Guest Blog: Headshot Photographer Peter Hurley – It’s All About The Jaw Line!

How important is it to accentuate your subject’s jawline in a portrait?  For me it’s major, and more often than not the first direction that comes out of my mouth toward anyone in front of my camera. I believe it’s our job to pull the best out of our clients, so we need to be feeding them constant direction in order to do that.

As photographers, we all use direct direction in order to get a client into a position that makes them physically look better.  So since this one area means so much to me, I thought I’d share some tips on it in this little video.  In it you’ll see how adamant I am about having my clients bring their jawline towards my camera day in and day out.  This simple technique instantly improves the images I’m taking of my clients, and I hope you gain a few insights here that you find helpful and can implement on your next shoot.  Enjoy!

You can see more work from Peter at, follow him on Twitter, and like him on Facebook. And if you want more tips on shooting headshots, check out his 4-hour The Art Behind The Headshot DVD!

  1. That was an awesome video!  I had never heard that technique before, and it makes a huge difference!  Thanks for the info, I’ll be sure to keep that in mind when I shoot portraits.  One question: does the direction of the lighting matter relative to this technique, or is it pretty much always head forward?

  2. Peter Hurley….that was fantastic!! Wow, had no idea the jaw line made such an incredible difference…to tell you the truth, I thought portrait photographers were just taking care of that stuff in post…with Photoshop…amazing. Thanks for such a great video!

  3. Brilliant! Makes all the difference in the world. I got so excited to try this that I was “posing” as Peter suggested while walking around the local WalMart. I overheard two elderly women, one saying to the other, “Look at that poor young man all hunched over”. “Yes”, said her friend, “but look at how nice his jawline is”! Hey, if it works, it works!

  4. Have always heard to have client stick their chin out, but never had anyone explain why.  This was great and will impact my headshots going forward. thanks for sharing.

  5. The little things that separate a pro from an amateur. I see
    an image, I know it’s better than anything I have done, but it’s really hard to
    tell why. This, is an example of why.

    Thanks for the great tip, now I know one of the things I
    need to be watching for.

  6. An excellent post. I’m as much of a gear-head as any other photog, but it’s refreshing to see someone talking about the non-technical aspects of photography. I really enjoyed this post, and as soon as I have saved up enough to buy the new Nikon D800, I’ll then be buying Peter’s DVD.

  7. Brilliant!  It’s the simple things that have the most impact.  This is something subjects will get right away.  Can you get him in a Kelby Training video?

  8. If you think this 15 minutes was helpful, consider getting the ‘Art Behind the Headshot’ DVD. It’s 4 hours of this stuff. Changes forever the way you approach portrait taking. I’ve watched it 4 times, and I’m still picking up things. 

  9. Thank you Peter,
    The timing of your post was perfect for me. I have found that I am taking more people pictures. This dovetails nicely with Scott’s “Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It” books and classes, and will add an additional dimension to my shoots.

  10. Best 15 minutes I’ve spent in a while! Peter is a natural teacher. I like the no nonsense style, gets right to the point while being funny and fun at the same time! Brilliant!

  11. SHHHBANG! I love this guy, mad me laugh a lot, also because I wondered how many other people were pulling their heads towards the computer while watching it … just me?
    Really informative, I learned a lot!

  12. These tips are great – do you ever have folks, though, who were already uncomfortable being photographed, and become more so with all of the direction?  I’m sometimes so focused at putting them at ease that I’m hesitant to direct them as much.

    1. It’s your job to pull it out of them.  Believe me when people look better than they’ve ever looked before they will do whatever you say.  I shoot tethered and explain it to them as I’m showing them what I’m doing.  The shots speak for themselves and they could care less what they feel like if the outcome is good.  I’m constantly tell them that it feels weird, but looks good.  They will listen to everything you say as long as they believe that you are in control and can pull it off.  If they are questioning what you are doing you’ll never get the shot out of them.  A lot of the photographers that have taken THE HEADSHOT INTENSIVE are using this video to show their clients before they shoot them.  You can do that too.  

  13. Loved it! that totally made my day. SHeBAM!!!
    BTW, I don’t know if you had Industrial Light & Magic do some CGI on your tutorial there, but your eyes were fantastic! so well lit and vibrant. That was totally awesome! Thank you. I’ve been telling my subjects to ‘turtle-out’ their necks and faces, but your way is so much better. :)

  14. I’ve always understood that I looked better at certain angles and positions, but I never quite understood that it was because of the jawline until now. Thanks! I’m not going to be able to look at anyone without thinking about their jawline now…

  15. Great advice…and I have a client who wants corporate headshots. These pointers will definitely come in handy for her especially since the jawline is SPECIFICALLY her concern. And if you haven’t seen The Art Behind the Headshot, it’s a great DVD full of more great tips and advice!

  16. You know how you have one of those moments where you don’t even realize you’ve been doing something so wrong with your craft and someone not only points it out to you, but tells you how to fix it…for FREE? Yeah just had that moment. This video, game changer for me. Thank you! (And the lighting in this video? Gorgeous.)

  17. This is wonderful and AMAZING! Thank you so MUCH for this blog post. Best one ever!! Any chance that we could get PH to do a KT class..??? Any chance at all..?? That would just be spectacular! Peter Hurley ROCKS!

  18. Great guest blog post, thanks for taking the time to make the video Peter! Will definitely be trying out this technique instead of telling brides to “act like a turtle” lol, telling them forehead or ears is much more professional :)

  19. This was a fantastic post!! I loved the practical tips, and especially loved Peter’s video showing the method in action! (We’re photographers – teach us visually, right?) I can’t wait to try these tips out on my next portrait shoot.

  20. Scott, this guy is MONEY!  What a great tip.  Plus the energy – it’s like The Dude, hopped up on caffeine, is giving photography lessons.  Pure gold.  You have to get this guy on Kelby training.  My subscription doesn’t expire for 8 months but I swear I’d re-up for next year already if Peter had classes online.  SHEBANG!  -Ken

  21. You are the new guy for Kelby Training Peter :-).
    One of the best vid’s I ever have seen on portrait photography!
    Well presented with just the right touch of hilarity.

  22. Great stuff!!!  Does this work “better” when shooting with a lower depth of field?  To me, it looked like most of those photos were taken at lower f-stops.  I always thought most studio images were taken in the f/11 range.  This is coming from a non-studio shooter.

  23. SHEBANG indeed, that was GREAT – when I went to photography school, in 3 years, noone ever tells you stuff like that, you either figure it out on your own someday while shooting a customer, or you don’t and you keep wondering what to do. But now I see that there are people that are willing to JUST SAAAY and explain you, what to do. SHEBANG again, and thanks ;)

  24. Wow this was awesome! Lots of energy and like his enthusiasm. He made me pic my camera up off my  desk and go try this out on the wife. He now has a new fan……….

  25. Peter, that would be great if you can record a full course for KelbyTraining.
    Love what your doing and the way you teach
    I wish I can attend one of your workshop

  26. Well that pushed me over the edge.  I’ve been contemplating and procrastinating about buying your DVD, Peter.  Now it’s a done deal.  Thanks for the blog.

  27. That, my friend, was an awesome post.  One of the best….not just telling us WHAT to do, but showing us HOW to do it and explaining WHY you do it.  Your personality, enthusiasm, and delivery was spot on.  Extremely effective.  I’m adding “attending one of Peter’s workshops” to my bucket list!

  28. I ordered the DVD and downloaded it immediately.  Just finished watching it all the way through, and I’m starving!  But I’m so amped I can’t wait for my next assignment, next week, shooting headshots of 30 kid actors.  It’s gonna be sweet.

  29. SHHH-BANG, you’re hilarious!!!  But seriously, you did a great job of breaking it down and keeping it simple – will definitely being using this technique!  Thanks for the great post!

  30. Perfect proof that it is never feet or even inches but mere fractions of a difference that makes the difference between professional shots and ho hum weekend family shots!!  Awesome!!!  Thanks!!!

  31. Awesome Post!!  Thanks Peter Hurley for the super informative vid, and thanks Scott for getting such awesome guest bloggers on a consistent basis! You guys rock!

  32. I have got to say, I have watched hundreds(of hours, or seems like it) of videos (including here on KT) and that was one of the best I have seen! In  15 minutes! Ridic! SHEBANG!

  33. I’ve been a fan of Peter Hurley for a while and this is a great video! That neck/chin fullness is one of the biggest issues with portraits and I’m constantly educating clients about how to avoid it. I’ve been doing the chin out and down suggestion, but forehead out and down makes more sense as he illustrated. So, so good, a must-see for professional photographers.

  34. Awesome! Feels like we have known you forever and are learning from a buddy! So easy to follow. Now… my neck is beat from trying to do all this in the mirror. Talk about dyslexic!

  35. This post just cost me $300 and I can’t wait until the download completes.  I’m going make everyone I know sit for me ’till I got it.  What a fantastic skill to learn.  Thanks Peter.


  36. Brilliant, I know, I say that about many posts but there’s so much brilliant out there. Love how you put it across Peter, clear, fun & I really get it. SHHHBANG!! So simple & learnt a fantastic technique, I’ll for ever have the jaw line I know I need. Thank you :)

  37. If possible, please get Hurley on Kelby Training. If not, please try to get us a NAPP member discount for his DVD. If neither is an option, no problem. Thank you for giving him the mike and introducing me to another great teacher.

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