How to Photograph A Pronounced Nose—Portrait Tips from Lindsay Adler

By // February 18, 2014 // Posted in Events & Workshops, Photography, Portrait

With just a few short days left till WPPI, I wanted to share an example of the kind of in-depth and useful information you’ll learn this year at WPPI. Real world tips, and great takeaways guaranteed to help you take your shooting skills to the next step.


Lindsay Adler

Lindsay Adler is one of our esteemed teachers, and has a busy schedule with us this year, leading several classes as well as serving as one of our judges in the Print Competition. You can see her at WPPI-U, and in her platform presentation on March 5th from 8:30-10:00 AM, “How to Flatter Anyone, No Really, Anyone.

As a way to get us pumped, she’s sharing a little about what she’ll be teaching this year—a tip every photographer shooting portraits of any kind can use: Tips for photographing a pronounced nose. 

Take it away, Lindsay…

As a fashion photographer, many people believe that I only photograph ‘perfect beauty’ as our society has defined it. In reality, however, most of my paying clients are from this standard and are professional athletes, singers and performers. My job is to use the tools in my photographic tool box to help them look their best and make them shine.

In my WPPI presentation, I will provide you the tools needed to flatter features that are traditionally considered more difficult by photographers, including pronounced nose, pronounced forehead, plus size, double chin, oily skin and more. I will provide you tools to help reduce any perceived ‘weakness’ and instead play up and individual’s strength and beauty.

Let’s take a look at one key example for someone with a longer than the ‘average’ nose. If this is a feature a subject is concerned about, it is not your job to ‘Photoshop it’ smaller, but instead use photographic tools—including lens choice, posing and lighting—to reduce its appearance in the photograph.

Lens choice:
Select a longer lens with MORE compression. This will make the nose appear shorter and less pronounced. If typically with portraits you shoot between 70mm-85mm full frame, you might instead consider 200mm in this instance.


Pose: Keep the subject’s face most straight toward the camera. The face to profile or turned too far to the side will draw attention to the length of her nose. A face toward the camera will generally be more flattering.


Lighting: Be sure to avoid lighting that draws unnecessary attention to the length of the nose through shadows. The light should be more centered on the subject’s face and lower in angle. Long shadows will work against you when photographing subjects with this feature.


One of the reasons it’s important to educate yourself as a photographer is so that you’re able to provide the tools and techniques necessary for any subject. My class with give you confidence to photograph all shapes, sizes and challenging features!

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Jason Groupp

Jason Groupp

Jason Groupp is the Director of WPPI and a New York City photographer heavily steeped in the industry. Adoring New York City far beyond any healthy proportion, Jason has maintained his photography studio in West Chelsea for the past 12 years.

Previously from Jason Groupp:


  1. My wife often protests that pictures of her fail to show the true magnificence of her majestic Olfactory Apparatus!

  2. Why on earth isn’t it my job to photoshop it smaller? What’s the difference between the smoke and mirrors of photoshop and the smoke and mirrors or lighting and angles? Feels like an arbitrary distinction to me.

    • gotta agree with you, Faith. the exact same thought passed my mind as i read the blog. either way you go, it’s the same result.

    • I believe it is better to get your images the best they can be in the camera, and if needed, Photoshop later. Unless you are an accomplished Photoshop technician, especially with portraiture, your work may look worse than if you did nothing. Deep within themselves, your clients know their imperfections, so I would tread very carefully before making any drastic changes.

    • I like the idea of working with light and angle to enhance a portrait, but there is some value in photoshopping a little depending on the purpose of the photo. Imagine that in the age of painting portraits of royalty, or wealthy patrons, some license was taken to flatter the subject, maybe even required, to gain more commissions. Same for photography, unless it’s a journalistic or psychological portrait where you might want to show the full character, as is.

  3. The change in the focal length did nothing! The angle of her face to the camera is what changed, chin being raised up and not looking throughout the top of her eyes are what the image acceptable. We are photographers, don’t you think that we analyze images?!

    • Thank you Michael. Spot on. I noticed the same. Of course one should never use a wide angle lens CLOSE to a face, but at the same distance as the telephoto and then cropped, the perspective is the same!

  4. I find this a bit troubling. Women are already denigrated enough in big media with Photoshop to the point of total absurdity.
    There is NOTHING WRONG WITH NOSES!! Any kind of nose. The exception is the overly retouched or overly surgically enhanced nose. Those pointless quests for perfection are total disasters.
    Having said that, sure, it is your job to not HIDE the nose but rather to ENHANCE the rest of the person!
    Let’s stop pointing out flaws and instead emphasis the best way to pose and make a picture of a person. Irrespective of supposed flaws.
    Also, sometimes, that unique feature is the BEST thing about them! Wide eyes, long chin, elegant nose, fuzzy hair, long mustache, freckles, birthmarks, etc.
    Perfection is BORING!

  5. Wonderful advice, but I honestly feel that the “nose crossing cheek and eyeline” profile shoot is gorgeous. Yes her nose is large, but so what? She looks flawless. I think as photographers it is our responsibility to show the client the how beautiful their unique features are. Even if the features subvert from the status quo.

    I think if we made the effort to do so instead of “hiding flaws” we would a lot more high self Esteems…..and a little less demand for plastic surgery. Just my opinion.

  6. Having a substantially aquiline proboscis myself, I appreciate a subject’s desire that it be as well portrayed and flattered as possible.
    I spent years analyzing noses and learning how to best photograph them. I did seminars entitled “Face Facts”, where we looked at the proportions of the face, how it changes through the years and how to best photograph one’s subject to best flatter their features (if that’s what you want to do — usually so).
    The lens selection can be certainly helpful but this example was very poorly done. A long lens will create some compression when used properly.
    The nose of a normally proportional face, in most cases, will lie on a line drawn across the face from where the ear lobes connect to the head. A nose or forehead that is too long can be raised slightly above that line to aid in shortening. Don’t go to the extremes of looking up the nostrils.
    The curvature of the nose will usually determine from which side of the face to photograph, if not straight on, full face. Photograph into the curve so the tip of the nose curves back to the camera, not away, unless you want to emphasize the length or lengthen a too-short nose. Never had a subject who thought their nose was too short.
    The lighting can straighten a nose if you can straighten the highlight on the bridge of the nose. If you can’t do it with the lighting, THEN you can add that highlight in Photoshop. NO, I don’t believe re-shaping the nose in PS is the way to go in most cases, only when absolutely necessary.
    All this said, keep in mind that PPA and WPPI guidelines are just that — “guidelines”. Learn how to break those guidelines to make a statement about who your subject is, or wants to be, rather than just another “pretty picture”.
    Perhaps I should publish my “Face Facts” presentation online?
    I do have a book, “Pricing for Profit” that has been very helpful to many photographers. Feel free to contact me for more information.
    Good luck and may all your images be as you pre-visualized them.
    Joe Butts

    • Well said, Joe. If you’re willing to send more info on facial correction through posing and lighting I’d be delighted to receive it.

  7. In the past I have always used a 70/210 lens on my old Canon .It compresses nicely without a lot of messing around with Photo- Shop. Thesame goes for my new Nikon 5100 and tamron lens.

  8. ONE THING I haven’t heard mentioned yet and always do by the true Pro’s…is this…TIME IS MONEY so thus it’s ALWAYS better to get it right done using correct camera height and
    lighting finesse vs. relying on PhotoShop! Only specialists have the experience to adequately correct a botched lighting job on an overly prominent nose using PS and this
    is best left to them I feel. Using PhotoShop is always extra time and cost(if fielding it out) and takes a true Pro away from the camera where he can make the most money…isn’t
    this what a profession is about? LEARN how to light portraits correctly and all of this
    fades into the background. Adler did a great job illustrating this and being the expert that
    she is not in too much time spent either I feel. DON’T rely on PS to save you here or you
    will make the damage worse. I am NOT against using PS but I find that most inexperienced “photographers” today cannot handle this from what I’ve observed. Again, to repeat, time is money and do it right at the camera. Enjoy the learning process and watch a few of the
    1940-50’s B&W movies on cable and marvel at the gorgeous lighting employed way back
    then…esp. on faces…wow! So, slow down a bit, think, then do it right! Parry, parry, thrust anyone?

  9. This should not be an all or nothing proposition….Give the subject a choice. The suggestions here using for example a 200mm lens knocks this out of the park in terms of a radical solution it seems in a studio environment. It is a technique…a tool that I for one would have never considered being in such close proximity to the subject in order to solve a “nose problem”….. There exists now plenty of plug-ins and stand alone programs at relatively low cost that will permit as much digital cosmetic surgery as one could imagine. Knowing all the tools and techniques both while shooting and afterward is simply being smart. If the relationship with the client is honest and not overly tense or complicated, then present the variety you have taken and let them decide what they like.

    I have enjoyed reading the different opinions and what I carried away from these comments is to not get in a corner of absolutes especially when it comes to what might be considered a sensitive issue with a person having a big nose. I am sure this gal was not the last one on the planet to know of her so called imperfection.

    I thank the author for tackling a rather difficult issue with specific shooting suggestions. This discussion here also was excellent to make all of us even more sensitive to what is being attempted here which if you think about it, applies to ALL the photography and computer work we do…not just portraiture….we pick filters, lenses, certain lighting, time of day on and on and on whether it is a landscape or still life or people etc. We use our tools and our brains. Adler is just adding if you will a “verse’ to that process…

  10. Pingback: Portrait Photography: How to Flatter Anyone | Valerie Bey Photography