When you shoot a new portrait…crop it like it’s hot! Crop it like it’s hot! Seriously, how you crop your portrait photos can determine how the image is perceived by the viewer.

This is an important skill not only for portrait photographers, but for anyone who photographs people. Whether you are a family photographer, a wedding photographer, fashion photographer, or even a street photographer, these tips will help you create more powerful images!

how to crop portrait photos cropping pictures guidelines

1. If It Bends, Don’t Crop There

Never crop at joints – knees, ankles, wrists, elbows. It makes the photo look odd.

cropping portrait photos guidelines

I remember a headshot that I had taken when I first moved to New York City. My hand and part of my forearm were in the photo as I was leaning on my head on my hand. When I ordered a print of that particular photo, for some reason, the photographer CROPPED the image at my wrist. Now my hand was now floating in from outside the frame and the photo went from looking very natural to incredibly awkward.

2. Crop With Purpose

When I visited Rome, I was baffled by how citizens would just walk across a busy 6 lane street and traffic would just stop for them. The secret, the locals told me, was to ‘walk with purpose.’

But what does this mean for cropping your portrait photos? Are you cropping intentionally? Are you trying to make the photo better or draw attention to some particular part of the image?

Yes? Then crop away!

No? Reconsider your crop…

3. Leave Your Options Open

Social media has left us with sooooo many sizes and orientations to deal with. Square, horizontal, vertical. When you are taking pictures that you know will be used for a variety of different platforms, leave some space around your subject so that you can crop into different ratios.

4. Keep Eyes in the Top of the Frame

If you are cropping a photo of a person, it is usually a good idea to keep the subject’s eyes in the top of the frame (top third for portrait oriented photos, and top half for landscape and square oriented images). This is ESPECIALLY true when it comes to headshots and other more ‘close up’ portraits.

Bonus Tip: Unless you are cropping in for an extreme close up, never crop out the chin of your subject. It just looks…weird.

5. Do Your Cropping In Camera

You can save yourself time in post production by simply cropping appropriately in camera. Obviously this won’t be an option 100% of the time. However, by seriously considering your composition before clicking away, you can decrease the effort spent trying to fix or enhance the photo later on.

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