shooting basic employee headshots of rather reluctant subjects, who are just there because they have to, but they don't have much patience for taking direction and don't seem to care whether or not it looks good anyway as they get annoyed with even minor direction. Also, there is a line up of other employees waiting their turn and watching, so the subject is probably self conscious, and there is no time for chit-chat to warm them up.