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Masters of Photography

Lesson 39 of 54

Advice on making portraits


Masters of Photography

Lesson 39 of 54

Advice on making portraits


Lesson Info

Advice on making portraits

I parked the car in Fez which is an ancient city north of Marrakesh. We were going to the hotel we were staying in. You usually have to get some help sometimes to get in to these cities 'cause they don't allow cars. The driver got this porter to carry our bags for a couple of dollars basically all the way to the hotel. So we kind of followed the porter and he had all our bags on a cart. When I got to the hotel I said to my assistant and to our translator I said let's see if I can photograph this guy. So we got into the hotel and we asked the guy would he be photographed. He said he would you know. And the reason I picked him was he looked so, so strong, you know his face was so strong. And he was, his shoulders were straight. The way he kind of pushed the cart and he didn't bend over even though it was heavy. He seemed very definite and very proud even though all he was doing well he was a luggage guy. But I saw something in his face that was very very nice. So just in almost in the co...

urtyard of the hotel, I always travel with a bit of canvas which is always handy. And I put that behind him. And I just pulled out a little tiny strobe. From a slightly low angle with a 120 lens I did this portrait of him. And I just didn't give him too much direction. I asked him just to stand straight, the way he approached us in the beginning which he did. I went ahead and did that portrait. So it joined you know, all of the other photos on the project. And later I came across it and decided that it would be a good one to translate onto an internegative. And to do it in this kind of technique that I was using of doing platinum prints on ancient papers that had writing on them. That's what you're seeing in front of you right now is that image. It was a great compliment I got later from the King of Morocco who was still the prince. But he looked at that picture in the book and he said my God he said you made this porter look like he's a king you know. And I think that's one of the nicest compliments I got about a picture that I had felt that the guy was very proud to be a porter. And therefore I treated him that way. And the way you treat people, and the way that you interact with people, is a gigantic part of being you know a photographer. Even though you're not speaking Berber, that how do you work through a translator to work with the guy somewhat physically as well that you move him with your hands and interact with him. And get his attention a certain way. Sometimes I was working with a small mag light and I would be working behind the camera. And I would ask through the translator that the guy would follow the mag light. I would hold the mag light and move the guy so I said just follow the light. And I would then find a nice piece of light where it hit him perfectly. But the communication you have, I've said many times you're photographer's best weapon to work with somebody is his own personality not a nice word weapon. But is his own personality and how you communicate with people. So therefore in the end, the fact that the king looked at this and said my God you made him look like a king. I think was a real, it was a nice compliment for me that, that's the way I saw this guy. Everybody I'm always photographing I'm virtually always treating them the same. And that's why I had no trouble with later or before that photographing celebrities and important people. Because you basically treat a porter in a market in Fez the same way as you're treating the King of Morocco. It's the same way you're treating a President of the United States of the Queen of England. So I'm not sure of how much people know regarding platinum printing and how that works. But in the case of platinum printing you need really an internegative. Because Hasselblad negatives are only of course two and a quarter high. And therefore and of course maybe you want a two and a quarter high image. But usually you want something a little bit bigger possibly maximizing maybe about eight by 10. Or five by seven inch in size. So you make an internegative in the darkroom. And an internegative's made by putting your original negative in the enlarger, projecting it onto film and then doing a contact negative. So you get it back to a negative. If you go negative, positive, positive back to negative. And then you use that as your negative and you coat the ancient paper with platinum emulsion. And you put your internegative on top. You put glass on top of that so you have a good, sharp contact with the paper. And then you expose it. And then it's developed out in a similar way to the way that you would do a silver print. So that's how this particular image was done. That's why you see brush strokes there. The brush strokes are from brushing on the emulsion. The portrait of this lady is quite interesting because it's, she was actually preparing a lunch on the second day in Fez. I noticed her and I thought she had a really good, strong face that she looked really Moroccan. I asked her if it was possible just on the balcony outside the house we were in to pose for a portrait. And of course there is a slightly different thing in Morocco to approaching the women to photograph and also the men. Morocco is a very, you know it's obviously Islamic country and is a very liberated, that's one of the fabulous things about this country. That it has a liberal modern way. The women in the country are very modern and very definite and play a gigantically important part in the country. But you're still always approaching them in a slightly different way you would approach a model in New York City. It's a different thing. So I spoke to her a bit but I spoke to her through the interpreter about how much I enjoyed the lunch that she'd cooked. So of course she was very happy that I liked the lunch but it was part of the fact that I spoke to her for five minutes before I took her picture. And that way she was easier with me, more relaxed with me, and she really was happy that I wanted to photograph her. So she was you know, certainly cooperative. As I put her there one of the assistants said but there's a bit of sunlight here. Do you want me to take out that little bit of sunlight? And I said no, no, I think we can use it. And that also like the other portrait, was also done with a strobe you know. You have to be careful with strobe in a project like this. That you don't, I don't mind fueling the strobe a little bit, you have to be careful that you don't fuel the strobe too much. So you have to handle the strobe in a delicate way. But in this case here the picture is really helped by the fact that there's some natural sunlight coming across her scarf on the left hand side of the picture. And it just adds a little bit more dimension to the picture and actually adds a little bit of needed contrast. There's already some contrast there from the strobe but the sunlight on the scarf just adds a little bit more dimension. And there's also another thing when you're doing portraits like this. That people often overlook. It's the balance between how much of that background behind the person is there with regard to density? How dark is it? How light is it? Is it a medium gray? Is it a dark gray? Is it a pale gray? When should a background be pale? When should it be dark and so on. Unfortunately all of these things you have to at least be aware of and your mind has to be going at about 100 miles an hour to be analyzing all of this. In the end this picture is a combination of strobe and sunlight and it's actually in this case it's a 150 millimeter lens. It has a little bit more compression. And there's this mixture of sunlight and strobe. I used the second strobe in the background 'cause the background was actually a little bit too heavy. It was actually two strobes on this with a little bit of sunlight which I was fortunate enough to get.

Class Description


  • Albert’s tips and tricks on landscape, fashion, portraiture and still life photography.
  • Simple lighting techniques using natural light and studio light
  • Simple tips on preparing for portrait shoots
  • How to create incredible portraits using just two $10 bulbs
  • Albert’s tips and tricks on landscape, fashion, portraiture and still life photography.
  • Simple lighting techniques using natural light and studio light
  • Simple tips on preparing for portrait shoots
  • How to create incredible portraits using just two $10 bulbs


Learn how Albert creates his amazing photographs on location and in the studio using simple explanations.

Albert reveals his shoot secrets on how he photographs Presidents, Hollywood stars, music’s greatest artists, landscapes, nudes, chimpanzees and still life. We follow him on location in Morocco, Paris and in his studio in New York. You will find out where he suggests you look to get inspiration, how to approach a portrait session, see how to light like Albert.

We show you exactly how Albert works on these images after the shoot, it’s all about Albert giving you his ideas and advice and helping you see and create better images for yourself.

It’s not about what camera to use, it’s about how to see and develop ideas, concepts and narrative to make stunning photographs.

As Albert says..."You have to stay switched on"


  1. Meet your Master

    Albert welcomes you to his course.

  2. Learn from the journey

    You will learn how to use your passion and dedication to get to where you want in photography. Albert explains to us how his own journey developed from early days in Scotland to creating the biggest photography studio in LA, and then establishing his studio in New York.

  3. Using inspirations

    Albert teaches you how to use inspiration from your past and present to form you work. Learn his tips on the relationship between technique and creativity, and how to create work that shows your own personality.

  4. Photography is stopping time

    Learn from Albert how he discovered his passion for photography and how to apply his "stopping time" ethos to your own work.

  5. Albert's library of ideas

    Join Albert in his own library where he shows you which books and artists he suggests you look at and study for inspiration and motivation. He also reveals his tip for buying inexpensive photography references.

  6. Tips on preparing for a portrait shoot

    Albert teaches you how to work with your subjects to get a great portrait shot. Learn his tips for putting people at ease when they are in front of your camera.

  7. Setting up the studio

    Learn to control the shooting environment. Learn how Albert begins to set up a studio session. Albert shows you how he begins to approach a portrait session in the studio.

  8. Understanding studio collaboration

    Albert teaches you about his different types of work ranging from test shoots to editorial shoots and advertising shoots. He explains his thoughts and techniques to help you understand how to make each a success.

  9. The importance of casting and hair & make-up

    Albert teaches you the importance of communication between yourself and a team. Albert also explains his tips on working with hair and make up to create a look.

  10. Foreground studio set up

    You will learn how Albert moves out from behind the camera while setting up for a shoot. He shows you how to look at your light from a variety of perspectives.

  11. Studio session with a model - set up 1

    Learn how to work with your subject. A unique insight, Watch and learn Albert working in the studio, explaining his thoughts and showing us exactly how he shoots.

  12. Studio session with a model - set up 2

    Learn how Albert creates his iconic beauty shots. See and listen to Albert as he explains his thought processes when creating this type of shot.

  13. Studio session with a model - set up 3

    Albert teaches you another of his lighting techniques. Watch and learn as Albert explains exactly how he creates a beautiful portrait.

  14. Picking the best shot

    Albert discusses and shows you his techniques for selecting the best shot from a shoot.

  15. Working with photoshop

    In this lesson you will learn how Albert uses post production to further refine his images.

  16. Creating a portrait of Alfred Hitchcock

    Discover the idea and thought process behind Albert's iconic image of Alfred Hitchcock and what it was like to photograph one of the world’s greatest filmmakers.

  17. The gigantic question... Colour or black and white?

    Which should you use? Albert explains his own ideas to you on how and why you might use one or the other.

  18. One day with Kate Moss

    Albert explains his ideas and how he created his iconic images during a day photographing Kate Moss.

  19. Learn to have your ideas ready

    Albert encourages you to have faith in your own creative instincts and how to always think creativity to persuade a client toward agreeing to your photographic ideas.

  20. Using Polariods

    Discover ways to go back and create projects and new images from your older work. Albert shows us the technique he used to create his iconic Running Man image.

  21. Creating beautiful photographs of hands

    Learn to appreciate the expressive nature of photographing hands. Albert explains some his most defining hand shots.

  22. Controlling natural light

    Discover Albert's tips on how to make the most of natural light and how Albert controls it in his images.

  23. Shooting a monkey with a gun

    Albert teaches you to always be on the look-out for new projects, and to recognise the power of conceptual thinking. Learn how monkey and a gun came to be created.

  24. Choosing your format

    In this lesson you will learn about formats. Albert describes different examples from various formats he has used as guidance, discover tips on how to use each type of format and his camera of choice.

  25. Composition and lens

    Get tips and suggestions on which lens to use and when. Albert gives you his thoughts on using the compositional elements available to you in order to produce a better photograph.

  26. Shooting landscapes. The Isle of Skye

    Albert teaches us how for him, its essential to raise landscape photography above the "picture postcard" shot and give the images more meaning. Albert explains the approach to his Scottish landscape series of images, one of his most unique, personal projects.

  27. Planning and ideas for a landscape shoot

    Albert details for you how he carefully prepared for his Isle of Skye project: taking care to be as organised as possible, whilst also remaining open to taking advantage of the unexpected.

  28. Creating still life images

    From shooting bed pans in L.A., to photographing Tutankhamen’s possessions, Elvis Presley’s iconic gold ensemble, and Neil Armstrong's space suit. Albert teaches you to persevere in the face of difficulty, and to always inject your still lifes with meaning.

  29. Photographing the Lost Diary

    Albert shows you how one simple idea can blossom into the creation of true art. An entire advertising campaign was based on his magical concept: that of an intergalactic anthropologist’s photographic diary, depicting tribes on earth 30,000 years ago. Discover how he brought this unique vision to life.

  30. Shooting album covers

    This lesson we go behind the scenes of a shoot with musician Sade. Albert reveals how he produced her beautiful Love Deluxe album cover, and how important it is to make your subject feel comfortable on set.

  31. The Strip Search Project

    Albert tells you how he prepared and created this immense project. He suggests ways for you to create projects and images that document your own corner of the world in images.

  32. Shooting Las Vegas landscapes

    Albert tells you how he prepared for the Las Vegas project, how he approached and shot his landscapes there. He passes on to you how the difficulties he faced helped him, and will help you, to develop as a photographer.

  33. Photographing Breaunna

    Albert tells you how to always be alert to chance encounters. He tells you how he met and was inspired by Breaunna. He explains how some of his most recognisable Strip Search photographs of her were created .

  34. Balancing daylight, God bless America

    Find out why Albert stopped to shoot a bill board. His serendipitous discovery reaffirms his main piece of advice: always remain “switched on”.

  35. Creating the Maroc Project

    Learn how Albert put together his exquisite Maroc book. You will be inspired to create your own projects and to look for potential in every aspect of a project, giving added meaning to your photographs.

  36. Creating the Maroc shoot

    Albert describes his own, personal methods and ethos in creating the Maroc project. Find out what equipment he used, how he documented his journey, and what he shot to create this iconic book.

  37. Photographing sand dunes

    How did Albert capture the breathtaking, rippling sand dunes of Laayoune, Morocco? Find out as Albert encourages you to be innovative; to always strive to add something new and different to scenes photographed by others before you.

  38. Photographing Moroccan children

    Preparation is not the death of spontaneity. Albert explains some his most breathtaking, impromptu shots of children in Morocco, Albert shows you how he suggests you intertwine careful planning and impulsivity to ensure you never miss your shot.

  39. Advice on making portraits

    Learn from Albert that the way you communicate with those you’re photographing is always visible in a shot. In this lesson Albert suggests tips to capture your perception of a subject into a single picture.

  40. How to be alert to finding photographs

    Learn to take advantage of chance situations and moments. Listen to Albert reveal how some of his most famous photographs were created by remaining flexible and alert to what you are seeing around you.

  41. Making a portrait of Mike Tyson

    Albert delves into the inspiration behind his famous Mike Tyson photograph, reaffirming that preparation before a shoot is often key to transforming your vision into a reality.

  42. Creating intense colour in a photograph

    Albert creates intense colour in an image. Listen to Albert as he takes you through his preparation process, and the techniques he used to construct one of his most well known images, Red Devil.

  43. Portraits of rap stars and a Golden Boy

    Discover the relationship between a subject and the camera itself. Legendary Rap stars and Albert’s Golden Boy photograph feature in this lesson. Albert discusses facial geography.

  44. Photographing Jack Nicholson

    A Jack Nicholson photoshoot for Rolling Stone. Albert explains how the legendary snowy shot came to be, and gives you an insight into how he photographed the iconic actor and filmmaker.

  45. Creating a portrait of David Cronenberg

    Be inspired to get creative. Ingenuity and inventiveness take centerstage in this lesson as Albert describes how he produced his unique photograph of David Cronenberg for Rolling Stone — the old-fashioned way.

  46. How to light only using two $10 bulbs

    This is a incredible lesson where Albert demonstrates to you that expensive lighting equipment is by no means a necessity! Discover how to use two $10 bulbs to create a dramatic, high contrast shot. Simply genius.

  47. Studio fashion set up 4

    See the fashion photography master in action as we watch each step of this shoot. Watch and hear how Albert manages the body language of the model and the simple set up and lighting to create a fashion shot.

  48. Studio session with a model. The geography of a face

    See how Albert creates art with the profile of a face. Learn how to work the geography of a face with Albert's simple lighting techniques.

  49. Look inside the picture

    Albert gives suggestions on how to progress and review your photography. Find out his tips on how to look "inside" the picture.

  50. Creating memorability in an image

    Learn Alberts tips on the skill of quick thinking and analysing your surroundings. Albert uses an example where he used his surroundings to create a unique and surreal shot for Italian Vogue.

  51. Combining nudes and landscapes

    In this lesson we reveal one of Albert's very latest projects. Learn as Albert teaches you how he created a stunning series of images by combining nudes with different landscape textures.

  52. A perfect print

    Albert explains where the passion began for printing his own work and how it has developed. Listen to his overview on how critical it is to print an image on the right type of paper in order to create the perfect print.

  53. The business side of things

    Learn how Albert runs each aspect of his business. We travel with Albert to one of his exhibitions in Italy where he explains the why and how of the prints on show.

  54. Conclusion and farewell

    Albert summarises some fundamental learning points he has acquired over his 40 year career. He leaves you with some poignant tips and bids his farewell, "onwards and upwards".


Richard A. Heckler

"Unless you're Mozart"...this course is an invaluable asset. I'm a pro, humanitarian/documentary photographer, & wilderness...and I've learned much from the 40+ sessions here. This is truly a Master best thing to being with Albert. And although I could watch studio sessions forever, this course offered a very balanced curriculum of technical information, artistic encouragement and guidance, and a open, generous window into the thinking of a gifted artist and photographer, sifted from decades of first class experience. Kudos to all involved. Excellent!

a Creativelive Student

I purchased my first CreativeLive class in 2011 and have continued to purchase many classes over the years. I have learned so much from the many great instructors. This one is not a technical class that will tell you to set your camera at f4, 1/60, ISO 400 and you can get this shot. If you are looking for that, there are many other options. If you have a solid working knowledge of photography, this class is so much more. The way it was filmed is like you are there with him in conversation or in the room with him watching him shoot. To see and understand the how and why he does what he does. Not to take anything away from other classes that have helped to give me a strong understanding of photography, this is my favorite CreativeLive class so far.