Turkey Neck, meatbeard, neck spam, gwaddle, meat scarf, cowsaddle, chin dumpling, or chinsulation… whatever you want to call it, a double chin is not flattering, and it makes your subject appear much heavier than they really are. I’ve got some killer tips to help you thin the chin and instantly take weight off your subject.
I get loads of requests to do posing videos, and the reason I have avoided it for so long is that photographers tend to be lazy. They want a simple solution to a complex problem and there is really no simple solution for posing unless you like your subjects to look stiff and uncomfortable.
So instead of a bunch of razzle dazzle with pretty models who already know what they are doing, it’s just me. I‘d rather break it down for you and teach you a little about anatomy, body language, camera angles, and lighting so that you learn to SEE the things that will ruin your shots and so that you have an idea of how to fix them. My hope is that you will watch and listen and then try these things yourself. Until you try them, you really haven’t learned them. So look for more of these short posing tips spread out over the next few months. If there are things that YOU struggle with in your poses… be sure to comment below and I’ll try to help you out in a future piece.
All of those nicknames, BTW, I didn’t make them up, so please don’t send me hate mail. They are all listed in the Urban Thesaurus along with a bunch more that I can’t repeat in print!
A double chin is a nightmare to photograph because it often makes people look heavier than they really are, and even a skinny person can get a double chin. Pretty much everybody that has one hates it and is VERY aware of it when they have their picture taken. The heavier the person is, the more impossible it can become to eliminate or hide the extra chin.
Let’s look at the tips…
1. The Turtle Stretch
Simply have your subject push their chin forward. This will tighten the skin on the neck and help to thin the double chin. Now, here is the catch… you can’t just tell your subject to stretch their neck or to push it forward. That rarely works. For some reason, with most people, if you tell them to push their chin forward, they will push it forward and up at the same time. Not only does this look like they are looking down at you but you’ll be shooting up their nostrils. To see how I give my subject directions, watch the video below or click here.
Watch the VIDEO…
No matter how well they do it – believe me – even after showing them, a lot of people will still lift their chin. I will shoot off a bunch of frames, tell them they are doing great and then I will ask them to relax.
When I give directions, I take the camera away from my face and make eye contact. I lean in, I do the task myself, and I give them positive feedback. In other words, I keep my subject engaged.
Also, just in case you have never tried doing this yourself in front of a camera… understand that it feels awkward. Don’t leave your subject guessing, because the more they feel awkward, the more they become tense and then it shows in their body language and facial expressions. I acknowledged that I am asking them to do something that feels awkward and then reassured them that it’s going to look great! Watch the video above to see how I do it.
In addition to the chin, with some subjects it helps to ask them to push their shoulders back and then push the chin forward. Go ahead and try this yourself. It is even more awkward and takes more work, so this should be a last resort. If you do use this technique, don’t make your subject do it for more than about 15 seconds at a time so that they don’t get stiff. It’s better to shoot a few frames, let them relax for a few seconds, and then start over. You’ll keep the body language much more relaxed this way.
Frequently I will either raise my camera angle to slightly above their eyes or ask them to push forward and lower the chin just a tiny little bit. That brings me to the second tip.
2. Shoot from above
Any time you are photographing a subject who is a little or a lot overweight, shooting from a higher camera angle will help to thin their body. This is because you are essentially creating an optical illusion by putting their head closer to the camera and their body further away. Kind of the same way we figure out which is the best side of a person’s face, like I do in this article.
Also, when your subject lifts their chin towards the camera, it tightens the neck muscles and has a thinning effect.
Understand that I am not suggesting extreme angles, otherwise you just make your subject look like a caricature. I am talking about moving just a little above your subject. Now I know – some of you want me to say that it should be six feet or a foot or two feet – there is no rule. You have to learn to pay attention to how it makes your subject look. In other words, go practice!
One other little trick – if you are shooting from above, having your subject tilt their head just a little bit while the chin is pushed forward will also help to hide the extra chin.
If you’re working with a makeup artist – like I argue in this article that you should be – a makeup artist can contour the jawline and darken the extra chin to make it appear thinner. A darker shade of powder, foundation, or bronzer will make the chin appear to recede. Then a little highlighter on the tip of the chin will make it seem to pop forward. Again, it is not a cure – it won’t make the extra chin disappear completely – but every little bit helps.
A little hair tip: with women that have long hair – having their hair up or pushed back or better yet behind the shoulders will also help thin the neck.
You can also have your subject wear a high collar.
I mentioned in the beginning of the video that even skinny people get double chins. This is the story of what I call the Chin Tuckers. The easiest way to figure out if you are working with a chin tucker is to simply ask your subject to lower their chin. When they do it, they will do it one of two ways.
Some people smoothly lower their chin and it moves slightly forward in the process. Other people actually pull the chin in to lower it – in other words, they tuck it. This will almost always create a double chin.
In addition to the double chin, the body language is off because the person is essentially pulling away from the camera. Ideally you want their face and body to feel like it is moving towards and welcoming the camera.
The solution is easy…kind of. Just like I did in the first tip, explain to them that you need the chin to travel forward. Click here to see how I explain it to my subjects.
Understand though that, since they are a natural Chin Tucker, over the course of 15 – 30 seconds while you are shooting they will unconsciously begin to tuck their chin because it feels more natural to them. When that happens, give them a break, remind them that you need it to go forward, and start again.
Some Chin Tuckers actually have a very hard time keeping their chin out. In this situation, you can tweak your pose to use anatomy to your advantage. Instead of just having the subject sit on a stool like I show in the video above, set up a second stool or chair for them to lean on.
The idea is for them to have to lean their body slightly forward. If you try this even sitting at your desk reading this article, if you lean your body forward and rest on your hand or elbow, your chin automatically pushes forward and it is actually harder you to tuck your chin. The bonus to this posture is that you get a really nice diagonal line from the shoulders which enhances the pose and composition of your shot.
Lighting to Hide a Double Chin
Now, I am not a big fan of altering my lighting to hide a double chin, because more often than not you will be working with lighting that is not flattering for the rest of the image. So the only tips I will give you for lighting is to avoid clamshell lighting, where you will have light coming from below your subject. I prefer to keep my light above, and if I am photographing someone with a double chin I may tend to set my lights slightly – not a lot, just slightly – higher than usual.
So hopefully you are getting a little better sense of why I don’t agree with teaching “poses” or rules for poses. Poses are STIFF and BORING. Basically you are taking a square peg and making it fit into a round hole. The more you learn to pay attention to your subject’s emotions and body language – the more you learn to put yourself in your subject’s position and become a better communicator – the LESS you have to actually pose and the more relaxed your subjects will look in your photographs.
As always, I hope that gives you some ideas, so take this idea and run with it – go practice and show me what you come up with!
Don’t keep all this cool stuff to yourself! Please share it with your photography friends. Remember: photography is not a competition, it’s a passion to be shared.
Now go pick up that camera and shoot something! Because your BEST shot is your NEXT shot. So keep learning, keep thinking, and keep shooting. Adios!