How to crop portraits correctly

When we talk about right or wrong the business can become quite complicated, and how to crop portraits correctly, can be one of these subjects, as well as mixing eye on ice cream, or beans with noodles.

And when it comes to cropping, or cropping, portraits there are many things you learn over time, and some of them are the things that work and the things that don’t work.

Since not everything in life is so simple, it’s smart that you use your depth-of-field knowledge and lens knowledge to make the best choices so that your photos have the desired effect.

How to crop portraits correctly

How to crop pictures correctly

When you are photographing a model it is interesting to crop your pictures as follows the examples above:

  • A little below the knee, or middle of the thigh
  • On the waist line
  • In the middle of the forearms
  • Just below the shoulder
  • Or close-up of the face
How to crop pictures correctly

It’s always cool to avoid joints as long as it’s possible. This includes, fingers, feet, elbows, knees and wrists. The chin can also be avoided, as long as this is possible.

It takes many years of study to get to the golden rule to cut portraits, and this will make a lot of visual difference in your portraits.

But as in all rules there are exceptions, and the art world would implode if some rules were not broken in the past.

As proved by some artists like Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, and Jackson Pollack are examples of artists whose styles broke all the rules of “how to paint”.

In their time they were ridiculed by other artists and critics, even today their paintings are priceless.

That said, they all studied conventional painting rules of their time and then went on to break those rules, and create their own styles.

My shooting, lighting, posing, and post-production style has developed and evolved over the years, but the way I crop my images has remained the same.

Here are some tips on how to crop portraits correctly

Crop on camera

How to crop pictures correctly

Cropting directly into the camera means composing the image exactly as you want your final photograph to come out, rather than going shooting freely and deciding on post production.

Images that are made in this way are quite different from those made in post production, when you fully fill the frame with the image you want you will remove any distraction that may appear in the final photo.

Another advantage of croping your photos directly into the camera is that you do not diminish the size of the file, in this way keeping all the details and sharpness.

If you have movement do not cut

How to crop pictures correctly
Bad crop
How to crop pictures correctly
Crop good

When you are doing full body photos do not forget the tips at the beginning of the text, keep the joints off when possible, such as the knees were left out in the photo above.

But if the subject has movement that is interesting to be portrayed frame in a way that keeps the movement and way that the photo works.

Don’t forget the eyes

How to crop pictures correctly
How to crop pictures correctly

Keeping your eyes on the upper third of the frame is visually better than cutting into someone’s chin, which may seem to lack attention when doing the portrait.

Portraits get much stronger when you leave your eyes on the top third line.

How to crop pictures correctly

This portrait shows how the photo gets more impactful when you’re a good cutout in order to assemble a beautiful composition. Below are the options that could be used in the same photo.

How to crop pictures correctly
How to crop pictures correctly

The final result that was best accepted was the picture where the eyes were positioned in the region of the upper third.

And of course leaving the region between the eyes at the intersection of the upper third makes the photo even stronger.

Have options

The explosion of social media and selfies has radically changed the way people take their portraits. In the past it was more common for you to see portraits, mainly of face, in portrait format, or vertical.

Today it is very common customer want photos that work well in all media, and by many times images in landscape format, or horizontal, work very well.

Break the rules

Use these suggestions as a starting point until you find a style that works for you.

Start with a full-length portrait and try croping it using the tips here and then try it, try it in a way that suits you.

Model case will look good in a frame type, then shoot and experiment, mix all ideas until you get something special.

The more you shoot the more you’ll notice what’s right and wrong for you, and even if you’re still not sure what the photo will look like, make more than one version of it and test the acceptance by viewers.

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Framing photos correctly

Written by Rix Mascarenhas

Rix Mascarenhas is a photographer, videographer, and drone pilot at

Art lover, always involved with crafts, design, painting etc... As a photographer, I enjoy taking pictures and creating stories that have meaning and help people to thrive. My work is guided by the stories behind each scene that really represent the moment.

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