If you’re a professional entrepreneur, a creative person, have a family, or are trying online dating, chances are you’ve been photographed by a professional photographer or already enjoy taking oversized photos. In my 20-year career as a photographer, I have taken many close-up photos of myself.
In my life, I’ve had every size from 12-22. I learned be kind to myself about my body. But when I was on the other side of the lens, I found that the heavier I was, the more disappointing the experience was.
I expect professional photographers to understand how to photograph an oversized woman and, more importantly, care enough to do the job in a way that makes me feel like a valued client. I’m here to tell you, that’s not my experience.
What I got in return was a bunch of awkward poses, bad angles, messy hair and clothes, which would never pass the test on street-sized pro clients. Many times, I feel bad about myself, but I also know I can do better.
My experience has inspired me to create curve photographer, a brand specializing in portrait photography and large headshots. I have been a wedding and portrait photographer for many years, but realized that this was an unmet need.
Not only am I excited to step up to fill it, but I’m also excited to share with you the benefits of my experience.
Here are my tips that all plus-size women should know when booking plus-size photo shoots. Use them to advocate for yourself and get the great photos you deserve.
What to look for in a photographer for your plus size photo session
Do your research. Always check the photographer’s professional portfolio for information examples of other plus size customers. This is important because it can tell a story about the photographer’s relationship with an oversized clientele.
Photographers Those who don’t have an oversized representation in their online media may lack experience capturing such clients, or they may not feel oversized clients are ‘brand’ to them or beautiful enough to share in their portfolio. This is a giant red flag.
If you’ve already started chatting with this photographer, ask them if they have any plus-size client sessions they can share with you. Otherwise, proceed with caution, but read on.
Tips for getting great shots from your oversized photo shoot
You may be the most body-positive person on the planet, but you still deserve to have a professional photographer flatter you. And, by the way, most flattering posing rules apply to literally everyone, no matter what your size.
So there’s no reason for an expert not to know these strategies and take the time and care to get you set up this way. Now, let’s see what you should know before your session.
Learn your angles
Shooting from a higher angle is generally beautiful. We’ve all done this with our Insta selfies. If you follow some plus size clothing companies, you’ll often see models taken from low angles. Personally, I’m annoyed with this, but their priority is to display the clothes, not the models. If you are not photographing commercial clothing, most of your photos should be taken from a high angle.
You probably already know that shooting from a higher angle will minimize a larger chin. But even if you don’t mind your chin, high-angle shots have other benefits. If you tend to squint in your photos, a high angle will help open your eyes and let some natural light in.
Is your photographer shorter than you? Because many of my photos are like that, and I ended up with a collection of slightly low angle head shots that didn’t look great to me.
In my business, I include the question of height in my questionnaire for this reason. If my client is as tall or taller than me, I leave a stool in my tool bag for the day. It is an important tool. You can tell the photographer that you want to take portrait shots from a higher angle.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and we don’t want to stifle creativity. Sometimes a low angle shot can add drama to a photo or highlight a beautiful background.
If I’m shooting at a low angle with a stout client, I’ll usually ask them to tilt their face to the side and up. It helps to add drama and flatter the face.
This pro photographer’s trick has actually produced some of the worst, most ridiculous headshots of me. The idea is that the more you lean forward, the less your double chin will show. Yes, this is true, but everything is in moderation, my friends.
Some photographers let me lean forward so much that I almost fell over. It feels silly and it’s not surprising that the images look equally silly!
It is true that you should rely on your camera for portrait photography, especially professional close-up photography. It is more flattering and also creates interaction between the subject and the viewer. Leaning back can accentuate a double chin and make it appear awkward and aloof.
However, the trick is to lean forward subtly. You shouldn’t feel (or really is) Overthrow. If you’re still trying to get rid of a double chin, check out tip one on a higher angle. It is better if the photographer is close to you and looking down than if you lean too far forward.
Curves and “S” movements
Highly trained portrait photographers are taught that you should strive for an “S” curve when posing for women. You might think your body resembles another letter of the alphabet and I’ll be right there with you.
But it really doesn’t matter your size or shape, you can still create an S-curve by shifting your hips and placing your hands and arms carefully. Try touching your hair, bra straps, or putting your arms around your waist.
If you’re an apple-shaped person, it can be a bit more challenging. My best advice is to wear a flowing dress and dance! Movement in a dress creates beautiful lines every time. It’s my favorite thing for my clients to do.
If you don’t like flowing dresses, that’s okay too. Motion is still a great way to create visual interest.
This is what I mean when I talk about being looked after by your photographer. Unless you’re specifically doing an editorial or artistic session where things are supposed to be more natural, your photographer should pay attention to details like how your hair is loose, whether your jewelry is disheveled, and your clothes are unkempt. This is where I feel the most frustrated in some of my own head shots.
The heavier I was, the less attention I paid to details – it was as if the photographer was just trying to take “good enough” photos without caring more about the photos they might take with a street-sized client.
Listen! Your photographer will annoy you and if you’re uncomfortable being touched that way, they can teach you how to fix these yourself.
You deserve it this kind of care in a photo session.
Hair and makeup Make a world of difference!
I got it. You’ve already spent quite a bit of money on this session, and the idea of paying an extra $200 for hair and makeup looks daunting. I made the exact same deductions. But I’m telling you – if you’re not good at doing your own hair and makeup, have it done professionally.
I can’t tell you how many times I create stunning portraits for my clients only to have them tell me they wish they had a professional haircut. I can do a lot of things in Photo Shop, but I can’t give you another hairstyle.
Try hard. You won’t regret it and you deserve it.
Communication is key
I’m not giving you all this information so you can go out there and manage your photographer. Photographers are artists honing their skills. They have different ideas and visions and different levels of experience.
However, once you’ve done your research and booked them, you need to find a balance between trusting their instincts and taking charge of the session where you’re spending a lot of money.
Discuss your concerns ahead of time. Be clear about what you hope to get from your image and what you feel insecure about respectfully.
You choose them for a reason, so don’t micromanage everything they do. But don’t be afraid to speak up during your session. It is better to address concerns while you still have time to shoot than after you receive disappointing photos. Just give feedback in the spirit of cooperation instead of criticism.
Regardless of size, we all have a sense of how we look in photos. Whether you’re body-positive or still trying to work through your insecurities, we’re all human. Do yourself a favor and don’t let that stop you from signing up for sessions.
The photography industry has played an important role in how we see our bodies, and the plus size community has been largely left in the shadow of the professional media.
But girls, we deserve to shine.
About our guest author:
Robin Dayley (she/she) has been a portrait and wedding photographer for over 20 years. Now a San Diego resident, she also serves Philadelphia, Delaware, and Maryland. You can view her wedding and family portraits through her other brand, Dayley Photography. Robin loves to spend her free time volunteering to save dogs which you can follow on Instagram @rescuedogphotog. She is a political activist and a highly active introvert.