Skip to main content

photo & video

FAST CLASS: Portraits Under Pressure

Lesson 6 of 19

Victoria's Sundance Experience

Victoria Will

FAST CLASS: Portraits Under Pressure

Victoria Will

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

6. Victoria's Sundance Experience

Lesson Info

Victoria's Sundance Experience

to show you sort of how have stepped out of my comfort zone. I'm going to show you the last few years that I've gone to Sundance, which the film festival, because it's what I consider my creative boot camp. So the cast of the movies come from one to the other, and you have your appointments, and it's, I'm sure, to the talent. It feels a lot like Ground Hog Day. It tends to feel like that as a photographer as well, because I'm here and they're just coming to me in these 15 minute intervals. In those 15 minutes, I have to shoot individuals of everybody, a group shot of the cast. And then occasionally you know, the lead in the director so sort of little bits of doubles. So if I have a cast of seven, I have to jam it in really fast. If I have a cast of to than I have time to breathe, and I do this for five days, sometimes six and through halfway through the first day, I've shot 30 people, so im already visually getting bored with what I'd set up, and it just starts to go from there. So I'l...

l show you a couple of years. This was the first year in the lobby of a pet store. I decided. You know, a lot of photographers go out to Sundance and these other film festivals Toronto and can and whatnot. And they do, um, the's studios and I again, what's my contribution? How am I going to make this different? So I thought I thought I had a genius idea. I was going to make it more interactive. And so I This is a chalkboard that I made, and it was a really good idea, except that Kerry Washington is the only actress who could draw the only actor, uh, no fault of their own. They're really good at what they do, but I can't draw either, so we would collaborate, and we come up with these great ideas and then reaction couldn't really illustrate it, other than to make little devil horns or tails. You know, people would step into it, and that worked. But when you have 200 people to dio, it was a challenge. So I also shot a lot on seamless that year, and I would bring I had a whole bunch of roles set up, and depending on what people were wearing, I would say Go live on the green set and rolled down the green or go live on the gray and we'd roll it up up the green and down the gray. The next year, I decided I wanted much more colorful backgrounds. So I took the flats and I taped and stapled fabric to them. And then, based on what people are wearing, I just slide in the backgrounds. I also had a white set up, essentially in the studio, right here for just very straightforward, clean and for group shots. But as you can see, I'm working in a space that's about six feet by four feet. The flats are four feet by eight. So and here's some of those pictures. The third year, I wanted to do something a little bit more artful, and I, uh, decided on textured canvases. And so these are some of those. I go back to show you that room that we were in there it ISS in all its glory was a fun room, though again you can make a beautiful portrait in any space, so go forward the next year. I decided to go rogue, I was still hired. Teoh shoot Digital Portrait's And I was going to do that. So I showed up at Sundance and, um, set up my digital situation. But I also decided that this year I really wanted to try something off the grid that nobody had done. So I decided I was going to do tin types. So I had spent a lot of time actually from the previous year two, then learning how to do it. So this was the dark room. I'm gonna go back to show you This is the view of what it was like to be my subject. So I'm very close to the camera. That's my beauty dish. And then, of course, you can see behind, um, Arthur there that that was the space I was doing, the digital images. So here some of those now learning that new process was really amazing. It was also, um, a completely different way of shooting. So I would shoot these digital pictures in a very similar way that you just saw. And then I would say, um, I would put the camera down and say, Well, if you don't mind, I think I have this, But would you mind coming to the back for a special treat? And people would walk in and smell the chemistry and they would they go, Oh, what's going on? Oh, my assistance in the back, Making a plate. And he was back in the dark room working his magic, and they I would show them some of the others that we made. And they're like, Oh, this is really cool. So let's do it. And so I would sit them in front of that camera and I had one chance to get it right with each person, because it's it's a slower process. It's much more deliberate. So instead of walking the way I had, um, photograph Sarah and I was sort of asking your questions and getting her there, and I was shooting the whole time, sort of shooting through the process. I didn't have that ability here, so I had to do all of that without clicking the shutter. And so I'd look in the camera and I would really just I'd have to think to myself, like, Are we here? Are we here? Do we have it? Do we have it? And I would talk to the subject about how they wanted to be photographed like, what, do you know? Definitely collaboration. And some of them would say, Oh, I want to look like I'm a Civil War wife. And I would say, Oh, great. Okay, you know, they're actors, their directors. They want, you know, they were role playing and was really fun, but it also taught me to be a little bit more deliberate in certain situations and to not press the shutter until I'm ready.

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

SUBSCRIBE TO CREATOR PASS and cue up this class and other FAST CLASS classes anytime.


  • 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

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Gear List

Reference Guide

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes