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.” Though 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 pose for 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 anyone’s 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 that’s 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. 🙂

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Much love!


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I am a photographer, a writer and a travel/fashion addict.

150 thoughts on “4 big reasons you look fat in photographs.

  1. OMG, thank you sooo much. All this time i tought i had a distorted image of how I actually look since what I see in the mirror and what I see on pic is not the same. I bet it does not help that the second I see a camera I get “weird”, I just dont know how to behave infront of it. My inlaws thought I was a whale. No really they did,(they only seen me on pic or Skype for 4 years). The first thing they Said to me when they saw me face to face was “youre not fat!!! We thaught you would be at least 100kg (220lbs)”. Im not skinny by any means, but I’m not as nearly as big as I appear in pic. Thank you for the tips, I’ll have them in mind the next time I’m infront of a camera 😉

  2. Wow.. This is a super tips for me and very helpfull post.. Mostly on how you explain certain things about pose and how it affect to the result. Also open my mind on how to create a good portrait, not only just take a shot but also consider a few things before you take a shot. Thanks

  3. This article popped up on my suggested pins and took a peek! Great advice as a (non) professional photographer and someone who inevitably looks “fat” in photos, these are amazing tips! Many thanks!

  4. This is the BEST article I’ve come across regarding our perception and execution of photos. Thank you for including your personal photographs with the before and after. Seeing it like this makes all the difference. You are beautiful by the way!

  5. Well, I guess I’ll start letting my husband take more photos of me. I always hated that he’s so much taller than me and takes them from his vantage point! (he’s 7′ so all our photos taken by him are from way up high. I can always tell which ones he’s taken!!)
    Great post! Thanks!

  6. I love this article. Intuitively I knew angles matter and I always try to coach naive photographers who insist on shooting my 5’2 frame at chest level, no matter how much I try to direct, angle up, down…..it turns into such a fussing match I just prefer my own shots of me. So there’s so much angst.. Then when I see a photo on FB that didn’t even crop or edit to complement I’m mortified. So thanks for this, especially the visual graphic of why met mid section turns into a pregnant belly when a camera is dead on, ugh.

  7. Thank u, what honest & helpful advice, not offensive in any manner but truthful. Best angle if u have a round face please?

    1. Thank you Karen! I think every face shape is different so figuring out what’s your best angle by taking selfies would be the best advice I could give so when its time to get your photo taken you know how you like to be photographed. Good luck! Thanks for reading !

  8. Wow, the articles you come across on Pintrest! I am so impressed, and I’m officially a fan! I relate so well, and I love your humor mixed with your positive spirit. I am in the fashion industry and I want to showcase my style, but my “ootd” shots always look like “fat woman gone wild” horror pics. Instead, I stick to selfies and cool shoe compositions. It always seems that when the camera is trusted in someone else’s hands, I get that “shriek” feel. However, in person I always get complemented on my look/style/Beauty. My selfies are always perfect, but full bodies are a horror story. I’m going to try ALL of your tips and I’ll check back to let you know how I make out. Thanks for this article #girlfriendinmyhead

  9. Thanks for the tips Cousin! I always prefer to pose for photos. I kind of know what works for me. I hate candid shots. If someone comes toward me with a camera, I strike a pose. I’m not trying to be vain or cute. I just want to put my “best foot forward!”

  10. Thanks for this topic! Yesterday they took pictures of my graduation. I have a skinny body but thick hips and legs. But on the pictures it all looks waaayyy bigger. My bestfriend looked the same as in real life tho.. But then again, my pose was very weird. I am also really insecure and I get litteraly scared when I see a camera. Also I had a dress on wich I never do because it doesn’t flatter my legs, so I guess all of this above madr me look fatter than I actually am.

  11. Thank you for the tips! This definitely helps. Every time I look at myself in the mirror I feel am not so bad, but then when I see myself in pics especially the ones clicked with the DSLR, I just want to run away, I feel so embarrassed with my looks, I look like round potato 😀 When I click my pics through the smart phone I dont look as fat (settings not changed to make me look thin, its on the auto mode) but when clicked with DSLR or any small cameras I look fatter. What could be the reason?

  12. Thank you for the tips….I’m have a wedding to do with a couple that’s on the fat side….so your tips will help me to position them to make them look more attractive…also she is bigger than him…so might use him like the hand bag…if you get my drift.

  13. I am built just like you. When I look in the mirror I see a curvy full figured woman. When I see photos, I see a very round, short fat woman. I really thought I must have a distorted image of myself until I read this. Thank you so much and please keep writing more!

    1. Haha bobby , youre so clever . you gonna have to troll a little harder to get to me bruh. Why don’t you try spreading some cheer instead of being a dick 🙂 merry Christmas !

  14. I wish I had come across this article two weeks ago…before my dream trip to Europe and some truly awful pictures. At least now I know what NOT to do in the future and how to look better. I have always been rather photogenic but, as I get older (and rounder) I do not like myself in pictures. I will use these tips to see if they help.

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