Tricks for Photographing Women
Some photography tricks for posing women
When photographing yourself or your family, have you noticed that some women look fabulous all the time and others (possibly yourself) just take terrible pictures? I’ve noticed and there are reasons that are so subtle that you may not be aware of it.
The really good wedding photographers know these tricks. No matter what weight or size the bride is, you want her to be happy with her photos and that isn’t always easy. I’ve seen brides with strapless gowns who had little rolls in the back under the shoulder blades. You know she doesn’t want to see that in the photos. What is more, some brides choose sleeveless gowns when they have larger than average arms that aren’t very flattering. How does the photographer get around that? There are ways. Here are a few tricks of the trade to help the hapless amateur photographer make women look really good.
This moment only happens once.
It never ceases to amaze me how often a friend will call us because their daughter or son is getting married and they want a good photographer. Only later they call us back and say that the kids changed their mind and to save money they are having “Uncle Joe” or some family member do the photography and videography. It is very discouraging for us naturally, but more so for them. Years from now they will look back on Uncle Joe’s hoe-hum photos and blurry action shots and wish they hired a professional. You only get married once (to that person or at that date) and there are no do-overs. Sure a great party is fun but 10 years later the party won’t be what they want to look back on; it will be the photographs capturing the moment. With that in mind, here are a few clues to make good pose choices for the bride.
When you stand directly in front of the camera and smile, that may feel natural but it isn’t flattering. The ancient Greeks knew this. You may never have noticed before, but look at any Greek statue. The women are all in the contrappasto position with the shoulders tilted one direction and the hips the other. To get this, tell your model/bride to bend one knee. Automatically the hips also tilt; one up and one lower. To balance, we naturally tend to shift the shoulders the other way and voila: contrappasto.
A woman’s best feature…
So what is a woman’s best, most womanly feature? Well, usually it is the bosom. However you don’t see the best feature very well when the woman is facing directly at the camera. Have her turn her side to the camera so you have a ¾ view and with the bent knee, the camera sees the best angle. This is great, you are almost there, but there is more!
Have you ever heard of contrapposto before?
With the side or ¾ view the best, most curvy feature of a woman is at a better angle for the camera but it still isn’t accentuated. To get the most out of this angle you have to ask your bride to lean forward slightly; bend at the waist. This makes gravity help your profile, pulling the best womanly feature every so slightly outward. Suddenly she has more bosom than before. I have to admit that this is actually an uncomfortable pose but the camera loves it and the bride will also, looking back at her great physique in the photos years from now.
What about the arms?
I know it is my biggest pet peeve when taking a photo. I do it because I was a shy kid and I always wanted to make myself smaller, so I clinched my arms tight to the side of my body. That is a big mistake for women. We have one bone extending from the shoulder to the elbow: the humerus. Surrounding this bone is soft tissue, muscle and skin. When you pull your arms in toward the body the soft tissue flattens out and the arm appears wider than it actually is. To make the arm appear slim, hold it away from the body. Models and movie stars know about this; they typically put one hand on their hip to make the arm slim, and point the other arm away from the camera. Very smart.
If you have an unfortunate bride with heavy arms and a sleeveless gown, there are ways to cover this flaw. Some photographers like to use props to cover flaws. Having the bride stand in a doorway leaning against the frame covers one arm and the other is turned away from the camera. Having the groom hug the bride also covers the upper arm. Lots of other things can camouflage a flaw: flowers, family, doors, etc. It seems insulting, but trust me the bride will be happier with the final result than if the camera records for posterity every embarrassing flaw and body bulge.
My husband, a great wedding videographer and pastor officiating at a number of weddings, always says, “if the Bride ain’t happy, no one is happy.” He makes a very good point. The wedding is really the Bride’s party. You want the mother-in-law to be appeased but you want the Bride to be HAPPY!
When we do the obligatory family group photo whenever we all get together, everyone is standing ram-rod still facing the camera, and I know they would be happier if they bent a knee and leaned a little forward. Still you can’t make people change long-standing habits.
My sister is so offended by the camera, that her rule is never to point a camera at her without announcing, “Suck In!” That has always been her method of throwing out her chest and making her waist as small as possible. As we get older, we almost don’t care to “suck in” anymore, but my sister still want’s to be warned that a camera is pointing at her. Do you have that problem?
Men are easier than women. Having a little stubble on the face is actually masculine. Being a little unkempt is considered rugged. Some of the best photos of grooms I have ever seen, was photos of him straddling a backwards chair with his arms on the back. He looks relaxed and manly. Still I think that the ¾ rule instead of the full frontal photo is best for men and women. There is something about the full frontal photo that flattens out the characters, both men and women. They appear more dimensional in a ¾ view.
Fun group shots have become very popular but extremely difficult to pose and perform. I’ve seen them where the bride, groom and whole bridal party are running through a field, where a T-Rex was photoshoped into the photo later. Fun but not so practical, and somewhat overdone.
I, for one, really enjoyed the unposed, spontaneous photos of the bride and groom walking and talking. Sure you have to fight the lighting but spur of the moment pictures are really engaging if done well.
The spontaneous photos are the hardest to capture well. I find that I have to take hundreds of photos to end up with just a few really awesome ones. This is why photographers often say that they take more bad photos, or photos the bride will never see than great ones that end up in the bridal album. In the end, it isn’t about volume as much as it is about really great memories.