The Fat Girl’s Guide to Looking Great in Photos

29 Apr 10 - Fun Stuff - Angela - 43 Comments

Expert tips on how to hide a double chin or where to stand in a group shot

Confidence is your best asset in front of the lens (Photo by JenniferBanks21)

This week, we asked our FGG fans on Facebook how they felt about having their picture taken, and the responses weren’t too surprising:

“I’m WAY happier BEHIND the lens because I’m always shocked that the girl looking back at me from a photo is really what I look like.”

“Some fat girl always takes my place in pictures, like magic. So weird.”

“I want to stop avoiding being in pictures.”

Whether staring down the barrel of a wedding photographer’s lens or a camera-happy friend snapping yet another round of Facebook pics, most full-figured women have felt that moment of panic right before the flash fires: “Can I squish behind my friend a little more?” “Do my arms look too flappy?” “I wonder if Photoshop has a ‘make me look like Kate Winslet’ setting?”

Tragically, the “Make Me Look Like Kate!” Photoshop action remains but a fantasy. Still, armed with practical questions from several of my best fat girl friends, I took the subject of looking good in photos to a professional. In addition to covering daily assignments as a photographer for the Grand Rapids Press, Emily Zoladz also freelances throughout west Michigan — including a booming wedding business. Emily gamely tackled topics ranging from trout pout to how to light up a candid photo, and even shared her own “can I hide it?” area. (Yes, fit girls have them too!) If you’ve ever wished you could dodge the camera rather than face an unflattering photo, read on and prepare to smile with confidence next time the camera swings in your direction. Knowing how to look our best in photos is an essential life skill for women (and men) of any size, because we deserve to feel fabulous when we look back on ourselves enjoying our favorite occasions.

FGG: What colors other than black are slimming in photos?

EZ: Anything dark, or any combination of dark with light on top (e.g. a dark skirt with a light-colored top). Also, go with what matches your eyes. For blue eyes, navy is a great color. If you have hazel eyes, wear olive or hunter green, and so on. 

FGG: Do you light or pose plus-size girls differently?

EZ: I don’t light full-figured girls differently. However, side filtered light (e.g. coming from a window or a soft box) is going to be more flattering than direct, unfiltered light on anyone. As for the pose, I think you should pose however you are comfortable. If I want you to sit on a window seat but you feel self-conscious about your legs, then go ahead — put a pillow on your lap and hug it. A confident, glowing smile is going to be what draws any eye to your portrait, regardless of the pose.

[FGG note: For a pose that elongates your body in a standing photo, try angling your body and feet toward the camera about 45 degrees but not fully sideways. Extend your outer leg slightly farther than your inner leg, and twist only your upper body toward the camera.]

FGG: Is there a universally flattering or “best” angle that makes a fuller face look thinner or minimizes double chins?

EZ: I would say side profiles tend to be more slimming than a full front-on pose. If I am photographing the side of the face, I can see the subject’s cheek bones more prominently. Practice for this pose by glancing over your shoulder and twisting your torso SLIGHTLY, as if someone has called your name and you are casually looking to see who it was. Also, keep your shoulders back and stacked high, rather than slouching. It may feel like you are sticking your tummy out, but broader shoulders actually create the illusion of a smaller waist. I would also avoid low angles (if your photographer is crouched down below you, pointing the lens upwards), because this will create double chins.

FGG: Does a “best” side really exist for each person? How do we know what it is?

EZ: I think people really do have a “best” side. It all depends on face structure. Noses are a big factor, cheek bones, as well. If you want to figure out yours, study old pictures of yourself and see if you can find any pattern among the “good” ones. Also, practice tilting your face this way and that in the mirror. Do you prefer the way you look like with your head cocked to the side, or facing straight-on?

FGG: Is it possible to pull off a successful come-hither look without looking like a trout?

EZ: [Laughs] I think the best way to pull this off is just to look serious. Don’t think about being sexy, think about being slightly mad. Don’t glare at the camera, just pout a little like something is annoying you. Some people are better at this than others. . . my friend Sasha pulls it off brilliantly.

FGG: What about avoiding half-closed eyes and having them “pop” without looking crazy or bug-eyed?

EZ: This is really up to the photographer. Some people are just blinkers, so you need to take several photographs in case you catch them in a blinking moment. To give your eyes a little “pop” without looking bug-eyed, try raising your eyebrows [a bit] and trying to think more intensely. Exert energy into that smile (or that frown, pout, etc.).

FGG: Let’s talk group photos: Where’s the best place for a big girl to stand if she wants to blend in?

EZ: In group photos, larger figures tend to blend better if they are mixed into the group, not on the end. If you are concerned about sticking out, don’t stand dead center, but don’t also stand on the end.

FGG: Any suggestions for girls who feels self-conscious of particular features, like wide hips, a belly or large upper arms?

EZ: When that camera is raised and you brace yourself into a pose, think about the features you DO like, not the ones you don’t. Everyone has something they are self-conscious about (for me it’s my upper arms). Pose how you are comfortable; if that means having to sit down, or twist yourself sideways a little, do it. A confident smile is key.

FGG: How much retouching or Photoshopping is included with professional pictures?

EZ: Retouching really varies depending on the professional and the purpose. I do retouching in weddings, but only for the bride and groom. I have nipped brides’ chins and necks up a little, firmed arms and pinched waists. Having said that, I won’t do anything that drastically changes the way the bride looks. I am always a little torn doing this, because I want you to look like you. At the same time, if it’s only [a slight adjustment] and it’s the difference between “Oh, I would love this photo but I HATE the way my arms look!” then the editing might be worth it.

FGG: You take a lot of candid shots — what advice would you give to any girl about embracing being photographed this way, which sometimes feels “scary” because she can’t control how she looks?

EZ: People are the most beautiful (in my opinion) when they are just being themselves. Don’t worry about a silly expression or if a shot will be made with your mouth half open. In reality, the photographer is thinking about how the light is hitting you, what angle best creates a clean composition — and then waiting for a particular moment to happen so that we can capture the essence of you. We aren’t going to go with that photo where you look awkward. We just sometimes have to take photos like that until you loosen up enough to show us who you really are.

FGG: Final advice for our readers? Anything goes!

EZ: I know I said it already, but BE CONFIDENT. Your personality is what shows through on film, not some silly jaw clench that you think makes your cheekbones pop.

One of my best friends swears by the “extend your neck out, then tilt your chin down” trick to shave off a double chin. What’s your secret weapon for looking fabulous in photos?

Tags :

cupcake says:

Yes some women are fat. Get over it.

YOUWISH says:

Wow… People never seem to amaze me as to just how ignorant they can truly be. These “guys” who keep posting those stupid comments are just upset because they have to use dating sites and fat girls don’t! I’m a thick, very attractive young lady who has NO problem getting a date (I am happily engaged to my awesomely sexy man of 4 years) but these jerk-offs have to hide behind a computer screen and beg for a date over the internet while touching themselves because nobody else would want to touch their small members! So, all of you balding, potty mouth’d, self rightous fugly men who insist on posting on a fat girl site get a life and learn some respect…then maybe you can get a real girlfriend…in real life! Thanks and Have A Great Day! :)

Aysha says:

This is such a helpful site! Thank you!! X

laurek says:

im 13 and im more on the chubby side, im not HUGE but in chubby. i need help on how to look my teenage self and be sm3xy. i’ve seen s3xy fat women. but im getting into my high school years and i dont want to hide under large hoodies anymore

ali arab says:

love

Joy says:

And I need some help for posing, because I’m taking my senior pictures and I don’t really know how to do the right pose to make me look good for my pictures. So can someone please help me?

Joy says:

I’m a what you call a heavy set woman too, and I think the deuschbags should stay off the website since they have nothing nice to say, I think that their big egos are over compensating for something that is way way to small on their bodies…

vivaciousandlovingme says:

I would like to take some “racey” pics for my husband, but wanted to know what would be the best ways to pose being “full-er” figured. This was the first site that popped up in my search engine and it will be the last because it gave me all the ideas that I need to achieve my goal. Very helpful. Thanks a bunch.

On another note:
What are those ignorant ppl making ignorant comments doing on a “fat girl” website anyway if they have such a dislike for them anyway! Losers.

Chase says:

Gary Cranium should change his first name to “Richard”.

If you are having photos done professionally, your photographer should be savvy regarding posing for different body types. Also, I like to shoot from above – it’s flattering no matter what your size, but it does have a slimming effect if you are on the bigger side. Great post!

Emmanuel says:

I love to meet any fat women,i am in love to meet any

Kristin says:

Let’s hope no poor girl ends up with him. He sounds like a complete a**hole. No one deserves to be talked about in that way.

Christina says:

I know what’s wrong with the wise-cracking lonely boys. They’ve become haters because they’ve had bad luck on dating sites and are trying to make it look like they can choose whatever shape woman they want. Too bad even the mannequins wouldn’t date a guy like that. Oops – the cat’s out of the bag…he knows now. Hope his big FAT ego of his doesn’t suffer too much now that he knows HE’S his own dating problem – not the women who appear smaller in their photos than in real life. I bet the pic he posts of himself looks NOTHING like him in real life. Touche LITTLE GUY (in every sense of the word)!
Sorry for the outburst – it’s just so obvious I couldn’t help saying it. Maybe he’ll benefit by learning when to either stop having thoughts or when to shut up. He’ll be single a loooong long time, ladies, as you well know.

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fiona says:

Sorry to post 3 times in a row, but some of these comments really have me riled up. “Taking flattering photos” and “taking photos that hide your weight” are different things… take the image at the top of the article for example. would anyone look at that picture and think that girl is super skinny? Probably not. what they would see is that she is beautiful, has a great smile and looks confident!

fiona says:

Also, as if fat people haven’t been told to lose weight before… does anyone honestly think they’re giving some kind of groundbreaking, lifechanging advice here telling them to “be less fat”?

fiona says:

I don’t understand why some people feel the need to make such rude and hurtful comments… or why anyone would think they should judge people and condemn them for overeating or “living unhealthily” when they know nothing about the person or their situation. I also don’t get why some people who are in shape feel as if their size gives them some kind of moral superiority over fat people. I have always been very slim, but that is all thanks to genetics, and in fact I have a poor diet and don’t exercise as much as I should. It doesn’t make sense to me why some rude people feel the need to go out of their way to belittle others…they really must be trying to feel better about their own insecurities or something.

And to say that this article offers “excuses” for not losing weight or “sneaky tricks…” well, many of these tips are useful for anyone. It’s helpful to know how to take flattering photos, no matter what size you are. From the wrong angle, I too can end up with a double chin and I am quite thin.

Alex says:

I have the BEST solution to looking great!: EAT HEALTHY + EXERCISE DAILY. You got fat from eating unhealthy+inactivity. You’ll look great and FEEL great too! The picture won’t hide the way you feel about yourselves and how bad your digestion is, heart health, blood pressure, blood sugar, diabetes, etc. Please exercise and stop eating sooooo damn much! You can do it!

EP says:

^ andrew is butthurt and lonely. lol

Andrew says:

I hope none of you fatties use these tips for internet dating sites … the end of the day your still fat and people will find out tricky sneaky snake photos are just as fake as your excuses for not losing weight.

I get pleasure from, lead to I found just what I was having a look for. You have ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

Fi says:

Thank you so much for your tips. I’m having a photo shoot and interview done today featuring my dog and myself for our state wide news paper. I am still a little nervous, but will keep my chin(s) up and do what I do naturally, smile smile smile.

Olivia, thank you, I too have a chronic pain disease, the news article that is being done is about just that, the use of mobility scooters and how owning a pet can give such great relief when pain can get too much. I used to be slim but slowly as the degenerative bone disease swept my body the weight just piled on, now I am obese. Still today my family don’t understand how I could be so FAT, it makes me cry. People like Gary and Js are all around with their condescending judgmental looks SHAME ON YOU.

Again thank you for your photography advise, I am hoping today will be the first of many happy confident photos of myself…..now…..what to wear? :)

Olivia says:

Once again I witness the gross misconception that anyone who is overweight is that way because they’re always “pigging out”. I have a chronic pain disease that has weight gain as one of it’s many symptoms. This disease has also given me a multitude of endocrine system problems like thyroid disease and insulin resistance. (Insulin resistance is not diabetes where one doesn’t produce enough insulin; it means that the insulin I make doesn’t work properly.) A few years ago, a new doctor decided I didn’t need my thyroid medication–within 8 months I’d gained another 100 lbs in spite of frantically and meticulously controlling my eating. At that time I was also under the care of a nutritionist who determined that I was UNDEReating by several hundred calories a day. I also have a severe sleep disorder–I sleep perhaps 3-5 non-consecutive hours per night. A University of Chicago study (among others) has determined that sleep deprivation itself can cause weight gain. And the list goes on. If people took the time to actually research the many complicated causes of weight gain that are NOT attributable to overeating before they made cruel, critical comments then they would not contribute to the pain and frustration already experienced by many overweight people. My wonderful doctor has tried a variety of things to try to help me get rid of some weight, all without success. At this point, we’ve decided that accepting what I cannot change, working at feeling good about myself on the inside and just doing my best to look as attractive as I can on the outside is the best idea. Ultimately, who we are rather than how we look is what’s important.

joe says:

I like big girls

Norma jean says:

Wow. It’s so sad to me that there are people out there who are so unhappy with themselves that they have to post ignorant things such as ” your fat”. Firstly, learn how to use proper English. Secondly, I’m sorry you don’t have half the confidence of the women who have posted comments. Maybe you need to do a little soul searching to find out just what it is that makes you such a miserable person. Finally, to all the women out there that don’t feel they have to have an eating disorder to be beautiful, bravo! Beauty comes from within. Even the most attractive person becomes ugly if their insides are rotten.

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Carolynn says:

@Gary – You’re still an idiot. How about not typing and go hiding in a ditch.

You suck ass for not double checking for spelling or grammar errors before you hit post comment.

@Author – I would like this better if you were not insinuating that being bigger is a bad thing. Embrace your beauty as you are and not try to hide something you think is a flaw. ‘Beauty in things exists in the mind which contemplates them.’ :)

Gary Cranium says:

And your blog sucks ass for not allowing me to edit a typo.

Gary Cranium says:

You’re still fat. How about not being fat.

Wow .. what a concept.

Gary Cranium says:

Your still fat. How about not being fat.

Wow .. what a concept.

I really enjoyed this article, I am always looking for the best angle to pose when taking a photo.
Some poses can make anyone look horrible. I do believe that some poses can flatter a full figured woman better than other poses.

Angela says:

Having family pictures done today, and i happen to be 9 months preggo and could pop any second! (And i wasnt exactly a skinny girl to begin with)… Thanks for the helpful advice! :)

dot says:

@js… seriously if all you came on here to do is preach then move on. this is choir that has heard that lame song one too many times. I am a fat girl I dont have an issue with my appearance I am not going to lose weight because guess what…. I like, nay, love myself EXACTLY the way I am.
~Love the article, the tips on the eyes and trout pout were helpful! I always end up blinking,squinting or looking like I just got a surprise from behind lol! Much love!

Sinem says:

I like looking up at the camera. Just a bit though. It makes my eyes look huge and makes my smile very cute (and also hides the double chin)

Jaci says:

When you get a picture taken hold the camera higher and aim down. This makes your cheek bones come out more and your eyes bigger, as well as hides that double chin :) Try it

hannah says:

This was INCREDIBLY helpful. Thank you for your time to answer all these questions. People are rude sometimes…but having just had a baby, I know the weight doesnt fall off instantly. I guess if you live in the land with unicorns it might….but for us real people, this was a GREAT guide. I’m going on a trip for my birthday and was scared because I’m sick of avoiding photos…now, I’ve found a great guide! Thanks again!

aga says:

Js: people can’t lose weight overnight, so I’m sure they’d like to know poses while in the process of losing weight.

JS says:

How bout instead of doing all this nonsense to prepare for a photo…. try and lose weight. That should be number one on the list. Folks.

Gwen says:

I’m all about the 3/4 profile: my facial structure looks more defined and it shows off my bust to best advantage. Also, closing your eyes for a second before the picture and then opening them gives a relaxed big-eyed look (especially good outside to avoid squinting).

bookjunkie says:

so pretty….i love it :)

Kath says:

I don’t believe fat women should be hiding at the back, or wearing dark clothes, or trying to pose themselves in “flattering” positions to hide their fatness.

Instead, I prefer to prepare myself for a photo by blinking my eyes slowly to open which dilates your pupils, licking my teeth and lips (makes teeth look shiny and lips look soft), making sure I’ve got good posture and smiling.

Ravena says:

My secret is to make sure that I keep my theme song playing in my mind as I “strike a pose”.