Home Photography The Ultimate Guide to Cropping Portraits Like a Pro

The Ultimate Guide to Cropping Portraits Like a Pro

by kyngsam

Portrait photographers are obsessive about lighting, topics, clothing, and hair, but cropping typically goes ignored. And that’s a mistake.

With the precise portrait crop, you’ll be able to elevate a picture from mediocre to stunning, and it solely takes a handful of seconds. In fact, there’s an artwork to cropping (you’ll be able to’t simply hack away with a crop device and anticipate nice outcomes!), however that’s the place this text turns out to be useful.

As an skilled portrait shooter, I’ve spent years growing my model, working with topics, learning the masters, and discovering the sorts of crops that work – and the kind of crops that don’t. Under, I share my high 5 ideas for cropping portraits; by the point you’re performed, you’ll understand how (and the place) to crop portraits like knowledgeable artist.

Let’s get began.

1. When doable, crop in digital camera

tight crop on subject's face

Cropping in post-processing is nice, and it definitely has its place; typically, you received’t acknowledge a superb composition till after the shoot is over.

However each time doable, don’t wait till post-production. As an alternative, crop portraits proper at first, utilizing your digital camera and lens to hone in on the important thing options (and exclude the remainder).

In different phrases: Compose your pictures precisely the way you need the ultimate shot to look, somewhat than capturing loosely and cropping in post-production. There are two causes for this:

  1. First, pictures cropped in digital camera look completely completely different from pictures which can be cropped in post-production. Filling the body from the start signifies that you’ll create nice background blur (bokeh), which removes background distractions and focuses extra consideration in your mannequin. Nevertheless, in case you shoot large and crop later, you’ll have a bigger depth of area and fewer background blur.
  2. File dimension and picture high quality is not going to be affected. A cropped picture might solely go away you with 10-15% of your file dimension, so a file that was initially 30 MB as a full-size picture is lowered to three MB with a decent crop. These lower-resolution pictures have much less element in comparison with a full-size picture, which has many penalties (e.g., your printing capabilities might be severely curtailed).

So each time doable, get it proper in digital camera. Sure, it may be tempting to go away some further house, simply in case – however be courageous. Take the shot you envision as you envision it.

2. If it bends, don’t crop it

Many photographers wrestle to find out the place to crop portraits – the knees? The elbows? The waist? The chest?

Properly, right here’s my recommendation:

If it could bend, don’t crop it. If it could’t bend, cropping is (typically) superb.

So the knees ought to not be cropped, however cropping mid-thigh works simply superb (see the 2 pictures under). The elbows ought to not be cropped, however cropping simply above the elbows appears to be like good.

Earlier than cropping – both in-camera or throughout post-production – ask your self: Am I reducing off a physique half that bends? And if the reply is sure, then I urge you to rethink.

Extra typically, it’s best to crop in a method that may elongate and flatter the physique. Cropping on the knees, waist, elbows, toes, fingers, ankles, or wrists could make your mannequin look stumpy. So make sure to keep away from it!

3. Keep away from cropping into the chin; maintain the eyes within the high third of the body

Questioning easy methods to crop headshots? I’ve two easy guidelines:

  1. Don’t crop the chin.
  2. Crop so the eyes fall within the high of the body (and ideally alongside the upper-third gridline).

Cropping the chin will make your mannequin’s face look sq. (see the instance under), plus it typically appears to be like such as you weren’t paying consideration whenever you took the shot. Whereas protecting the chin within the body ends in a way more flattering picture:

It’s essential to additionally take into consideration the eyes, and I discover that the strongest pictures are likely to place them alongside the highest gridline or barely greater. Within the left picture of the girl featured above, the eyes are close to the bottom-third gridline, and the shot seems static. However in the precise picture, the eyes are raised to simply above the upper-third gridline, and the picture involves life.

Now let’s take a look at a easy portrait cropping instance from begin to end. Try this picture, taken for the quilt of my dPS eBook, Portraits: Striking the Pose:

nice portrait pose and crop of a woman

I wasn’t certain how a lot of the shot we’d be utilizing, so I intentionally shot large and left house on the left of my body to permit for textual content and different pictures. However when it turned out I would want a horizontal file, I needed to do a significant crop; I thought-about each these choices:

And listed below are the photographs, now cropped:

cropped portrait photo

Which do you like? Ultimately, I selected the picture on the left, which positions the eyes on the upper-third gridline:

rule of thirds portrait photography

4. Give your self choices

The explosion of social media has radically modified how I shoot my portraits. When a consumer booked me for a session just a few years in the past, I might shoot nearly all of their portraits as vertical pictures. Now I make allowances for web sites and social media platforms that run vertical, sq., and horizontal pictures – and I like to recommend you do the identical.

As an alternative of capturing vertical portraits for the entire session, go forward and begin that method – however then rotate your digital camera to shoot some horizontal frames.

Additionally, check out completely different in-camera crops. Experiment with completely different compositions. Put your mannequin alongside the precise or left gridline (the rule of thirds is all the time helpful), however then strive taking just a few heart pictures. Additionally, strive cropping your mannequin’s head barely (as I did within the earlier instance), but additionally shoot with some house.

Backside line: Shoot loads, together with loads of compositional and crop variations. You by no means know the place the ultimate picture might find yourself in just a few weeks or just a few years, so I believe it’s a good suggestion to plan forward. It solely takes a few minutes to shoot barely wider, vertical, and horizontal on the finish of every setup, plus this provides you with extra latitude when processing.

5. Make your crops deliberate (and don’t be afraid to interrupt the foundations)

One query I all the time ask myself when cropping pictures is, “Does this crop look deliberate or does it appear like a mistake?”

Deliberate crops are good. They provide the viewer a way of intention and even intelligence, whereas obvious errors make you appear like an beginner. As an example, in case you {photograph} a mannequin carrying 3/Four sleeves and crop at a degree that’s technically right, you’ll go away a tiny quantity of arm displaying slightly below the sleeve. This appears to be like like a mistake and would look higher in case you cropped a bit greater to take away the pores and skin.

A key lesson is that cropping intentionally doesn’t all the time imply following the foundations to the letter. Refusing to deviate from the foundations I’ve laid out is a recipe for unhealthy or unoriginal outcomes, so use my solutions as a place to begin, then break them as you see match. Not each experiment will work, however some will, and you should utilize these outcomes to develop your individual distinctive model.

The extra you shoot, the extra you’ll begin to get a sense for what appears to be like proper to you. If you happen to’re nonetheless undecided, do two variations and examine them. Plus, you don’t must experiment when cropping in digital camera. You possibly can all the time take just a few full-body or half-body portraits, then pull them up in Lightroom and have a cropping session. Make sense?

Portrait cropping: ultimate phrases

Hopefully, now you can understand how and the place to crop portrait photographs.

Keep in mind to comply with my urged guidelines, however don’t be afraid to experiment, both. And have loads of enjoyable!

Right here’s a easy cropping cheat sheet to get you began:

a guide to the best crops and poses
I all the time crop a shot under the knee, mid-thigh, on the waist, throughout the forearm, or by way of the highest of the top. If I’m going to crop my mannequin’s waist, I’ll often ask my mannequin to deliver their arms up so I don’t must crop by way of their arms.

And listed below are the awkward crops to keep away from:

a list of bad crops
I keep away from cropping at any of the joints of the physique. This consists of fingers, toes, elbows, knees, and wrists. I additionally assume cropping by way of the mannequin’s chin appears to be like odd.







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