As mentioned in a previous post, I was finally able to attend a workshop with headshot photographer Peter Hurley. I've been on the fence with this for at least two years. Returning home after two intense days with Peter and a great group of photographers, I realize how much value this course has. It has already changed the way I look at people and how I work with them to get the best expression I can from them.

Friday meetup

On Friday evening, a bunch of us met up at Medis bar in Stockholm to have some beers and get to know each other. Peter brought his family along as well, so we were quite a large group. It was nice to meet everyone (most, at least) before the workshop started.

Intense session on theory!

The one thing I definitely knew about the Headshot Intensive, was that it would be intense ;) And it sure was! We started on Saturday at 10 am. This first day was dedicated to Peter's incredibly comprehensive system on how to direct people. In short, it is a huge amount of information on how he creates rapport with the client, direct them and then use techniques to get natural reactions out of them. This, in turn, makes for headshots that have what he calls "lookability". Images you want to look at, that are interesting and makes you wonder about something.


This theory session went from 10:00 in the morning until 7:30 in the evening, with an hour of lunch thrown in there. After this session, we went out to dinner at a local restaurant. At 9 pm, we went back to the studio - now it was time for shooting! It was time to get serious and to practice what we had learned during the day.
We had two stations set up. One was on a white seamless that gave Peter's signature look. The  other setup was on a more rustic, metal background. We took turns photographing eachother. I managed to photograph two of my collegues that evening, and I'm pretty happy with the result.
What I realized very rapidly, was that the theory is one thing, and practicing the techniques is something else entirely. I noticed how naturally and effortlessly he does what he does, and it became apparent that this the result of shooting thousands of people. We have access to the same theory that he has - the difference is experience. The main thing I need to develop is the stuff you say to the client to get expressions out of them. This is something I need to work on continuously, and make my own. Internalize it. It was very easy to get stuck and not know what to say to the person.
Here is one of the shots I did that evening of Vincent, a talented photographer from Stockholm:

Vince headshot

Profoto gear galore

We were very lucky to be in Stockholm, where the main offices of Profoto are located. Peter L. from their office was there the whole weekend, and he brought a whole lot of Profoto gear with him. We had D1 and B1 strobes, as well as a large number of softboxes, umbrellas and reflectors. Peter was also a regular attendee of the Intensive, so he was going through the same things that we were. It was a great help to have him and his knowledge about lighting there.
Peter (Hurley, that is) was shooting with a medium format PhaseOne camera, which is an awesome piece of equipment. It produces uncompressed RAW images of around 54Mb - and the amount of detail is just astounding! I got the RAW files of my own headshots from Peter and they look great!

Peter Hurley photographing Hank Olsen
Peter Hurley photographing Hank Olsen

Field trip

When we met up on Sunday morning, we had another short session with theory. Peter went through the details of some of his concepts, to finish up what we had talked about on Saturday. This took all of the info to a new and deeper level.
After the theory, it was time for some shooting. For the first session, Peter wanted to go on a small field trip in the neighbourhood. We went around in the Södermalm area of Stockholm and ended up at a great spot for taking headshots with Stockholm as a background.

Here's one of the images Peter shot of me there:

Kristoffer Sandven, photo by Peter Hurley

After a couple of hours outside, we went back to the studio to do some more shooting.

Peter shot everyone

A great part of the workshop was when each and every one of us went in front of Peter's camera to have our headshot taken. It was really a great experience. I did this twice - once outside on the field trip and another time in the studio on a white backdrop. It was incredibly interesting to be on that end of the communication and to see how Peter's system and methodology works when applied on you.

Culling images
Culling images.

Great group

The attendees at this workshop were photographers from Sweden, Norway, Germany, England and  Poland. I really enjoyed being part of this group of interesting and dedicated photographers for the weekend. Some were hobbyists, some part-time and others full-time photographers. That didn't matter much, though. This was Peter's first workshop were there were no female attendees, so we had to get some women in there from outside to photograph ;)
The following images of Peter (the Profoto guy) and Peter's daughter were done with natural light inside the studio space.


Lots of learning

One of my greatest realizations during the weekend is how comprehensive Peter's system is. He has developed this over the course of about 12 years, and he's continually improving on it and adding new stuff. After all, he is working as a headshot photographer and need to develop his own method all the time.
Headshots look simple enough, but they involve an incredible amount of elements that the photographer uses to get a true expression.


What I took away from the workshop

The main things I learned / got from the workshop:

  • A framework on how to direct people
  • Detailed knowledge about what makes a great headshot
  • A huge increase in confidence as a photographer
  • How to get natural expressions out of people
  • More control over lighting
  • A great group of new friends :)
    and so much more!
    The whole weekend was geared towards headshots, but the knowledge can be applied towards any type of photography that involves people.
    Here's a shot I did of Andy, another one of the talented photographers working in Stockholm:

Now, it's time to get people in front of my camera and practice what I've learned. Headshots FTW!
Want to attend a workshop with Peter Hurley?
Visit his Workshop page.