Working with your subject is one of the four major areas of photography expertise (whatever your subject is... people, architecture, food, dogs). People who are heavier-set often avoid being photographed because they dislike how the pictures emphasize the parts of themselves they’re unhappy with, while de-emphasizing the parts of them they are pleased with. And that’s the key to photographing larger people: find and focus on the parts of them they love.
I don’t want to make this a diatribe, but beauty and strength reside in many places in the human body. There are a few “slam dunks” when it comes to these areas: the eyes, and the smile. But there are also plenty of other areas to explore. And there are a number of ways to minimize the areas that the person doesn’t like. So here are some guidelines and some tips:
- If you don’t want some part of their body in the image, don’t put it there. Move in closer and crop it.
- If you can’t exclude it, hide it: angle it away from the lens, or tuck it behind a door frame or couch arm.
- If you can’t exclude it, shape it with light. We’ll talk about that in the tips section
- Resist the urge to photoshop it. That can be offensive
- Create space between the arms and the body. Show the curves
- Position the face closest to the lens
- Keep the arms off the breasts and torso
- Arch the neck slightly up and forward
- Position the body so that it creates a V shape. For example, sit them on a chair, put their foot on a stool, and cross the arms over their forward knee. The crossing of the arms creates a V or hourglass.
- Shoot from slightly above the subject
- When standing, increase the angle so that it’s closer to being a profile shot (say 50 degrees rather than 30 or 40)
- When standing, cross the legs, or bend on leg towards the other.
- When posing with another person, tuck the larger one slightly behind the thinner so they keep the same “ratio of space” in the frame
- Ask them what parts of their body they like the best, and focus on them!