Westminster fountain at sunset

by Jorge Córdoba

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Two of the most disturbing things I struggle with when shooting portraits are double chin of the model and glossy skin reflecting my flash, even while using diffused light. I normally ask my model to tighten his/her shoulder and move his/her head a little forward and clean his/her face with wet tissue. But this method doesn't always do the trick and ultimately led to unusable/embarrassing photos. Even my models feel uncomfortable when they see me struggling with their double chin or glossy skin.

How do I handle these problems without making them uncomfortable? Is there any particular orientation for placing the model in such a way that does not embarrass them and also solves the problems?

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3 Answers 3

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For dealing with the double chin, there's some excellent advice here but generally you're trying to get the model to elongate their neck and stretch that skin a little.

  • Tell them to lean over their waist/belt and often times they'll stretch their neck a little too.
  • The other thing to do is to put their shoulders more toward the camera and have them turn their head toward you. This has the effect of stretching that double chin out.

The worst thing you can do for a double chin is shoot them straight face forward.

In regards to the shine, you've got a few options:

  • Avoid making it more wet/damp, that's only going to increase the reflection:
  • Carry give them a small towel to wipe with, it shouldn't be an embarrassing thing. Keep it on you and make it obvious that you have it for that because 'hey, it just happens'.
  • In worst cases, a little baby powder will dull it up. Just a little dab and a toweling and they should be ready to rock.
  • Fix it in post. For a small shiny dot here or there, its often really easy to use a little post processing to airbrush it off. People want to look their best, don't be afraid to Photoshop portraits a bit as long as you're being honest with it.
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Double chins come in two flavours: the ones that can be tightened by moving the head a little forward, and the ones that need the photographer to change his point of view. Looking slightly upward is a lot more comfortable than trying to emulate a giraffe/tortoise Dr. Moreau experiment. (Okay, there is a third flavour -- the n-chin that is so prominent that it cannot be eliminated at capture time save for hiding it with arms, props or clothing. Those tactics are not going to work for executive headshots, but they are useful in glamour-style shots.) Raising the camera is often the best way to achieve a good picture without forcing the subject into uncomfortable contortions.

It's almost always a better idea for the photographer to be flexible than for the subject to be forced into some preconceived notion of what a good subject ought to look like. When you give minor direction, your subject will understand that you're trying to make them look their best. When the directions are headed toward forcing the subject into an uncomfortable position (and you're not shooting an "action" pose), you're telling the subject that there is something fundamentally wrong with their shape, that they have to significantly bend and twist themselves in order to look acceptable. That's not the message that comes across when you move -- it's like the difference between telling them you're looking for the best picture of them and telling them that they're really not a suitable subject, but you'll do the best you can (and thank goodness there's Photoshop). Your subjects should never even get a hint that there are hurdles to overcome, even if they are high enough that you need a personal jet pack to get over them.

Glossy skin has two basic causes: aging/drying effects (the skin becomes somewhat like parchment and actually has a smoother surface) and greasiness (which may be natural or may be due to inappropriate makeup -- inappropriate in the photographic sense, that is). Powder can help in some circumstances, as can wipes. Powder is probably more acceptable to subjects -- even male subjects -- they've all seen makeup done for movies and television and understand that it's all a part of making people look their best. And that's always the trick -- blame it on what the camera does and not on what the real problem may be. If you aren't comfortable/competent with the makeup thing and don't have a stylist handy, then handle the problem in post.

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I use Portrait Professional a lot to fix the skin in the face. If used correctly, the model will still have a natural look. There are several good presets. I use it together with Aperture 3 and they play good together. It is possible to use it together with Photoshop, as well as a standalone application. Both Windows and Mac OS versions are available.

http://www.portraitprofessional.com/

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Any chance you could provide a couple example photos where it has helped you? –  jrista Jan 12 '12 at 20:12
    
Here are some of my portrait pictures where I have user Portrait Professional. In the photo with a girl in front of a Christmas tree a have used the "natural young women" preset. link –  Johan Karlsson Jan 12 '12 at 20:20

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