Big Face : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I need some old-school rules-of-thumb on the issue of photographing people who are a bit heavy in the cheeks and jowls. I'm doing heads and heads-and-shoulders and I have a couple friends coming in soon who are very pretty but do not suffer from anorexia nervosa.... Lighting? Movements? Angles? Orientation of the pose? I don't want to try and make a spade look like a magic wand but I don't want it to look like a dirty shovel either. Thanks. -jeff buckels (albuquerque)

-- jeff buckels (, April 17, 2002


I just did an 8x10 portrait session with my 75 year old mother who is both overweight and has a double chin. I had her sitting in a chair and shot from above to minimize the heavier features. The chair and her body were facing camera left, with her face turned toward the camera. This made the shoulder facing the camera loom a bit large so I used a touch of rear swing to minimize it a bit. I also put a bar stool in front of her (like a posing table) and she put her elbows on the stool and held her chin in her hands to cover the doubleness. She has lovely hands and they looked beautiful. I shot TMAX 100 and Polaroid 804 with a 450 showing head and shoulders.

I would also suggest dark clothing and a dark background to minimize the body appearance. You may want a bit of a hair light to separate dark hair from the background.

As for lighting, I used a fairly flat approach because I like that but you might also try something more directional. For example, in my mother's case I could have used a ratio or one of the standard techniques that would be stronger on the face (camera left) and weaker on the shoulder and back side.

Check out Monte Zucker's site as he has lots of posing and lighting tutorials that include suggestions for shooting heavy subjects.

-- Peter Shier (, April 17, 2002.

Two simple things are to avoid shooting them squared up and head on, and don't let them lean back. Leaning a bit forward and turning to face the camera is much better. But also, go with the flow. I remember twenty years ago doing an annual report photo of a company CEO who hated having his picture taken. The PR guys were worried about the shoot and kept warning me the guy was heavy. In fact, he was nearly a giant, way over six foot tall and easily 250 pounds. So I placed him in a setting where he *looked* huge and imposing, dominating the room like an old Irish chieftain (his name was Flannery). He loved the picture and I had a steady gig every fall for the next six or eight years

-- Carl Weese (, April 17, 2002.

In photoshop, put a selection box around the area that displeases, choose "free transform" and gently squeeze until the desired years and pounds disappear. Don't forget to brighten the highlights in the eyes for added "sparkle"

-- Jim Galli (, April 17, 2002.

You may have already thought of it, but don't do this job without polaroids. You'll have to play around with positions, you might consider starting with 3/4 pose(halfway between straight on and profilte) with the key coming from the same direction. That eliminates one cheek, and the key coming from an angle will give you a nice'fall off' on the other cheek facing the camera. Try the 3/4 pose either left or right, it doesn't make any difference.

Are these men or women? With women you can play around with hairdos, wafting hair over the cheeks, can narrow or deemphasize large or big or fat cheeks. Dark clothes or black clothes tend to disguise the issue of weight and elimnate another frame of reference for the viewer of the image to say 'this individual is heavy'.

The way a person dresses and wears their hair can say 'heavy' or 'fat', so their might be some issues there, explain that what they wear in real life doesn't always photograph well. You should as diplomatically as possible explain the situation to them so that they understand that you'll be trying a lot of things that may take additional time. If you're taking the additional time in trying to play down the weight and they're expecting the shoot to take five minutes then you'll have a problem. You'll need to talk all this through so everybody has the same expectations.

Dark clothes, turlenecks or a high starched collar which covers a up thick or fat neck, maybe darkrer backrounds if you want to demphasize their outlines, a little less fill if you want to darken and/or demphasize certain areas, you've got a lot of cards to play, especially since you control the lights. Light what you want to be seen, leave dark what you don't want to emphasize.

Good luck

-- Jonathan Brewer (, April 17, 2002.

Short lighting.

I picked up one of the Magic Lantern guides (called 101 Tricks, or something like that), and read about how to use short lighting to take pounds off of subjects and turn the photographer into a hero/heroine. They had example photographs, and the difference between the short- and broad-lit photographs was amazing. I would suggest that you check out the book.

-- Matthew Runde (, April 17, 2002.

Why hide the truth? I know as a society we always prefer a comfortabel lie than the terrible truth, but it doesn't have to be this way in photography. Fact is we're a nation of obese slobs. If we "let it all hang out" in real life, why not have the pictures show it like it is? Ah, because the client is paying you to prop up a bogus illusion of self? I suppose satsifying the client is a legitimate goal, but my lens screams for the truth!

I've thought a lot about shooting for a book called "Obesity in America," which would be a celebration of all those beer guts and super-wide loads.

-- hyper (, April 17, 2002.

A photograph is incapable of telling the truth, a photographic image gives a version of something, framing cuts out everything but a slice of the truth, and picking a lens, aperture, film, processing, and print paper 'colors' that slice to where it is always going to be different than what was originally there.

People in general do not pay for nor do they want a 'butt ugly' close-up of every pore, pimple, puss bump, wild hairs, wrinkles, and zit that becomes obvious when you close in with a shot that duplicate the effect of standing in a persons space. We usually don't get that close to people to see that kind of detail, except for close friends and loved ones.

Photojournalism is something else, a shot going for every single bit of detail is something else, but if you're doing that kind of shot hyper, you better make sure the client/subject knows what you're going for, or else they're going to be in for a shock!

You've actually touched on what can sometimes be the hard part of portrait photography, figuring out/understanding/interpreting the expectations of the client. Many clients will start out by telling you they want a straight photograph, and will show you another photograph indicating what they want, you look at the photograph and it's obvious the phtographer used diffusion.

Don't get me wrong, clients aren't shy about telling you what they want, but you need to be dead on regarding what they really mean. When you do a portrait for somebody you not working for you, you're working for them, it's not what you want, it's what they want.

Fat in front of your eyes many timeslooks different than fat in front of the lens, and in terms of trying to make somebody look their best, you play the weak spots and play up a persons strong point. Most people pay you to help them look their best so that they can hang the results up on the wall, send to relatives and friends. If you're shooting for yourself that's different.

If you no not care care to do this type of thing, so be it, we should all pursue the kind of photography we believe in, but no image can tell the truth. Whatever you shoot, there is also an infrared version, and ultraviolet version, and x-ray version, there are several different realities for that shot.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, April 17, 2002.

I only have two portrait I use for most people and the other for really ugly people.Purely subjective decision on my part on which lens will do in a given situation. Just kidding!!!

-- Emile de Leon (, April 17, 2002.

I sure hope that your clients aren't in the habit of reading this forum.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, April 17, 2002.

Howdy Jeff, the info is from scott smiths web site- the round face.

Lighting the round face Back to Top

I would like to solicit your recommendations on how to light and pose a person with a round face so that they look thinner? Thanks for your input! Ky

Dear Ky: When you have a portrait subject who has a round face there are a number of things you can do to help the situation. A slightly higher than normal camera position will help make the face look a bit smaller in the lower part of the face which is where most facial roundness is observed. Always use short lighting for this type of portrait because it slenderizes. It is also helpful to avoid poses that place the face looking straight into the camera position. Have the subject turn their head a bit and look back toward the camera. Finally, use a ratio that is a bit heavier than usual. That is to say, make the shadow side of the face just a bit darker than you might typically do. The more you light of the face, the more attention you call to it. When you light less of the face, it will appear smaller because the eye sees less of it. Your main light can be a number if different types and still be successful. You can do what you need to do with a small, medium or larger light source. Medium to large will give you the most flattering look. A stronger ratio is in order to darken the shadow side of the face just a bit more than usual to draw less attention to it. In addition, you should adjust your background to be about the same tonality as the shadow side of the face to again draw less attention to it. This would definitely fall into the darker category. Light backgrounds show the full shape and size of a subject. Not usually a good idea. Draw less attention to an area by blending it into a background with a similar tonal value. I donít wish to confuse you about my different method of determining a ratio. Rather than making you calculate the amount of light coming from each light, I prefer to have you take specific meter readings with the dome of your meter pointed toward the main light and again with it pointed at the fill light but shielded from the main light. It is very important to have all of your light operating so you will take your readings under the same conditions that will exist when you create your portrait. The difference in these two reading will give you the simple difference in brightness of each side of the face. For a portrait like you are talking about, a three stop difference or even a bit more is in order. Donít get confused and think that this is the same as a 3 to 1. It is not. This is purely a difference which is much simpler to think about. For most photographers, ratios were never very much fun to calculate. Hope all goes well for you.

-- miles feigenbaum (, April 18, 2002.

DO NOT USE A SHORT OR WIDE ANGLE LENS! Use the longest lens that you have in your arsenal or RENT a long lens. practice with a neighbor or friend prior to your subjects showing up if possible. good luck! m.

-- miles feigenbaum (, April 18, 2002.

A few thoughts about what's been mentioned about ratios......the correct way of figuring out a ratio between your key light and fill light is to calculate the key + fill to fill.

Make you fill light half the intensity of your key and you have a lighting ration of 3 to 1 NOT 2 to 1. Illustrating this in another manner, set the intensity of you key at 100 units, your fill at 50 units, that's a total of 150 units hitting the face(except in the shadow area created by the key). The shadow area is illuminated only by the 50 units of your fill light. 150 units(key + fill) to 50 units(shadows lit by fill) or 3 to 1.

If you want 3 to 1 just turn on your key and set the intensity you want and then turn on keylight off. Turn on your fill-light and set that intesity to half of your key, you now have a ratio of 3 to 1. If you want to play around with this ration just raise or lower you fill, simple as that.

Regarding the above thread which mentions the issue of a lighting ratio that involves a difference of three stops between your key and fill, maybe something has gone over my head. A three stop difference between your key and fill means that one light is putting out 12% of the intensity of the other so you've lost me on this point. Maybe I'm reading that thread the wrong way.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, April 18, 2002.

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