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Question
Hi Mr. Jamwal!

Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to my questions.  I appreciate it very much!

I have been seriously interested in photography now for about three to four years.  I have been shooting with a DSLR (Canon Rebel T3i) for about a year now. Sometime, soon, I would like to upgrade my camera and buy new lenses, as I am very interested in pursuing my hobby as a career.  

I feel I have much more experience shooting landscapes, but I am now trying to develop my portraiture skills.  I want to make my subjects look as good as possible, however, I find it very challenging when the subjects themselves are larger or plus-sized.  I want to take a flattering photograph that they can be proud of...and no woman wants to see that in her picture! Do you have any tips or techniques of how to pose plus-sized people in flattering ways?

Answer
Hey Jessica!

Please, it's Akshay :)

First off, I don't think you need to upgrade the camera just yet. Invest in a couple of good lenses first. Note that when I say "good", I don't necessarily mean expensive.
I would highly recommend a 50mm/1.8 if you're interested in portraiture. 50mms are relatively cheap and make for excellent lenses for portraiture. I have more than a few lenses, but my own 50mm has to be my favourite for portraits, especially headshots.
Somewhere down the line, perhaps you can invest in a good zoom, say an 80-200mm/2.8. You might want to think about that after you've started making some money through photography, however.

For plus-sized folks, it's better if you use Short Lighting (Rembrandt Lighting will also work) and ensure you're shooting from a slightly elevated position with respect to your subject. Double chins aren't flattering, so it's better if your subject is looking up at you. Not to the point where you're shooting from a bird's-eye-view perspective, but high enough that their chins are tilted upwards, slightly. Bottom-line, you'll want to be shooting from a little above your subjects' eye level.

More about portrait lighting here:
http://photo.net/photography-lighting-equipment-techniques-forum/007pax

http://digital-photography-school.com/6-portrait-lighting-patterns-every-photogr

Short and Rembrandt lighting are also good for people who have wide or square faces.

Second, try and ensure that your subject isn't facing you head-on. This will make large people appear even larger. An angle that is about between head-on and profile should work well. You'll want a 2/3rd or a 3/4th facial angle. More here:

http://digital-photography-school.com/using-facial-view-and-camera-angle-to-flat


Third, the clothes your plus-sized subject will wear will definitely play a part in how large they look. E.g. horizontal stripes are a big no-no!
Dark colours will work best, and it's a good idea to ask someone to try on what they're going to wear before you actually start shooting.
Clothes that are too tight are as bad as clothes that are too loose. Loose (e.g. fluffy jackets or baggy pants) garments will make large folks seem even larger, tight-fitting will be obtrusive, or possibly even distasteful.

Finally, I'd advise taking a few headshots or head and shoulders shots before you start taking half-length, 3/4th-length or full-length portraits, regardless of what your subjects look like.
It would behoove you to learn how to extract expressions out of your subjects when taking their photos. Developing a connection with the people you're shooting is the most useful tip I can give you, because that connection is evident in the final photograph that you create. More than lighting or technicalities or even posing, it is connecting with your subject that is of paramount importance. This is best done when you're taking photos of people's faces.
People are more conscious about their bodies than their faces.
This is especially true for plus-sized folks.
Most people don't know what to do with their arms and hands, how to stand, etc. It's the photographer's responsibility to make people comfortable in front of the camera, and if necessary, coach them about posing.

That will come with experience.

So start with the head and shoulders.
At the very least, you'll get dandruff-free subjects. Har!


Happy shooting,

Akshay.

Photography

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Akshay Singh Jamwal

Expertise

I'm a professional photographer and I can answer questions questions relating to SLRs (35mm or DSLRs) and general photographic technique. I'll be happy to share my knowledge with anybody who's looking to learn or is just plain confused about something. Questions about studio lighting, studio flashes, and flashguns are also welcome. Questions about theory (e.g. colour theory, guidelines behind composition, depth of field, etc.) are welcome as well. Digital photography also involves some amount of post-processing using an image editing application such as Adobe Photoshop; a program that I am proficient with. I cannot answer typical generic questions, viz. "Which is the best camera?," as the short and sweet answer to questions such as those is "There is no such thing." Furthermore, there is a lot of literature available on the web pertaining to the same. Also, please do not ask me for camera recommendations based on a budget.

Experience

I have been passionately taking photographs since I was 13 years old. In totality, I've been involved in photography in one way or another for over a decade. I've used various cameras (and lighting equipment) over the years, including but not limited to Minolta/Konica Minolta, Nikon, Canon, and Mamiya.

Education/Credentials
High school degree.

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