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FAST CLASS: Portraits Under Pressure

Lesson 2 of 19

Evaluating Location and Set-Up with Assistant

Victoria Will

FAST CLASS: Portraits Under Pressure

Victoria Will

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Lesson Info

2. Evaluating Location and Set-Up with Assistant

Lesson Info

Evaluating Location and Set-Up with Assistant

if I If I know that my shoes at one oclock I try to get there as early as possible. A lot of celebrity shoots or, um, particularly on press days. Have you guys ever ever heard the term a junket? Okay, so what a junket is? Um, it is a It's a long press day that's set up for the talent to promote a movie. So let's say name and actor Kevin Hart so all right, so when Kevin Hart doesn't movie, it's he's required. Actually, most of the time they're required to do a couple days of press. And so to make it easy and efficient for everyone in the film, they have everyone in the film being New Yorker in L. A. On the same day. And then what they do is they set up interviews and, um, and photo shoots Vettel Day. So starting in the morning, they'll have an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, and then later that day, it will be people magazine and then in style and then lava bubble and literally the list goes on. So these the talent go from one to the next, and so you get your time slot So my time...

slot. You know it. Let's say it's at 11 o'clock. I would show up as early as possible. Sometimes when I get there, the rooms not even available. But, um, I'm there. Hi, guys. I'm here. It's easier for them to get rid of me and shoved me in a room so I can get started. Then have me stand there going. Hi, guys. I'm I really would like to set up. You know, I'm not trying to be a pain. I'm just trying to do my job. And, uh, the best way for me to do that is to prepare. And I need time to see the space and sort of troubleshoot from there. So what I know about today's shoot is that our talent is coming and we're going to shoot her in this room. So this is Danielle, my assistant. Who, um, we've been working together for approximately 24 hours. Yes, but we do. You will be surprised. I mean, talk about this a lot later. How much? Um, you learn from each other, and this is a team, and we're gonna talk about that later, but it's only been 24 hours but we're already working together seamlessly. So, um, here's some of the gear that I brought and generally speaking, and this is on my gear list. When I show up, I try to bring as much stuff as possible that I can carry. And I bring an assistant always because not only do I need the extra hand actually physically moving things, but when you have a time crunch, you just You just need the manpower I normally bring. It's like a clown car. Sort of. The way I describe it, I have all these cases and I will him in, and then I just It all pops out and turns into the studio, and in there generally are four lights. Sometimes I use all four. Sometimes I use none. You just don't know. So I just like having the option. Today we have a pro photo, be ones which I love. Um, if you're not familiar with them, they are self contained mono heads with batteries attached to them so you don't need to plug in. It makes it great for location shoots, and particularly when you don't know what the outlet situations gonna be. An old hotel rooms which is where a lot of junkets are tend to have old wiring. So even if you have a pack you can plug in, I'm not necessarily sure if I'm going to short the whole, uh, you know, the whole hotel. So I have a B one over here, and we actually set it up with a strip light just minutes before we started, because that's one of my go twos. And I have a beauty dish over here. Move this out of the way with a grid. This is my go to, um it's not that easy to travel with. And Pro Photo just made a new collapsible one, actually, that I haven't had any time experimenting with, so I can't tell you about it. But I can tell you I'm going to try it because it makes it a lot easier. But this it's sort of like that. Um, it's the thing I don't leave home without. So let's go ahead and set up, um, the camera. And if this is our room and I just walked in, I'm going. Teoh have a think based on our lighting. All right, so I'm shooting for a magazine and their expectations air that they need a portrait. Do you want to know what I was doing There was seeing how the light was hitting my skin tone so you can watch it change so that the light looks pretty nice right here. That changes. It looks different. Also nice over here. And then here's backlit. A little. Yeah, it's very sick. You know, that's a good It's a good litmus test. Basically, um, I have, um My personal expectation, of course, is that I would like to walk away with the beautiful portrait also, but my editor would have my head on a platter if I just came back with one picture, right? Even if I came back with 70 Picture 70 shots of the same set up, My editor doesn't want me to come back with one really amazing picture. My editor wants me to come back with options. Horizontal verticals, I mean, literally down to the basics Horror, Donald's and verticals because I'm not sure they know what space it's going into. Um, and my job is a photographer's to make their life easier. I'm also gonna give them options in variety. So in a room like this, It's essentially a box with a lot of walls. I actually see a lot of options, and you'll see probably, I'm guessing in our difficult spaces segment that we won't have as many, um, obvious options right away. But what I have to do in my limited time is keep the flow of the shoot going and move her around. And I want Teoh here a ways to come up with options. When you don't have different props and furniture, too, to bring in our different walls, it's I'm going to shoot something available light, and then I'm gonna shoot something lit. So right there, that's two options. Um, I'm also going to try this background I like, and I think it looks pretty nice. Pretty simple to I would just use the daylight that's here from this beautiful window. I would. I think I'm gonna put a seamless paper up here. I always travel with seamless paper. It's really annoying. I don't love it or canvas backgrounds or, you know, just a sort of backdrop, because when I walk into a room, to be honest, I don't like Brick. I don't like shooting on brick. I don't like the texture. I don't like the tones. It can be very successful. But for me to make it successful, I need more time to nuance it. So I just sort of eliminate it. And if I'm in a small space, I'm going to tape paper to the wall and just make myself a studio. The reason I we have the space here, so I'm gonna use these background stands. However, if I'm in a small room conference room, conference rooms can be huge, right? But there's a giant table in the middle that's too big and too heavy to move, so it's It's an obstacle that you have to work around. So instead of putting up a background stand or using to see stands, I just tape it to the wall because look how much space I save from here to here. That's about 2.5 feet of space that this stand is taking up. I need that space that is valuable space to me. So here I'm gonna use it because I have it other ways that I'm going to try to deliver. Options are, and I have to remember this standing and sitting that immediately changes people's posture and what they're doing, and it keeps the flow of it. Um, so I'll bring in a stool or an apple box or and then, um, we'll go from there. So let's set up some lights. Take this off. Yeah, we'll start right, And you guys are not going to see what's on my camera while I'm shooting. But when I right now. But when I ingest my card into, um, in just is my word. It's a photo. It's a, uh, it's a photojournalism word. Another reason it's really important to have an assistant or someone to help you is that you need to be able to test. I can't test the light on this wall And no, what it's gonna be like when my subject comes in and I try to test on somebody who looks like my subject. So if I'm shooting, um, a dark ah, a dark, tall, dark and handsome man, I will try to find the tall, dark and handsome human to test on. All right, so I'm just gonna start here, get my exposure, make some creative decisions. What s so I wanted to be on? I think I'm gonna be on around Eso 800 for this room so I can move around a bit. I like to be very fluid in a situation like this, I would never shoot tethered. I just don't have the time. I also for two reasons it slows me down. And also I don't want the publicist and Kanna Kanna standing there going, Oh, can we fix her hair? Can we do this? Can we add lip gloss? Because I don't have That's my time that she's encroaching on. And just because the publicist comes in and wants to fix something right then and there doesn't mean she's giving me two extra minutes, so I just keep it all self contained. This is my pal IQ, in case it goes with me everywhere. Uh, pelicans, actually the name of the brand, and on it are stickers from My Travels and My Husband's Travels. What The reason I like it as a case is that when I was a photojournalist, I ran around with backpacks horribly heavy backpack, and not only did that hurt over time, but I can't do this on a backpack on. I like to shoot above people a little bit, particularly women and this and also a lot of the men. I shoot a really tall. So this gives me that extra step without having to have a to bring an apple box with me, or rely on a chair at a hotel which tend to be or, you know, an office space would tend to be, too. I'm tall. So inside my pelican case right now, I brought the sort of changes around here, but in here was my camera body and my lens. I also have my longer lens, which is Ah, 72 which I love. I love this lens, and I really don't get to use it very often in my portrait. It's because the spaces air just shoot site and in here I probably won't use it. Uh, but I have it just in case. I have 24 just fixed. I have an 85. I have my which I love, and I love all the fifties, even the the 14 This is the one to I mean, they're all great. The cheaper ones are still great. And when you drop them and break them like I do often, it's OK. I have extra batteries and my era, Moz. And then over here, a couple things. What do we have? Altoids. Hilarious. But it's so true. I talk so much as a portrait photographer that my breath occasionally, especially after coffee. You know who wants to talk to someone who's coffee breath so that I always have those. And then extra batteries for the era moats and for some other things and color checker, which I won't use today. I use it in much more controlled studio settings, but it's here just because, and that's basically it. So this is these air where I'll be going, uh, on the shoot. The thing about these quick shoots is that changing lenses. I like prime lenses better. I think they're really beautiful there really sharp. But when I change lenses at the time, I will have time to do that. Here. 15 minutes is actually a lot I have had, um I had two minutes with Justin Bieber. Robert Redford gave me about three minutes. Um, I'm talking really fast, So in those three minutes, I'm not going to change lenses, so here I will. 15 minutes. I actually think I have plenty of time to do that, and I think that that's but actually another. Another thing we can add to our list of ways to provide options for your editors is changing lenses. I think that's a big, um, sort of call out here, because if I find that, sometimes I'll go back through my work, maybe you guys can relate to this and I'll look and everything that the same focal distance everyone's here. I never went in really tight, and you can obviously with a zoom lens, I can move my feet and I can come in closer or I can pull back and do something super wide. But most editors, I think, will appreciate the fact that you actually took the time to change your lens and get something else. Putting month Each lens has a different feel, all right, so you know the other thing about this pelican case I just realizes I picked it up is that I sit on it a lot, not only in airports, but during shoots if I want to get lower, and I have had many people sit on this Richard Gere's that on this most recently so true stories. Okay, Um so, Jana, I'll just put this right here. All right? So let's let me have you over there and let me actually have you sit on the ground. All right? Turn your body this way for me and just lean. Okay? Just relax. Be very concerned that we have to be very concerned that the fact that our talent is coming very soon and we have nothing set up. That's right. Okay. When your head this way a little bit. Great. All right. Go and stand up for me. Clinton it for me. Right? So I'm walking myself through a creative process which will talk to you about I'm literally just looking at how the light is hitting her. So go ahead and turn this my for me and that lean against the door. Okay? I couldn't stand over here. I basically I'm doing what I did with that hand. Just seeing how the light's hitting. Ok, excellent. Okay. Lets go. Okay, so you're probably wondering why the light is not facing my subject. That is because, um, the best quality of light out of something like this is on the sides. It's softer. If I if this is facing her like this. There's gonna be a big highlight on her forehead. So I'm trying to use the edge of the light. I'm feathering it because that's the quality of light that I like with this particular modifier. Not every modifier necessarily reacts that way. So, um, I'm also when I'm looking at this set up, we already have beautiful natural light, right? We have this beautiful window, so I'm using it, and I'm mimicking. I'm adding extra light from where the window came from. If I put the light over here, I'm fighting it, and I'm making the image flat.

Class Description


Try a Fast Class – now available to all Creator Pass subscribers! Fast Classes are shortened “highlight” versions of our most popular classes that let you consume 10+ hours in about 60 minutes. We’ve edited straight to the most popular moments, actionable techniques, and profound insights into bite-sized chunks– so you can easily find and focus on what matters most to you. (And of course, you can always go back to the full class for a deep dive into your favorite parts.)

Full-length class: Portraits Under Pressure with Victoria Will

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  • Leverage new techniques for choosing the light and locations for a successful portrait
  • Know how to build a rapport and utilize clear communication with your subjects
  • Set up a developed concept as well as how to light on the fly
  • Use successful strategies for marketing yourself as a photographer and how to get your work in front of editors


Portraits require more than just great lighting and equipment. Sometimes a shoot doesn’t go as planned. The location is drab, the client isn’t in the best mood, or you forget to charge your camera batteries. Great portrait photography artists are able to think on their feet, connect with their subjects -- and capture great images under pressure. The best portraits often come from portrait sessions that didn't go exactly as planned, when challenges turn into assets.

Celebrity portrait photographer Victoria Will shows you how to use your environment to capture a unique, sharp image that reflects the person in the portrait. She’ll also highlight how to quickly evaluate a less than perfect situation and make it work for you and your subject. Take your portraits from amateur to near Mona Lisa gallery worthy by learning how to shoot portraits under pressure.

You’ll watch Victoria photograph real people in limited settings, discovering multiple opportunities in a limited space. Learn her three portrait musts for preparation, point-of-view, and connection. Gain insight into how to make every frame count and how to get the shots the editor requested, as well as those that speak to your vision. Learn how to make your subject feel comfortable in only a few moments while capturing exquisite photo collections in Portraits Under Pressure.


The photographer looking to improve their portraiture through thoughtful lighting, creative techniques and leveraging the environment around you to get a consistent appearance.

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