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Thread: Lighting a heavy model ???

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    Lighting a heavy model ???

    I'm presented with an interesting challenge... shooting figure studies of a young woman who's rather overweight.

    She used to be rather slim, and is still quite pretty. I did some nice figure work with her a few years ago.

    But she put on a lot of weight when she was pregnant a couple of years back and hasn't dropped any of it.

    Now she wants to do some updated figure studies.

    Any suggestions?

    - Leigh

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    Re: Lighting a heavy model ???

    Quote Originally Posted by Leigh View Post
    She used to be rather slim, and is still quite pretty.
    Quote Originally Posted by Leigh View Post
    But she put on a lot of weight when she was pregnant a couple of years back and hasn't dropped any of it.
    I don't consider myself overly PC but was rather shocked to read your rude comments and use of inappropriate Emojis towards a women who has is trusting you to photograph her in a very personal way.
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    Re: Lighting a heavy model ???

    Quote Originally Posted by gazwas View Post
    I don't consider myself overly PC but was rather shocked to read your rude comments and use of inappropriate Emojis towards a women who has is trusting you to photograph her in a very personal way.
    I certainly consider you overly PC. The question is relevant and, I think the OP is going the extra mile in trying to present her client in the most positive way.

    I come from a family with weight problems, and each one would be happy that a photographer would want to show them in the best possible way. My siblings ask me to pose them in a way to minimize their size.

    Greg
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    Exclamation Re: Lighting a heavy model ???

    Quote Originally Posted by gazwas View Post
    I don't consider myself overly PC but was rather shocked to read your rude comments and use of inappropriate Emojis towards a women who has is trusting you to photograph her in a very personal way.
    Perhaps you would be well-advised to keep your PC comments to yourself.
    They're off-topic in this thread, insulting and irrelevant.

    Other than changing the person from first to third and adding "but" at the beginning...

    That is a direct quote from the lady herself, including the emphatic exclamation emo at the end.

    I suggest you keep your trap shut when you don't know what you're talking about.

    I'm asking for help regarding how to make her look as nice as possible.
    This is a situation I've not encountered before, but I'm sure some of our members have and might have some suggestions.

    - Leigh
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    Re: Lighting a heavy model ???

    Quote Originally Posted by Leigh View Post
    I'm presented with an interesting challenge... shooting figure studies of a young woman who's rather overweight.

    She used to be rather slim, and is still quite pretty. I did some nice figure work with her a few years ago.

    But she put on a lot of weight when she was pregnant a couple of years back and hasn't dropped any of it.

    Now she wants to do some updated figure studies.

    Any suggestions?

    - Leigh
    Hi Leigh. This is a very good question and worthy of some studied response for photographers wishing to present their clients in the most positive manner.

    As a wedding and portrait photographer for decades, this issue comes up more often than not. Most people are not models, and the number one quip I hear from women is "can you make me look slimmer?" While often said in jest, they actually mean it. Men tend to be more conscience of balding and double chins.

    One thing we have to be aware of is the degree of sensitivity each client has toward their weight and over-all physical appearance. Some "plus sized" models are comfortable with who they are, and others aren't some so much so that they are camera shy because of it. Pre-production discussions can be revealing and help provide hints on the subject i.e., wardrobe, location, posing, etc. Often a client's "self-image" is better than reality, and we have to figure that out ahead of time, and act accordingly.

    Like with any portrait, we have a number of "tools" to affect the outcome. Each subject is different, so we have to use those tools the help us solve specific issues. Since no one is "perfect" (even super-models), it is up to us to identify which techniques to employ and to what degree.

    Leigh, you may already know these things, but since you asked I'll share my experiences with you and leave it to you to take what you will.

    In addition to rapport between photographer and subject there are: Wardrobe; Posing; Lighting, Focal Length; Angle of Shooting; Post Production.

    Obviously, darker solids for wardrobe choices can provide a slimming effect. Some Plus Sized women look better in empire waisted clothing. Horizontal patterns do not help, where vertical patterns sometimes can. Pre-shoot wardrobe discussions are very important, and if possible choices on the day of the shoot can help a lot.

    Posing is a critical step. I always work with models to get them to be less stiff. When a client is tense, they tend to raise their shoulders and truncate their neck (I call it the "turtle effect"). They also tend to pull in their chin, and if they are a bit chunky this can result in more chins than a Chinese Phone Book or even look like a pack of hot dogs. Double chins are extremely difficult to fix in post, so we have to be vigilant about it while shooting. Also, if the client is holding something (like flowers, or a prop of some sort), have them hold it lower to bring down the shoulders and elongate the torso which is slimming.

    How you have the client stand for full length shots is also a key tool. Study the client and watch out for angles that visually decreases their size. Each client is different so there are no pat answers the key is looking at the client and have them move a bit to see what looks the most flattering for them.

    There are a LOT of ads now featuring plus sized models from Target to Macy's. They are worth studying, especially how they emphasize the playful sexness of the models. Many plus sized subjects are more sexy looking than gaunt, anorexic ones. It's all in the eye of the beholder. Have your subject tease the camera you'll be amazed.

    You didn't mention whether you use lighting or shoot ambient in studio or outside. Either way, lighting can be used to sculpt a subject. Look up some lighting tutorials if necessary. The Profoto site has some good ones with a few fashion photographers offering suggestions in videos. In studio or outside, brighter backgrounds tend to be more slimming because they wrap light around the edges of the subject.

    While most think a longer lens is a must for portrait work, I often find that a bit shorter lens to be more flattering for plus sized subject. I also have found that slightly shooting down on the subject can be very beneficial in slimming a client, and when working closer up, it can place the emphasis on a stronger feature like their sexy hair or beautiful eyes.

    When all is said and done with the shoot, we still have post work to tidy up any distracting "bulges or unsightly aspects". I am not shy about using the Liquify tool in photoshop to push in a bulge or trim the extra 10lbs the camera added which a plus sized client certainly doesn't need. The trick here, as with any skin softening techniques, is moderation. Less is more. I work in layers so I can remove any retouching later if I think I went to far.

    - Marc
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    Re: Lighting a heavy model ???

    Quote Originally Posted by Leigh View Post
    I suggest you keep your trap shut when you don't know what you're talking about.
    So eloquently put!

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    Thumbs up Re: Lighting a heavy model ???

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    Hi Leigh. This is a very good question and worthy of some studied response for photographers wishing to present their clients in the most positive manner.
    ...
    - Marc
    Thank you very much, Marc, for that excellent reply.
    I love your Chinese menu comment.

    I have an advantage in this case in that I've known the model for several years, and shot her a few times.
    So it's not like I'm working with a stranger.

    Of course that has its disadvantages since I don't want to offend her or lose her friendship... a complication.

    The shots will all be in-studio with strobes or hot lights, since we're doing lingerie and (semi-)nudes.

    I'm thinking black lingerie against light gray seamless. The final prints will be b&w, not color.
    She has very pale skin, almost like paper. That's a lighting challenge since I don't want it to blow out dead white.

    You comment about focal length is interesting. In the past I've shot her with an 85mm.
    I was expecting to use 105mm or even longer this time, although I don't have a lot of depth in the studio.

    Anyhow, apologies for rambling. I certainly appreciate your insight.

    - Leigh

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    Re: Lighting a heavy model ???

    interesting issue. of course the advertising fixation on thin and young models predisposes us. here in NYC, almost all female models could use another hamburger or two. but that is an american convention, by no means an absolute standard of beauty.

    one exception to the norm might be Guess, whose models are not so emaciated, and one or two other campaigns, which i salute, that feature women over 40, acknowledging that beauty lies in other places.

    the fact that you are going to shoot figure studies, in my mind, means you shouldn't try and make her out to be what she is not, but instead focus on other aspects of the figure beyond slimness, for example

    good luck

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    Re: Lighting a heavy model ???

    I would use a little more 3/4 light and not a lot of fill. You kinda want the light to cut off on the other side of her body. Think a little more dramatic . I would maybe lean towards a beauty dish but don't rim light her from the other side. Keep her away from any frontal pose. Keep her at a angle towards camera. I like longer lenses myself. I would also shoot tethered that way you can shoot some and review with her on what angles are looking best. That would helpful for her mostly to see what might be best looking for her. You want to trim her but also keep her natural looking. Black or dark blue clothing is what you want. You can do a nice hair and shoulder rim light but keep it up that high don't rim light her body that would just put your eye going to that area. Most important just talk her through the whole thing and make her feel comfortable and at ease. For yourself consider it a great learning experience and how to work with light,angle and posing. Good luck hope you get some winning shots for her
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Re: Lighting a heavy model ???

    Thank you very much, Guy. That's just what I was looking for.

    I've been shooting since the 1950s, but almost all for advertising, technical documentation, and similar, i.e. stuff, not folks.

    I don't really have much experience shooting people, certainly not clothed or semi. I don't normally do lingerie.

    I can tether my D800E to the MacBook Pro. That's a good idea. It will give her some real-time feedback.

    The actual work will be done with a Nikon F3TH/P and Fuji Acros film.
    Since this is a digital forum I didn't want to emphasize that fact. I can shoot the D800E also.

    Thank you very much.

    - Leigh


    Quote Originally Posted by Guy Mancuso View Post
    I would use a little more 3/4 light and not a lot of fill. You kinda want the light to cut off on the other side of her body. Think a little more dramatic . I would maybe lean towards a beauty dish but don't rim light her from the other side. Keep her away from any frontal pose. Keep her at a angle towards camera. I like longer lenses myself. I would also shoot tethered that way you can shoot some and review with her on what angles are looking best. That would helpful for her mostly to see what might be best looking for her. You want to trim her but also keep her natural looking. Black or dark blue clothing is what you want. You can do a nice hair and shoulder rim light but keep it up that high don't rim light her body that would just put your eye going to that area. Most important just talk her through the whole thing and make her feel comfortable and at ease. For yourself consider it a great learning experience and how to work with light,angle and posing. Good luck hope you get some winning shots for her

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    Re: Lighting a heavy model ???

    Well you can use digital to get exactly where you want to be than shoot the film once you get everything in place. Think Polaroid here. My feeling try to keep it simple keep less light on her body and really make her shoulders up stand out. Keeps viewers eyes up this way. Basically go after the highlights of her, you said she is very pretty than work and highlight tha more and just downplay her weight with less light. The idea is the viewer eye goes where you want it to highlight her

    No offense to anyone but no one minds good looking breast areas keep the focus there and her face
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Re: Lighting a heavy model ???

    Excellent thoughts, Guy.

    She looks nice above the waist so I'll try to light primarily the face / hair and let the intensity drop off as I go down.
    Sounds like a plan.

    Thank you.

    - Leigh

    Quote Originally Posted by Guy Mancuso View Post
    Well you can use digital to get exactly where you want to be than shoot the film once you get everything in place. Think Polaroid here. My feeling try to keep it simple keep less light on her body and really make her shoulders up stand out. Keeps viewers eyes up this way. Basically go after the highlights of her, you said she is very pretty than work and highlight tha more and just downplay her weight with less light. The idea is the viewer eye goes where you want it to highlight her

    No offense to anyone but no one minds good looking breast areas keep the focus there and her face

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