View Full Version : huge shoulders!!

14-Oct-2014, 10:54
Hello everyone,
I couldn't find a thread this fitted in neatly - so apologies if it should go somewhere else. Mods - feel free to move it.

Below is a portrait of my wife.

First ever portrait using my Symmar-S 240mm.


As you can see, her shoulders are bulkier than she would like them to be.

How can I fix this in the future? A different pose? a different camera position?

For those of you who are thinking "a different wife" - that's not an option :)

Those of you who use your spouses for models realise how quick the learning curve has to be for portraiture - and I'm hoping this forum can rescue the model/photographer relationship.

I know this is probably a basic question - but thanks anyway


14-Oct-2014, 11:08
Looks good to me!

Jim Jones
14-Oct-2014, 11:16
Good art deserves a big canvas.

14-Oct-2014, 11:48
...Those of you who use your spouses for models realise how quick the learning curve has to be for portraiture - and I'm hoping this forum can rescue the model/photographer relationship.

I understand the situation well. I had to establish a contract with my wife/model: No portraits in the future. Nothing else seemed to work.

14-Oct-2014, 11:56
A couple of thoughts. First of all, she looks just fine and it sounds like, as with most of us, she may simply be her own worst critic. That aside, since for her anyway, this is a legitimate concern, simply photographing her in a standing pose will let gravity and posture work together to let a lot of bulk slide downward all over the upper body and let her shoulders relax into their normal position. Seated poses, particularly on something plush, like a couch, force the whole upper body into completely unnatural positions and the shoulders rise up a great deal to become emphasized.

Next, unless showing the art work is important to her, have her dress in long sleeves, especially in something darker and without any pattern. Honestly, the polka dots are far more distracting from her face than her shoulders could ever be. AS an old portrait photographer, I can share some great lore that I was taught, basically that with the exception of nudes, or fashion shots where the subject really isn't the face, bare arms are your enemy because the eyes are always drawn away from the face even subliminally. Simply put, a full sleeved and darker shirt, dress, blouse, etc. keeps the attention on the face, while no sleeves and bare shoulders will pull your eyes away.

Thirdly: whether you use natural, or artificial light, have it come from over her shoulders from behind or strongly from beside while she turns her head toward the light so that it captures her features. That way, only a rim light will find her shoulders, while the face is shown in full illumination. For example, have her stand by the far side of a window while you line up the camera close to the wall on the near side. Her body should turn strongly away from the window and her face return to the window and camera until you see the light on her features that you want. You will probably want to use a reflector to kick light back into the shadows of her face for a better contrast scale.

No patterns, and long sleeves will likely make her a very happy subject.

14-Oct-2014, 13:02
It's not a problem with the lens, however I think the pose, lighting and camera angle are not helping you here. Even if your wife is not a model, you should take a look at some tips for model poses, and look at the various techniques to downplay or minimize some aspects, while maximizing other aspects of the subject. I'm certainly not an expert on model posing, and have rarely been able to take a shot of my wife that comes out "the way I see her."

14-Oct-2014, 13:30
There is a great video on youtube about wedding photography and poses(how to pose men and women) by Jerry Ghionnis(sp?) done for B&H photo. One basic tenet is never keep the arms besides the body, because they compress them and make them look larger, and takes shape away from the body(the female figure is all about curves). Hands on the hips will naturally bring them out. The 240 doesn't allow for a ton of space in normal working portrait distances, so you might have to back up quite a bit. Its a lovely attempt with a great facial expression. The tattoos on her arms are definitely worth incorporating and make the picture even more interesting.

Another thing I would do is be your model/wife's best advocate. Don't be "ok" with your work. I also use my wife as a model and have learned to become 100 times more critical of my portraiture. She appreciates the little differences that I have started noticing. It almost creates a psychology where she becomes more accepting of the image if I take the journey of unhappy to happy with her instead of saying "whats wrong with that, its an awesome exposure". I've also used digital as an aid to get feedback of what she likes and doesn't like. When I come a bit closer in honing on some of the major/minor issues , I move the large format(already set up and grossly focused for the plane), and fire off a couple of sheets. That way it gets any "imperfections" or "insecurities" out of the way and still leaves a few mysteries with the sheet.. Get a couple of great digital shots when you are in the zone with her as well so she can share it on face-twitter-gram-book right away.

Last tip I can think of is to pay attention when she is happy with a picture of hers(or pictures she chooses to put up on the wall) because those are the poses, side of the face, facial expression, hair that she will feel positively about. If you are working with a client, tell them to bring pictures of themselves that they love. If they say they take no good pictures, that is a good screening question to understand what expectations you are working with.

When I show people the digital side by side with the large format, as long as they are happy with the facial expression, people will gravitate towards the large format image more. They often can't put it into words, but the difference in tonality, shadow detail, and organic look(even scanned)is perceptible to them.

Bob Salomon
14-Oct-2014, 13:38
Use a longer lens. What you are seeing is foreshortening. Things closer to the lens reproduce larger then things further from the lens. To minimize this with the 240mm light the shoulder so it is in more shadow, cover the shoulder/arm, change the arm angle, shoot further back, etc.

A 240mm on 45 is about the same as a 70mm on 35mm (using the long dimension of the film) For a bust shot like this you would be better off with a 300mm (like a 90mm on 35mm) or a 360mm (107mm on 35mm) then a 240mm, if your camera can handle them.

Also, the broght shoulders is drawing the eye towards the shoulder and emphasizing it. If the object was to show the ink, fine, but if the object is to de-emphasize the shoulders then they must be darken and the body re-positioned.

Daniel Stone
14-Oct-2014, 14:37
Try having her wear a shirt with some sleeves, and use a longer lens if you have one if you like this pose/posture.
You can also back up a bit, and crop in post to "simulate" a longer lens's POV.


14-Oct-2014, 20:00
Try having her wear a shirt with some sleeves, and use a longer lens if you have one if you like this pose/posture.
You can also back up a bit, and crop in post to "simulate" a longer lens's POV.



15-Oct-2014, 12:06

Thank you everyone who has responded. I'm blown away with the thoughtfulness and detail of your replies. You've all given me much to go away and digest.

I've got twelve sheets loaded up, and we've got a couple of free weekends, so I'll get cracking.

Again, thank you all.


Peter De Smidt
15-Oct-2014, 12:35
Bob wrote: "Use a longer lens. What you are seeing is foreshortening. Things closer to the lens reproduce larger then things further from the lens. To minimize this with the 240mm light the shoulder so it is in more shadow, cover the shoulder/arm, change the arm angle, shoot further back, etc." (My emphasis.)

The text in bold is a really important point for portraiture. Using a longer lens will lessen the foreshortening, but different posing can often be more effective. For example, if you place her face such that it is the closest element to the camera, then her body and arms will be de-emphasized. One way to do that would be to shoot from a higher angle, but there are of course other ways to achieve this.

Lighting can also have a big impact. Placing more light on one element rather than others, as Bob alludes to, will emphasize that element. Light falls of on the inverse square rule, so if you place a light close to the element you want to emphasize, the other elements will receive less illumination. Naturally, shadows can be very useful.

15-Oct-2014, 12:53
thanks Peter,


15-Oct-2014, 17:50
Good suggestions so far. Even if you did want to show off the ink, a plain non-patterned shirt would be better. Her hair blends into the background too, which could be improved and would focus attention on her face/head. I'd suggest picking a shade of gray for the background (or white and don't light it as brightly as the face and it will be gray). If you want to see what choice of clothing in terms of tone/texture does, check out https://www.flickr.com/photos/jay_defehr/

Here is one I did of my daughter recently; it not awesome, but it provides some options.. https://www.flickr.com/photos/13759696@N02/14658300981/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/13759696@N02/14659264054/ The shirt was closer in tone to her skin. Depth of field was thin. I had her sit only to keep her in the thin plane of focus. I'd try standing with an adult. The background was white, but made gray by comparatively less light. If your wife stands, have her lean toward you a little bit to emphasise her face.

Get Mortensen's "the model" and "pictorial lighting" for simple lighting and posing options.

Lenny Eiger
20-Oct-2014, 11:42
Obviously, the main issue is foreshortening, as others have already addressed. In addition, I'd say increase the depth of field. You present the tattoo in the foreground, right up there for us to see, and then its blurry. Makes my eyes hurt. Why would a photographer bring my eye there only to show me something out of focus? Use the shift, and possibly some swing to bring things into focus, increase the amount of light in the room considerably and close the lens down.

Something like f45....

Just my opinion,


Alan Gales
20-Oct-2014, 13:34
I'd shoot her standing with her shoulders more squared up so one arm isn't sticking out so much. I'd also use a longer lens or step back a little further. Wearing long sleeves as suggested would be more slimming but of course she couldn't show off her tattoo art.

I recommend getting out your digital camera and practicing with it until you get the results she is pleased with. I'm married and my wife is particular about her photographs too! ;)

20-Oct-2014, 14:40
The turned head helps with the chin, but another trick emerges from something Bob said. Try a higher camera position, looking down, while she is looking up at the camera, and leaning forward. The leaning forward with move her face closer to the camera with respect to her arms, and they will recede. Right now, her right arm is closer to the camera than her face, which makes it look bigger. Pose her so that her face is closest to the camera. Looking up to the camera will stretch the chin, too, and even make her eyes bigger.

Rick "but don't use a shorter lens" Denney

Struan Gray
22-Oct-2014, 00:32
I think we should start a thread in the image sharing sub-forum for pictures of 'The Wife Look'. That indulgent expression with which indulgent spouses greet portrait sessions, lens and development tests, and general camera fondling, and which has a thought bubble over her head saying "Oh Lord, he's got his camera out again, but I suppose it's better than him being down the pub with his mates".

Congratulations on capturing the look on your first attempt. Some people take years to get to this stage.

To me, your wife looks kind, and intelligent, and a little bemused. She also looks like an individual person and not a type or an object. That may not conform to the dictates of celebrity publicity stills or the painted swagger portrait, but it still makes for an interesting image. One to live with.

Most of the suggestions here are good, and are backed up by centuries of best practice in portraiture, but they will all work to remove the individuality from your image and make it more conventional. Be careful what you wish for.

6-Nov-2014, 13:57
JP, Alan, Rick,
Thank you all for your advice, it will all be considered, played with, and used. Mastery of the details is something I will work on and everyone has been very generous with their help.

made me smile - too true. I took advantage of her being ill and not able to move off the sofa - which accounts for some of the posing "issues" noted by the respondents above.

Your final point is also noted. It's a question of style - I'm drawn to the informal, intimate style. Some of the portraiture on this forum is amazing, but not what I want to do. On the other hand, I'm still learning - it's my hobby not my profession - and I have neither the time nor the money to do my "10000 frames" before I become proficient. I'll take all the advice I can get to help me find my voice.

Also on your final point - I have had women friends show me the results of their portrait sittings from other photographers - I'm sure you know the kind of stuff - soft focus, roses, romantic smiles. I'm looking at them and thinking the same things as you, but my friends were absolutely thrilled with the results - I mean REALLY THRILLED. I've shown them the work of people like Juergen Teller, and they've been mortified. These are the times when I feel like a weirdo. Thanks for letting me know I'm not.

john borrelli
9-Dec-2014, 17:12
For this image, how about cropping. Crop the shoulder in the foreground until the big flower part of the tattoo and then crop a bit from the far shoulder. You could then try a nice mat(maybe a big all black one) frame it and put it on the wall in your home.