Skip to main content

photo & video

Professional Portraits: Moving Beyond Headshots

Lesson 22 of 32

Dynamic Portraits in Studio: Props

Gary Hughes

Professional Portraits: Moving Beyond Headshots

Gary Hughes

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

22. Dynamic Portraits in Studio: Props

Lesson Info

Dynamic Portraits in Studio: Props

Running through the combination posing, everybody sort of grasped the concept on how all that works, so let's go outside of that a little bit, let's do some stuff that's a little bit different. Commonly you will run into on a photo shoot, you'll run into something called The Office Chair. And this is a really useful prop for a lot of reasons. Here we go. You ever play Office Polo? Anyone do that? Isn't that really fun? Okay, so these things are great. They're not typically super attractive. All these ergonomic ones don't look really awesome, but they make excellent props if you're trying to get a couple of different looks if you wanna bring hands into the image more, it's a super easy thing to do. And these things do raise up I think, perfect. There we are, perfect. Alrighty. Don't sit. Sorry (laughs) We're just using it as a prop. So we're gonna place that just kinda in front of you a little bit, just there. Alright. So this is a really easy way to create a little more visual interest...

, you can do this in the studio or on location. So just place your arm on the back of the chair there. Perfect. There you go, tilt your head a little bit this way. Chin down. Turn this way. Right there, perfect. Okay, put that hand on your hip. I want you to bend your knee a little bit across the body. There you go. And now we've got busy business lady working in her office. A little more editorial feel to it. Office chair is an excellent prop. Easy to use. Perfect stuff. Try it again, zoom in a little bit. Alright, now what I want you to do, Jen, is hands in pictures can be really awkward. You're talking about managing them, sometimes we hide them sometimes we diminish them. We want to make them a little smaller. General rule of thumb Anybody? (audience laughs) You want to shoot the sides of the hands when you can So if we have a hand resting on the top of the chair, we're gonna bring it a little bit over that way. That's perfect. Here's a cool thing that a friend of mine taught me is if you just relax all the muscles in your hand, and you hold it out, that's kinda what it does, right? Now turn it upside down. That's a pretty good pose for a hand right there. Like that. Stair step, boop boom boom boop. So if we rest it, and it's kind of stair stepped, it's nice and easy. So lets see what that looks like, that hand is out of the way, it's no problem, alright. It looks good and the hands, remember, they're roughly the same size in color as the face. So once you see the difference in the hand posing between the one that we just took and this one, tilt a little that way. Turn into that light a touch There we go, perfect. Alright, take a deep breath. (sighs) Good to see ya. How's it going? (laughs) Perfect. Nice, easy, alright, relax that hand on the hip a little bit there you go, perfect. And we got it. No problem, okay. Easy does it. That hand is kind of a lot less distracting when you kinda bring it to the side like that. Also, let's work on that hand that's on the hip, too. Wanna bring those fingers together. Perfect. Nice and relaxed, yeah. That's fine. Some people, when they put their hand on their hip too, they'll do this one and depending on how sassy they are, it's totally okay. But, some people don't know how to do things. Like put their hands on their hips, or cross their arms. So you wanna make this right here, and that goes on the hip. That's pretty much good standard way to do it. One, and Two, perfect. Okay, piece of cake. So there we have really nice, really easy, using an office chair. And that's a prop that's pretty much in every single office. Except for those ones that use the weird bouncy ball things. Those, I don't know how to pose with those not awkwardly. But, keep that in mind, office chair is an excellent tool. You're doing great Jen, thank you. Stay right where you are. I will use a bar stool, or, where's that, we had a posing stool around here too, somewhere. Alright, we'll find that in a second, somewhere there's a posing stool. Ah, there it is. Thank you. I use a bar stool for a couple of reasons. One, I like when a bar stool has rungs, for it, on the feet. And this, I'll use typically, let's move this out of the way for you guys. Little bit. All this stuff is in the way. A bar stool will have something that most posing stools don't, and they'll have a rung for the feet. Which you can create some interesting posing ideas with that I will typically reserve this for a little more casual look. So, we'll do that here with Jen in a minute, after we bring Doug in and we do combination posing with him But most of the time I will use a standard posing stool. Now, there are a couple of different kinds. Some have wheels on the bottom of them. This is very dangerous. I've lost a couple of people that way. It's true, I have tile floor, and now polish concrete in my studio, and I would recommend that if you're shooting large groups of people that you get one that doesn't have wheels on it. There's a certain person that when they sit down, that last six inches, is a gamble. Alright, and that person, is the one that's going to end up on the floor. Alright? So people who do yoga, people who run, they use the muscles in their legs, all the way down. People who live a little more sedentary life, that last six inches, is a (high-pitched grunt) and if the stool has wheels, seriously, I'm not kidding you guys, that is a pro tip, from me to you. Make sure your insurance is paid up. But, always use a stool with no wheels on it. I had that happen. Luckily, it only happened once. And it was somebody that we really were close with, so it actually worked out pretty good. They only sued us for half a million. So good for us. Alright so Jen, I would like you to have a seat. Actually, if that's a little tall for you, let me know. Is that alright, you feel comfortable on it? Your feet are able to touch the ground? Okay, also, one of the things that people do a lot with a stool, is that they put their feet on the stool feet and then they do this, you know? And they get out of position. So I will typically direct people to please keep your feet on the ground, that way you don't move out of position. Okay? So what's cool with the stool is, that you can do, this is what I will typically use for a headshot. It doesn't give you a ton of latitude as far as doing anything interesting. And so, we will not only photograph the powerful business person, that Jen is here, but we will also sometimes photograph the person starting a Etsy store or a jewelry company. Or somebody who does, you know, depends on what their brand is, you know? If somebody could have a very soft and approachable, they want to show you the softer side of themselves. It's a little more relaxed, a little more casual, so in that case, I will not typically use a posing stool, I'll use a bar stool. But, let me give you a couple of examples of how we can use some of that standard posing just for a simple headshot kind of on the ground here. Cause what we want to do is, in a situation where you're hired for professional portraits, you will often be asked to photograph a head shot, and then you'll be asked to do something that's more three-quarter, full-length. And you'll also, sometimes, be asked, in addition to that to do something more editorial. In an office setting. And so, you have to be able to do those things for twelve people in a row without changing a whole lot, if that makes sense. So, let's go ahead and, pretty standard same stuff. You wanna have, here's my go to. For a standard, professional, portrait. All right, bring your hands down a little closer to your body. And see what that does, put your hands forward on your knees where they were, and if you watch, I'll take a picture Alright, turn your head into the light for me. Good, perfect. Chin down a little bit. Okay, great. And so, if you watch the shoulder position, when somebody is this way, their shoulders can tend to come forward, alright? So, I just have, ladies especially, just rest their hands in their lap, but bring it closer to the body. And what that does, it brings the elbows back, and it corrects posture, right away. Breathe. (sighs) Think about money. There we go. Money works a lot, when you say that. Better than cheese or smile or anything like that. I tried telling people to imagine me naked and there were too many rictus faces of terror. So, can we pull those two up side by side? Is that possible? Those last two, so we can see the hand position. Let me zoom in a little closer so we can do two more. Alright, bring your hands out a little further, rest them where they were. One, zoom in for a little closer. Good, and now bring them closer to your body. Relax the shoulders just a touch, good. This way, right there, tilt a little. Right there, perfect. We're gonna see a slight difference in the shoulder position and then the posture. So once those last two are up, we'll be able to take a look at those side by side. So, you want to portray a little more confidence, you want to portray, you know, in fact, what I would say is that when you're shooting someone in a seated position, it's important to photograph them, and make them look like they're not sitting. And that's kinda a hard thing, and posture is a big part of that. So when somebody is doing this, they definitely look like they are sitting down. Cause most people don't stand like this. Most people will stand somewhat erect. But when people are sitting, they tend to, their spine will curve and they'll sit down and rest their arm. So bringing those shoulders back, if you have them put their hands in their lap, you can get them to have good posture without telling them to sit up. That's a pretty easy way to do it.

Class Description


Professional portraits go beyond the standard headshot. With the age of social networking upon us, businesses often have the need for environmental and editorial portraits. Not only will you understand individual portraits, but you will also learn to execute large group posing for corporate clients. By adding these to your client sessions, you can add to your business plan AND widen your target client outreach. 

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Ten Tips for Professional Portraits

SEO Workbook

Posing Guide

Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



Gary is super knowledgable, yet down-to-earth and relatable. I love how he explains the exact gear he uses but also describes ways to accomplish the same look using DIY and less expensive alternatives. The segment where he demos a live shoot in multiple, difficult lighting situations is worth the cost of the class alone! Bonus: He's super funny. He could probably double as a comedian on the side, but I digress. This class was informative, funny, and very practical for any photographer that wants to increase their profit and expand their business into the professional world. He gives all his prices and workflows so you can get up and running in 2 days! :) Awesome class overall, and it's a great sequel to his professional headshot class (which I also bought and loved.)

Richard Blenkinsopp

I love Gary's straight teaching style, and appreciate him demonstrating with regular people, not models. This is the real life of a regular photographer! I wish Creative Live could show more from the photographers viewpoint, so that when he's posing and moving lights etc, we see exactly what he's changing, and can analyze why... not sure how they'd achieve this in a live environment though. Loved his going around to less than ideal locations and finding the place that works. My favourite course on Creative Live so far.


Gary makes taking editorial portraits look simple and fun. I want to start shooting heads! I love Creative live and Gary is really doing a great job. I got to buy the class next. Thank you.