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Photography Question 
Kitty  Cross

Photographing larger people

I've been messing around a little with portrait photography and I have a couple of questions in regard to photographing larger people. I understand more of less the concept of using a lens at least twice as big as the film (using a 105 lens for 35mm film for example) and I have two questions.

Does this guideline apply to digital photography? I'm shooting with a d70s these days and still feeling my way around the camera. It's still a new relationship....

Second question--are there angle/lighting/colour/contrast things that might be more flattering to a larger subject?

I discovered last night that shots taken from a stool downwards were substantially more sucessful than those taken from directly across or from the ground up. Obviously the POV has a lot to do with the result.

Any other suggestions? Maybe standing rather than sitting or a particular clothing style? I don't want to experiment too much with my friend--the actual process is already making her shy. I think if I approached her with a bit more of an idea what might work, she'd relax.

Thanks and cheers

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3/19/2006 6:31:43 AM

Nancy Grace Chen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/18/2004
  Hi Kit,

I don't have an answer for your lens/film question. But I totally agree with the concept of photographing a larger person from above. I've had a lot of success with that because it elongates the neck and avoids double chins. Photographing him/her from below does the opposite.

Also, you might want to try sidelighting him/her more... the shadowed part of the face will be more hidden, creating the illusion of slimness. Maybe not completely sidelit, but have the light hitting the face from 45 degrees on one side.

Hope that helps, and good luck!

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3/19/2006 8:08:31 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Greetings Kit: Yep, the optical principles are the same essentially, whether for film cameras or digital. And the 105mm or its equivalent in a larger format is an excellent portrait lens.

When I photograph really heavy people, I tell them to wear darker clothing without patterns, especially avoiding horizontal stripes. Vertical stripes on shirts may be ok. You need to get them to relax in front of the camera as they're usually nervous enough from having seen previous results. So make sure your posing stool, chair, etc. doesn't add to their discomfort. For guys, make sure they're really clean shaven. Beard shadows make their faces look heavier too.

As far as camera angle, unlike Nancy, I tend to shoot slightly down to the subject or straight on, rather than up but shooting downward can make the nose look elongated. Everyone is different, so setting camera angle is pretty individual. OTOH, shooting upwards and you'll likely accentuate things like multiple chins, puffy cheeks and barndoor ears. I also use softboxes, usually with fill cards at the side to gently back fill shadows without blasting them with hotter lighting that just acccentuates more soft tissue and size. Softboxes placed at 45 degrees as Nancy suggested work well for any kind of portrait lighting actually but you want to avoid the effect of illuminating the moon (as I call it) by leaving half their face in shadow. Hence the fill cards.

Lastly, get the person engaged in conversation about something they like, whether it's their kids, (ok, maybe that's not a good idea) hobbies, interests, the type of work they do and ask them lots of questions to demonstrate your interest in them. As you do that, you'll see the self consciousness fading. Oh, and if you're working off a tripod, try not to hide behind the view finder. Just set up the framing, leave it loose, focus, use about f11.0 if you can to maintain reasonable depth of field, and rock and roll.

Take it light.

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3/19/2006 9:52:27 AM

Kitty  Cross   Nancy and mark--many thanks both! I'll mess around a bit with some lights tonight to see what I can get. I gave her a guitar too, because she plays and it gave her something to concentrate on.

Just to clarify Mark, I think Nancy AGREES with you and I about shooting down (ish) rather than up.

Mark you also gave me a bit of help with something else I've been stumbling around about. It has to do with the relatiobship between photographer and subject. I've been delving into travel photography because that's what I am--a traveller. Most of my shots are with a long lens from the other side of the market square.

The idea of slowing down a little, striking up a conversation with someone about something that interests THEM is by no means new, but for some reason or other has eluded me until now. Even when you don't speak the language (my vietnamese is dreadful!) there is still room for communication.

Thanks both


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3/19/2006 12:15:27 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Hi Kit: My Vietnamese is pretty bad too, but my Spanish and English are above the norm. Any time you want to swap a few lines on street photography techniques, here or there, lemme know. I've done a lot of documentary work like that. BTW, all of it up close and personal with more than a 105mm Nikkor and usually with a 35mm either mounted on a Leica M-6 or my trusty 85mm 1.4 Nikkor on one of my (shall we say "very seasoned" Nikon F-2AS'.


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3/19/2006 4:16:24 PM


BetterPhoto Member
  Hey Mark;

Is the spanish a Chicago thing? Buenos Noches.

Have fun and keep shooting,
Mark H.

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3/20/2006 3:33:15 PM

BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/15/2004
  I've had some luck placing the person behind an object; fence rails, chairbacks, standing at a bar... the trick is to make it look natural to that person.

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3/22/2006 7:57:24 AM

John P. Sandstedt
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/8/2001
Contact John
John's Gallery
  There's a great tool in Photoshop that can allow you to take pounds and inches off your model's pictures. I have got the program loaded on the computer I'm using; will try to follow up later today.

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3/29/2006 7:48:34 AM

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