Watching Peter Hurley work is a thing to behold. When it comes to talking to his portrait photography clients, he’s a tour de force. And while you can’t easily learn to be as charismatic as he is, he’s always pretty forthcoming about his tips and techniques for making people look their best in photos.
The most recent tip is colloquially referred to as “Hold Your Sub,” and it’s a technique for making arms and shoulders look slimmer in a headshot setting. Basically, the subject pretends that he or she is trying to hold onto a giant party sub. In doing so, it brings the elbows in close to the body and pulls back the scapula muscles (found in your upper back), which makes the subject look more narrow, especially compared to the typical “hands-on-hips.” pose.
The results photos actually do show a pretty pronounced difference, even if it only changes the body position a small amount. It’s not, however, a technique that’s always correct for every subject. For instance, I shoot a lot of athletes (male and female) and wide shoulders and upper body is desirable in that circumstance.
Tucking the elbows in like that will also make the rest of the torso appear wider if you’re shooting a full-body or 3/4 portrait because it eliminates the space between the body and the arms.