When taking portrait photos, working with non professional models can sometimes be tricky. They don’t know the tools of the trade to make themselves look their best, so they have to rely heavily on their photographer to make them shine. Fortunately, there are a few pointers you can give your subject to help them become the most photogenic version of themselves.
Controlling hair flow makes a huge difference in a portrait. If your subject has long hair, there are many options to choose from, but the most common mistake is to leave the hair resting on the shoulders, since it translates into a wild and unmanageable element. Acceptable options are to put all the hair behind the shoulders, bring only one side forward, lay it all in front of the shoulders, or put it up in a bun or ponytail. While many people might think of a ponytail as a relaxed hairstyle, it actually lends itself very well to portraits since it allows the face to be fully seen.
In order to create a strong jawline and avoid the dreaded double chin, it is important to tell people to push their face out by bringing their ears forward. Don’t tell them to bring their chin forward, since this causes them to look up, displaying their nostrils. Pointing their ears forward might feel very unnatural and make your model feel like a turtle, but it looks great on camera. It completely eliminates the fat under the chin and keeps the head straight. Even the most photogenic person in the world will look better doing the turtle pose.
When your subject’s arm is hanging straight down at their side, it presses against their body and gets squashed and flattened. This can make an arm look bigger than it should. By telling your model to put their hands on their hips or to simply hang their arm a small distance away from their torso, you can instantly make their arm seem skinnier.
Speaking of looking thin, The area around the waist is another important focal point. You should always try to create a midriff gap by avoiding anything that might appear to extend the torso’s width. Whenever possible, create side space between the waist and anything next to it or even in the background, like trees or people. When the waist stands alone, it appears slimmer.
You always want to turn your subject slightly to the side to reduce shoulder width. If a person is directly facing the camera, their shoulders will appear much wider than if they are turned a little. While this can look flattering, you should also be careful about overcompensating, unless you are aiming for a profile photo.
When turning models sideways, you should avoid having the nose break the contour of the face, meaning don’t let it stick out beyond the profile of the cheek. You should be able to draw an imaginary line from your subject’s forehead down to their chin without the nose breaking through the line. If the nose is protruding too far, it creates a Pinocchio effect by lengthening the nose.
To get that dreamy, far away look in your subject’s eyes, you should tell them to look at something just behind you, but not something off to the side. If a person is looking too far to the side, the whites of their eyes are shown instead of the colorful iris part. This can make for a spooky eye effect instead of a wistful one.