How to photograph big men

It’s not about vanity

Whether we are prepared to admit it or not, we’d all prefer to look good in our photos and headshots. It has nothing to do with vanity as some would suggest, it’s just a fact of life.

Fortunately the truth is, that we all have something beautiful in us, whether we’re tall, short, overweight or skinny. Beauty is not always in the shape of the body, it can be found in a smile, in the eyes or sometimes it’s just an attitude. The challenge for the photographer, is to capture this beauty using a medium which is basically made up of millions of fine dots (pixels) on a screen or a piece of paper. For that reason, some people hate having their photos taken because they fear that it will not look good.

A trained photographer however will take the time do discover each person’s unique attraction and highlight that attraction. At the same time look for ways to play down the less flattering features.

When photographing big men for example, there are various things to look out for. Unlike women, men tend to carry the excess weight around their chin (hence the double chin!) and around their waist and arms.

“The camera can be very kind to you or it can be very cruel,

it depends on how you use it”

Men generally look good when they have a triangular torso and a strong jaw, two things difficult to achieve when they carry excess weight. So, how can a photographer make big men look good in their photo?

The illusion created by colour

Well there are a few things that we can do. Firstly it is important to understand how colours work. The colour white reflects light so it makes an object look bigger while the colour black absorbs light and makes the same object look smaller.

In this diagram, the white rectangle appears bigger than the black, yet they are identical.

Therefore one of the easiest thing a photographer can do is, suggest to their client to wear dark clothing for their photo-shoot.

Short Lighting makes the subject thinner

The second tool that we have at our disposal is the artificial lighting available in the studio. When it comes to making a subject look thinner, shadows are our friends. Without sounding too technical, the photographer would use a technique called Short Lighting. It is a photography definition describing the direction of light in relation to the subject.

Broad Lighting on the other hand is when the broad side of the face or the side facing the camera is lit and this leaves the short side in the shadows.

Typical lighting arrangement for Short Lighting

The third technique we have at our disposal is the understanding of perspective. In a camera, the effect of perspective is magnified compared to our natural vision. This means that the closest limb or body part to the camera, will appear bigger than it looks, and the parts further away from the camera will appear smaller. Have you ever noticed those big noses when people take selfies? Well, they’re the direct result of the effect of perspective. Therefore we can use this to our advantage by placing the subject in a strategic position and the photographer shooting from a specific angle.

As you can see there are natural ways to capture someone’s best looks without having to resort to extreme retouching in Photoshop.

So, keep these tips in mind when you next update your corporate profile. Here are some additional tips on how to prepare for a photo-shoot.