4 big reasons you look fat in photographs.

4 Big Reasons You look FAT in Photographs

Update: You know how you read buzz feed or something like that and there is this really shocking title, but when you go to read it its nothing about what you thought it was going to be? and it ticks you off? Well this article is not like that, but the title is like that for a reason. It’s what brought you to read this today. I had some unsavory comments about people not liking that I used the word fat, or upset that I would use this word in a negative context. Just to be honest – a man responded to this article saying ” or start working out and don’t be fat ” Ouch. I don’t think anyone wants to be called that, and nor have I been ever called fat as a compliment ( maybe P-H-A-T ;) ) In any event, this article is about looking your most “flattering” in photos. Since I’ve been a photographer for many years – My clients have used this word over and over to describe what they don’t want to look like. Semantics or not, fat or skinny, not one person is trying to looking heavier or more unflattering than they are. I’m not using those words as synonyms either. Bad pictures are the top reason my clients and other people that I know find reasons not to like themselves. So yes, I used the word FAT to describe how unflattering photos come about – mostly because most people describe themselves that way and I knew it was the best way to relate to the topic. I’m also a pretty sarcastic person so my joking is in no way belittling anyone when I make fun of myself. Hope you enjoy the read!

Alea ( IG @alealovely )


So to give you a little background, I have been a professional photographer for 8 years. I’m very familiar with the old adage ” The camera adds ten pounds.” Through I was fluent in cameras, I couldn’t figure out what is going on that makes it give perfectly nice people a reason to think they are fat. Was there a little leprechaun in my camera altering settings to make everyone fatter? Likely not. So being that I was always behind the camera, it made me never want to be in front of one. I just couldn’t stand having to look at one more picture that gave me the reality that I was fatter than I thought I was. ” OMG – I look that THAT?!?! ” was a constant jaw dropping realization, making me feel like Shrek anytime a photo was involved.

So as many of you know, if you have been following this blog,  that this is my own journey to loving myself and finding a way to encourage other women to love their bodies through fashion. Weird how that works. How clothes/fashion can make us feel a certain way about ourselves. It’s constantly around us. When we see something we really like and think ” well I can’t wear that” because of the image we hold about ourselves. Body image is simply the story we are telling ourselves. Not what other people see when they look at us. But pictures have a BIG part in what story we are telling ourselves. It is the only reflection that we perceive as reality about what we look like. It’s the reason we hide in the back of group photos, or when someone points a camera at us we act like its a gun and hide for cover. It’s the reason almost ALL my brides say  “I’m not photogenic ”

4 Big Reasons You look FAT in Photographs

The funny part about that is, anyone can look photogenic or un-photogenic depending on who is taking the photo of them.

This experiment with the blog has been an exciting revelation as to why I believed I couldn’t take good pictures ( in front of the camera.)

So #1- Camera Distortion. Often cameras add ten pounds because of the structure of the lens. Each lens has at least a little bit of distortion within in. As anyone knows, the lens on any camera is usually what? ROUND. So an object you see with your own eyes, in a picture is normally Barrel distorted. Yes, in fact it makes your perfect beautiful body look more like a barrel . Here is the technical look at it.


The bottom one is often what we are dealing with. So even the best photographers deal with this issue. Check out this recent shoot of me. I normally never photoshop my body, but instead go into Adobe Lightroom an fix the lens distortion to be more accurate.


Now the difference is extremely slight but I will take looking a little less barrel like any day! We can make an informercial and call it the Lightroom diet?

4 Big Reasons You look FAT in Photographs4 Big Reasons You look FAT in Photographs

Now most of you likely aren’t having professional photographers taking photos of you all the time, it’s usually your husband or friend, a waiter, sister etc. Someone amateur at best snapping a quick shot without fully looking at what you look like in that photo. And why should they care? They aren’t thinking about how your shirt is hugging one of your rolls or that the way you are holding your face is letting your double chin get all the attention. They also don’t look at photos all day long like a professional would. So don’t leave your appearance up to them. Here is #2 – Angles of camera.

Lets start with whoever is taking your photo.  If someone taking the photo is shorter than you RUN! No just kidding. But ask them to hold the camera a little higher. If they are your height or lower or standing downhill from you – have them take the photo from eye level or above.Why do you think 99% of selfles are from above? It’s a very slimming angle for most people. Since most point and shoot cameras (or phones) have a screen you can view from the back just ask them to raise it slightly above eye level and that will help you defeat the 10 lb gain.

This photo my photographer who is shorter than me is under eye level for the first shot and the second shot is slightly above.

4 Big Reasons You look FAT in Photographs

Looks like I lost about 20 lbs in this one. It feels good not to look like Shrek.

Here is another example. Same set up.

4 Big Reasons You look FAT in Photographs

Another example – can you tell that this tip is really important? Angles can be your best friend or worst enemy. Note that in this one below in the first photo you catch the chin at an upward angle which is unflattering on anyone as well as my legs that treetop which make thunder thighs an understatement. The next one is from above where my chin looks svelte and legs much better.

4 Big Reasons You look FAT in Photographs

But it isn’t all about having a camera hang above your head. You need to know what angles your body and face look best at. This leads into #3 – Your pose.

For instance I have a oval face but I have a very pointed chin, which when pointed up the angle gets lost, making my face look super round as you can see above. I have to place my head slightly to the side to catch my angles in the most complimentary way. You have to look in a mirror or play the selfie game to find your best angle towards the camera. It’s about your pose. Everyone knows to put your hand on your hip to make those arms look toned and it helps the waist look a little smaller. To show you a real example check out the difference in the first picture where I wasn’t ready, and the posed one.

4 Big Reasons You look FAT in Photographs

See the difference? Also crossing your feet is a biggie. Just google celebrity red carpet. These ladies are coached on how to post of photos. They usually have their hands on their hips and their feet crossed – no matter how skinny they are. Crossing your feet allows for the hips to look curvier and legs slimmed down for a nice mermaid effect.

Ok , so next issue #4 – What you are wearing.  I wore a shirt that wasn’t the most flattering. For those of us with wide midsections and generous arms its not the best to wear light solid colors on top (they don’t call it an apple shape for no reason). I didn’t find this out until I saw the photos and realized this was a no no, for me personally. So how did we fix it? In the pose. This one is self explanatory. Crossing my arms over my uncomfortable region made it go away. Therefore making a picture I was much happier with. Also look at my chin in the second picture, it’s more extended to make my face look more angular. My photographer gave me an AWESOME tip for double chins – push your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Works like magic – no photoshop needed.

4 Big Reasons You look FAT in Photographs

Also if you have a purse use that to your advantage. In this shot I used it to break up the solid space in my outfit. No, I’m not saying hide behind your purse but if you find yourself self-conscious of a certain area and are about to avert taking the photo all together you can certainly play up the accessory. But try to wear darker colors on the areas you are trying to slim OR get creative with the cuts of clothing and color blocking to accent areas you like and minimize areas you don’t.

4 Big Reasons You look FAT in Photographs

My husband pointed out that a photo is merely a snapshot of a moving, breathing object. Angles that most people never see because we are constantly in motion and when you freeze frame that action in the wrong moment or bad angle, it’s not a reflection of what you may actually look like to anyones eyes. Angles are that important. Ultimately anyone can be photogenic. This thing people always say ” I can’t take good photos” is a myth. You can take great photos with just a little bit of awareness around these four things. If you know your strong assets you can practice to make sure when you see a photo of yourself you feel like ” Oh thats my new profile pic!” and not like  “Delete that one or I’ll kill you .” And sometimes the most attractive people feel like they aren’t photogenic but sometimes it has nothing to do with the photo and everything to do with their inner image of themselves. Make sure the reason you hate “That” photo of yourself is because it’s a bad photo, and not because you hate yourself. Remember that a bad photo isn’t a true reflection always of what you look like, that at the end of the day what is on the inside is more beautiful that a photo could ever capture!

I really hope this helps!  I wouldn’t post really unflattering photos of myself otherwise.

Much love!


P.S. UPDATE I started a new blog Travel Airess to mesh travel, lifestyle and fashion interests in one. Follow and check it out! travelairess.com


  1. Thank you for a truly excellent article. There are several people i know who hate to be photographed for the very reasons you have illustrated, but after reading this article and seeing the results have said that with this advice they’d be happy to be photographed. Your illustrations are excellent and i look forward to reading more of your blog and looking back through old articles. I’m really sorry to hear you’ve had some less than pleasant responses to your work, and i really hope that instead it’s the positive feadback that inspires you in the future. I’ve been learning and taking classes photography over the last year and hope to start studio photography later in the year, articles like this are really helpful. Thanks.

  2. Best photography article I’ve read in a long time, and I’m a pro photographer and read a lot. Definitely sharing this amongst all my photog friends.

  3. Thanks for showing the unflattering shots. It makes more sense to see before and after shots. I don’t have any recent pictures of me (only ones from when I was in my svelte 20’s) but I’m going to practise now in the mirror. Oh and I love that white coat – you look oh so chic.

  4. Thank you for this. I was just looking at pictures from my sisters wedding. I got a lot of compliments that day, but when I saw the pictures it took all of the beauty I felt away. I really liked what your husband said about the movement of the body. Thank you. This gives me something to think about.

  5. I see I came way late to this party but I have to thank you for a very eye opening article!

    Thanks for the very very useful tips…and PS: you are very photogenic.

  6. Awesome article. If you have any tips for photographing women of a “certain age” (i.e. 50+), i would love to hear them. It’s very hard when you still feel young, people tell you that you look young, but then you see a photo of yourself that only says you are getting OLD. I want to age gracefully, but any help in photos would be great.

  7. Girl you have no idea how badly I needed this article today! Had some pics done at a family birthday party this weekend and was totally mortified at what I saw when I reviewed the pics!! I am usually behind the camera and not in front of it. This makes me feel so much better! I have been depressed all day! :) Thanks for sharing!

  8. This was very informative. I just wish you could take my photo then I would be sure it is done right. I need photos taken to give to my special someone since we live in different states far apart. Hopefully I will be able to find someone who is as wise as you. Thank you Dee T.

  9. Alea, Thank you so much for posting this article. I’ve learned so much and will try to remember these tips the next time I am photographed. Thank you, thank you.

  10. Alea, This was awesome to read! I am 50 year-old mother of 3 going back to school after 30 years, and feeling less than svelte around the young girls…worse still, is our current assignment, which is to do a self-portrait. I have been behind the camera for 30 years, and not having fun being in front of it. We are all our own worst enemy, but I got some great tips from this…thanks again…

  11. I honestly couldn’t even begin to explain my fear of cameras. I am not in any pictures, or videos that I know of, I would make the person delete it and go to unnecessary measures to make sure that photo is gone, never to be seen again. I’ve even ripped pictures off of walls, like in school. It’s like I just can’t control it, I feel disgusted with the way I look in pictures. After reading this, I can honestly say it’s helped a lot. It makes very clear sense, and I’d like to thank you so much for actually posting this and even photos you’re not keen on of yourself. I’ve searched and searched for help so I can be less conscious and understand more, and see the logic. And nothing else that I’ve found out there has helped as much as this has. Thank you very much! It’s great hearing it from a professional photographer – I enjoy photography myself, so much, and will definitely use your techniques in the future!

  12. This is super clever! I really like the trick about pushing your tongue to the roof of our mouth to get rid of a double chin. Thanks for all the tips :)

  13. Thanks so much for your honesty, and for sharing your knowledge. I have always dreaded having photos taken I am going to try some of your suggestions to see if I can at least feel more relaxed when pictures are being taken. Thank you again.

  14. Thank you so much for this article! I’m a curvy single woman and I hate having my photo taken. When I look in the mirror, I like what I see and I feel beautiful, but when I see photographs I feel horrible about myself. I’ve been trying to figure out why what I see when I look in the mirror and why what I see in a photo look so different and this explains it all! I’m not afraid anymore!

  15. Oh Alea, at last ! I have the same face shape and body size as you (but much older) , and like like ‘millions’ of ladies out there I just hate having my photo taken, all my lumpy bits, weird expressions,odd body positions just jumped from the picture . Like other commenters I always ‘spoiled’ a good photograph. Your tips were so clear, the before and after shots demonstrated the points so well, without a load of techno jargon I loved the tip on pushing my tongue into the roof of my mouth, I lost several chins ! Amazing ! …. I can’t thank you enough for such brilliant help. Now I’ll step into those family group shots with confidence. How brave of you to demonstrate, you took one for the team , but you’re so right , the beauty inside shines through, and you were glowing .

  16. Thank you for this article! I just went through some photos my friend had taken during our holiday and felt awful about the way I looked in quite a few of them, so I really needed this article right now! I’m exactly the type of person you described in your article – I hate having my picture taken and avoid cameras like plague because of that. It’s very consoling to know that maybe I don’t look quite as hideous in real life as I did in those photos, haha. You look great in every single example photo in this article btw! You’re very stylish.

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