How To Flatter Your Subjects In Portraits

Tamara Lackey's quick tips to flatter the subjects of your portraits.


It's ridiculously normal for a people to feel self-conscious when a lens is pointed her way.  Why?

Because when you point a lens their way, many people don't just see a lens, they see a series of images flash before their eyes - shots taken from a truly awful angle, taken in wretched lighting, scenes of them smashed up against someone else in the most unattractive of ways, deer-in-the-headlight fake smiles - just, ghastly stuff.  In other words, they don't see your camera, they see the serious time they spent untagging images on social media. 


Time to change all that.  Here are some 5 simple tips for better flattering your subjects in portraits - and look for another 5 tips in my next installment!


1. Check The Light 

Always check the light around you before taking a photograph.  The closer your subject is to a soft, big light source (think large window in a house, evenly-shaded spot outside), the more attractive they're going to look.  Note the word “soft” - large, harsh lighting isn’t the same thing.  Soft lighting is often achieved through bouncing light or using a modifier built to diffuse light, like a soft box. 


2. Flash Wisely 

Many of the tiny little flashes on pocket cameras and iphones can be terribly unflattering.  If you have to use a flash, avoid an extreme closeup of your subject with a super bright, harsh little light.  If you’re still figuring out what the best lighting option is with a built-in flat, try taking a few shots of your subject right in front of the flash, slightly farther away from the lens, and just before the light from the flash falls off.  Testing the look of how the flash flatters your subject gives you an imediate visual into how to make them look better.  Typically, the sweet spot is just before the light starts dropping off.  


3. Humans Have Curves

Don't forget to flatter the curves of your subjects, however they are shaped.  Women, especially, are not built like boxes, but it's remarkable how often they can be posed like one in a photograph.  Think of an S-curve and have your subject  mimic that - hips a little more to the left, chest a bit more to the right ... often what feels a bit uncomfortable looks pretty great. 


4. Mix it Up

Sometimes the most attractive angle of your subject isn't the one you were planning to shoot from - at least not at first.  That's okay.  Just don't stop at shooting from that one angle.   Start with what you wanted to start with, then crouch down and tilt the camera up.  Stand on your toes or take a step up and tilt the camera down.  Play with a few different angles until you find the one she likes best.


5. Things Closest To The Lens May Be Smaller Than They Appear

What do you want to show off?  What do you want to show less of?  Consider how close various parts of your subject are to the lens and move them around accordingly.  For instance, if you're shooting from a lower angle, and your subject’s legs are closer to the lens, they will appear larger.  If they are sitting down, perhaps you want to take a minute to have them tuck their legs back a bit.  By the same logic, if you want to emphasize a gorgeous smile, have your subject lean in to the camera, showcasing that megawatt smile first.


These are just a few tips to get you started on better flattering your subject.  I’ll be back with another installment of five more next time!




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