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Portraits Under Pressure

Lesson 3 of 28

Editorial/Celebrity Style Shoot

Victoria Will

Portraits Under Pressure

Victoria Will

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Lesson Info

3. Editorial/Celebrity Style Shoot
Think you can't get several great portraits in 15 minutes? Watch a live 15-minute portrait shoot, from communicating poses with the subject to helping the client feel comfortable in front of the camera. Learn how continuous changes help the client feel comfortable while creating variety in a short time frame.

Lesson Info

Editorial/Celebrity Style Shoot

So, come on in. Hi Sarah, I'm Victoria, really nice to meet you, thanks for doing this. Thanks. All right. I'm going to walk you through a couple of things. If we can start over here, and we're gonna go here, we're gonna be around, just keep it fluid. But how much time do we have with our talent? We have about, not about, we have 15 minutes. 15 minutes, okay, so I'm just gonna be-- She's got a really busy afternoon. That's a cue that my assistant, yes, very busy. My assistant's gonna start a timer. Because I actually want to know how much time has passed, so I can say, oh well it's only been seven minutes and 36 seconds, so I'm gonna take just a few more frames. All right, so let's start with you in the most simple place, which is right here. How do you feel about sitting on the floor? You don't have to do it yet, but I'm just curious. You have to ask these things. You can't just assume that someone wants to sit on a dirty floor, especially if they've spent time working on ...

it. So if it doesn't bother you, then great, we'll get there. But let me just move these cords out of the way, is that going to be a problem? Just push them this way, okay. And I'm just gonna have you start here. It's really simple. I'm imagining that you are, the reason the magazine has asked me to shoot her is because she's promoting an album. She looks like a rockstar, right? Okay, so let's just start super simple. First one never counts, oh, for that reason, 'cause all my lights were firing, number one, it's actually sort of interesting, let's see how that goes. Just curious. With the lights bouncing everywhere. Very clean, I like it. Okay, I'm gonna try a web thing. Turning off the strobe just to see the daylight, to see what the difference is. Got it. Okay, um, here's what I would like you to do. Oh my gosh, are those pink nails? That's my favorite, do you know the name of that? It's lavender. You know what it is? It looks like, oh man, my favorite purple, Essie color, is it Essie? I don't think so, I think it's OPI. OPI, okay. I have a purple that I love. It's really pretty though, let me see. Nice is Nice, that's the name of the one I love! Good. How luxurious is getting a manicure? Do you do it often? Yes. Like, every two weeks? Once a month? Okay. Very good, this is great. So I actually want you to sort of bring your hands up, and play with your rings a little bit, yeah. Go ahead and look down at your hands again, good. And chin up, chin back up, very good. The things I'm asking you to do is actually to, I like the action of doing it. So it's not, you're doing it perfectly, and I'm just walking through it, but very good. Go ahead and turn your body and look this way. Lean in even more, just kind of in that, almost perpendicular to me, yeah, there we go. Now look, yeah, and now look up towards the camera, head down again, and just look up this way. Good, shoulders this way, good. Sorry, look back this way. There we go, now turn your head all the way back. Don't even look at me, yeah, there you go. Beautiful. All right, eyes, to camera, good. Now turn around, good, now lean forward for me, just, yeah, and go ahead an lean back, good. See, I'm just keeping her moving. The reason I'm keeping her moving is I don't want her to be in her own head. I have a question for you. When was the last time any of you were in front of the camera? Oh, we laugh, exactly! (audience laughing) Exactly, when was the last time, anyone? How long ago? Like, a month. A month ago? And what was the purpose? Can you grab a mic? Oh yeah. My friend's a photographer, and he does a, he's doing a project of taking somebody's portrait every day for a whole year. So, 365 days of portraits. Okay, cool. Yeah, so I was one of the days. Cool. It was nerveracking. Yeah, it's awful. From being behind it to in front of it. It's awful, actually. And it's something you have to remember. Having your portrait taken is not fun, because we're human, and so we're self-conscious. That's just the bottom line. I don't know how, even if you're in front of the camera everyday, there's still part of you that is aware of it. So if I can get her outside of that, and we can become a unit without the camera, and she stops thinking about it, that's when we're going to get places. But at the same time, I'm very focused on the fact that I need to make images, and so I, I'm not sure that you've noticed this, but, well, I'll make my point in one second, actually. So, this is great. Okay, go ahead, and if you don't mind sitting down here. This is great. Good, do me a favor. That's great, go ahead and get up again. There we go. And go ahead and get down. Good, one more time. And down, yeah. Good, now get comfy. I like the one leg up. That was kind of like, kind of lean forward into it a little bit. Yeah, even more, beautiful. Go ahead and look that way, really nice. And look down, there we go. Do me a favor, your hair looks great, but I want you to actually, it's actually the action that I want, yeah, you got, exactly. So go ahead, there you go, good. So even slower, just slow it down. Okay, like there. Good, eyes up, that's it, one more time. Nice, let's check it out. So you know what I'm doing right now? Chimping. I'll explain that term. Do you know where that comes from? It's a photojournalism term. So, excuse me, photographer? Photographer? Yes? Do we, do you have it yet? You know, we're almost there, do you mind if we take a couple more? Oh, okay, all right. All right, I'm running out of time, guys, I've got to focus. Okay, here we go, this is great. I love this, I think we've got something here, so go ahead and stand up for me. Go ahead and back up. Good. Go ahead and turn around, all the way, good. Keep turning, it's a big circle. Okay, now shake it out. There you go, eyes up here. Yeah, that's good! Okay, let's, I'm gonna bring it up, bring it up, I'm gonna bring you over to my other set. Have a seat here. Let's bring the let's just shoot this available, I think this is beautiful. Very nice. Good, look towards the window for me, good. Sorry guys, I was talking too much. You have to get my back now for a little bit. Let me get a smaller, let me get an apple box, since we have it. Good. Okay, go ahead and lean forward for me. That's nice. Let's switch, I'm gonna give you this. So where, where are you from? Victoria, BC. You are? Canada. Nice! That's cool. And when did you come to New York? Two years ago, Not New York, sorry. Seattle. Seattle! (audience laughing) We're not in New York! We're in Seattle. That's great. Danielle, can you just bring, never mind, I'm good. That's good, beautiful. All right, I'm gonna have you just lean forward, all the way, yup. Let's bring the Photech, actually, over about where it was. Good. Thank you. That's fine, Danielle, just cross if you need to, 'cause I'm running out of time! Here we go, I like this, it's great. So go ahead and maybe lean a little bit this way. Kind of, what if you bring your hand-- (mumbles) upside down. Yeah, let's just that out. Let's bring that light down lower, I think. Yeah, a lot lower. Keep coming, keep coming, keep coming, okay, let's try that. All right, go ahead, beautiful. Changed my exposure, and that was wrong! Very good, that's great, turn your head a little bit? Yeah, that's good. Actually, one more time. Yeah, beautiful. So is that a wedding ring? Mm hmm. It's beautiful. It's unusual, I love that. What is it, is it an emerald? Zircon. Zirgon? Amazing, what's the significance? It's my birthstone. Oh yeah, which is what month? Ah, December. Can you bring it flatter? I love how you just looked up there. That's great, beautiful. There we go, very nice. All right, let's go over here. Which one? December. So you just, oh it's March now, it's April now. Very good. All right, so over here I'm gonna have you, perfect. Let's hold that. Similar, we'll do standing and sitting. But I like how you just fell into that. Great. Let me grab the beauty dish. I need you to just hand-hold, and I'll have you just follow. So I'm gonna have Danielle is just gonna move around as you move. So let's-- Where are you gonna start? Right here, so come in closer. Half a step forwards, toward me. Sorry, Sarah. By the way, her name is taped on the back of my camera. (audience laughing) Like this, so you can see, so that I don't forget my talent's name, because that's very important. All right, very good. So how long have you been married? Almost two years. Great, where'd you get married? In Victoria. Okay, 'cause I got married on a barn, in a barn on a farm that had goats underneath it, outside DC. Did you do something like-- We were in a field. In a field, yeah. Great, and where'd you honeymoon? In Maui, actually, just recently. Really? Just recently? That's nice. I'm gonna have you play with your fingers again. Actually, you know what? I like the idea that you're kind of like pulling on your sleeves, sort of this rock star, like, fix your collar for me, yeah, good. Turn around while you do that, keep turning this way. Good, now stand right there, look to camera. Good, now stay there, and have you follow all the way over there. Keep going, good. Come closer, Danielle. Chin up, look this way, good. And drop your hand, just one hand, okay. Let's turn this off for a sec. Or, I'll just do this, since it's not cooperating. There we go, good. Beautiful. Now do me a favor, Danielle, go even a little bit further, towards the wall. Good, Sarah, look this way for me. What's your husband's name? Andrew. How'd you meet? Online. Online, I love that! (audience laughing) Look this way, good. Okay, one hand down, okay, look this way, all the way. Come closer, much much closer. Great, both hands down, good. Look towards the camera. Beautiful. Come even a little around more, towards me, there you go. Good. Good, face camera, that's great. Beautiful. Let's get you a stool. Let's go with his one. You know what? Actually, let's do the taller one. And then, don't worry, we're almost done. We'll be out of here in just a minute. Okay, go ahead and have a seat there. Perfect, let's move this out. Okay, keep this here, bring that beauty dish in. Kind of sort of separate, sit back further on it, and can you lean onto the, yeah, it's like, yeah. You never know! Perfect, let's turn this one back on, okay. That's great, chin up. Go ahead and look up there, beautiful. There we go. Eyes to camera, look this way. Keep turning, like all the way. Either way, yeah, there we go. Now get comfy in the chair. That's it, good, chin up, yeah. Look that way. Okay, I'm gonna have you stand up again. Go ahead and lean right against the paper. Okay, a couple more, go ahead and I'm gonna have you walk out. Just walk away from set, and walk back in. Good, good, and lean against the wall, really nice. I love how you are just sort of settled in right there. Look off this way, good. Let me have you bring that over. Photographer? Yeah? I think we're out of time. All right. It's time for us to-- A couple more frames here. To keep going. Thank you very much. I appreciate it, thanks for coming in. All right, take care. Bye! So that's literally how some of these shoots go down. Really quickly. So now we'll go see-- (mumbles) two more minutes. We thought you were gonna do the time check. (laughing) Oh, did we? (audience laughing) Darn it! I totally forgot to check my time! You're right. What time has it been, exactly? I feel like we went over, no? 13. Wow! I had two extra minutes, I should have checked my time.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.


  • 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.


Victoria Will’s background as an American photojournalist and celebrity photographer has helped her to develop techniques on editorial assignments to quickly connect with a subject. Her career began as a photojournalist for the New York Post and grew into a sharp portrait photography focus that opened opportunities to photograph celebrities. She continues to work in New York as an artist specializing in portraits and commercial work.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Gear List

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Reference Guide

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Helena Sung

This was a great class and I learned a ton! It was amazing to watch Victoria Will in action -- shooting portraits under pressure. I learned a lot watching her walk into an unknown situation -- not knowing the location, what the natural lighting situation would be, and only knowing she had 15 minutes for the shoot. I loved watching her problem solve on the spot with lightning and tight, dark spaces. She also taught a lot about how she interacts with her subjects -- always putting them at ease (like you're the host at a dinner party -- gem!) It's much easier for a photographer to take pictures in their studio, but this course was not about that. This was watching a photographer handle real world situations under time pressure and think on her feet. Loved it! I also loved the parts where she culled her photos afterwards and picked out the ones that caught her eye. In most instances, I found myself agreeing with her!! When she gets subjects to stand up and sit back down, it is the in-between moments she is looking for, or the moment right afterwards -- genius!! Oh, lastly, I loved how she went through stunning images she shot of celebrities like Brad Pitt and Janelle Monae and gave us the backstory of how she creatively problem-solved to get the shot! Hello, showing up two hours before a shoot and knocking on random hotel room doors for furniture?!! Of course she could do that because she has a lovely, warm personality! Oh, and by the way, the bits she shares about her early career path is very inspiring!

Robert Negrin

Great course! And the best part was the honesty. I was an executive in a fortune 500 company and what the critics watching this course missed is that there are a lot of talented photographers, actors, singers, accountants and even landscapers, but there are very few that are successful and accomplished. Yes, part of it may involve a certain degree of luck, but most of it is the drive and desire to suceed. It is obvious you have both. I used to beleive that a true image could only be captured by styling the shot, metering light and controlling the subject. (Yes, I shot film...complete with developing and printing all my images) Then, one day I realized that, if deliberate-shooting was the right way, why then most of the great images I have were the result of quick, rather than deliberate reactions. I get it Victoria. Love your style and how you get there. Three things I learned today are that the conditions... even the background, do not have to be perfect if the image is strong enough to carry the message. Second, setting up to capture the perfect image, misses all the imperfect, epic moments. Third, I disagreed with almost every image you picked until they were isolated from the rest. Then they made perfect sense. Well done. :) Robert Gabriel

Meredith Zinner Photography

I really love Victoria and her work. She's something suuuuper special and showed me a fab new way to look at portraits. I love her openness, honesty, the whole 'you're at my dinner party' intimacy, care and respect for her clients and am SO impressed at how quickly and reliably she's able to transform any location to suit her needs. She's super impressive, professional and inspiring thank you!