Skip to main content

photo & video

Portraits Under Pressure

Lesson 15 of 28

Wardrobe and Make-Up Best Practices

Victoria Will

Portraits Under Pressure

Victoria Will

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

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.

Lesson Info

Wardrobe and Make-Up Best Practices

I'm gonna bring out the subjects that I'm meeting-- that I'm seeing for the first time; I've probably seen them around the building the last few days, but I don't know who I'm shooting, so I'm going to meet my subjects, and hi you guys, come on in. Welcome, welcome; welcome to Creative Live! How are you? Victoria. Arleen, nice to meet you. Nice to meet you, thanks for joining us. Hi, I'm Matt. Matt, Victoria, nice to meet you. Come on in, come on into the studio. So let's-- I really appreciate you doing this. So you're both-- Am I allowed to say that you work here? Yeah, I just said. These guys both work at Creative Live and I haven't seen you around the building; I have seen you, Arleen. So, they're probably-- Somebody probably really talked you into this, so I appreciate you doing it, and I hope to-- It's going to be fun, and I'm gonna make it... A comfortable process for you, so if you're at all worried about having your portrait taken, you're in good hands. Alright, so ...

let's see our wardrobe choices. If you wanna bring those out, we can do it one at a time. Basically, I don't know the space, so this is a big question mark. But a couple key things go into my decision-making. The first thing is I'm going to ask my subject what's their favorite, because that's-- When you're wearing clothes that you like, you're comfortable, so Arleen, of all of the things that-- Oh, sorry. Matt; of all of the things you brought, what is your favorite? I think the vest is my favorite. Okay. And obviously I like blue, but I brought a red one just in case. Okay, so color tends to be-- Can read really beautifully off the page, if the output is going to be printed. On the internet, I think bright colors look great, but you can also get away with more black and white. Black in newsprint or in magazines tends to just be a lot of ink, so editors tend to shy away from something that's all black, unless of course it's the intended purpose, and it's a really contrasty black and white image. Color draws readers in. It's supposed to catch your eye, and I think it does, so as much as I like color, plaids and other types of patterns can be a little bit more difficult, so what I would suggest, is which shirt would you wear underneath the vest? I would normally wear the blue stripe, like the light blue stripe, but yeah, I don't know. Okay; I would suggest doing the solid blue. And right there, I have two options, so we could start with the vest, and if you have a portrait session with someone, and you're in an outfit, something with a vest, and a button down, and you shoot the entire shoot with the vest, when you go back, you're not gonna have a lot of variety, right? So by taking off the vest, which I will try to remember to do, we'll come away with two sets of images. That means that if he wanted this photo, you know, he's investing in you as a photographer to get some photos for himself, right? Maybe it's for a LinkedIn page, maybe it's cause you're giving a talk, you know, there's gonna be a lot of varieties and uses for this image, while for the same amount of money, and the same investment, I'm giving him two options. That essentially could have been two photoshoots. They look-- They could look like they were taken on different days. So that's the value added for them. So I think that's a good place to start. I do like what you're wearing right now. Is it what you roll around in? Yeah it's what I rolled out of bed in. So this is data for me, that he's comfortable in-- You know, he's casual, but he has a style, so I think when picking his clothes, you wanna make sure that you stay on point, and that I don't pick something that fits my style, when it doesn't necessarily fit his personality. Okay, so we'll start with that, and go from there, and here's the thing, guys; if it's not working, if they put on an outfit and it's not working, shoot it a little bit, and then say, "you know what, I'd really like to try that green blouse", but I also never say "oh, this isn't working", because first of all, that shows-- It makes the person who's there insecure about their situation and what they're doing and their decisions, but also about you, and like "does she know what she's doing?, cause I think I look great". So you definitely have to communicate these things, but do it in a very delicate way. So, alright Arleen. I love the all black. This is great. I was channeling your New York look, so. Yes, exactly. So it's-- And all black can be very chic and beautiful, so it's always an option, but again, I have editors that will say, "make sure they're not wearing black", so that's something to consider. But, I like this blouse so much, I have it in pink and red. Just really embarrassing, so. Not at all! I brought some color; I brought a scarf to go with this, and then I brought jeans and (mumbles) shirt. Oh, terrific. You know, I think we should start... I'm having a red-- Red can be-- Red is beautiful, and that's where I'm going to right now, and I think that's where we should go-- What do you guys think? I like the red. You like the red? Alright, so we'll start there. Red can also be very tricky in print. I'm sure you've tried to make prints; sometimes it's... When actually printing-- and I'm not trying to get geeky and technical, but the gamma and the red-- How much red can actually be printed is a trickier thing, so if you're the one making prints, sometimes the red can be hard if you're sending it off to somebody. Make it their problem. So definitely don't shy away from red for that reason, but it's just something to consider. So if we had-- If we were doing a portrait session and we had a lot of time, I would definitely have you start in the black, and then we'd move to red, but for this purpose, I think we'll start with the red. Now here's the other thing, guys; I don't know where we're shooting these. So if I get there and we walk in and there's a red wall, I'm gonna have her change her shirt, or it's pink-- You know, whatever. If it's not working, I'm gonna have to take that into consideration. Obviously, sometimes people don't have a change of clothes with them, and shoots in my circumstances, and so if I walk in and I set up a shoot over here, and they walk in and it's a red on red, well sometimes that could be very cool to try, sometimes they'll look like a floating head, you never know, and sometimes I have to abandon that situation and go over here, because we don't have a change of clothes, so it's really about thinking on the fly, and just trying to take all the pieces that you have and put them together to make the best possible shoot. So alright. We'll start with this. I'll see you later, thank you!

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!