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Portraits Under Pressure

Lesson 13 of 28

Social Media & Blogs


Portraits Under Pressure

Lesson 13 of 28

Social Media & Blogs


Lesson Info

Social Media & Blogs

Social media. I have a very love-hate relationship with social media. I've always liked Instagram, I'm on Facebook, I have a Tumblr, I'm on Twitter. It's a lot, and now there's Snapchat, and there's a lot of other things. My attitude, and I'm not a social media guru. There are people that live and breathe social media. I enjoy it, and I use it for inspiration, and I use it for marketing. Social media to me is an extension of my business, and this is where I put work that people aren't seeing, or outtakes of a shoot, or I'm just letting people know, I have something in W this month, you should check it out, because nobody buys magazines anymore, you know, there's a lot of ways to use social media. But my attitude about it is do it, and do it 100%, or don't do it at all. That's my attitude. Because I actually think a lot of editors look, and art buyers, creative directors, I know that when they look at a photographer, and they look at their website, and they like it, I know that they're ...

gonna look at their Instagram. I promise you, I don't know anyone who doesn't. We can ask Lacey, when she's on later, I'm sure she finds photographers on Instagram, I'd be interested to ask her that. You have this opportunity now, with Instagram, to showcase work that otherwise people wouldn't see it. And that's amazing. It's another portfolio for you. Now I also am all about social media for friends and family and I do put photos of some of my children, or my- some of my children. I have one child. (laughs) I do put photos of my family, my husband, and my son on there, and my dogs, but I don't overload it, because this place is not for that. If I was going to do that a lot, I would make a separate, private Instagram account. I think that people do want to see a little bit inside of my life, here, and I'm willing to do that, but it's not a place, you have to edit, and you have to curate this website now. You just do. That's my reality, that's what I think. I actually think that's true. I think you need to edit yourself on something like Instagram or Tumblr. But I know great success stories about people who have been discovered on Tumblr or Instagram and it's really helped their career. So I think that you should use it. The downside to social media is that it becomes another full-time job, right? It's another thing we have to do. Now we have to make our books, now we have to be updating our Instagram, I mean, it's a lot. There's a lot to do. And there are photographers out there who don't do it at all, and that's fine. I totally am on board. Do it, or don't. I also just picked Instagram. I have a Tumblr, but it links to my Instragram. I tweet, but really only photo-related things and things that are interesting. I really use the others, I'm on them, but I use them more for inspiration and to find resources. This is the one where I'm an, actually an active user. So I don't think if you're going, you know, join Twitter, absolutely, doesn't mean you have to actively do it 100% of the time. I think it's, whichever social media platform you pick, that's the one. Pick one and go with it. The bad side is that it's a deep, deep rabbit hole. And I think it actually can work very negatively against you if you're not careful. I don't know if this has every happened to you, but it's happened to me, where I'm on my phone, and I'm going through it, and, like, 25 minutes later, I don't know where the 25 minutes have gone, number one, and number two, I'm depressed. Because I'm seeing all this amazing work that everybody's doing, and I wanted to get hired for that, and I wish I had been hired for that, why didn't they ask me for this? Well, the thing is, you have to recognize that. You have to say, you know what, I'm gonna actually just use this as motivation forward to make this work. You can't sit there and then use it as an excuse, oh, I'm never gonna be this good. I'm never gonna get there, and then just put it aside. And I think that that happens to a lot of people. I think they really get into a social media rut. And I think that's something to really be careful about, because it can just clutter your mind in the sense of, not just a social media thing, this extends to sitting on the Internet and just checking out tons of other photographers' websites and seeing what they're doing, it's the same thing. You're like, "oh, that website's so good, look at what they're doing, I'm never gonna do that." All that time you're doing, you're not making. You're not creating. So I think you have to check yourself, and I'm just being very real because it's happened to me. I have been there and put down my phone and been really bummed out. But there's no reason to be bummed out, because I haven't gone out and made the work. And then, you know, now I really try. I bookmark pictures, and I screen-grab things that I think are really inspiring and I put them in a folder and then I move on. And when it comes time and I'm like, you know what, I feel like I need to go out and shoot something, I look in the inspiration folder, a lot of it I found on Intstagram, and then I go out and shoot. And I always feel better after I've made something. After I've done it. Even if it wasn't a hugely successful shoot, I still, I probably learned something in just shooting. And that's always the nice feeling. It's like going to the gym. As soon as you leave the gym, you're like, "oh, that feels so great, I'm so glad I did it," and then you can eat a doughnut, it doesn't matter, but you just, you did it, you went to the gym. So the last thing, well, I've got two more things before we get to Lacey. But this is a resource of mine, which is called A Photo Editor. If you don't know it, you should. I think every single photographer on the planet should check out this website. Now, they did feature me, and that has nothing to do with why I'm talking about it. They have amazing articles. It's a resource that, I'm gonna go through some of the site right now, but it's a resource for every type of photographer. If you want to be doing commercial work, if you want to be doing editorial, fine art, it doesn't matter, because it's really for people who use their camera. Now, the article they did about me here was just, an art buyer nominates a photographer. I was just one of them. They have a new one up, I think it's every couple weeks, and they ask you some questions and you show some work. And it's really interesting to hear, it's like these little workshops that you get to pick the brain of a photographer, you get to read their journey, and I find it really interesting. They have a column about new books that are out that I really like, but my two favorite things are over here, under the resources, and then on the other side of the webpage, which is where their Instagram is, and I'll explain that in a second. But because it's not my work, I actually couldn't show it up here. So I can talk you through it. Number one, the resources. There's an agent list. So you guys want a rep, huh? Well, how do you know what rep you want? How are you gonna contact a rep? I know! There's an entire list of every rep on the planet right there, probably only in the U.S., but I haven't confirmed that. The work is being done for you. All of this marketing stuff, you're not, you don't have to go at this alone. You have resources out there. The photography consultants list. So a photography consultant is an extra set of eyes. They'll help you edit, they'll help you make promos, they'll look through your website and tell you if they think you need to restructure it to get the work you want to get. I mean, that's what they do. They try to help you get work so you don't have to feel like, I know that feeling of when it gets overwhelming and you really just don't have to go at this alone. So those are great resources. On the other side of the webpage, but also on Instagram, A Photo Editor, (his name's Rob Haggart, by the way; I've never met the man, but I think what he does for the industry is pretty spectacular), he started an Instagram that's, all it is is promos. And it's fascinating. So what he does, is people send him promos in the mail, and he takes Instagram photos of every part of it. So he'll take the packaging, like, how it arrived in the mail, so if it was ripped, or just had mud all over it, or run over by a tire, doesn't matter, you'll see it. He opens the box, or the envelope, he takes a picture of the cover, he opens it, he takes a picture, so you can see the entire thing. And this is why I love it, for two reasons. Number one: you get to see work that people are making in the world. I think that's awesome. Because I don't have time to go to everybody's website either. And I don't think you do either. So I get to see what's out there, I get to see new work, it's inspiring, but I also get to see the promos that people are doing. People come up with really, really good ideas. And so it's a wonderful place for inspiration in that way. The other side is that I also see work that I don't like, or promos that I don't like. And I think that's just as valuable. Particularly work. If there's work, I'm like, "yeah, it's cool, but it's not me," I have to ask myself: Why am I not drawn to this work? And that's always a really great question, because, and who knows what the answer is? It doesn't mean that the work isn't great. It just means it doesn't speak to me. And when you ask yourself that, the answer is often leads to, perhaps the answer is it doesn't feel emotional. Or it doesn't feel as connected, or who knows. In fact, the answer may be I need to be doing more of that intimate emotional work, because that seems to be what I want. So sometimes if you don't know what you want, knowing what you don't like is helpful. Sorry, I know that was very, sort of backwards and long-winded, but we got there, right? I think you know what I mean. Question from Dijon Style. Should you put portfolio work in social media? Or just outtakes or things that aren't actually in your portfolio? Well, that's a good question. I'm trying to think about what I've done. I think portfolio work can end up on social media, absolutely. I don't think you want to put your whole portfolio up there, I think you wanna save some of those things. But the nature of social media is that it just turns over so fast. So it's possible that you put something up, and then, you know, in a couple weeks, couple months, it's sort of disappeared, and then maybe you add another one. What I wouldn't do is just put portfolio piece after portfolio piece in a row. That I would caution you not to do, just because I think you, social media, you need to mix it up in that way, and not make it, not make it so pointed. Behind the scenes are helpful, people like to see that, it's sort of a- social media, to me, people are going to my social media I think because they want a little insight into who I am. So it's a little behind-the-scenes, it's a little bit, you know, new work that I'm doing, outtakes, that sort of thing. If they want to see my portfolio, they can call me, and I'll send them my book, or have me in for a meeting, or they can look at my website. That's why I don't think it should be entirely that. I think it's a really cool way to look at it, as, like you said, an extension of your business, but now, with all these tools, we can really, you're really self-publishing. And so you're able to just, and do that more frequently, like you said, than you might have on a standard website, so Absolutely. I love that. If you have a particular project, and maybe it's an ongoing project, I think that's, Instagram is the perfect platform for that. And you should dedicate it to that. Maybe you're doing, Martin Schoeller's Instagram is dedicated entirely to portraits of the homeless. And in a particular shelter in Los Angeles, I think. So he just goes there when he can, and he takes portraits, and that's all he posts. It's one project. It's one body of work. And that's also fine, I think that's a really good idea, and maybe you do that for months and months and months and then you're done with the project. Well then I think you should move onto another project. I think if you approach it that way, I think you need to be consistent. That's a great way for people to see your work, and to see a whole body of work, something you've really put time and effort into. That's amazing, that you can put that out in the world and thousands of people can see it. Right away, and you don't have to find an editor that's willing to publish it. And if they did publish it, probably only get a couple pages in a magazine. They really have the opportunity to see the whole breadth of work.

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.


  1. Class Introduction

    In the first lesson, meet Victoria and dip your toes into learning her creative process. See the portraits that Victoria has captured in windowless storage rooms and learn why a bad location is no excuse for a bad portrait. Discover why portraits are about preparation, point-of-view, and connection and learn what to expect from the class.

  2. Evaluating Location and Set-Up with Assistant

    Portrait shoots often mean walking into a location that you've never seen before. Walk through the process of evaluating the location and prepping for the shoot. Learn major essentials and smaller tips, like why portrait photographers should deliver multiple images with a consistent appearance but varying orientations.

  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.

  4. Culling Editorial/Celebrity Style Shoot

    After watching the shoot unfold, see the results as Victoria looks through the images from the 15-minute shoot. Get answers to questions posed from students like you, then watch an image critique.

  5. Victoria's Portrait Journey

    How did Victoria go from a photo of a croissant at a tabloid newspaper to photographing Brad Pitt? Victoria shares her photography journey and the certain events that led to her success. Gain insight into how she moved from her early works to her current portfolio and stunning photo collections.

  6. Victoria's Sundance Experience

    What's more under pressure than a 15-minute time-frame to shoot an entire cast? Victoria walks through her experience shooting celebrity portraits in temporary studios during the Sundance Film festival as a prime example of working under pressure.

  7. The Power of the Portrait

    Rule number one of portrait photography? Portraits are never about the photographer. Victoria walks through the power of the camera and portraits that have changed the national conversation.

  8. How to Connect with Your Subject

    Human nature means most people are uncomfortable in front of a camera -- but portraits aren't about cameras and lighting, it's about the person, Victoria says. Learn how to create a connection that will bring out the person in portrait photography.

  9. Shooting a Commercial Image Part 1

    Photographing people doesn't always fall strictly under a portrait category. Watch Victoria's process through a commercial shoot designed to sell jeans and see how the same portrait photo tips work for commercial work.

  10. Shooting a Commercial Image Part 2

    Continue the dive into commercial portraiture and move into more poses and deeper insight into the process.

  11. Culling the Commercial Shoot

    What do you look for when culling images from a commercial portrait session? Victoria walks through her process and why, when she chooses photos, it's not the always the obvious smiling photo that makes the cut.

  12. Marketing: Websites and Portfolios

    Victoria calls marketing the eye roll of the photography industry -- but it's an important part of working as a professional. Walk through online portfolio advice, marketing photo tips and more in this lesson.

  13. Social Media & Blogs

    Social media is an extension of marketing -- and an essential one. Dive into photo tips for marketing with social media and blogs as a portrait photography artist.

  14. Interview: Lacey Browne, Money Magazine Photo Editor

    Marketing to potential clients is one thing, but what about attracting the attention of a photo editor from a major magazine? Gain insight into what photo editors are looking for when they hire photographers.

  15. Wardrobe and Make-Up Best Practices

    Just like marketing, makeup and wardrobe is an essential subject that photographers don't always have a handle on. Victoria walks through the process of selecting clothing and makeup for the shoot, from making the subject feel comfortable to what colors work best.

  16. How to Work with Agents and Reps

    Portrait photography is not a solo career. Learn how to work on creative teams, starting with finding a rep to working with an agent.

  17. How to Work with Assistants: Skype Interview

    Assistants help portrait sessions move quickly while under pressure -- but shooting with an assistant can be intimidating. Victoria dives into working with assistants and building a relationship through an interview with photo assistant Tim Young.

  18. The Importance of Being Prepared

    Portrait photographers often walk into a location blind -- but that doesn't make preparation any less essential. Walk through the process of preparing, learn how to scout locations if you can, and dive into the process of building flexible ideas pre-shoot. Learn the gear Victoria brings with her and more.

  19. Shoot: Conquering Dark Tight Spaces

    Portrait photographers don't always get to pick epic locations. Learn how to create a studio space in a small, dark space and how to assess a tight spot to create multiple different types of portrait images.

  20. Culling Dark Tight Spaces Shoot

    See the result of working in a dark, tight space as Victoria culls and critiques the images from the challenge. Also, watch Victoria's initial reaction and thoughts on the "boring" location for the second shoot.

  21. Shoot: Conquering Boring Spaces

    Learn how to make create interesting, riveting portrait photography in boring spaces. Watch Victoria set up multiple shots in this quick shoot, from re-arranging furniture to adjusting lighting.

  22. Culling Boring Spaces Shoot

    Examine the results of the portrait session in a "boring" space. Watch Victoria critique her own work and see how she progressed from testing the light to developing comfortable poses.

  23. Shoot: Working with Groups - Part 1

    Groups increase the challenges to portrait photography, especially under pressure. Get a behind the scenes look at developing a group portrait, from building a relationship to working with harsh light.

  24. Shoot: Working with Groups - Part 2

    Continue working with group portrait sessions and watch Victoria create her own shade, direct poses, and channel high energy in a group setting.

  25. Culling Working with Groups Shoot

    Build a critical eye by critiquing the group shoot, looking for what works and what doesn't.

  26. Portfolio Best Practices

    Building a portfolio is essential to working as a portrait photography artist. Learn portfolio essentials from how to build your point of view to formatting options. Learn how to create distinctive features to make your work stand out and why a consistent appearance is important. See classical examples of portraiture in Victoria's own portfolio.

  27. Portfolio Best Practices Q&A

    Grab deep insight into the most common portfolio questions in this Q&A session with students in our Seatle studio.

  28. Portfolio Critique

    Listening to photography critiques helps you develop a critical eye for your own work. Learn the common protocol editors follow in a review of photo collections from distinguished artisans in the CreativeLive studio audience, and gain critical insight to use in your own work.


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!