Impactful Portraits

When photographing people, there are conventional rules for framing and cropping. Contemporary fashion plays with these traditional rules, often shooting from lower angles and emphasising the clothing or product in the frame. However, it’s good to keep these crop points in mind. The main rule is, don’t crop through a joint. Pretty simple! Here are my go-to cropping points.


Whether vertical or horizontal, the full-length crop encompasses the whole figure and places the person in context. Horizontal crops allow space for headlines, copy, or other content to be overlaid. Often used in fashion, the full-length crop distances you from the subject’s face making the clothes and accessories more prominent.


The half-length is the least defined of the four crops. It moves from the frame base depending on what the subject is wearing and where the hands are placed. Our subject is wearing a jacket and has her hands downwards. Therefore, the half-length crop will encompass both of these whilst maintaining room over her head. This is an excellent crop for fashion and products (like the full-length).


As we crop in tighter, the subject’s face becomes more prominent. We’re now in the territory of the beauty and accessory industry. A contemporary headshot would typically crop into the top of the head, leaving space above for more traditional corporate portraits.

Cover Shot

You guessed it, the cover shot is often seen on the cover of magazines. Cropping to the hairline above the forehead (or, in this case, above the hat’s brim) distinguishes the cover shot from a passport crop. The bottom of the frame needs to encompass the decolletage. The cover shot works best when cropped asymmetrically.

One last point to mention is about pixels.

Make sure the original photograph is large enough to crop without losing resolution. Also, if you commission a photographer, ensure they are adequately briefed!

If this article has been helpful, check out The Power in Cropping, where I discuss the art direction problem and how to crop an impactful image across multiple device formats and ratios.

Article by Karen
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