Regarding the Photographing of Plus-Size Clients

Jun 30, 2015

Missy Mwac

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

Regarding the Photographing of Plus-Size Clients

Jun 30, 2015

Missy Mwac

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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I read a couple statements today by photographers who will not show plus-size clients in their portfolio because they don’t want to attract plus-size clients. And I have to give my two cents on this, because well, it’s what I do.

As photographers, we meet people where they are. We photograph skin with all its beautiful shades; we photograph people in love; we photograph those beginning their journey in life, and those, like the elderly couple with all their glorious wrinkles, who are just finishing it.

We photograph PEOPLE. And people, well, they aren’t perfect. They have acne and rolls and cellulite and imperfections. And they come to us to help them look how they feel they look on their very best day.

Now, you can target the models. It’s your business, so that’s up to you. And more power to you if that’s your choice. If you fill your portfolio with only families and high school seniors and individuals who look like they could step off the pages of a magazine, then I know you sure wouldn’t photograph me, with my big nose, my wide hips, one eye smaller than the other and my crooked smile. And I would probably pass out during the session, anyway, from having to hold in my stomach the entire time. You’d end up Tweeting about it. It would just be a mess.


As for me, I like the acne, the rolls, the cellulite, the imperfections. I love that. I really do.  It’s real…it’s part of being human. Are models and those who look like them easier to photograph? Sure. You don’t have to worry quite as much about adding weight by posing them incorrectly or being kind to a double chin or lighting them incorrectly so their face appears broader.

It’s like photographing kittens…no matter what you get, it’s a kitten, so it’s gonna be cute.

But those are the things that are awesome...working with people where they are, at any size. At any shape. At any age. And making them LOOK GOOD. And more importantly, FEEL GOOD.

See, I don’t want to attract just those with perfect skin and perfect waistlines. I want to attract people who love good portrait photography and value it, be they size 2 or 22.

I photograph PEOPLE…not dress sizes.

P.S. I have had to cut my caffeine intake down to a cup and a half of coffee a day, which means my filter is very weak right now. If you’re offended by the following post, please take it up with my doctor. It’s all her fault

About the Author

Missy Mwac is a photographer/eater of bacon/drinker of vodka and a guide through the murky waters of professional photography. You can follow her social media links here: Facebook, Tumblr. This article was originally published here and shared with permission. Lead photo by A m o r e Caterina.

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26 responses to “Regarding the Photographing of Plus-Size Clients”

  1. Gvido Mūrnieks Avatar
    Gvido Mūrnieks

    I respect your opinion as much as that “TPOP” opinion.

    But, here’s my fat people rant:

    First of all, there is a big difference between fat and chubby/curvy(pun intended). I have no problem with chubby people, as the matter of fact, I am quite attracted to curvy women. But, when it comes to fat people…

    …ok, I will give an example: Do you think, we should encourage and protect people, who indulge themselves with bad habits, that have proven harmful to their health? I say no and frankly most of society agrees with this, when it comes to smoking. But it comes to overeating and not exercising – everyone jumps to bandwagon of political correctness.

    Here’s how I feel about fat people:
    I “hate” fat people as much as I “hate” smokers.
    And I am saying this as a smoker, who tries to drop this bad habit, and “hates” himself, for having virtually no progress with that.

    1. C. A. Bridges Avatar
      C. A. Bridges

      I might accept this if all fat people were fat because of excess. But they’re not.

      Some are a victim of genetics, hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s Syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, polycystic ovarian syndrome or depression.

      Some medications such as antidepressants, high blood pressure drugs, and seizure medications can cause weight gain.

      A very dear friend of mine went from Cher-skinny in the early 80s to morbidly obese toward the end of the decade after a fall shattered both her knees and she spent years trying to walk effectively again. Anyone seeing her, thinking as you are here, would just scorn her for her unhealthy habits.

      Many, probably most obese people need better eating habits and more exercise, absolutely. But if there’s a chance I’m going to unfairly shame someone I’m not going to do it.

      1. Ivan S. Avatar
        Ivan S.

        Nope, wrong. While there are psychological, cultural and emotional issues involved with being overweight, it is simple maths: energy intake vs. energy output. No amount of genetics will “make you” fat, you have to consume the calories and not burn them for them to accumulate. This PC movement of trying to defend obesity as something out of people’s control only furthers the problem: it is a health hazard.

        Now, it’s not about shaming, but it is about drawing a line. Sure… it depends on the type of photography, there are people that photograph drug addicts, murderers, prisoners, thieves, etc. They make for great subjects in documentary style photography, but nobody is going to photograph an anorexic woman for a commercial shoot meant to attract clients or for a portrait meant to show the person attractively.

        Drug users, criminals, they are also victims of cultural issues, psychological issues, how they were brought up, abuse, whatever… but we still don’t defend them as “attractive” or “normal” because what they are doing is dangerous. We feel for them, and we should do what we can to help them, not shame them of course.

        Again, it’s about the type of photography, and everything should be photographed under different lights. But obesity is just like any other unhealthy and dangerous habit, and it shouldn’t be shown under a light of normality or worse, desirability.

        My 2 cents.

        1. C. A. Bridges Avatar
          C. A. Bridges

          Let’s read back over what I posted. I didn’t list psychological, cultural or emotional issues. I listed medical reasons and medications.

          Do Americans overeat and exercise too little? Of course. Do we eat too much junk and not enough healthy food? Unquestionably. I kinda mentioned that in my original post when I said: “Many, probably most obese people need better eating habits and more exercise, absolutely.”

          Fact remains, some people are overweight because they don’t have a choice. A small percentage, maybe. But enough that I don’t plan to shame anyone without knowing their story.

          1. Crimson Hikari Avatar
            Crimson Hikari

            I’m pretty sure that calories are a bit more complex than Ivan makes them out to be. It’s easier to burn 50 calories from a plate of vegetables than it is 50 calories from a Krispy Kreme doughnut just from the way your body processes the carbs, the protein, and the fats.

            I read a quote somewhere…goes something along the lines of this; “If we start shaming fat people, we won’t end up with fewer fat people, but we will have more fat people who are depressed or neurotic.”

            Simply put, if you bring someone’s self-esteem down and then expect them to feel comfortable and happy enough to go out for a jog or a cycle to get fitter, you’re a fucking idiot.

            Between skinny-shaming and fat-shaming, assholes keep crawling out of the woodwork to give their poisonous opinions, and there’s no need for it.

          2. Ivan S. Avatar
            Ivan S.

            Actually no, calories are not more complex than that, and no, 50 calories are just as easy to burn wherever they come from. Need sources? There is plenty of scientific literature available proving that, and I’d be glad to link to it if you wish.

            Again, like I said, it’s not about shaming, it’s about not glorifying and defending. Obese people need help, but it doesn’t help to tell them it’s normal and beautiful.

            Poisonous opinions? I’d argue it’s far more poisonous to defend an unhealthy lifestyle that will guarantee an early grave.

          3. Crimson Hikari Avatar
            Crimson Hikari

            Ah, yet another person who thinks that a calorie is a calorie…It’s about the quality of the calorie, not just about it being a calorie. And for every piece of scientific evidence out there, there is another proving the contrary. We can each push our own evidence here, but I’ve read a lot more sources saying that calories are a lot more complex than simply calories in-calories out, including weight loss of my own.

            I’m not saying to glorify obesity gained via excess food consumption. I’m also not defending the idea it’s ok to be unhealthy. I’m just stating a fact that if you bring someone’s self-esteem down, they’re not going to do anything besides sit there hating every inch of themselves. Especially those who are obese because of a genuine medical condition, the idea that someone obese can’t be beautiful is a direct hit at them for something out of their control. It’s not about sugar-coating things. It’s about being less insensitive for the sake of those who honestly can’t help it.

          4. Ivan S. Avatar
            Ivan S.

            Wrong, calories do NOT have a quality to them. Get it through your head. It’s not me saying it, that is the way it is. Here you go:

          5. Crimson Hikari Avatar
            Crimson Hikari

            In no way am I advocating scoffing cream cakes, chocolate and crisps down yourself (who did this woman think she was kidding?)! I’m saying the opposite. When I started cutting the crap out during weekdays (reserving treats for the weekend) and replacing it with healthier foods, I not only felt healthier, but I did certainly drop a few pounds.

            If you have a 100 calorie slice of white bread, and a 100 calorie slice of whole grain and seeded bread, your body has to work harder to break down the whole grain bread, so it expends more calories. Like I said, not JUST about the number of calories. Not dismissing them entirely, just not quite as black and white as it’s made out to be. Not to mention (to a small degree) the fact that everyone’s stomach flora will be slightly different. Not that it’s any excuse, but it is a factor.

            I’m not saying that calorie counting is entirely unimportant (I still stick within the recommended limits). But the type of calories, like choosing whole grain over plain white, raw veg over cooked veg, does matter.

            And in regards to your second comment: I suppose it’s vaguely worth mentioning my mother is overweight, but she was diagnosed with having Polycystic Ovary Syndrome not long after I was born. Even with medication, it’s a struggle for her to lose and maintain weight loss. So, minuscule, but pretty close to home for me. I was just lazy as a teen and now I’m paying for it.

        2. Ivan S. Avatar
          Ivan S.

          Though I do agree with the rest of your post, I’ve never said it’s ok to bring people down. But seriously, it is a MINUTE, MINUSCULE percentage of the population that “can’t do anything about their weight”. Have a good day.

  • Gvido Mūrnieks Avatar
    Gvido Mūrnieks

    There are always exceptions to everything. For example, alcohol and cigarette addictions can be linked to genetics too. Should we be more tolerable to smoking and excessive use of alcohol, just, so we don’t offend or shame someone?

    If you look to population of America and Mexico – almost third of population can be classified as obese. Can you really blame your mentioned “victims of genetics” on this scale?

    Here’s the thing. In previous message I wrote a bit more harsh, than I intended. I don’t blame individuals for it as much as culture itself. But here’s the thing: cultural habits and governmental regulations that control quality of food, won’t change with this “I don’t want to offend anyone” attitude.

    1. C. A. Bridges Avatar
      C. A. Bridges

      I listed reasons people become obese that have nothing to do with overeating. Bad habits that are encouraged by genetics are still bad habits. Obesity is not necessarily the result of a bad habit.

      I have no problem coming down hard on the habit of overeating or eating only junk food, just as I have no problem coming down hard on the use of cigarettes or excessive alcohol. I don’t see a reason to shame an individual who does these things.

  • KA Avatar

    Wow. I’m so glad I will never ever pay you money to photograph me. Do you get this judgmental about all your clients with characteristics you despise? If it’s trouble with aesthetics, have the guts to admit it. Don’t blame it on some moral high ground about health. If you’re not their doctor, you know nothing about their health just from their appearance.

  • Charles Haynes Avatar
    Charles Haynes

    “Do you think, we should encourage and protect people, who indulge themselves with bad habits, that have proven harmful to their health? I say no and frankly most of society agrees with this, when it comes to smoking.”

    This is called concern trolling, and its bogus. You should educate yourself on the facts around weight loss (its not easy or even possible) and health (the causality of weight and health is not clear)

    But really, it comes down to health policing. Health is an issue between an individual and their health professional. Not you.

    1. Gvido Mūrnieks Avatar
      Gvido Mūrnieks

      In current scale of obesity, it is public health issue. For example, in my country, to prevent child obesity, in our schools it is forbidden to sell junk food and carbonated sugary drinks. And, currently, there are strong debates about, how to increase public health in general, by regulating consumption of junk food.
      Sure, you may say, that it is health policing. And yes, you are right. But how it is wrong?

      1. wjgo Avatar

        Alcohol abuse is worse. Do you photograph people who drink?

        1. Gvido Mūrnieks Avatar
          Gvido Mūrnieks

          wut? What does it has to do with anything?

        2. Gvido Mūrnieks Avatar
          Gvido Mūrnieks

          And I rather be high functioning alcoholic, than be obese.

  • wjgo Avatar

    So, you don’t want to photograph people because you don’t like their bad habits? What other habits have you decided to not photograph? If people drive too fast or have a speeding ticket, you don’t photograph them?

  • Lucia Avatar

    Your fat phobia aside, I’m currently looking at your work and I have to say I’m not impressed. First off, your work mimics your logic; sloppy, unfocused and constantly making excuses for itself. You continually cut things out of frame and I’m assuming your selective client habits aren’t effective, seeing that you haven’t featured anyone who looks like a paying client in over a year. Your use of marketing is a joke, and your “editing” looks like you slap on an Instagram filter and call it a day. Furthermore, I don’t believe you know what a pun is. Maybe instead of judging others’ “habits,” you should make a habit of applying yourself to your work.

    1. Gvido Mūrnieks Avatar
      Gvido Mūrnieks

      Out of my curiosity are you stalking me? If yes – I’m totally cool with that. ;)
      What do you know about my work habits? I have’t really posted about my welding/fabrication job and business, besides some CNC forums… oh! – you talked about my photography hobby! . :D
      I see some points about my style, but they are kinda mute for me, because my that really isn’t what I care about in photography. For past year or so haven’t even photographed anything, because currently my only photography projects are that I am machining 8×10 camera, for shits n’ giggles… So basically I can totally see, that my actual photography style haven’t evolved for like past 5 years, but if you looked over my photography blog – you would see, that I care about photography as a technical craft – not visual art.

      “Maybe instead of judging others’ “habits,” you should make a habit of applying yourself to your work.”

  • Brenda Pieterse Avatar
    Brenda Pieterse

    Thank you Missy :)

  • Monica Cook Avatar
    Monica Cook

    Wow. I knew thinner people were easier to photograph, but I didn’t realize photographers refused the work. My current irritation is when someone asks for editing advice on a pic and someone mentions the Jenny Craig editing package. As a plus size woman and photographer, I get really sad seeing this. As much as people try to be loving and non-judgmental, I think heavy people still face a lot of behind-the-back mocking.

  • Scott Tyack Avatar
    Scott Tyack

    Oh you said ‘plus sized’…prepare for the torrent of abuse.

  • Erin 'Ren' King Avatar
    Erin ‘Ren’ King

    There are some people I WISH would stop photographing fat girls because they suck at it. *shrugs* Your business is your business, I suppose. I’m fat, I like having photographs taken of me by people who want to take photographs of me. It’s fairly obvious when someone’s heart isn’t in it.

  • dbltapp Avatar

    So – any chance you’re a bit chubby yourself?