How to Look Slimmer in Photos

An online portrait by NYC portrait photographer, Kelly Williams

The holiday season is upon us, and with it comes the dread of the annual family photo. If you haven’t already, many of you will be gathering in front of the fireplace to say ‘cheese’ for the camera. But rather than fear the camera, let’s outwit it with a few tricks to help you learn how to look slimmer in photos.

A sample portrait showing how to look slimmer in photos

1.  Turn your body to the side. If you are facing forward to the camera with both feet parallel to the lens, you are showing the camera your widest angle. Instead, put one foot in front of the other and turn your shoulders so that they are facing the camera at an angle. In short, you don’t want to ever have your hips be facing the camera straight on; rather, always turn your hips so that the camera sees one hip in front of the other.

2.  Always look up. Any camera pointed up at you will cause you to have a double chin because you will be looking down into the lens. The camera should always be either at the height of your head or slightly above, so that you are looking up into the lens. If you are tall, then you need to get the camera up at a higher angle by having the photographer stand on a stool of step ladder. If you are pointing your head down, you are guaranteed to have a double chin, even if none existed there before. Looking up extends your torso and your neck, giving you the most flattering angle possible.

3.  Only one chin, please. Another way to prevent a double chin is to make sure you stick your chin out while posing. It’s not the most comfortable angle, but it will make sure that your head and neck are extended, thus preventing a double chin. You can also try pushing your tongue into the roof of your mouth as you smile. Try it: you’ll feel your neck muscles tensing up which, again, prevents a double chin. [This one may take practice, because if you do the tongue thing without smiling, be prepared for a very weird facial expression.]

4.  Arms out (slightly). I’m not a fan of having your hand positioned on your hip, but having your arms squished against your body isn’t great either. When your arms are flattened at your sides they look larger, and no one needs that. I recommend having your arms out from your sides just slightly so that everything looks as it should, and you don’t look like a diva.

5.  Dress to show, dress to conceal. Lots of clothing tips:

  • If your arms are your area of concern, then keep them covered. Long sleeves or ¾–length sleeves or are the best bet.
  • If your waist is your primary problem area, then a wide belt will help create a slimmer one.
  • If you are bottom heavy or ‘pear-shaped’ (as I am), then an A-line skirt or dress hides a wealth of sins.
  • Avoid bulky clothing at all costs, as this will only add pounds to you in the frame. Textures that look huge on camera include: corduroy, crushed velvet, metallic, leather, suede, mohair, angora, brocade, taffeta, bouclé, satin, fringe and flannel.
  • The best fabrics for the camera are jersey, cashmere, fine cotton, and anything with a touch of spandex.
  • Dressing all in one dark color is great.
  • Show a little skin up top with a V-neckline to draw the eye up and away from any problem areas.
  • Statement jewelry, such as chandelier earrings or an eye-catching necklace can also work to draw the eye away from any problem areas and keep the visual interest where you want it.
  • Skinny stilettos with pointy toes are the best shoes for giving the illusion of great legs.
  • Wearing nude heels that match your skin tone (summer) or black heels or boots and black tights (winter) creates a slimming, monochromatic look for your legs.
  • There are tons of well-constructed shapewear on the market to cover and conceal every lump and bump imaginable. Use it.
  • If you know you are going to be photographed, check out your outfit in the mirror from every angle – before you leave the house.

6.  Stand when you can, sit if you must. Standing is always the best way to be photographed. If you have to sit, however, keep in mind how your stomach and clothing will look to the camera. Even for the thinnest among us, sitting can create rolls of fat in your midsection that wouldn’t otherwise show if you were standing. Suck it in, or at least make sure that your clothing is tucked in so that you aren’t too poofy in the middle. Sit up straight, and try to elongate your torso and neck as much as possible. Also, be sure to cross your legs only at the ankles: when you cross at the thigh, you flatten out your legs just as when your arms are flat against the sides of your body. Your thighs will look much larger than they are, and no one needs that.

A sample portrait showing how to look slimmer in photos

7.  Proper posture always. And if you’re going to be standing for a photo, make sure to pull your shoulders back and stand up straight. Standing hunched over adds pounds. And if you’re sucking it in, practice this in front of the mirror so that it isn’t obvious. If you notice you are sucking it in, then you can be assured that the camera will too.

8.  Smile naturally. Whenever you have to either squint because the sun is in your eyes or you decide to say ‘cheese’ and grin from ear to ear you end up doing your face a disservice. Squinting and smiling too broadly results in classic ‘chipmunk cheeks’ that just ends up making your face look too wide.

9.  Back it up. Whatever is closest to the camera will appear larger. So if you don’t want that to be you, try to get into the back row of a group photo or simply make sure that the camera isn’t too close. The worst case scenario would be to have a wide angle lens photographing you up close.

10.  Hide behind something. Got a purse? Put it to good use by holding it strategically in front of you.

11.  Fake an outer glow. Yes, a tan will make you look thinner, but subtlety is key. No looking like you walked off the set of ‘Jersey Shore.’

12.  Use your hair to your advantage.

  • A soft updo is a great way to give your neck an elegant lift (literally). Indeed, getting your hair up and off your face will instantly show off your bone structure and make your face look slimmer. But taking this too far with a too tight ponytail, braid, or bun will create severe angles that don’t look nice to the camera.
  • Bangs with layers create the illusion of a slimmer face.
  • Long hair draws the eye down to a point making the face appear slimmer.

To read other portrait articles, check out these posts on blog.  You can also view recent portraits of mine on my website portfolio.

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