With the right family portrait crop, you can elevate a picture from underperforming , to beautiful , and it also only takes a handful of seconds. Of course , there is an art to cropping (you can’t just hack away with a harvest tool and expect good results! ), but that’s where this article comes in convenient.
Being an experienced portrait shooter, I’ve spent yrs developing my style, working with subjects, learning the masters, and finding the types of crops that work – and the type of crops that don’t. Below, I actually share my top five suggestions for cropping portraits; by the time you’re done, you’ll know how (and where) to crop pictures like a professional artist.
Let’s get started.
1 . When probable, crop in camera
Cropping in post-processing is great, and it certainly has its place; sometimes, you won’t recognize a brilliant composition until after the shoot is over.
But whenever possible, don’t wait till post-production. Instead, crop portraits right at the beginning, using your digital camera and lens to develop in on key functions (and exclude the rest).
In other words: Compose your images precisely how you want the final shot to look, rather than shooting loosely and cropping in post-production. There are two reasons for this:
- First, pictures cropped in camera appearance totally different from images clipped in post-production. Filling the frame from the beginning means that you will create good background blur ( bokeh ), which usually removes background distractions plus focuses more attention on your own model. However , if you take wide and crop later, you’ll have a larger depth of field and less history blur.
- File size and image high quality will not be affected. A cropped image may only leave you with 10-15% of your file size, so folders that was originally 30 MB as a full-sized image is reduced to 3 MEGABYTES with a tight crop. These lower-resolution images have much less detail compared to a full-sized image, and this has many implications (e. g., your printing capabilities will be severely curtailed).
So whenever possible, get it right in camera . Yes, it can be tempting to leave some extra space, in case – but be brave. Take the shot you visualize as you envision it.
second . If it bends, don’t harvest it
Many photographers struggle to determine where to crop portraits – the knees? The elbows? The waist? The upper body?
Well, here’s my advice:
If it can bend, don’t crop it. If it can’t bend, cropping is (often) fine.
So the knees should not be cropped, but popping mid-thigh works just fine (see the two images below). The elbows should not be cropped, but cropping just above the elbows appears nice.
|Bad crop||Good crop|
Before cropping – either in-camera or during post-production – ask yourself: Feel I cutting off a body part that bends? And if the answer is yes , i then urge you to reconsider.
More generally, you need to crop in a way that will elongate and flatter the body. Cropping at the knees, waist, elbows, toes, fingers, ankles, or even wrists can make your model look stumpy. So be sure to avoid it!
3. Avoid cropping to the chin; keep the eyes within the top third of the framework
Wondering tips on how to crop headshots? I have two simple rules:
- Don’t crop the chin.
- Crop so the eyes fall in the top of the frame (and preferably along the upper-third gridline).
Cropping the particular chin will make your model’s face look square (see the example below), and it also often seems like you weren’t paying attention when you took the particular shot. Whereas keeping the particular chin in the frame results in a much more flattering image:
|Bad harvest||Good crop|
You should also think about the eyes, and I discover that the strongest images often position eyes along the best gridline or slightly increased. In the left image of the woman featured above, the eye are near the bottom-third gridline, and the shot appears stationary. But in the right image, the eyes are raised to just above the upper-third gridline, and the image comes to living.
Now let’s look at a simple portrait popping example from start to complete. Check out this image, taken for the cover of my dPS eBook, Portraits: Striking the Pose :
I wasn’t sure how much of the shot we would use, so I deliberately shot broad and left space in the left of my body to allow for text and other pictures. But when it turned out I would need a horizontal file, I had to complete a major crop; I regarded both these options:
And here are the images, now cropped:
Which do you prefer? In the end, I chose the image on the left, which usually positions the eyes in the upper-third gridline:
4. Give yourself options
The explosion of social media offers radically changed how I capture my portraits. A few years ago, I would shoot the majority of customer portraits as vertical images. Now I make allowances for websites and social media platforms that will run vertical, square, plus horizontal images – and am recommend you do the same.
Instead of shooting top to bottom portraits for the whole session, go on and start that way – but then rotate your camera in order to shoot some horizontal structures.
Also, try out different in-camera plants. Experiment with different compositions. Put your model along the right or left gridline (the rule associated with thirds is definitely useful), but then try having a few center shots. Furthermore, try cropping your model’s head slightly (as Used to do in the previous example), but also capture with some space.
Bottom line: Shoot a lot, including plenty of compositional and harvest variations. You never know in which the final image may result in a few weeks or a few years, and so i think it’s a good idea to plan ahead. It only takes a couple of minutes to shoot slightly wider, usable, and horizontal at the end of every setup, plus this will give you more latitude when processing.
5. Create your crops deliberate (and don’t be afraid to break the particular rules)
1 question I always ask myself personally when cropping images will be, “Does this crop look deliberate, or does it resemble a mistake? ”
Deliberate crops are good. They provide the viewer a sense of purpose and even intelligence, whereas obvious mistakes make you look like a good amateur. For instance, if you photo a model wearing 3/4 sleeves and crop at a point that is technically correct, you will leave a tiny amount of provide showing just below the sleeve. This seems like a mistake plus would look better if you cropped a little higher to remove your skin.
A vital lesson is that cropping deliberately doesn’t always mean following a rules to the letter. Refusing to deviate from the guidelines I’ve laid out is a recipe for bad or plagiarized results, so use the suggestions as a starting point, then break them as you see fit in. Not every experiment will work, but some will, and you can use these types of results to develop your own special style.
The more you shoot, the greater you will start to get a feeling with regard to what looks right to a person. If you’re still not sure, carry out two versions and evaluate them. Plus, you don’t have in order to experiment when cropping in camera. You can always take a couple of full-body or half-body pictures, then pull them upward in Lightroom and have a cropping session. Make sense?
Portrait cropping: final words
Hopefully, you now understand how and where to crop family portrait photos.
Remember to follow my suggested guidelines, but don’t be afraid to experiment, either. And have plenty of fun!
Here is a simple cropping cheat page to get you started:
And here are the awkward crops to avoid: