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Dear Virgie colorful header

Dear Virgie,

So, I’m trying to take more photos of myself and of others. You always take such amazing portraits of yourself (or others take them of you). There are not a lot of tutorials out there to help fat women learn how to pose well for photographers. Every tutorial I see for “how to pose if you are plus size” is all about how to change your body to look thinner or more “cut.” But that’s not the advice I want; I don’t want to look thinner for the camera — I just want to learn the tips for how to take a really great photo, like you take of yourself. Or, even more so, when people are photographing you and you don’t have control of the lens, what are some basic modeling tips and tricks to end up with kick-ass images?


Hello Friend!

OMG PHOTOS. One of my favorite topics.

It does bum me out to see how many plus-size babes work so hard to “minimize” their amazing bods, cute double chin, and adorbz belly fat. Sigh. Unfortunately, we have been taught that our bodies aren’t perfect just the way they are, and many people feel it’s their duty to make their bodies look a certain way because we live in a culture that enforces, every single day, that fat is ugly.

But we all know that ugliness is a patriarchal myth!

My grandma taught me that I should practice poses and gestures in the mirror to figure out the ones I liked the most, and then memorize what they feel like so I can recreate them at any time. How Pageant Mom is that advice though?!

Related: 10 Reasons Fat People Should Take and Share Their Selfies on Instagram

Even though I love how queeny practicing in the mirror is, in my experience, a really great photo is a photo that captures who you are, or a particular mood.

There are some definite elements I rely upon heavily:

1. Light

Natural light is THE best light. I love being out and about, and so most of my photos are taken outside. This reflects who I am in the world, and also captures me in my “natural habitats.” When choosing where to take photographs, I always choose a place where the sun can catch my face (and ideally the rest of me too). Avoid back-lighting — when a light source is behind you and renders you totally invisible.

I know some people have anxiety about being photographed in public or photographing themselves in public, but it’s a great exercise in taking up space and exploring the outside world!

2. Selfie timer

My life changed drastically after I downloaded an app called iSnapxRemote. I can put my camera on a two-second or 10-second timer. It turns out 10 seconds is just enough time to perch your phone somewhere (I personally like the sills of car windows), stand back and strike a pose.

3. Stop trying to capture a fantasy, and just document you.

I’ve learned to relinquish that intense curatorial impulse to only let the world see one version of myself. I think that fantasy harms us! And it really is just that — A FANTASY.

Practice taking just one or two photos, and just being OK with whatever they look like.

4. Practice being OK with people seeing you!

People in your daily life see you — when you look bored, when you’re annoyed, when you’re eating, when you get sour cream on your shirt, when you crack up, your double chin, that crack in your front tooth, the crook in your nose, the way your boobs wiggle when you walk — in short, all the things! These are the things that make you YOU. I hate how so many of our cultural goals are about looking like someone else. Fuck looking like someone else.

5. Change the goal of the photo

Many times when we work our asses off to look thinner, we are doing this work to appease or gain acceptance (or likes) from others, or to create an idea of ourselves that is more socially acceptable. Change the goal from performing for others (or performing for that fat-shaming jerk in your head) to sharing your whole self with the world.

I hope this helps!





Virgie Tovar is an author, activist and one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp, a 4-week online course designed to help those who are ready to break up with diet culture, and started the hashtag campaign #LoseHateNotWeight.


Virgie Tovar, MA is an author, activist and one of the nation's leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, November 2012) and the mastermind behind #LoseHateNotWeight. She holds a Master's degree in Human Sexuality with a focus on the intersections of body size, race and gender. Virgie has been featured by the New York Times, MTV, Al Jazeera, the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan Magazine Online, and Bust Magazine. Find her at www.virgietovar.com.

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