Overcoming Physical Flaws When Photographing People - The Body
Photographing people is great fun. Whether I'm using a professional or amateur model, I just love photographing people in my studio, or on location. However, (isn't there always a however?) no body is perfect. Even the supermodels that make thousands of dollars a day have some flaws. It's just that they look perfect because the model and photographer know how to hide the flaws, and what they can't hide can be retouched. In this article, I'm going to talk about female models, but almost everything here also applies to male models. You can use these techniques with many different types of photography, including portraiture, fashion, boudoir and nude.
So lets go over the most common physical flaws you will encounter, and what options you have in dealing with them.
For large hips and thighs, turn her closest hip toward the camera. Also, try draping fabric along the back of the thigh to partially hide it. Another option is to crop the photograph into the thigh area. Be careful, as this may not always look good. Be sure not to use clothes that have ruffles or billowy fabric at the hips or thighs, as this will make her hips look even larger.
Some models want their thighs to look fuller. You can do this by using clothes that are loose around the thigh area, so you are seeing the cut of the clothing instead of the thighs. A model can also cross her legs, which will make the top thigh look fuller.
If your model has a large chest that she wants to look smaller, you have several options. First, don't place the model on her back as her breasts will spread out and look fuller. If you must place her on her back, select outfits that fit well and have support wire to prevent her breasts from spreading. Fabric, or an outfit, can be used to hide the breasts by covering them or draping the fabric over them. I have used a feather boa with good results. Sometimes I've had a model cross her arms over her chest.
If, on the other hand, a model has very small breasts, they can be accentuated by using blush to shade in cleavage. I recently watched a "Make Over" show where a woman had her cleavage blushed, and she was amazed at the difference. There are many underwire, pushup or miracle bras that you can use too. Some poses can also help. I like to have a model sitting on her legs, or in a chair, with her back straight and place her hands on her thighs while leaning slightly forward. If she then locks her elbows, her arms will push her breasts together and make them look larger. I often use this in boudoir photography.
A model that wants to look thinner overall can hide her body by wrapping cloth around herself or wearing full cut clothing. Have the model pose in a bathtub set, or in a bed, using the sheets to hide parts of her body. Remember that vertical lines on clothing create the illusion of thinness.
For models that are very thin and want to have a fuller figure, avoid tight fitting clothes. Photograph them in clothes with ruffles, fringe, teddies or use a feather boa. Clothing with horizontal lines will make her figure look fuller.
Long feet can be made to look smaller by facing them toward the camera. With the toes pointing toward the camera, feet always look smaller. High heels also make feet seem more petite. On some occasions, I've also partially or completely hidden a model's feet under bed sheets, clothing or by having her sit in her legs or Indian style.
If a model is pear shaped, use clothing to fill out the top portion of her body. A boa, full sleeves or shoulder pads will do this. At the same time, avoid clothing that will make her hips look large, such as ruffles or jackets that are hip length.
To help a short model look taller, put her in high heels. Have her point her toes to make her legs look longer. Don't place her next to anything that will let the viewer know her height. If you have her in a car, next to a door or near any other thing that the viewer knows the size of, then they will also know the models size. See how they do this on television shows. Many actors are short, but it isn't obvious on television. So have a look.
With tall models, use shorter heels or flats, but still take advantage of their long legs. Follow the same rules of prop usage for tall models as I mentioned for short models.
I hope this helps you with some of the situations you will encounter. One last thing. I would avoid mentioning any of these problems to the model. Simply use these techniques to correct or minimize the problem. Commenting to the model about a problem will make her self-conscious, tense or unhappy which will show in the photographs. If the model brings up one or more of these problems, just say you can deal with it, and downplay the flaws. The secret, especially with amateur models, is to make them feel comfortable with you, the shoot and themselves. If they are relaxed, your pictures will look great.
Read part 2, Overcoming Physical Flaws When Photographing People - The Face.
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