Holiday Photos (Quick: Make me slimmer!)

The holiday season’s here, New Year’s plans are being made, and you know you’re going to be in pictures. Lots of them. You’ve heard that cameras “add ten pounds,” right? Well, kinda, sorta, not really. In fact, no, they don’t. The camera is just a tool. It’s not trying to take an unflattering picture of you. It just records what is picked up by the lens via the light that enters through it. The ONLY time a camera adds ten pounds to your weight is when you’re holding a ten-pound camera! Smile.

Are you a little shy in front of a camera? Are you afraid of “camera bloat”? These tips may help: 

Camera shy?

  • If you’re caught in an unflattering pose, that’s what’s recorded. Here are some posing tips:
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  • To help reduce the “double chin” effect: When posing, push your head forward as far as you can, comfortably. Practice this in front of a mirror. Do it several times until you stop feeling like you’re doing the chicken dance.  It feels strange at first, but when you see its effect of “slimming” your neck/chin area, you’ll love it! You too, guys! You can also wear a scarf or turtleneck, or place your hands in a flattering position, framing your neck.
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  • If you have a wider face or body, you can angle your body away from the camera, including your face, and if you want, turn your face slightly back toward the camera so that it’s st
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  • Suck in that gut – but not too much! You know the drill: stomach in, shoulders back, chest out. Again, don’t overdo the “chest out” or “stomach in” parts. It will look, uh, like this:
Don't overdo it!
  • Don’t face the sun; it will make you squint and will show every line and wrinkle. Let the photographer figure out how to light you if you’re backlit. He or she will likely use a low-powered flash to bring you out of the shadows you, while maintaining a good balance with the ambient (natural or available) light.
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  • Don’t let your arms hang so that they touch any part of your body, which includes crossing your arms in front of you. That will help control upper-arm flab. Find something to do with your hands (your photographer can guide you here), or place your arms slightly away from your body to reduce any flab.
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  • Side lighting, hair lighting, and using reflectors or deflectors to add subtle shadows to problem areas or redirect light to pleasing areas, can be helpful. Use of lighting to cast subtle shadows on your neck can appear slimming. Photography is all about light, in so many ways.
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  • If you feel that your nose is larger than you’d like, I can recommend a good plastic surgeon. Kidding! For these situations, I never take 90-degree profile shots. The face (or camera) should be angled so that your nose doesn’t protrude past your cheek line. This will give the illusion of “decreasing” its size.
Nose issues?

  • If it’s a full-body shot, stand with one leg slightly ahead of the other, with the forward leg’s foot pointed toward the camera and your weight on your back foot.
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  • Wear darker solids and avoid large prints that will draw attention to your shape. If you like stripes, do I need to say it? Vertical!
Don't do this!

  • When you look at yourself in the mirror, you’re not seeing yourself as everyone else sees you. You’re seeing – wait for it! – a mirror image! It’s true! Look at a photo of yourself, then look at yourself in the mirror. See? The photo is how others see you, not what you see in the mirror. You’re just not used to that look in the photo because you see yourself “flipped horizontally” on a daily basis.  So, cut yourself some slack – you’re beautiful! (Yes, men, “beautiful” applies to you, too!)
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  • If the wrong lens is used, particularly wide-angle lenses used close to you, that’s bad for your figure (unless it’s a spoof – then it can be funny!).  It’s better if a medium telephoto lens is used farther away from you. Telephotos have the effect of “compressing” what’s in the frame, depending on how far the subject is, which also helps with the “slimifying effect.” I do most of my formal portrait work with a 105 mm lens. It gives me enough working space so that I’m not “in your face,” it doesn’t distort you, and it gives a nice, soft background if I adjust the camera’s settings properly.
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  • Don’t let anyone “shoot up” at you from below. That will make you look down at the camera, pushing down your neck and chin area. Don’t let yourself be photographed from too high either, because it can make you look like you have disproportionately short legs. The most flattering angle for portraits is when the camera is at eye level. Your eyes.
Don't look down!
  • Lighting – a very important subject. Harsh lighting is unflattering, especially for women and children. I try not to use flash at all when I’m shooting portraits, unless I want catch lights in the eyes. If I do use flash, I’ll do it in a way to minimize any unflattering areas and/or to maximize your best features. A harsh strobe firing in your face is also bad for skin tones, and is the main culprit of red-eye, blotchy skin and deep-looking wrinkles. A flash is often needed, though, for example, if you are back-lit (you’re outdoors and the sun is behind you, putting you in shadow). In those situations,  a low-powered “fill flash” is called for, to softly illuminate you while keeping the background exposed well and in balance with how you’re lit. A note about soft light vs. harsh light – harsher light can be flattering on men – it can give them a more “chiseled, tough-guy” look. Combine that with a bleach bypass (a possible topic for another time), and you may have a magazine-worthy shot! (Side note for photographers taking your picture: If your camera has the red-eye reduction feature, don’t use it! That’s the main reason for closed eyes, premature subject movement and blurry shots; many people don’t realize that the red-eye reduction feature means that there are two sets of flashes being fired: a pre-flash meant to reduce the size of your pupil, followed by the main flash. Too often, people start moving after the pre-flash is fired, believing that the photo was taken. So either caution them to remain still until all flashes are fired, or turn off the feature. Unless you’re using an off-camera flash that is held, placed or mounted above and away from the lens, or if you bounce the light (another topic for a later time), you’re probably going to get red-eye anyway, which is easily fixable in many post-processing applications (e.g., Photoshop, Lightroom, Elements, and many others). One more trick to avoid or reduce red-eye: if you’re being photographed indoors, turn on every light. That alone will help to reduce the size of your pupil, and then maybe a flash won’t even be needed, or if it is, its power can be reduced.
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  • My Number One tip to bring out your Best You: Be confident! A twinkle in your eye, a genuine smile on your face, a confident expression – these are things that make people notice you – this is what makes you beautiful. They’ll notice you, not your body shape. To go along with this tip, give some thought to what you believe is your best feature. Emphasis on “what you believe” – Some people may say you have great legs, but if you don’t think so, or if you really love your eyes, upper arms or hair, then those are the features to be showcased, no matter how many people like your legs. Why? It’s the confidence thing.
Be confident! Be yourself!

Now go get ready for your best-ever holiday photos!

***Happy Holidays to all my wonderful readers,
Happy New Year, and keep on shooting!***

[Next time: I’ll start answering questions sent in by email through my website and blog – great questions, and I’ll give you great answers!]

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~ by Karen Rosenblum on December 13, 2011.

4 Responses to “Holiday Photos (Quick: Make me slimmer!)”

  1. Great article! I learned a lot and just in time! Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  2. A mutual friend told me about your website and blog and I finally got around to looking at it today when I found out you posted a new article. I had no idea about most of things you wrote about, and I thought I was doing a good job taking pictures for my friends and family. A lot can be learned from you, that’s for sure! Your pics are fantastic! What talent! I’ll be spreading the word about you because I’m in Chester County, not far from you, and youll be hearing from me right after the holidays when I start planning my wedding and engagement announcement (I just got engaged last month, and now I know who I want for my wedding!)

  3. Great tips!! For both sides of the camera – I don’t want to tick off the females (or even the guys!) when I take pictures of them at family get-togethers over the holidays! And being female myself, now I know how to help myself look a little slimmer in pics! Thanks very very very much! Brenda

  4. Excellent tips Karen. I rarely photograph people but it’s good to know these things in case the opportunity comes up one day in my travels and definitely for when other people photograph me. I hate the double chin thing, I’m going to have to practice the chicken.

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