5 Insanely Simple Ways to Make Your Subject Look Slimmer

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Don’t ya just love it when a subject asks you to make them look slimmer?  No worries!  One of the most common scenarios when you’re taking photos these days is to have a curvy girl in your shot!  We’re everywhere!  And we’re gorgeous!  Unfortunately, though, many of us are extremely self-conscious of our extra bumps and rolls and chins…  Master how to make a woman’s face look naturally slimmer and you’ll have figured out one of the most important skills there is in portrait photography!

front shoulder down image for slimmer subject
For this one, I got on the other side of the camera so you can see the action behind the tips!

1 - SIT UP!

Your mom was right... sit up to look slimmer.

First and foremost, have your subject sit up nice and tall.  This is true for everyone, but if you’re photographing a curvy girl, a slouch just lets the curves mush together.  Mushed curves are especially unflattering.  It’s even less flattering for women with an ample bosom.  See how those babies sag down to my elbows?  Eeek!  Not a good look!  Good posture will definitely make your subject look slimmer!

Slouch Image for Slimmer Subject
SLOUCHING! OUCH!
Sit Up Image for Slimmer Subject
See the immediate improvement as soon as I put my shoulders back and sit up?

Looking for more photo tips?  Check out One Small Photo Tip that will Make a Big Difference

2 - Chin Up and Out

Who knew a chin could be a slimmer -izer?

This one is a bit tricky to explain in words, but I’ll do my best.  Have your subject lift her chin and push her entire face forward.  Think of how a chicken walks with his face jutting forward with each step.  

This gif demonstrates the move quite nicely.  I found it HERE, at dribble.com.

In case that strutting rooster doesn’t make sense, here’s what it looks like from the side and the front so you can see what a difference it will make!

Chin in marked image for slimmer subject
Face in normal position. See that extra waddle? Ew.
Chin in image for slimmer subject
Here's a normal shot with face in regular position. Hello double chin!
Chin Out marked image for slimmer subject
Chin moved forward from the side. Pay no attention to my unruly hair. Oops!
Chin Out image for slimmer subject
Chin moved forward - see how it removes the waddle?

See the difference in the definition of the chin?  Be prepared.  Your subject will likely question this weird move.  And that’s totally normal.  It feels ridiculous.  Go ahead, try it.  It feels anything but natural.  But let me tell you why it works.

In the real world, most of us have two eyes.  Each eye serves as a lens, so we see things in three dimensions (3D).  Our camera has only one lens, so it sees things in two dimensions.  Because the camera only sees 2D, and the photo is the result of what the camera sees, it cannot detect that your subject’s face is jutting forward.  It can only see that there is one fewer chin in that area of the photo.  With 3D eyesight, your brain tells you when looking from the front that there is a space between the face and neck.  Make sense?  Not really?  That’s okay.  It doesn’t have to make a great deal of sense as long as you know that it works.  And it does.

Everyone loves bonus tips!

Bonus tip #1… I heard this years ago and use it every time (especially with older women or curvy women).  Have your subject put her tongue on the roof of her mouth. Go look in the mirror when you do it. You will see what an amazing difference there is in the turkey waddle area).  It works for everyone – men, too!

While you’re here, don’t forget to learn about watermarks!  Check out What Makes A Successful Watermark and When to Use It!

3 - Angle The Body

Your subject will thank you!

On to the next step, the angle. Whenever you photograph someone straight on, you are seeing the full width of their body.  Again because of that 2D/3D thing, when you see the width of the body, your brain recognizes it as wide.  Have your subject turn her shoulders about 45 degrees to the side.  Now when you capture her, she looks much slimmer and less wide overall.

Chin Out image for slimmer subject
Straight on - wide, wide, wide!
Angle body for slimmer subject
ooooh! I look like I just had some liposuction, right!?

4 - Add Space

Space is a slimmer, too!

Once you’ve got those shoulders angled, now is the time to add some space.  When you add some space between a woman’s body and her arms, once again you reduce the width of her overall look.  There are several ways you can introduce space here.  Arms up can work, or one arm up playing with hair or on the chin, etc.  But for our purposes today, let’s have that subject put her hands on her hips.

Another option here is to squeeze arms together in the middle to give the illusion of a slimmer figure.  Depending on the clothing your subject is wearing, this works well to cover clothing, or enhance certain areas.  This all depends on the look you’re after.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with trying both tips!

Angle body for slimmer subject
Again - this shot adds width as the eye travels straight from one arm to the other.
add space image for slimmer subject
This one shows that the break between body and arms makes the body appear slimmer.
Add Hands image for Slimmer subject
Check out those assets! Va-va-va-voom!

You can use all of these tips with a big group, too.  Be sure and take a look at The Ultimate Guide to Photographing Big Groups of People

5 - Drop the Shoulder

Chins aren't the only slender -izer!

Finally, you can add a finishing touch by having your subject lower the shoulder closest to the camera.  It gives the same kind of effect of angling the body side-to-side.

Also, it helps to have your subject looking up at the camera rather than down.  The looking up helps elongate the neck, keeps her nostrils out of view, and helps your subject to open those eyes nice and wide.  You can see what a difference it makes for me to have my eyes wide open, especially because I have droopy lids – it’s hereditary, sigh – thanks dad.

Even more bonus tips!

Bonus tip #2… If you opt to have your subject place a hand up on or near the face, remember less is more.  It feels “normal” for most people to rest their face on the hand, but when she does, you can end up with a pretty squished up cheek and eye.

Instead, have her slightly turn her hand and ever-so-gently touch the cheek without actually resting it on the hand.  See how that makes a difference?

Bonus tip #3…  Somebody stop me!  When you put hands near the face, remember that the flat back of the hand tends to be more masculine in appearance.  If you are looking for femininity, then a slight turn will take the focus off the back and all of the veins and bones that we all have.  Do the reverse for men!  Proudly show off those manly bones and veins!

No Squish Face image for Slimmer subject
Squish face! Not attractive. And it makes me look like I have a little 'stache. I don't - I'm freshly waxed!
Yes squish face image for slimmer subject
Not squished face. Much better. Although someone forgot to remind me to drop that shoulder. Oops.

Wrapping it up!

Probably the most important thing to remember here is to give your subject LOTS of compliments while you’re shooting!  It’s really hard to know that someone is staring at you through the lens.  It is awkward to move in unfamiliar ways and can feel really weird.  Smiles and complimentary words go a long way in putting your subject at ease!

Also, go ahead and show them a couple of shots from the back of your camera while you’re shooting.  Especially if they are wondering what you’re doing.  It helps them to feel confident in your skills if you are enthusiastic and showing off how beautiful they are!

Have fun and go find a beautiful subject!  Be sure and join my FB Group HERE and show me some of your work using these techniques!

And finally – I need to leave you with a final before/after so you can see what a difference these techniques make!  Wow – the first shot is embarrassing, but I’m pretty sure Dan’s gonna want a copy of that “after” shot for his desk.  It was a pleasure modeling for you today! 

Chin Out image for slimmer subject
Here's what we started with. Ugh.
front shoulder down image for slimmer subject
Now you can see the amazing difference it makes to put all of these tips into practice.

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