How to Photograph a Person from Below and Create a Flattering Image

Model: Asta Peredes

Model: Asta Peredes

One of the things that every portrait photographer is taught when starting out is that you should never photograph a person from below. For the most part, this stands true–but if done correctly, photographing a subject from below can make them look heroic or visually put that person on a pedestal. The way to do this involves partially some work on your end and work on your subject’s end. With every portrait tutorial, it starts with a good wardrobe that makes the person feel confident about themselves and some instructions from you.

Move back. Then move back a bit further.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm 16-55mm f2.8 WR review portraits (2 of 7)ISO 2001-250 sec at f - 2.8

When photographing a person from below, don’t try to get in close and create a tight photo. The closest you should ever be is close enough to create an image that shows around the upper half of the person. Alternatively, you can zoom out if you’re working with a zoom lens.

Why does this matter? The closer you get to the person physically, the more you can emphasize potential flaws that you may not catch–but those will be covered a bit in the next step.

When you back up and shoot wider, you also create a scene that’s a bit more grand and involves more of the environment.

Make the chin as shadowless as possible.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Phottix Indra500TTL Images portraits with Amanda (10 of 11)ISO 1001-1250 sec at f - 1.4

Here’s possibly the biggest tip that you’ll need to work with here and it has to do partially with exposures and light. When shooting a person from below, the biggest area to pay attention to is the chin. Everyone has a different chin–some stick out a bit more than others, some are more round, while others are pointy. When photographing a person from below, you’ll want ample amounts of light to be hitting this area to make it as shadowless as possible. If you’re shooting during the day time with the sun, then backlight the subject and expose for the shadows. But if you’re using a flash, make sure that there is even coverage of the important areas and check the chin.

In a situation like this, a large reflector can do wonders.

Don’t tilt the head downward. Point it up.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 85mm f1.4 Otus lens Adam's portraits (2 of 2)ISO 4001-200 sec at f - 2.8

Combine what we said earlier and now add in this little tip. When someone is having their picture taken, their natural instinct is to turn the their face towards you. Since you’re below them physically, they’re going to tilt their head down. If they do this, it’s going to create a shadow under the chin and also make the neck/chin bulge out.

Ask them not to do this: everyone looks better with their head slightly up. An exception to this is when a person wears a scarf or if they’re fortunate enough to join those of us with big, beautiful beards.

Additionally, don’t photograph the person straight on. Position them or yourself off to an angle and have them turn their head in your direction slightly.

Stick the Head Out a Bit

Building on all of our other tips, also consider asking the person to stick their head out a bit, though not too much. This is a technique that Peter Hurley does, but it isn’t as effective as when someone is being photographed straight on. Because of this, you’ll need to adjust the positioning to the person’s physical build. Everyone is different and there is no one end all be all formula.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.