Hook It: 3 Ways to Improve Headshots With Peter Hurley

Shelby Glazer final copy

It’s all about the jawline. As a headshot and portrait specialist, respected photographer Peter Hurley can instantly take ten pounds off of a subject through one simple technique. Not only do clients love it, but it has enabled him to develop a winning portfolio that has led him to land work with brands like Levi’s, Reebok, DKNY, and Axe Deodorant.

A former model himself, Hurley has spent extensive time on both sides of the camera. Because of that, he has developed a style that enables him to put clients at ease, while also creating stellar portraits. His winning technique has led him to photograph high-profile personalities like Mikhail Baryshnikov, Billy Magnussen, and Sofia Vergara, among many others. 

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Jam That Forehead Forward

“I want everybody to imagine that there’s a hook in the top of your head, and it’s pulling you up to the ceiling,” Hurley said. “When you’re up there, I want you to increase the distance between your earlobes and your shoulder blades. Now I want you to jam your forehead forward a little bit.”

As Hurley demonstrated by photographing a volunteer from the audience, this positioning instantly sharpens up a jawline and creates a leaner, more attractive appearance. It eliminates the “double chin” effect and makes the subject appear more alert. However, once the photographer has his subject in the right position, it’s time to loosen the client up so his expression will be more natural.

Winslow Bright final copy

Mouth, Eyes, Eyebrows

In 2013, Hurley made headlines with a photography technique he called “the squinch.” This technique involves having a model slightly lifting the bottom eyelid while only tightening the upper eyelids slightly. The result, as demonstrated here, makes for a much more intriguing headshot.

In addition to the squinch, Hurley recommends working with the subject until the energy increases. As the photographer throws out tips, the client will gradually loosen up, creating a photograph that captures the person’s true personality. As long as the client maintains her straight positioning, much of the instruction will revolve around what to do with his eyes, mouth, and eyebrows.

Find a Common Thread

While shooting his volunteer subject, Hurley notices she has an accent and asks where she’s from. She answers, “Spain,” leading him to launch into an animated story about his own visit to Spain. As he tells her this story, he interjects instruction on how she should change up her posing.

“I don’t talk to them beforehand if I can get away with it,” Hurley said. “While I’m shooting, I ask where she’s from. What am I looking for? A common thread. What I’m trying to do is stop her from thinking about being in front of the camera.”

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Stephanie Faris

Stephanie Faris is the Simon & Schuster author of 30 Days of No Gossip, 25 Roses, and the upcoming Piper Morgan series.