Look your best in pictures
We all like to look thinner in photos. Here are a few tips to help you photograph people looking their best and how you can model to show the best you.
There are a few basic things you need to focus on when photographing people to help them look their best.
- Angle of the body to the camera
- Distance to the camera
- Focal length
There are other factors that effect how someone will look in a photo, including great editing and lighting, but if you focus on these 4 things you’ll get a good image.
Angle of the body to the camera
Angle of the body to the camera refers to how the person being photographed angles their body to the camera, and the height of the camera to the body. In this section I’ll also include a bit about framing the photo. Let’s look at some specific camera angles that will make the people you photograph look thinner.
Flattering your face
One way to make a person look thinner and younger is to shape their jawline. And it’s so easy to do. Simply have the camera higher than their head. By having them look slightly up, and push their chin out and down just a touch their jawline will look more defined. Plus this technique will make their eyes look bigger too. Bigger, more open eyes make you look younger, so this technique is very useful when photographing an older person. Let’s look at an example.
In this photo I have sculpted my jawline by holding the camera high. I used my Olympus Waterproof camera to take this photo. Nothing fancy, a simple point and shoot camera, yet by holding the camera high I have a nice line to my jaw. A defined jawline is the first step to look thinner in a picture. Plus my eyes look bigger and more open in this photo giving me a more youthful appearance.
There are several things to keep in mind that will help the people you photograph look thinner. Some of the techniques I’ll share are optical and some are just how our brains interpret things. The great news is that they all add up to making people look thinner in your photographs.
If you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist
The first rule to remember is that if you can’t see it in a photograph, it doesn’t exist. Hiding body flaws behind an object and not including body flaws when you frame the photo are powerful tools. Framing a photo to only feature the upper part of the body is a great technique to use if someone has a belly or heavy thighs. By simply not including those parts of their body when you frame shot you have eliminated the problem area.
Standing sideways won’t make you look thinner
Lots of people think standing sideways will make them look thinner, it won’t always do that. Look at the photo of my friend above. She is standing sideways, however this is not a flattering photo of her. She has a bit of a belly and her stance exaggerates the size of it.
The best way to stand is facing the camera, then put all your weight on one leg (for this example we’ll say right leg) and push your right hip back as far as you can. Allow your left leg to hang free and bend at the knee. At the same time push your right shoulder back and your left one forward and down a bit. This will give your body a bit of an angle which will minimize your tummy and hips. Yes, uncomfortable, however it will make your body look thinner.
Now place your right hand on your right hip and allow your left arm follow the line of your body with your left hand resting on your upper thigh. Be sure there is some space between your arms and body. When your arm is placed against your body the viewer’s mind will add that width to your overall size making you look larger. Plus a gentile elbow bend helps to accentuate your waist giving you a more hour glass shape.
But what about men?
Yes, some of the things I’ve mentioned are specific to women. A guy standing as I describe would look a bit odd! Men like to look big and manly in photographs. So it’s almost always best to photograph them directly facing a camera with feet shoulder width apart equally weighted, or one foot slightly in front of the other with just a tough more weight on the back foot. Instead of hands on hips, lightly place them in a pocket, which works great with slant pockets on trousers. Angling the body will slim it out, but do it a bit more subtly with a man.
If you are posing in a group you may not have room to bend your elbows. In this case, try to tuck part of the right side of your body behind someone else (this assumes you are standing with your weight on your right leg). Line up the outside edge of your left arm with the left side of your body (you arm will be slightly in front of you) with a gentile bend to the elbow resting your left hand on your knee or lower thigh.
Distance to the camera
The farther away from the camera something is the smaller it appears. In the photo of me above you can see this very clearly. My hand looks very small. It is the farthest from the camera which makes it look smaller than my hand actually is. So if you are photographing a group, skinny people in front. This works for two reasons, one is you can use them to block parts of the heavier person’s body – remember if you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. Plus by moving people farther away from the camera they will appear smaller.
My friend in the bottom photo is much thinner than I, however in these two photos, I look thinner. I happen to catch her slouching so her tummy looks much larger than it really is. Also if you look closely her left hand is next to her leg, this makes her hips look wider as our eyes add the width of her hand to her hips. For her to look thinner would have been easy. All she needed to do was standing turned towards the camera a bit more with her shoulders back and left hand on her hip or behind her body. That would have easily made her look thinner by 10 pounds or more.
The focal length you use also effects how your subject will look in a photograph. If you use a wide angle lens, you subject will look wider – a much less flattering look. If you use a long lens, and stand back from your subject you’ll get a much more flattering image. This is an optics thing that I won’t go into here.
If you are using a point and shoot stand back from your subject and zoom in a bit for a more flattering look.
If you are using a DSLR or mirrorless camera this means that lenses wider then 50mm are not the best for portrait work. The Cannon 70-200mm lens is a favorite of portrait shooters, as is the 100mm lens. These are the lenses I use when shooting portraits. In general lenses about 70mm or longer on a full frame camera body, or the equivalent on a cropped camera body are particularly flattering.
My Favorite Lenses
These are my favorite lenses for doing portrait photography. Click on the photo to find more information about each lens.
Individual or Couple Portrait Lenses
My Favorite Portrait Lens is the Canon 70-200 f/2.8L II IS Lens. I have taken 10’s of thousands of images with this lens. It is the best zoom lens I’ve ever used. I love how fast and accurate the auto focus system is. The f/2.8 aperture over the entire focal range allows me to create blurry backgrounds that isolate my subject. It is a heavy lens, so I’m thankful that it has a great image stabilization system that helps me get crisp images. This is one of my go to lenses when I photograph people.
The Canon 100MM f/2.8 lens is a macro lens, but think of that as a bonus feature. The 100mm focal length works great for portraits. I love this lens because it fills two of my needs needs. It’s a great, fast portrait lens, plus I can use it for macro shots. The image quality from this lens at any focus distance from your subject is impressive. The f/2.8 aperture will create a nice blurry background and image stabilization will help you capture sharp images.
Group Portrait Lenses
The Canon 24-105MM is my favorite general purpose lens. This lens is often on my second camera when I’m doing a shoot. It takes great full body portraits and allows me to be closer when photographing an individual. Additionally it is wide enough to photograph small groups. When I use it for head shots I stand back a bit and zoom in. With an f/4 aperture it’s won’t create as blurry of a background as the other lenses I’ve mentioned, but it will allow you to blur the background enough to isolate your subject.
The Canon 16-35MM is great for environmental portraits, and large group portraits. When shooting in tight spaces this lens is a great choice. This is my go to lens for reception photography in a confined area. This is not a great lens for close up portraits. But when you have to photograph a large group and you are in a confined area, this is a great lens to have.
We all like to look our best in photographs. If possible stand higher than the person you are photographing, angle their body (weight on their back leg), make a gap between their arms and body, shoulders back and zoom in. These few simple techniques will bring out the true beauty of you and the people you photograph.