Putting Your Best Face Forward

People’s faces are not symmetrical and most of us really do have a “good” and “bad” side that photographs better or worse than the other side.

Experienced models know this and will only give you what they think is their best side but they can be wrong. That’s why it’s a good idea to shoot a few test shots and determine which side of their face looks best. Keep in mind any pose is lighting dependent, so what looks great under directional lighting may look different under soft lighting. Even drop-dead-gorgeous subjects have a good side and a bad side. Learn early in the session which side works best for the portrait.

Here’s a set of images made during a session in my home studio where I photographed a subject from different angles so you will see that there is a difference between the left and right sides of her face. The lighting is the same for both photographs and the same camera and lens were used. In the first image she’s posed with her face in the same direction as her shoulders, which is usually not the best way to create a dynamic portrait. It was shot with a Nikon D90 and AF-S Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens. Exposure was 1/50 secat f/13 and ISO 200.

In the second image the subject still looks beautiful when turning her head in the opposite direction (of her shoulders) but if you compare the two images, she looks slightly different. But still fabulous. I asked her to bring her hand up to her face and she did this with a delicate touch.

Tip: One way to get this look is to tell the subject to barely touch her face, not push against it, which can cause unattractive bulges and distortions. Here’s it’s perfectly done, a textbook example.

On this blog there are lots of blog posts on portrait posing. Use the Search box on the upper right-hand side of this page and type “posing” to get appropriate posts. If you want something more lasting, take a look at my book Posing for Portrait and Glamour Photography. It’s available from your friendly neighborhood camera store (if you’re lucky enough to have one) as well as Amazon.

Author: Joe Farace

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