No announcement yet.

Where to cut off people?

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Where to cut off people?

    I always struggle with my portraits on finding a good cut off point. For example, if I am doing a 3/4 body, do I cut above the knee? Below the knee? Somewhere in between? And for head shots, I have read that the eyes should be in one of the power points, what if this means cutting off the forehead? I would love some imput! Thanks,

  • #2
    There are no rules for good photographs; there are only good photographs
    I may be off with the exact wording, but the above quote is from Ansel Adams. However, there are some "rules" that seem to be a little bit common.

    Don't cut off *at* the joints. So, above the knee is okay, below the knee is okay, but *at* the knee is not. The same is true for elbows. I think I agree with this one. There are other recommendations that "if it can bend, it should". So, don't keep arms straight (especially when straight down at someone's side), bend the elbows. If you crop right at the elbow, then you can't see if the arm is bent or straight and (I guess?) that your mind starts wondering what's going on at the edge of the frame versus what's *in* the frame.

    Also, when bending knees or elbows, there are recommendations that you don't have the limb going toward or away from the camera. Keep the various parts parallel to the camera or distortions in size/scale start to appear.

    Regarding face crops, I've read plenty of conflicting advice. One that stands in my mind is it's okay to crop the top of the head, but not the sides. I can't yet agree with that, because I've seen too many examples that break any of the rules.

    Unless it's an *obvious* side profile, then both eyes need to be visible and catch lights are almost always recommended. Depending on how impactful the eyes are, the other features simply may not matter.
    Some pictures... (500px)


    • #3
      All good tips above. I can't stand seeing shots cut at the joints .. in most cases. I might throw in though that when you're thinking about where to crop think about the end result. Are you cropping in post-edit or are you making 100% of these decisions while behind the camera? If you're still shooting consider the end product. Are you printing, resizing for online, is this a client who will want various sizes, etc. .. These questions will affect your needed aspect ratios later and can drastically change your composition. Do you need an 8x10 ratio? If so, you just ruined your 4x6 composition by cropping to tight in camera. Personally, I shoot with DSLRs just as I always did in medium format .. leaving enough room to fine tune and produce multiple ratio crops later.

      You might want to give this article a quick read Photography Tips - Should I Crop In Camera
      Randy McKown:: Photography Tutorials & Free Stuff


      • #4
        Good discussion on the cutoff points. I've been struggling with cutoff points as well, and these tips will help.


        • #5
          As mentioned above, the general no no's are to never crop at a joint, and that applies to the neck, ankles, wrists, knees, fingers, and toes. And, personally, I don't like crops below the knee or below the elbow, so I always try to crop above those joints. Lopping off tops of heads are OK, but if possible, try not to do it at the hairline.
          Vince "...the law of unintended consequences, sometimes, you get a truly memorable photograph"
          Gear: Canon G2, Canon 20D, Nikon D300...bunch of lenses
          My Flickr


          • #6
            Pictures are worth a 1000 words. This tool has given me some light on the subject in the past.. Hope it helps ya.


            • #7
              that is a really useful graphic, thanks for sharing

              GDMK Images News
              gdmkimages blog
              Facebook page
              Save 10% on any Zenfolio photography account with this code - 5N4-H65-VDW