Tip 1: Clothing Matters
Let's talk about clothing. Every shoot that I ever do, as a fashion photographer but also as a portrait photographer, I discuss clothing. If you don't, you are making your job a billion times more difficult, so when I do a portrait session, I've got a little pamphlet that I send out to everyone that discusses clothing and it doesn't address if you're fuller figured, if you're, it's just saying, "here are some things to consider." This first one, I just say right out, regardless of size, shape wear, underwear makes a huge difference because in general, we don't care if someone's fuller figured or more slender, but what we notice with our eye is we notice bumps. A lot of times, what shape wear is doing is just smoothing out little lines in the skin or lines in the underwear or it's just tightening everything up. Every subject I have, I tell them to bring shape wear. If it's a really slender person, they're like, "oh, I don't have any," and I'd be like, "okay, that's fine," but the reason...
I usually tell them anyway, it's the underwear lines 'cause if I have them wearing a form-fitting dress, I don't wanna have to worry about that. It tightens, it lifts, it shapes, so I will definitely say, "make sure your undergarments are well fitted. "They're lifting and tightening, you definitely will want "to get some shape wear like Spanx." Spanx is usually what I recommend. It's industry standard, but there's a lot of other ones. This is in my pamphlet of preparing for your photo shoot, but it's in the clothing section. Let's talk about that next part. The fit of the clothing matters. I'm looking around here and a lot of women, it's today, it's a cooler day outside. It's Seattle, so par for the course, but a lot of us are wearing, like I walked in, I had a baggy sweatshirt on and a comfortable shirt as you do when you wanna be comfortable. It makes your job so much more difficult as a photographer if someone's wearing baggy clothing. Baggy clothing is basically a never with curves, never baggy. It doesn't mean that you can't have flowing, but it can't be loose because what happens is there's certain things I'm gonna show you where you can push the hips away, chest forward, things like that. If someone's got big, baggy clothing, none of that is visible. All the changes you make for the posing are hidden by the baggy clothing. This is what the girl showed up in. If I saw her walking down the street, I'm not gonna say that's a bad outfit. She's fine, however, it's hiding a lot of her shape. I don't think you would tell that the body on the right was in the clothing on the left. It's that form fitting that allows me to actually pose and change her shape. There's a couple things. You wanna do form-fitting clothing. I'm gonna talk about the shape of the clothing as well, but let me just pop into why this outfit works, for example, for her. One of the things is you want to avoid things that make somebody look from left to right. Lines or detail from left to right or poofy shoulders that would make you look from left to right because that's emphasizing width. What works with her is her plunging neckline brings our eye down and then our eye actually meets her legs so it's a strong vertical line which is sometimes recommended if somebody has a scoop neck or they don't have a longer neckline that you wear longer necklaces 'cause that longer necklace is what brings the eye down. You're trying to vertical lines. There's an outfit later that one of my subject has that has a zipper up the front. It works great 'cause it's a nice vertical line. Avoid side to side, look for up and down. But another thing, and you guys probably can't quite see this, but the dress is gathered a little bit at the waist and we're gonna talk about waist in depth. But that's one of the things for curves that we want to create in some way. We don't care whether someone's a size two or a size or anything in between, but we generally prefer some definition in the waist somehow. That could be from posing, that could be from an accessory, but a lot of times, it might just be the little gathering of the dress that just defines it here and it brings the eye to the waist instead of lower on the midsection. So there's some suggestions that we can take a look at for clothing. The next part of this is, I have often, I clamp the entire back of my subject's outfit. I've got the mini A clamps, those little clamps because if it's loose and then they pose forward and it covers, I'm clamping everything. Definitely do that. If the camera can't see it, it doesn't matter and it looks better. Taking a look here, I've got the girl basically in the exact same pose. I did it for a reason. It's not meant to be an amazing pose and it's not meant to be the best outfit in the world, but let's take a look at the difference I'm seeing. Here, I can see the outsides of her body, so if I wanna curve and create shape, I can see it. No matter what I do here, it's just gonna be covered in her sweater, so that's gonna be a problem. The next thing is your eye goes to contrast. A place where you see contrast is right here. The contrast that you have is from her shirt to her jeans. The problem with that is it's right on her widest part. It's on her hips, so if you're going for contrast you usually want it more at the waist to define. So not right here, which means if I've got a curvier subject, I'm not putting their hands in their pockets usually 'cause that's saying, "look right here." And I'm avoiding shirts that have frill or special detail on the bottom 'cause that says, "look right here." I'm noticing that in that outfit. The shirt is fine because of the form-fittedness, but then we've just hidden everything. A note on this, there's a difference between form-fitting and too tight and that's the line that a lot of people don't know, so I always have people text me pictures of the clothing, always. "Hey, can you send me some pictures of some outfits "that you were planning on wearing," and then I say, "okay, great. "So I can prepare for my hair and makeup or whatever, "can you send me a picture of those two outfits on?" I pick the two so I can see how it fits. Every shoot I ever do I include hair and makeup and I'm gonna recommend this to everyone, if you can get to that point, it makes all the difference in the world 'cause when you walk into the session, you already feel strong, you already feel confident, you already feel beautiful, which means, for you to work with someone who already feels strong and confident and beautiful, their posture changes. The way they carry themselves change, but it also gives me that excuse to say, "I need to see your clothes "and I need to see it on 'cause we're gonna talk "about hair and makeup," and it makes it a really easy transition there. Let's take a look at this outfit. Neither one of these is right or wrong. They're just emphasizing different things. Taking a look at the picture on the left, notice the belt that she has creates her waist. It emphasizes her waist. In the blue, her chest looks much fuller, but you do see the shadow underneath her stomach. With lighting, I could bounce a reflector in there and try to eliminate it, or I could work on posing so it's a little less noticeable. But I still think she looks great. Picture on the right, that problem of the shadow is completely gone and she's got that nice vertical line of the zipper, up and down, so your eye goes that way, but notice that her chest looks a little smaller. It kinda depends. I do wanna make sure you know that although I think a lot of the outfits I have today are black, that's not 'cause I'm like, "oh, you're fuller figured. "Wear black." It's not the case I'm saying at all, but for posing's sake, it's easier to have something that's solid and simple for you to see how posing affects it. I definitely have subjects in all different colors. Let's keep going into clothing. The question that you need to ask yourself is where does the eye go in the clothing because you can use that to your advantage to draw attention to things that are strengths and then perhaps downplay things that are weaknesses. For example, taking a look at the left. How I would break it down is the necklace brings your eye down. The V brings your eye down. The contrast here creates a waist, so really what you get is you've got an hourglass that it creates. That's what you're paying attention to. Over here, I'd basically have a rectangle. She's got a waist, but then I've got this other contrast at the hips which is her widest part, so it's drawing attention to there. Taking a look at this, that's basically what you're eye does. You're trying to pay attention, can I create vertical lines or is this making the person look wider and boxier? This, add to your list. This is where you look, and this doesn't mean you can't use these things. It's know how to use them. Your eye is drawn to patterns which means you can use patterns, just put them where you want the eye to go and don't put them where you don't want the eye to go. The next part would be lines of any sort. Your eyes are going to look at them, whether it's vertical or horizontal, so you use them appropriately. The next one is going to be lace or textured detail. For example, if you really want to show off a woman's bust, you could have a top with a little bit of lace and you'll look right there or you have the little lace undershirt. Great, but if you have it on the sleeves, you eye is going to look and it makes them look wider and you're going to be looking at the arms. So if the arms are a little bit wider, it's drawing attention there, or if you have lace at the bottom of the shirt but it's cutting right across the hips, that doesn't really work. But maybe right around here does. You use it as appropriate. Next thing I said was contrast which just means can we contrast of color, contrast of texture, anything where there's a change, your eye looks at it. You can't help it. Then the very last part is rich or bold colors draw your eye. I'm just gonna take a look. This next slide, I've got the same pose of the same woman, it's just an illustration, all the way across, but each one is a different outfit and your eye goes to drastically different places. Taking a look here, let's go to the first one. Your eye goes to bright colors, so you're going to look more at the lower part of her body. This can be good or bad. For a curvy woman, maybe if you're trying to downplay the midsection, maybe you don't want a pattern up there. However, let's say she really likes her butt a lot. You put a big, bright bold color there and you stick it out and she loves it. My point is, different people have different things they like about themselves and you can absolutely use that to your advantage. You just have to know that it makes a difference. Next one over, contrast. You're looking at that shoulder because that's the contrast in the shot. Next one, you've got that strong V, that's where you're looking. You were looking at that line. Next one over, bright colored patterns, you're looking at the shirt. The other ones, they're all doing the hourglass shape. The next three are acceptable for the typical hourglass. And then all the way on the right, that bright pattern, you're looking right at her midsection 'cause there's not a waist or a plunging neckline to draw you. It's just you get stuck in the pattern. You have this as a reference in case you're looking at an outfit and you're just not quite sure where the eye's going, see which one of these are being utilized. For example, broad stripes on her body. She's got a scoop neck so it keeps me up and then everything across. There's nothing that brings me down or creates a curve. We're gonna revisit this outfit later for seeing an improvement, but typically, you wanna avoid lots of horizontal lines, especially if there's not something to break it up. If you had a belt, break it up a little bit. Plunging neckline would break it up a little bit. A slit in the leg would break it up a little bit. A long necklace would break it up, but now, it's just, you get stuck there. This next outfit, she's got a belt to create a waist, a plunging neckline to draw your eye down, all useful tools. Here's other things that I like. When I said, "watch out for patterns," I told you I didn't mean that you can't put a curvier subject in patterns. I don't want you to think that you put them all in black. In this case, she's got quite a bold pattern and bright color, but we've got plunging neckline that brings your eye down, long necklaces that bring your eye down, a slit, which connects that. A gathering at the waist which creates a waist, so I've got a lot of those elements. Or the next girl over. When I say form-fitting, I don't mean it's gotta be tight from head to toe, but it shouldn't be baggy. Just not baggy and not too tight. Make it fit the body. Here, you saw her outfit earlier, I'll do a lot where it's form-fitted to here and then it's loose because maybe if it's not clinging to the stomach, it helps you out with posing. It helps you out with problem areas, so I'm a big fan of having something that leads the eye down, where it's form-fitted to the waist, where there's a defined waist, maybe a band or some kind of contrast like you see here, and then you could go looser. And then you can play with that and then you can have movement. So, this girl, this is the girl that was size 18 to 20. Lace brings you up so you're not looking at midsection as much. Plunging neckline brings you down. Oh, contrast at the waist, not at the hips. You'll see this over and over and over again. This is one of our subjects for today and when she came in this is what she was wearing. If I saw her walking down the street like this, it's fine. I'm not gonna be like, "oh god." This clothing is totally fine. The problem is, it's going to be a little bit harder for me to pose because everything is very, very loose, so no matter what I do, if she moves to the side and leans forward, it's not gonna do anything for me. She's got some pattern, but again, there's nothing different at the waist. At least the pattern is vertical. It leaves a little bit of the neck, but I think I get stuck, so you'll see we've got her in some different outfits that give me a little bit more to work with. This is fine for everyday, not fine for portraits and non-photographers don't know that. It's your job to tell them this. That is my very first thing to get you started off. That's tip number one is that you have to pay attention to clothes. You have to discuss it. If you don't, your job is infinitely more difficult.
What about if they have a big, gaudy ring or a large bracelet? Can you use that to your advantage as well?
Sure, okay, so hands in general. In general, hands in posing are arrows. They say, "look here." Wherever you place the hand, your eye, you can't help but look there, so if I put my hand to my chest, it's saying, "look right here, everybody." Or if I put my hand on the waist, I'm saying, "oh, look, I have a waist." The answer is yes, wherever you use hands, your eyes will look there and then jewelry, just keep it classy. (laughs) If it's really gaudy, try some with and then say, "oh, let's just remove that." It depends on the shots. And just related to this, though, while we're on that topic of resources, there's a website that I recommend everyone check out that's called, there's two. First one's called Gwynnie Bee. What that is is that is a clothing rental site for curved subjects, plus size subjects, fuller figured subjects, whatever you wanna call it. On this site, there's a lot of clothing that you could have someone rent for photo shoots, but it's even better than that, just speaking of resources, if you go to that site, they have a way for your subjects, there's a blog post, there's a whole section, for your subjects to analyze their size, their body type, and then it recommends all the clothing that will look good on them. You can actually measure yourself, you plug in, and it tells you the ratios. Based on this, you are this type of body and these are all outfits that will look good on you and it makes your job a lot easier. That's Gwynnie Bee. The dress that I have on today, this is from Rent the Runway. Rent the Runway lets you rent, most of the dresses I wear just because I don't want to wear them too many times on CreativeLive, but anyway, they rent dresses, I believe, it depends on the particular dress, but they rent up to size 32, so they've got a long range. Most of the dresses, there's a good range that goes up into the low 20s. What that means, though, is a lot of women, who perhaps don't have the nicer, dressier clothing 'cause they don't have the occasion for it, but it would look great for a photo shoot, you can get it there. Just know dresses range from about $50 to $200 to rent, something like that, but I would definitely check it out. Some beautiful dresses there as well. The next option on this is you can make dresses. Remember how I said I form-fitting and then it could floof out below? Well, the floof out below could be a tulle dress. Tulle dresses are nothing to make. You can just take a sash and then take pieces of tulle and tuck it in and you have a tulle dress, but the top of the body could be a bodysuit. There's a lot of undergarment for curvier subjects that actually are bodysuits to lift, but it looks a dress, it looks like a top 'cause it's got some detail. Or you could wrap tulle over and over again and have a form-fitted top. You can rent things, you can advise them to do from their own closet, or you could make something. It all depends on where you fit. The last thing before I bring out my models for a second would be, oh, I have one more question online. My outfit, for example, what do you see in my outfit? You've got plunging neckline creates a vertical line, I've got contrast at my waist, but also these black cutouts make me look more slender 'cause your body only perceives this center part, or your eye only perceives that center part is my body and then it poofs back out. It does hourglass shape. This is how I all trick you into thinking I look so good. (laughs) It's the same concept, it's just you have to use it for photo shoots. I think there was a question online. "I once had a subject coming in with an outfit "that was a bit too tight. "In my case, it was the jacket. "Do I have some handy tip for what to do "if there's any chance when there's no second outfit "at hand?" Two things that I recommend. I actually, in my studio, keep several plain black dresses in a bunch of different sizes. I know that doesn't really help you if you're saying you don't have anything available, but I have them in a couple different sizes and then if I've got something bigger, I can clip it and I can make it fit. I also have a couple different corseted outfits. Corset tops because guess what? I can have the strings wide open in the back and then you can't tell and it's going to fit but have a really nice detail in the front. If it's too tight in the case of the jacket, you can't really zip it, so what I would do is if they have a jacket on, pose that their hand holds it so you can't tell that it's open a little bit, but if the hand's here at the waist, it puts the eye into the waist and what it'll do is it cinches the jacket at the waist so it gives you the impression of an hourglass created by that. A lighter shirt under with a darker shirt above, or a darker jacket, creates an hourglass. They need to hold it. Or take a piece of black ribbon and tie it and make it look like a belt. That was actually one of the earlier on, one of the examples. We had taken a big piece of ribbon and just tied it as a belt for the woman 'cause when she posed and leaned forward, the jacket opened up and then she looks wide again, so we tied it and made it look like it was on purpose. Alright, lovely ladies. Will you come just stand out here really briefly? Remember how I said they don't have to wear black? They don't, okay? Just reiterating, I'm not saying that everyone needs to wear black. This is just going to be for this demonstration. We have Sherry and Maggie here. They are our models for today. Just taking a look at a couple things. In our lovely Sherry's outfit here, take a look. Plunging neckline, looks nice, with it having a definition at the waist, and then it spreads out loosely at the bottom. It doesn't mean that I can't have her in something more form-fitting, but what I like is I can do little movements of the dress and I think it makes it look more like a fashion shoot when you can have some movement. That's gonna work great. Something that we'll talk about later is mergers, when things blend in. Since she has the long black sleeves, I'm just gonna warn you, when you long black sleeves, you have to be more careful about where you place the arms because you won't be able to tell the difference from the arms and the body, which will make them look wider, so just know that that's coming. Maggie, same thing. It doesn't have to be a very plunging neckline. Even if it's a scoop, it can't be up here 'cause that makes this all look wider. She's got the neckline there and it's not like there's a big divider, it's just a little bit more defined at the waist. The reason that this is going to be great is if I want to show curve and I wanna really create curve, that type of form-fitting is perfect for showing and emphasizing curve. This is more for showing movement and making it easier for someone that, if they're more insecure about their body, a little bit flowier is easier. Just a little bit more form-fitting is gonna allow me to get the posing super curvy.