Improve Your Portraits With This Simple Shoulder Trick

A lot of us don’t like the way we look in photos. Despite what it says about our collective self-esteem (not to mention an oversaturation of perfect body types and societal pressure to look a certain way), we are always striving to look better, healthier, and thinner in photos. That’s where Peter Hurley speaks right to the heart of the issue. In this video, he offers a great tip that’s sure to make your portrait subjects look slimmer:

You may remember Hurley from two other videos we’ve shared—about accentuating your jawline and “squinching.” Both those videos, along with his touching and humorous TED Talk, have become something of a revelation for anyone hoping to look better in photos.

Now he’s back, this time moving down from the face and dealing with shoulders. This trick? Pretend like you’re holding a six-foot sub.

look better in photos

As Hurley notes, a lot of people will instinctively put their hands on their hips. Even if you’re shooting them from the shoulders-up, they’ll look wider than necessary, like this:

model photography tips

So as a portrait photographer, you might ask them to drop their arms. They’ll look better already, and you can see the bulk of the shoulder drop:

how to look small in portraits

But the real trick to losing that extra inch is to have them extend their arms out. As Hurley puts it, “act like you’re holding a sub—a submarine sandwich.” The difference is subtle but effective:

look skinny in pictures

By forcing the arms out and keeping the elbows in, your subject will push his or her shoulders naturally inward and hide the bulk of their triceps.

They’ll look a bit goofy, but it works.

headshot tricks and tips

If it’s too weird to hold this pose in public, don’t worry; you can simply twist your arms outward to achieve the same effect without raising them. This trick also works on selfies, too—just hold the camera in one hand and gently turn your other arm outward to slim it down.

The beauty of Hurley’s tips is that they don’t change our body types at all, relying on Photoshop or any other post-production to make us look better. Instead, they’re small adjustments that bring out the most attractive side of anyone. Any portrait photographers who heed this advice are bound to put their subjects’ minds more at ease.

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One Comment

  1. Thank you Michael, our best works usually consists of such small tricks and tweaks

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