While men make up only a small percentage of our actual clients (women are typically the buyers and initiator of a portraits and sessions) we do have to deal with and photograph this grumbling….complaining gender.  Whether a high school senior or grandfather, typically the male of our species is only photographed when threatened or coerced by the strongest female of their family.  Thank God for Mothers, girlfriends and/or wives because they keep the photography industry alive.

Once you get past the grumbling and complaining, there some things you must account for when photographing  a man.  First of all, ask any woman what she doesn’t like about her appearance and often you think it would have been a much shorter list if you would have what she actually liked.  Dear old dad however can be as bald as a billiard cue and have a stomach that looks as though he is nine months along and he will say he is fine with his appearance.  I have one word to say….Bullshit!  As a man we worry about our appearance and the signs of aging and weight gain just like woman do (although typically not as much).  Realizing this, you have to look at a man, just like a woman and figure out,  if you were them, what would you want to change, hide or disguise from the view of the camera.  Balding men, miss their hair, so turn off the hair light, while men with shaved heads have accepted their lack of hair, they still don’t want to have their head gleaming in the photo.  Dads with huge stomachs don’t want to see it, so dress them black and/or use a grandchild to hide that enlarged part of their anatomy or allow that area to blend with a darker background.   Photographing from a higher camera angle also does wonders for thinning the face and stretching out those large double chins that are often made more noticeable by trying to button the top button of a shirt which used to fit three years ago, but the male ego will insist it still fits today.  This brings up the second reality.

The second reality of men is they typically have no fashion sense.  If you don’t believe this, go in to any Macy’s, (except the one in San Francisco, where there is a higher population of men with a sense of fashion….no puns please!) and you will find a store that has the majority of floor space devoted to everything for woman, while the men’s section is in the back corner by the luggage.  Fashion-wise, men go for comfortable or ease.  Younger men worry more about fashion, but they want to be comfortable, so they typically buy their clothing to fit a person twice their size.  Older men bring in clothing that used to fit years ago, with tight collars making the double chin and jowls twice their size and Sport coats that don`t even come close to buttoning.  When photographing men you must provide them guidance.  If you are going to help a man, give him a checklist of common mistakes and best clothing and preparation options.  He probably will do nothing with, so involved the strongest woman in his family, typically the one that made the appointment in the first place and explain all the ways the man can `mess-up` her portrait.

The best way to photograph a man is keep him comfortable.  Men like loose-fitting, casual clothing (in a darker color to hide body size).  Men photograph best where they are comfortable, so going to their home or place of work is a much better option than the studio or public outdoor location.  This also brings up another important consideration about working with men, they hate attention when doing something they are un-comfortable with.  When photographing a man and wanting him to feel relaxed on photograph him in a private setting.  Whether in the studio or at the park, make sure there are not others around to watch (other than an assistant, etc.).  While many woman kinda like the attention of onlookers or the occasional whistle or honk of a passing car (adding to their 15 minutes of fame, feeling), most men are completely embarrassed by such occurrences, although most men would try to act `too cool to care`.

While pose a man can do a great deal to hide body size and signs of aging, lighting can also help create a better look for the male.  Softer lighting works well when photographing woman, men however photograph better with a little harder lighting.  Not only is it ok to see more of the lines and skin texture on a man (double standard lines on a man add character, on a woman look old) the heavier shadow also helps hide the thickness of the face.  As we age all of our faces widen, giving us the appearance of jowls.  Woman use hair styles to hide this area if is a problem, which men`s only defense is facial hair.

One last, final thing, when it comes to selling portraits to man…..don`t!  Men for the most part can`t make up their minds and are cheap.  If you don`t believe me, who always bring up the amount a family is spending on portraits in the salesroom….DAD!  When selling get the predominate female that made the appointment in the viewing for a sizable order.


~ by jeffsmithbooks on April 18, 2011.

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