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Masters of Photography

Lesson 21 of 54

Creating beautiful photographs of hands

Albert Watson

Masters of Photography

Albert Watson

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Lesson Info

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


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Meet your Master Duration:01:26
2 Learn from the journey Duration:15:24
3 Using inspirations Duration:08:43
4 Photography is stopping time Duration:09:27
5 Albert's library of ideas Duration:08:30
7 Setting up the studio Duration:04:56
10 Foreground studio set up Duration:08:46
14 Picking the best shot Duration:03:36
15 Working with photoshop Duration:13:14
18 One day with Kate Moss Duration:05:06
19 Learn to have your ideas ready Duration:06:14
20 Using Polariods Duration:06:29
22 Controlling natural light Duration:05:38
23 Shooting a monkey with a gun Duration:06:27
24 Choosing your format Duration:07:13
25 Composition and lens Duration:04:47
28 Creating still life images Duration:13:48
29 Photographing the Lost Diary Duration:10:53
30 Shooting album covers Duration:03:09
31 The Strip Search Project Duration:10:28
32 Shooting Las Vegas landscapes Duration:08:24
33 Photographing Breaunna Duration:07:21
35 Creating the Maroc Project Duration:10:21
36 Creating the Maroc shoot Duration:08:11
37 Photographing sand dunes Duration:04:09
39 Advice on making portraits Duration:10:12
44 Photographing Jack Nicholson Duration:04:21
47 Studio fashion set up 4 Duration:10:48
49 Look inside the picture Duration:02:57
51 Combining nudes and landscapes Duration:04:52
52 A perfect print Duration:07:51
53 The business side of things Duration:06:51
54 Conclusion and farewell Duration:03:55

Lesson Info

Creating beautiful photographs of hands

(soft music) Somebody asked me if you know, photographing hands was a still life, which I think it essentially is. The hands are not dead, they're not ever dead. Although, once in Las Vegas I did photograph the death hands, made out of wax, of Liberace. But most hands are absolutely, you know, moving, living things but somehow you treat them compositionally and you can also treat them emotionally. I was lucky enough to photograph the hands of Joan Didion who's the great American writer and I was actually leaving, I had finished shooting and I just suddenly noticed that she had a beautiful collection of sea shells so I did a kind of a rather obvious thing of photographing her hands as just, quickly on a four by five camera, with a natural light from the window actually. And I really grabbed that shot at the end and later I thought it was actually a better shot than I had realized. That's something that happens, sometimes you take a picture and you think it's, you know it's okay, it's ...

not bad but then later you realize that it's actually a little bit better than you first thought, you know? And it's actually a shot that we do now as a additioned series. So photographing hands, I've done lot's of them. Little bit the sad thing, which was really you know, once again, even though that I'm working all the time you still make mistakes and that's one thing you have to kind of learn from. I remember photographing in the flower market in Marrakech. I was waiting for some models to get ready you know and I noticed that the flower seller, a woman, her hands were henna tattooed and she was selling roses. So I took a few rose petals and dropped them into her hand, you know, and just natural light with a four by five camera and I had this kind of what, now looking back at, it was a bad habit, where I would do Polaroids for people and just give the Polaroids away. So I would do the Polaroid and you know, give it to the editor or a model or just give them to people. Give them to the flower seller. Here's a Polaroid of your hands. My assistant at that time said He said "You do Polaroids all the time, why don't you just do two sheets of film?" And I said, "Oh I can't be bothered." But then he said "Here, here you go." And he put the film in my hand and I shot and I kind of realized from that point on that I should always do that. You know, just taking some nice pictures because a lot of time I'm focused on what I'm doing. If I'm doing 20 pages, 40 pages for Italian Vogue then that's what I'm doing, I'm there to do 20 pages. And I'm not necessarily there to do my own projects. If I do my own projects it's so so. So he actually changed that, that guy, that assistant changed it and it actually was quite a, there was a lot of things that came along that I started to do. And I actually went back one time and found some great old Polaroids which later we actually used as part of a big project. So I did go back and find some of these old Polaroids that we used. But photographing hands is a very nice thing to do. You know one thing, when you're photographing hands you can always try and see, you know when you're working with somebody's face you're working on emotions but you can do the same thing with hands. You can, you can really treat hands softly and delicately. The flower sellers, Moroccan flower sellers hands are done that way but I've also done, you know, boxer's hands and I've done hands aggressively. I've done hands in movement, I've done hands sleeping. I mean, I've photographed Snoop Dogg's hands when he was fast asleep on my couch. So you know, you should always be kind of keeping little things like that in mind. And as long as you can, you have the speed to do these things fairly quickly, you don't always have to use a four by five, you can use a smaller camera to do that. I think it's a pretty good exercise to improve your, your awareness of who and what you are. (soft music)

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"


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.