Friday, 2 July 2010

Do you hate being photographed? (3)

Preparing for Posterity
... with candid photographs

This post:  Clothes & Make-up

These notes are aimed at both the overweight person (generally – but not exclusively - a woman) who detests being photographed, and the frustrated non-professional photographer who is keen to capture an image of someone who won’t let them...  However, if you are the one who fears being captured on camera, you need to understand all these points and get the photographer to cooperate with you.  You have to be proactive in ensuring that you get the most flattering result possible.  It really isn’t difficult.
There are plenty of overweight people who don’t mind being photographed, and I’m not going to insult them by telling them what they should do when a camera hoves into view.  Nor do I claim to be very good at candids - but I can see how it should be done, and I have tried to achieve it when called upon to do so.
Being photographed when you’re feeling self-conscious doesn’t need to be a horrifying prospect.  Instead of regretting one day in the future that you weren’t brave enough to allow an image of you to be taken recording how you looked at the time, please take the trouble to read these notes.   You can’t be expected to remember all these little tricks – but at least if as you go along you recognise that each one makes sense, you will remember quite a few, and reap the rewards when you apply them.
These are NOT beauty tips – what do I know anyway! I don’t claim to apply them always to myself either; I’m merely passing on as a photographer what I have observed (a) through the lens and (b) later by looking at the results with a totally dispassionate eye.  It’s not rocket science; there are practical ways to ensure you look attractive in a photograph no matter what size you are. 

For this post to be useful I need to be practical and matter-of-fact and this is what I’ve come up with.  I was surprised that I didn’t have more pictures to cover each point, and have then remembered that it’s because I’ve handed over negatives/slides to the subjects at the time (I know, mistake).  There are clearly not enough images to illustrate what I’m telling you because it would have involved showing you what not to do as a comparison, and I would hate to upset any former subjects who might see this blog.  So I have had to stick myself in here and there.

Wear a decent bra and a flattering top.  If your chest is one of your good features, then draw attention to it by choosing the right top – gathered under the breasts for example, fabric crossed tightly over them, plunging V neck (with modesty panel if preferred, which is also flattering).
(I don’t enjoy including a 2007 pic of myself, but unfortunately it does illustrate that an open top with panel across works; as does ensuring I was only captured from chest upwards by kneeling on an armchair and leaning on the back.  However, I'll be suggesting in the next post that you avoid flash where possible, which can be cruel...)

Use low cut square neck with the corners as close as possible to your shoulders, or boat neck.  White collars are good for framing the face…

…frills are bad because they make a big bust look even bigger.  Good uplift essential, even if it’s not that comfortable...  Ensure that if bright colours are to be worn, they are confined to the upper half of the body only.
As far as the colour of the skin versus the colour of clothes worn on the upper half of the body, these are general guidelines for colour portraits –
(a)  Very pale skin = dark colours;
(b)   Some colour = pastel and medium bright (very bright colours would draw attention away from your face);
(bright clothes would have detracted from the radiance
of this subject's expression)

(c)  Suntanned = strong colours;
(d)  Dark skin = almost anything, although brilliant white can make the contrast too great;
(e)  You also need to know which colours suit your face colouring and which don’t. 
(1)  Round necklines which increase the apparent width of your neck (i.e. the classic T-shirt for example), as do choker type necklaces;
(2)  Tops with horizontal stripes;
(Argh... 1994.  After I saw this picture I never wore my Argentine rugby shirt again...)

(3)  Strappy little numbers that show your upper arms;
(4)  Light or bright coloured or bold patterned trousers and skirts;
(5) If you’re the subject, and a redhead, forget and put out of your mind for evermore the idea that any shade of purple, lilac, pink, orange and red are close enough to your hair colour to match (though beige/brown is OK).   If you like wearing them, fine, but in a photo you’re inviting viewers to not look at your face at all.  The general rule for people with ‘hot’ colouring to grab one’s attention is contrast - and this also applies to people with very pink skin, or sunburn -  use cool shades against the skin;
(6) Hats:  a word or two about being heavy and photographed wearing a hat:  “Don’t” and “toadstool” come to mind.  The only time it works is when it’s a close-up of your face only, framed by the hat and with some secondary source of light reflected back into it – such as a white top, or a red hat – both of which can make the face glow.
Marina can afford to break a few rules - she's slim

Use of makeup is good when you’re being photographed as part of a group, and you are therefore smaller in the frame; it makes the viewer seek out your face.  For close-ups it’s good for masking any imperfections.  Eye make-up is particularly effective as it concentrates attention on the so-called ‘windows of the soul’, the most important element by far of a candid portrait.
Next post:  Sources of Light, Posing, Shooting angles, Getting the right expression… and the single most important thing you can do for yourself to get a decent portrait.
Photo Finish -
from Lonicera's non-digital archive


tessierose said...

Great tips...and you are so funny..."don't and toadstool!" you crack me up. Have a great weekend.

Zanna said...

Another fascinating post - and those pictures at the end - special favourites - the lavender and the ear of corn - awesome! Have a great weekend Zxx

Sandy Lee said...

Great ideas. I need to get my picture taken more often. Part of history. Funny but I noticed the hate thing on the Queen when she was visiting. She still looked great and many of the photos were close up. She did look a bit portly when they did a pan back. But then she is the Queen and we are still in awe of her.

Tracey said...

Hi Caroline, thank you so much for your beautifully encouraging comments on my blog. Not just the latest one, but every single one you have ever made! I really appreciate the time taken to comment, and I am going to try and learn from you and comment more often. It only takes a moment to contribute, but I know personally, how much it means to the blogger. It sort of validates your post doesn't it?

Anyway, thanks so much and I do enjoy your blog, so very very much. When I have some time this afternoon when Kitty is asleep, I am going to photography 101 from your Thanks for posting, don't stop!


Lonicera said...

I've really enjoyed having to think about all this, and writing it down. I must admit I was a bit dismayed to realise that I couldn't illustrate my points with pictures of overweight people (except for ones of me) both because it would be a violation of trust, and that I've usually given away the negatives or the slides themselves to the subjects I photographed.

Thank you so much for the kind remarks. Sandy, I've tried to look up on Google what kind of remarks were being made about the Queen in Canada, but couldn't find! Presumably because she was 'portly'?? What the hell, if I look like that in my eighties I'll put two fingers up at whoever says it!

Thanks for the comment Tracey, I'm so glad you're continuing to blog, and have been admiring your new layout this evening. And you're quite right about the comments to a post - it can encourage or guide you in the right direction for the next one sometimes.

Thank you all.


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