Peter Hurley's "Squinch" Helps To Make Better Headshots

You would have to be from Mars not to know who Peter Hurley is at this point. He was one of the first photographers to let Fstoppers into his studio, and together we produced the wildly popular The Art Behind The Headshot tutorial where he shares all of his secrets. Today Peter is publicly sharing perhaps his most important tip for making people look good in front of your camera, and it is appropriately named "squinching."

A typical "Hurleyism", Squinching is a made up word for something Peter has been trying to explain for years. Peter argues that when people have wide eyes they look vulnerable, scared, fearful, and overall uncertain. Those qualities usually do not work well for headshots which typically need to portray confidence, approachability, mystery, and intrigue. For Peter's actor clients, they only have one chance to show off their personality to a casting agent, so they need to look their best. And what Peter has found is people look their best with a slight bit of squint in their eyes. The results are pretty amazing.

peter-hurley-how-to-take-better-headshots

peter-hurley-squinch

As you can see, Peter has taken each of his clients from an uncomfortable state in front of his camera to an ultra suave, cool looking demeanor. Now you might be saying that this technique is obvious but the bad news is most of your clients have never heard of this technique. What is even worse is you are going to get really bad results if you simply tell them to squint. The good news, however, is if you can teach your clients the Squinch, you will drastically improve the overall vibe your clients are giving the camera instantly!. And don't think this technique only works for actors; I've been using this technique for everyone who finds themselves in front of my camera. That means brides, friends, models, families, musicians, and....well everyone!

peter-hurley-squinting

If you enjoyed this tip, check out Peter's first viral video below where he talks about creating stronger jawlines in your work. Nothing is worse than having a double chin and Peter shows you exactly how you can get rid of that in 90% of your clients.

If you want to learn every technique from Peter Hurley in person, Peter will be teaching at our first ever 2014 Fstoppers Workshop hosted at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas. Check out Peter's full class schedule here and watch the video below to see other learning opportunities in paradise!

https://vimeo.com/77554337

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47 Comments
Caitlyn Chapman's picture

I always called it the Smize ('smile with your eyes' coined by Tyra Banks if you didn't know)... a lot of gals know what that means, but not so much the guys. I think squinch sounds more legit though. Ha. I'll have to try it.

Antonio Carrasco's picture

never say smize. never ever.

Also, there is a difference between smize and squinching as squinching gives a more thoughtful intense look while smizing is a more happy, commercial look.

Caitlyn Chapman's picture

I guess it depends on what type of shoot you're doing!

Jeremy Sale's picture

I used to hate ANTM, until I realized that it was pure gold for photographers. (I have a deal with my clients: any time I say "smile", I pay them $10.)

Edward Porter's picture

Peter reminds me of that personal trainer in the gym motivating you to push out that last rep. So much gusto!

Noam Galai's picture

Peter is the best

Antonio Carrasco's picture

Yeah, I always tell the people I'm shooting with to do that, but I usually use the term "dim your eyes". Even some more experienced models usually start with the deer in headlights look for the first few shots of the session

Imperious Images's picture

Lately I've been telling models to look like they're trying to see something far off in the distance. That works well to. Also gets them to focus on a point you can assign.

Mr Blah's picture

In his DVD, Hurley uses the situation where your are trying to read the last line of letter at the eye doctor (can't translate the term... sorry!).

Pretty usefull!

Karl-Filip Karlsson's picture

I will show this video every time BEFORE i shoot the model! ;)

Jake Brown's picture

This dude is blowing my mind

Adam T's picture

Am I the only one who remembers why you are suppose to say cheese?

Imperious Images's picture

I've been doing this for years. Didn't know it was or wasn't already a "thing." ::sigh:: oh well

Sidney M. Gomez's picture

SHABAAAANG!!!

Allie Miller | AMillerFoto-Pho's picture

AHHHH! The “Squinch” - saved my life!

sam l's picture

Am I the only one thinking this is complete BS? looks like he basically "instruct" the models to wide open their eyes to an unnatural extreme state, then tell them to close down a bit. Come on. And the last Asian woman photo, the "before" (straight on) one is just perfect as it is.

sam l's picture

plus, whenever I hear a guy referring his own instruction as "unbelievable", I can't take him too serious. All his talking about is just common sense, if you need to watch his video to learn about how to hide the double chin, you probably never really pay attention to your work.

Michael Wessel's picture

He'll even through in a free set of steak knives!

Christopher Kirtlink's picture

The middle one, the guy just goes from serious face to smiling, the "squinch" doesn't make a difference.

I guess the real lesson here would be "learn to read your subject and adjust".

KewlDewd's picture

Absofreakinlutely. My thoughts the entire time watching this video.

sam l's picture

If Anyone wants to see a classic headshot/body posing tutorial, this is the best one I ever saw, Classical Posing & Portrait Lighting by Frank Dispensa, it will be worth your every minutes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxPkxS_ezVg&feature=youtu.be&t=27m50s

Andrew Donnan's picture

Turtle your neck out a little bit and tip your head down a little.

CDGPIX's picture

totaly squinching at work getting wierd looks :P

Mr Blah's picture

Always thought this was called squinting... Oh well!

Shannon Fabry's picture

Tyra calls it Smizing!

Daniel Peters's picture

Now I know what is wrong with that picture of me... ;-)

Marek mareksy Szewczyk's picture

So long time without so nice to observe and to listen a showman and… SHABAAAANG!
Thank you, that is impressive!

Angel V. Prado's picture

Love Peter Hurleys work, But the Term Smizing(smiling with your eyes) was coined by Tyra Banks many years ago. I perfer the Term Smize because it connotes Emotion, actually giving the subject purpose , vs. "Squinching" which kinda sounds like a exercise to firm and tone your butt!! Just my opinion.

chummy tamayao's picture

Shabaaang !!! tnx hurley !!!

John's picture

Makes Perfect Sense!!!!! it turns the "Deer in the Headlghts look" (Hunted) into "the Predator" (Hunter.)

Randall Kenneth's picture

Peter got a spot on Fox 5 News here in the NYC area this evening just for this... I have been seeing a lot of photogs in the news lately... I guess that is a good thing... no?

I agree... people have been talking about this for some time... though they way that he describes it and the name he uses for it may be a little different.

Patrick Hall's picture

Obviously Peter's way isn't the only way to a successful headshot but I'd be willing to say most of his tips and techniques are pretty consistent in what makes a great headshot. Peter always refers to celebrity poses and almost all of them are using 3/5 of Peter's main tips.

As for David's work, I love his color, contrast, lighting, and style. It's great seeing images like this that deviate from the standard soft light/solid background. This is my honest opinion though, for me only 1 of the first 5 images on his website make his client look their best from a mouth/eyes perspective. Some of those faces do not portray confidence or approachability at all, which like Peter or not, should be the first impression in any headshot.

I think the ultimate test for this sort of thing is 1) how often are these people getting called back for in person casting calls from their headshots, and 2) how often are these clients return clients for the photographer. If you can pass those two tests then keep doing what you are doing.

Patrick Hall's picture

Couldn't agree more. Funny thing is Peter was so hesitant to share anything publicly back when we first approached him. It's awesome to see him let loose, but his personality def helps a lot. Just reminds you that you really can't have a meek personality if you want to be the best potential photographer.

Karaminder's picture

leethecam, I'm a brit. Born and raised in Perivale, Middlesex. And Peter is a genuinely brilliant and passionate friend. I have no problem with my British way of thinking with him.

Kurt Langer's picture

OK there are a few people in the outside world that like this stuff.

Kurt Langer's picture

Yeap - I think only North Americans can dig stuff like this. No way can I even contemplate watching or listening to vids like this.

sam l's picture

Lord takes me higher, did someone just call this guy "the best potential photographer"? LOL, I went out my way to visit his online portfolio, his work is mediocre at its best, the lighting on the face is so flat, and based on the catch light on the subject's eyes, he just surround the models with lights from all direction, also the headshots looks distorted probably not using the right mm, overall, they are just not that good! "Bang!!" plenty photographer do better work .

I might sound too harsh, but hey, if he is so high key: teaching and making DVDs, if I were him, I would have taken a tough look at my own work and ask myself: Am I good enough?

And by the way, don't invent the "brand "headshot photographer", there is no headshot photographer, come on!

Mansgame's picture

Let it be known that I do not care for the photography nor teaching styles of one Peter Hurley. No Peter, I don't want to buy your roll up background. No peter, I don't want to spend 2 hours and be "metro". No Peter, you don't need to speak louder.

Photo DeLux's picture
sam l's picture

If Anyone wants to see a classic headshot/body posing tutorial, this is the best one I ever saw, Classical Posing & Portrait Lighting by Frank Dispensa, it will be worth your every minutes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxPkxS_ezVg&feature=youtu.be&t=27m50s

Oscar De La Villa Jr's picture

I'm always inspired by the little techniques that Peter teaches.
Cheers and congrats on the video going VIRAL!!

Osman Şengör's picture

Thanks! Great Video, but please, the guy should get a video editor..
15 minutes for each video??
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNK0muDXgKI&feature=youtu.be
and the jaw version
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLaPPfQVS94