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FAST CLASS: Portraits Under Pressure

Lesson 5 of 19

Victoria's Portrait Journey

Victoria Will

FAST CLASS: Portraits Under Pressure

Victoria Will

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Lesson Info

5. Victoria's Portrait Journey

Lesson Info

Victoria's Portrait Journey

you guys got to see me shoot a little bit and sort of a window into, uh, how I do that. But I wanted to tell you a little bit about me a little bit more in depth, at least at sort of explained how I got from the curse, Aunt to Brad. And, um, it all started here. The New York Post. This is a true headline. This is one of the most famous headlines. I don't know if you guys were familiar with the Post. If you're not in New York, I can tell you a little bit about it. Uh, is definitely a tabloid newspaper. Very sensational. But that being said, uh, it was an amazing place to work. I thought that I was gonna be start my career is a photojournalist, and I was going to be traveling around the world one of the West Bank and doing conflict and telling really dangerous and difficult stories. And that's not the path that ended up happening. I am. I ended up in New York and as an intern for The New York Post. It was a three month internship, and I left eight years later, very long internship after ...

three months. Um, I met with the editor and he said, You know what? I'm gonna bring you on as a freelancer, and then eventually I was hired a staff, but, well, it might seem like I was may be disappointed that I wasn't traveling around the world and doing all those things. I wasn't at all. It was really interesting education and just a different path and one that I had to learn how to navigate because it's its own beast. And after all, someone I'm very grateful to That person was paying me to take photos. That is the bottom line. I was 22 I was thrilled to be, um, paid toe work in the way that I wanted to. We're not all that lucky, you know, and something that we shouldn't take for granted. So I'm gonna tell you a little bit about my experience there. Basically, while I was there, one of the other photojournalist that was there had been there for 20 years, said to me What's gonna be your contribution to this paper? And I was like, What do you mean? And he's like, Well, how are you going to be different than all the other photojournalists. What's gonna be your contribution? And I had no idea I was like, That's a heavy question. So I thought about it for a while, and I decided that would interest me with lighting. So I was gonna learn toe like And the rest is history. My career went soaring through. No, not at all. Was actually a very, very, um, circular path a little bit like this, which I've always appreciated. Um, halfway through my time there, I had sort of an eye opening moment of his almost soul crushing and uplifting at the same time, I had a really good shoot with a musician and her publicist. I said, Oh, my gosh, it is so great. She really loved you. The images look great. We should do this again. Can you send me your portfolio? And I like I had that pit in your stomach feeling where just my stomach just sank. And I was like, Yeah, sure, totally. I'll get that right over to you now. A couple of things. I didn't have a portfolio at the time. Number one, number two when I thought about. Okay, I'm gonna go home and I'm gonna put a portfolio together because I'm going to shoot for this record label. This is gonna be so great. I looked through my work and I didn't have anything to show. Now I worked every day, five days a week, and sometimes I shot one story a day. Sometimes I shot five stories a day. So how is it that I was working so hard, But yet I had nothing to put in my portfolio, and I sort of felt almost like a fraud. I was like, I hope people don't figure out that I don't actually know what I'm doing And, um, it took it took that moment for me to sort of say, You know what? It's time to. You have to change that. I'm really I'm going back to my model here. But I was really uncomfortable, really uncomfortable with the idea that I worked so hard and I had nothing to show for it. So I was going to do what I could over the next couple years or whatever period of time to make work for me. So what I started doing and I had the luxury of having this job is that I would go to the chutes. I would set up the lights and do what I just did and shoot for them. And I said As soon as I felt like I got what they wanted, I started shooting for me. And then eventually the two things sort of merged, and I would just show up to shoots, and I was able to shoot for May, and it's still was what the my newspaper needed. Um, so at the time on, I'm sure they still do this. They would. You know, they do stories about clothing trends, but they also do food trends. In one of the trends at the time was a pickle back situation. Do you know the pickle back is? I mean, I know you dio it's It's a shot of Jamison, followed by a shot of pickle juice, right? Okay, just making sure it hasn't changed. But the trend in New York was that Oh, everyone's doing this thing. Pickle backs. But because New York is New York, bars are actually making their own artisanal pickle juice. So I'm in a bar in Midtown, setting up lights to light art. If inal pickle juice and I got a phone call from Rolling Stone asking if I could shoot a portrait the next day. And I couldn't because I was a staffer. Of course I'm in my head. I'm like, Can I call in sick? Can I do that? Number one. I was a staffer and I had work the next day, but I also had a shoot. We were already set up for the next day, so I couldn't take the assignment. It was like it terrible. I was so disappointed and I got off the phone and I was thrilled that I have been asked thrilled, but equally is disappointed. And I turned back and I was like, pickle juice. Pickle juice is why I can't, you know, it wasn't. This is I'm I think I've grown beyond pickle juice and I'm now ready to invest in myself. That was my defining moment. So I left the paper and started freelancing taking any kind of job. I shot events. I shot anything. But of course I tried the hardest to get portrait work. Then I started to get a bunch of portrait work and I was plugging along, plugging along, taking portrait after portrait and things were going well and I'm gonna take you a little bit on an evolution, a sort of creative evolution of how I got here. So it happened with this photo, so I really was plugging along. I was getting good at this five minute thing. 10 minute portrait's like I'd show up a Duma jam and go home and edited, sent some photos. And then I went to go photograph Brooke Shields when she was on Broadway for the Adams family, and she was Morticia Adams. So I show up gonna do my thing. We're in a tiny dressing room and I set up a seamless and I set up my lights. I have a time. They didn't have be ones. I had this 600 b pack again. I can't plug in and a Broadway house, So but my battery put it my beauty dish. I had a strip light, went to turn on the pack, and my battery was dead. That was like, Who is gonna be really interesting? So I was like, Okay, think fast. Victoria and I looked in my pelican and I had brought that 24 prime lens that I showed you and I was like, I guess I'm just gonna shoot wide open and ah made a couple portrait's. This one was my favorite, obviously. And she actually sort of was getting ready. Turn of turning into more tissue, which I loved. And then the shoot was over and I was able to sort of salvage the situation. But it was a really big lesson for me. I would have never made this image if my battery hadn't died. And so it was. I left that shoot going literally like number one. Charge your batteries. Right, Number two, you have to I have to evolve. I have to step out of my comfort zone as much as possible. I have to challenge myself. That's how you continue to keep finding your voice like it's It's always going to be doing that. And I'm always going to be changing styles in the sense of what I like. I shoot all shoots, find something that I really like, and I'll shoot it a lot. And then three weeks later, I'm over it and want to move on to something else. What's consistent throughout it? It's not the lighting style, but what I'm bringing to the shoot, which is my energy, my connection with what I'm getting from people that's not changing

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.

Class Materials

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Reference Guide

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