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How to Pose People in Photos So They Look Lean and Tall

Give your subjects the look they want with these 10 tips
Photo of posing tips

If you’ve ever taken someone’s photo, you’ve likely heard this request: “Whatever you do, don’t make me look fat!” And it’s sometimes asked in conjunction with this demand: “And don’t make me look short either!”

While you can’t do anything to physically change someone’s weight or stature, there are a few things you can do as a photographer to make your subject look slimmer or taller. We’ve covered this topic before in a previous tutorial that was popular with Digital Photo readers, and now here’s another great video on the same subject.

The below posing advice is from pro photographer Gia Goodrich who says it’s not only for photographers, but also for people who don’t like how they look in photos. These tips, she says, can change the subject’s negative photographic experience and, more importantly, produce more pleasing results.

“Don’t hide from photos. If you’re worried about looking to big and feeling like you can never find the right angle and pose, don’t worry I’ve got you covered,” Goodrich says. “If you’re a photographer who loves making pictures, totally. But, if you haven’t had a chance to learn about posing, it means that some of your pictures will be amazing, and others will flop. You need to know how to pose in pictures.”

Here are Goodrich’s ten tips to pose people so they look lean and tall in photos.

#1 Deemphasize Parts of the Body

“The first rule in posing to know is anything that is closer to the camera is going to look bigger and anything further away is going to look smaller,” Goodrich says. “This really comes in handy where you have people with bodies where there are parts, they want to emphasize versus deemphasize. So put any part that you want to deemphasize further away from the camera.”

#2 Engage Their Hands

“People are going to be totally awkward with their hands and giving them options is always a great way to go. I love photographing people with pockets because if they’re nervous and awkward, that is a great way to get their hands engaged and get their arms and everything under control.”

#3 Pose from the Bottom Up

“I always pose from the bottom up because once you have somebody’s body language dialed in, then you can address the face. But if you try if you try to adjust the face [first], then you might be moving them around lower, and it all falls apart real quick.”

#4 Correct Their Posture

“The key is to have them pull up from the base of the spine. So what I will say is, and I will go like this: ‘Pretend there’s a string right here and pull up through the base of your spine.’ Now what everybody does is they will lift their shoulders and you will say: ‘Drop the shoulders.’ ”

#5 Put Them on an Axis

“Anything that’s square to the camera is going to be experienced in its full width. With a lot of people, they don’t want their full width to be experienced. So a lot of what you’ll be doing is putting them on an axis.”

#6 Tighten Their Abdominal Wall

“I never say suck in your stomach because when somebody does that they go, oof, and all of a sudden their breath is gone and there’s tension through here. What you want to say is: ‘Tighten your abdominal wall.’ Everybody knows that. It’s the feeling of doing a crunch.”

#7 Give Them Little Motions

“A lot of times I will say is ‘Face this corner and rotate to me.’ Then I’ll have them do that a few times. The more they do that, the more relaxed they’ll get.”

#8 Chin to Shoulder

“The other secret to body language is connecting the chin to the shoulder. This really comes into play when you’re dealing with a tighter frame. The key to that is not only dialing in the upper body and the lower body but it’s also curling yourself up.”

#9 Accentuate Curves

“The other trick that I love is how to accentuate a curve in somebody’s hip and really make the eye go where you want. When you bring the arm straight down, it’s adding width. When you bend at the elbow and take that elbow back, it leads your eye along these curves in a really beautiful and flattering way.”

#10 Create Negative Space

“One of the most powerful things is when it comes to negative space. Again, going to this principle about maximum width. If I have my body standing like this with my hips pitched forward, I have this full width across that we’re seeing. One of the things that tells us how wide or how narrow a shape is is when we see those boundaries. The way to counterbalance that is by adding negative space.”

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