I thought I’d go back a bit and create another post in my individual posing tips series. The other day, I have officially lost 61.4 lbs since my heaviest in September 2017. Before I lost this weight, it used to be impossible for me to fit into any brand except for Taobao extended sizes or those brand pieces that laced up freely, and then I was only able to fit those if I replaced the cord with my own ribbon! Because of my time as a plus size ouji (and photographing western people in the fashion), I really learned how to fix things that people are self-conscious about in camera. If you know me and my photography, you’ll know that I honestly believe that everyone is beautiful as they are, and I want to show that even if someone is self-conscious about their body, they can feel and look beautiful too and have those memories and feelings forever.
Because of this mission, I refuse to modify my model’s bodies in post processing. Body positivity is incredibly important to this industry—the fashion industry—and starting to eliminate the stigma against those with a healthy or curvy body type begins with small efforts that might seem insignificant. I do not make people slimmer in Photoshop—I might retouch, change how clothes lie, alter the background, but I do not rework someone’s body to be something other than what they are. Everything you see in my photos in that respect is natural, and the true beauty of the model in front of the camera. Throughout the years, I have learned some easy tricks to fix someone’s problem areas in-camera. It is possible to pose well for any body type, you just have to be aware of your body and love it. I hope I can help people see their beauty as they are, and understand that body alteration via Photoshop, Meitu, or FaceTune isn’t necessary for them to be beautiful.
Here’s a few tips and tricks that you can do in any photo to help alleviate self-consciousness you might feel—without fancy editing.
A lot of people are self conscious about the size of their upper arms—including myself. Especially when I was larger, I used to completely avoid taking photos where my upper arms were in the shot, front and center. This is certainly the most simple solution, but there are other ways to remedy this.
When you relax your arms at your side, the fleshy bits of your upper arms push against your torso and expand, which makes them look larger than they are. As another simple fix, just lift your elbow slightly away from your upper body to alleviate some of the pressure on it. It doesn’t have to be away from your body—just lifting slightly should help! Additionally, keep an eye out for angles where your arms look thinnest. It will be different on every person, so get to know yourself well, and understand how it looks best for you to combine angles and this lifting method.
If you’re still not happy, you can of course just avoid photos of your arms altogether, like I did. Just keep in mind when it comes to angles that a front-on arm shot (ie, your profile) will always make your arm look larger since it is closer to the camera than you are!
This one came from a reader’s comment on one of my Facebook posts. The best tip I can give you here is to relax. So many people have grimacing smiles that bother them, but it’s important to remember that you don’t even have to smile to make a good photo. In fact, I prefer my models to do something (anything) else besides smile. I think it adds depth to the photo, since smiling is so common.
Find another facial expression that works for you. We all have our go-to expressions that look great, and you deserve to find yours. Is it a shocked face? A lip pucker? A growl? A wink? A pouty face? A combination of all of these? Who else knows but you? Get creative!
If you still want to smile, or if your smile isn’t what your self-conscious about but have problems with your eyes instead, try to focus on bringing your smiled very slightly down and away from your cheeks. You might have to let it drop a little bit as you do this, but remember that people will most likely read it as a smile anyway. Alternatively, you could forgo smiling altogether like I mentioned above.
If you tend to have squinty eyes in photos even when you don’t smile, try opening your eyes wider, but just a hair (otherwise you might end up looking like a deer in headlights). I have a close friend who has this issue, and it took a while for her to find the right balance between relaxing and opening her eyes. Watch yourself in a mirror, and have faith that you will, one day, get it down.
Another tip that I got from Lauren below is applicable whether you’re smiling or not: pull your ears back. If you can wiggle your ears, you know what I’m talking about. This movement will pull your hairline back, tighten the muscles in your face slightly, and pull your eyes up and slightly outward, making it look like you have more doll-like eyes naturally.
If you are always self-conscious about your nose and think it is too large, avoid facing the camera directly. This goes back to my tips on maintaining and controlling proportion: whatever is closer to the camera appears larger, and whatever is farther away from the camera appears smaller. Depending on the lens being used and how far away you are from it, these effects can sometimes be extremely pronounced.
Following this logic, if you feel you have a large nose, simply move it away from the camera in relation to the rest of your face.
“What?” You ask. “How?” It’s not like you can just turn around.
No, young padawan. Just turning your nose in one direction will do the trick. Look in the mirror, find your best angle, and go for it. The main thing is to avoid taking photos of your face front-on (or in side profile, if you don’t like the height of your nose).
Note: The wider the lens (eg. 12–28 mm), the more distortion there will be, and the closer you are to it, the more there will be as well. This is one of the reasons why portrait lenses tend to be longer (50–100 mm), if you’re wondering.
This one is for my ouji and miniskirt friends out there. I know I’m super self conscious about showing my legs, and I rarely wear shorts that are shorter than my knees. I usually don’t wear specifically ouji partially for this reason (that and it makes me feel too young and boyish), but I still have a few pairs of shorts in my wardrobe. Black Peace Now and Putumayo are great resources for longer shorts, as is Fanplusfriend and made-to-order indie brands like Elegy where you can customize your length. Taobao brands probably have the shortest lengths of all. When you’re buying, look for shorts aimed at men, longer silhouettes, and pieces that have extra coverage with lace or ruffles at the bottom. Measure the length of a pair of shorts that fit you the way you like (it doesn’t matter if it’s in the fashion or not) and write it down or memorize that length. If you don’t currently have shorts, measure your body and add a few inches for ease. Look for that number in the length when you shop.
If you find a pair of dream shorts and they end up being way too short on you, you can wear tights or OTKs to help you feel more comfortable with the amount of skin you’re showing.
When it comes to posing, if you’re still self-conscious, you have a few options: you can put a bag or prop in front of your legs or, if you have no prop, you can lean forward at the waist and tighten the muscles in your lower back to raise your butt and stick it out slightly. If you do it right, your thighs will look thinner and much, much smaller.
There’s a few ways you can pose to help yourself out. On stage, walk confidently—if things are going to show your legs, let them, and rock it. Even if you have to fake confidence, do so. People will love the confidence you have showing off your body (even if it’s fake) and won’t even care if you have a little loose skin here and there. Remember, most people are body positive, cellulite is normal, and you should be able to wear whatever makes you feel great. Even if someone out there thinks you are overweight or “too big,” they will likely wonder at how confident you are rather than try to tear you down. Your biggest critic will always be yourself.
This is a very quick, simple trick to alleviate any double chin tendencies you have, or if you just want to enhance your jawline.
Know that area at the very back of the roof of your mouth? Press the back of your tongue up there firmly. This will tighten the muscles in your neck and lift everything. Combine this with the chin out technique (where you stick your face forward away from your shoulders, without any tilting) and it’s magic, honestly! You can see a great example of this technique in the middle photo of Harley below.
Here’s where posing really affects how slim you look! Try to pose at a 20–45-degree angle from facing front to the camera. It doesn’t matter which side you turn. This angle will help you look slimmer, though, as it will highlight the smallest part of you. The degree of turn will differ from person to person, so as always practice in the mirror to make sure that you’re getting the best angle for you.
Also, especially if you’re wearing a blouse of the same or similar color to your dress or vest, make sure that you’re able to see a little bit of the background between your waist and arm. If there’s nothing to break the color up (especially with dark colors), it can look like your waist stretches the entire width of your waist and both your arms! A good way to do this if you decide that facing the camera works well for your body is to clasp your hands in front of you symmetrically. Our eyes love contrast, and sometimes if there’s similar colors right next to each other it can be difficult to see the details. Got to love the human eye.
I’ve written about the magic of standing tall before very recently, but it’s something that I haven’t talked enough about in the past. If you tend to have a short torso, or if you’re self conscious about your stomach, something that might help is to tighten your back muscles and think about pushing your belly button to the back of your spine, right across from your solar plexus (so up and out). This will result in pushing your chest out just a little, but it most likely won’t make you look any bigger. Every body is different, of course, so try it and see how it works for you! If you do it correctly, your spine will feel a tense stretch, and you will likely gain a few inches. It might feel like you’re separating your lower and upper halves—because you are.
This technique is one I used to use in marching band for years. By creating this separation, it allowed us to run with our legs and play smoothly without our steps affecting our airflow! If you walk with this technique and you’re doing it correctly, you will seem to glide across the floor. 😀
Pigeon toed is my one of my favorite leg poses, especially for thicker thighs. If you’re wearing a slight heel, it will make your legs look so much longer and thinner that it’s unreal! It’s also cute for sweet lolita, decora, and other kawaii harajuku styles.
You might not think it’s possible, but you can easily make your thighs look thinner in a photo. Push your hips back and tighten the muscles in just your lower back. This should pull your butt out slightly and create a healthy curve in your back that’s quite comfortable. If you do it correctly, you should see that the skin on your thighs is being pulled back because of the position of your rear. It should thin out your thighs in a very natural way, and is very easy to combine with the other techniques in this post.
Combine this technique with the pigeon toed position above and it’s a great combo for posing a flattering ouji coord!
The biggest tip I can give you to make your legs look longer is to wear a slight heel. It doesn’t have to be tall; even an inch will make a huge difference! Also, if you have a choice to modify your coordinate, try to wear tights or OTKs that have vertical lines down the front. This will simultaneously slim your legs and make them look longer. The taller the OTKs on you, the better.
Another quick tip is to favor more higher-waisted cuts. If you’re self-conscious about your stomach, this will also help. However, be careful with this as some extreme high waisted cuts will actually make you look bigger, depending on your natural waist and body type. Remember, the higher the waist, the longer the legs—but too high of a waistline will make you look out of proportion, which is never good.
If you don’t want to change your coord, there’s a few things that you can do just with posing alone. See Collin’s pose in the image above, for example. He’s sticking his leg out away from his body, creating a leading line that leads the viewer to assume that it’s longer than it is. It’s also moving just slightly towards the camera, blowing it out of proportion just enough to enhance that illusion of a longer leg. If done right, it can make your leg look thinner as well (by making your foot look bigger in proportion). Be careful with this, though, as it can enhance the problem if you are slightly off in your angle. Definitely practice this one in the mirror before you head out! If you suffer from an extra long torso and shorter legs, you can always lean back slightly when you pose. This will bring your legs closer to the camera and your torso father away, which can help bring your body back into proportion.
This is something that I’m struggling with already, and I’m only in my mid-20’s. Wrinkles and sagging skin is unfortunately a part of life and the natural aging process. Skin loses elasticity, muscles pull skin taught after years of repeating facial expressions. Short of a good skincare regimen, there’s not much you can do in a photo to make your wrinkles go away, but you can start by understand how light hits your face and highlights the parts of your face you want to hide.
For me, I am starting to suffer from sagging skin around my mouth and stubborn laugh lines. Any light that hits my face at an angle will highlight those areas in shadow. Because of this, it’s obvious that I have sagging skin there. In my case, the best way to fix it is to look at a light source, which is a good practice anyway unless you’re going for a more dramatic look.
Use your phone flashlight to find your best lighting angles in the mirror. Then, work on reading the light and mentally seeing yourself through the camera lens to make sure you can hit that perfect angle when you can’t see yourself.
Kal from Lightningsavage Photography specializes in creative portrait photography for J-Fashion enthusiasts and more. He has served as the J-Fashion event photographer for Oni-Con 2016–2020, as well as fashion shows, meetups, and personal shoots. He is also a co-owner of Kuroshiro Kawaii. You can follow him on Instagram at @lightningsavage_photography and @kaldec_
He is currently into visual kei and EGA fashions.
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