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FAST CLASS: Portraits Under Pressure

Lesson 7 of 19

The Power of the Portrait

Victoria Will

FAST CLASS: Portraits Under Pressure

Victoria Will

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Lesson Info

7. The Power of the Portrait

Lesson Info

The Power of the Portrait

So the first part of portraiture that I think we all need to understand is that it's not about you. It's just not about you as the photographer. Um, you have to let go of your ego. It can't be about building your portfolio because that's gonna happen naturally. If you are present and you are working in a situation and it's inspired and you're really connecting, the work's going to speak for itself. It's gonna be great, but you have to trust and you have to respect the process. And I'm gonna give you a couple case studies. One personal ICOM calling them case studies, but just sort of three different examples about, um, the power of portraiture. So a camera is a really powerful tool, right? It opens doors and people invite you into their to their homes and to their spaces, which is that's a really exciting thing. And it's a really powerful thing. I mean, think about if you're walking down the street and you make a connection with somebody and you say I really like to photograph you in yo...

ur home, the guy might say, OK, because you're carrying a camera, you are given that power. First of all, when we think about the power of photography, we think about photojournalism, right? It changes conversation. It records history. But portraiture can also do that. So this is, um, the first example is, when that I When I was thinking about the power of what a portrait can Dio was I thought about when call Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama. I don't You guys remember when that happened, but And when he told the story on MSNBC or Meet the press can't remember what it moves, meet the press. He referenced that it was because he had seen a photograph that really touched him. And this is the photograph. So he saw this photo, which is the mother of Kareem, uh, hugging his her sons Tombstone at Arlington Cemetery. And if you read it, you can see that he won the Bronze Star. He won a Purple Heart when he was in Iraq for Operation Freedom. He was 20 years old and he was a Muslim. There's a very powerful photograph, and it changed conversation. So several years ago, I was asked to shoot Michele Bachmann down in Washington because she didn't like her official Congressional portrait. So I went down to D. C and spent a couple hours with her and we shot some portrait's did a whole bunch of stuff. Uh, and I had a we had a lovely time while we were shooting is particular. In the beginning, she was really nervous, and she just was uncomfortable in front. The camera. No big shock, right? A lot of most people are really comfortable, so I actually had her do something that I often dio, which is pretend you're in a photo booth. You know, the back when I would I still do it from time to time. But when I really used it all the time, it was before photo boost were so popular, and you could set him up everywhere and And when I would mention it, it made reference to those the old black and white ones where you get five pops, and each time you do something silly. So she did that. And we have got these pictures so cut to I mean, try to tell the story. So linear lease here so can follow me. She was there was Ah, Newsweek was doing a story about her and she said, Well, um, why don't you have called Victoria? She took some photos of me. The Newsweek said, Well, we're going to send a photographer to you to take some portrait's but will contact her well, you know. So they sent a photographer. They did some portrait's, and I got a call from Newsweek saying, Could you send over just a PdF of low res photos of what you you know, the fortress you like and I sent over just a sample, but I included some of these because it was sort of a whole the journey that we had, and I thought nothing of it. A couple weeks later, on the cover of Newsweek was a photograph, not mine, of Michele Bachmann looking a little bit crazy. She sort of had this weird face and the title that went right across her, said Queen of Rage. And I remember standing at the newsstand being very, um, just sort of having this that pit in my stomach moment because I realized that it's very possible that when Newsweek was calling and they wanted my photos, it's because they wanted something like this, you know, they really wanted they had an agenda. Their title of this was Queen of Rage, and I didn't have to make that choice. But what if news we could call them? Said, Hey, we want to put this on the cover. Well, who doesn't want their photo on the cover of Newsweek? I mean, I certainly dio. However, I am not interested in swaying an election one way or the other based on a photo that's taken out of context. And I'm also it's also very important to me toe honor the portrait's and the time that we had there, she actually wasn't crazy or, you know, full of rage that day. She was lovely, and so it would be dishonoring her to have given them those photos. I've also had to deal with this in, um, much more, um, profound ways And that exam, two examples of portrait that I took and then, um, in both situations, both of these people passed away. Soon thereafter. A portrait can be a defining image and someone's life. You have no idea when you're taking that photo. If it's gonna be that, and you have to treat it that way, you can't go into it with your own agenda. I don't think because that person really deserves to be represented in the most honest way. Um, this was just really visit examples of situations that were actually just very difficult for me after the fact. Later events can give the image of second life that you never anticipate. And as an artist you might not have any say in that. And that's really difficult and a very harsh reality. Ah, and why you need to treat this profession and the people you photograph with the utmost respect, So I know that's very heavy note.

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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