If you are a business professional, a creator, have a family or are trying out the online dating scene, chances are you’ve had your photo taken by a professional photographer or have enjoyed a plus size photoshoot. During my 20-year career as a photographer, I’ve had my own headshot taken many times.
In my lifetime, I’ve been every size from a 12-22. I’ve learned to be kind to myself about my body. But when I was on the other side of the lens, I noticed the heavier I was, the more disappointing the experience was.
I expected professional photographers to understand how to photograph a plus size woman and more importantly, care enough to do the work in a way that made me feel like a valued client. I’m here to tell you, that was not my experience.
What I got back was a mess of awkward poses, bad angles and a tangled mess of hair and clothing that would never have passed inspection for a professional’s street size clients. Many times, I was left feeling terrible about myself, but I also knew I could do better.
My experiences inspired me to create Curvy Photographer, a brand specializing in plus size headshot and portrait photography. I’ve been a wedding and portrait photographer for years, but realized this was a need that wasn’t being fulfilled.
Not only am I excited to step up to fill it, but I’m happy to share with you the benefit of my experience.
Below are my tips all plus size women should know when booking a plus size photoshoot. Use them to advocate for yourself and get the amazing pictures you deserve.
What to Look For In a Photographer for Your Plus Size Photoshoot
Do your research. Always check out a photographer’s professional portfolio for examples of other plus size clients. This is important because it could tell a story about the photographer’s relationship with plus size clientele.
Photographers who don’t have plus size representation in their online media may either be inexperienced with shooting such clients or they may not feel plus size clients are ‘on brand’ for them or beautiful enough to share in their portfolios. This is a huge red flag.
If you’ve already started a conversation with this photographer, ask them if they have any sessions with a plus size client that they can share with you. If they don’t, proceed with caution, but read on.
Tips for Scoring Great Images from Your Plus Size Photoshoot
You can be the most body positive person on the planet but you still deserve to have a professional photographer pose you in a flattering way. And, by the way, most of the rules for flattering poses apply to literally everyone, no matter what size you are.
So, there is no excuse for a pro not to know these strategies and take the time and care to set you up in this way. Now, let’s take a look at what you should be aware of before your session.
Learn Your Angles
Shooting from a higher angle is universally flattering. We have all done this with our Insta selfies. If you follow some plus size clothing companies, you will frequently see the models shot from low angles. I personally cringe at this, but their priority is showing the clothing not the model. If you aren’t shooting commercial clothing photography, most of your images should be shot from a high angle.
You may already know that shooting from a higher angle minimizes a larger chin. But even if you aren’t concerned with your chin, high angle shots have other benefits. If you tend to look squinty in your images, the high angle will help to open your eyes and shine some natural light into them.
Is your photographer shorter than you? Because many of mine were, and I ended up with a gallery of slightly low angle headshots that were not a great look for me.
In my business, I include a height question in my questionnaire for this reason. If my client is my height or taller, I include a step stool in my gear bag for the day. It’s a crucial tool. It’s okay to tell your photographer you want headshots from a higher angle.
There are, of course, exceptions to every rule and we don’t want to stifle creativity. Sometimes low angle shots can add drama to an image or highlight a beautiful background.
If I’m shooting a low angle with a curvy client, I will usually ask them to angle their face to the side and upward. It helps add drama and is a more flattering to the face.
This professional photographer go-to tip has actually produced some of the worst, most ridiculous headshots of me. The idea is that the farther you lean forward, the less your double chin will show. Yes, this is true, but everything in moderation, my friends.
Some photographers had me lean so far forward that I was practically toppling over. It felt silly and wasn’t surprising when the images looked equally silly!
It’s true that you should lean towards the camera for your portraits, especially in a professional headshot. It is more flattering and also creates engagement between the subject and the viewer. Leaning back can emphasize a double chin and look awkward and detached.
The trick, however, is a subtle lean forward. You should not feel (or actually be) toppling over. If you are still trying to eliminate double chin, see tip one about the higher angle. It’s better for the photographer to be almost on top of you looking down than for you to be leaning too far forward.
The “S” Curve and Movement
Classically trained portrait photographers are taught that you should try to create an “S” curve when posing women. You may think your body resembles a different letter of the alphabet and I’d 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 careful placement of hands and arms. Try touching your hair, your bra strap, or wrapping an arm around your waist.
If you are an apple-shaped person, it can be a bit more challenging. My best advice is to put on a flowy dress and dance! Movement in a dress will create beautiful lines every time. It’s my favorite thing to have my clients do.
If you aren’t into flowy dresses, that’s fine. Movement is still a great way to create flattering visual interest.
This is what I mean when I talk about being taken care of by your photographer. Unless you are specifically doing an artsy or editorial session during which things are supposed to unfold more organically, your photographer should be paying attention to details like how your hair is falling, if your jewelry is crooked, and if your clothing is askew. This is where I felt the most let down in some of my own headshots.
The heavier I was, the less attention was paid to the details – as if the photographer was just trying to take photos that were “good enough” without taking the extra care they might take with a street size client.
Hear this! Your photographer should be fussing over you and if you are not comfortable being touched in that way, they can direct you on how to fix these things yourself.
You deserve this kind of care in a photo session.
Hair and Make Up Make a World of Difference!
I get it. You’ve spent a good bit of money on this session and the idea of paying another $200 for hair and makeup seems daunting. I’ve made these exact same deductions. But I’m telling you – if you aren’t great at doing your own hair and makeup, have it done professionally.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve created gorgeous portraits of my clients only to have them tell me they wish they had gotten their hair professionally styled. I can do a lot in Photo Shop, but I can’t give you a different hairstyle.
Go all in. You won’t regret it and you deserve it.
Communication is Key
I’m not giving you all of this information so you can go out there and boss your photographer around. Photographers are artists honing their craft. They have ideas and visions and various degrees of experience.
But, once you’ve done your research and booked them, you need to find a balance between trusting their instincts and also taking charge of the session for which you are spending good money.
Discuss your concerns ahead of time. Be clear about what you hope to get from your images and what your insecurities are in a respectful manner.
You chose them for a reason, so don’t micro-manage everything they do. But don’t be afraid to speak up during your session. It’s better to address concerns while you still have shooting time left than after you get disappointing images. Just keep your suggestions in the spirit of collaboration instead of criticism.
Regardless of size, we all have feelings about how we look in photos. Whether you are body positive, or still working through insecurities, we are all human. Give yourself grace and don’t let it stop you from booking the session.
The photography industry has played a role in how we see our bodies and the plus size community has been largely left in the shadows of professional media.
But ladies, we deserve to shine.
About Our Guest Author:
Robin Dayley (she/her) has been a portrait and wedding photographer for 20+ years. Currently a San Diego resident, she also services Philadelphia, Delaware, and Maryland. You can check out her weddings and family portraits via her other brand, Dayley Photography. Robin loves spending free time volunteering with dog rescues which you can follow on Instagram @rescuedogphotog. She is a political activist and a high-functioning introvert.