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Head Positions in Portrait Photography

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  • Head Positions in Portrait Photography

    This is a basic tutorial in head positions in Portrait Photography. I was inspired to write this because of some confusion that arose out of this thread.

    All about ears

    There is a school of though that some photographers subscribe to. It says that in portrait photography, the ears of the subject are a distraction and should be hidden as much as possible. If possible. they should be out of focus, to minimize the distraction. I'll point out to this while describing the positions.

    Head on position

    Photo by Nomads: will create

    This is what some photographers refer to as the mugshot. Looking straight into the camera, many things can go wrong with this pose. But most importantly, this shows both the ears of the subject and that is its usually ruled out. But there are always exceptions and some photographers make excellent portraits head on.

    Seven - Eighths position

    Photo by Nomads: will create

    This is the view when the subject's face is turned slightly away from the camera and is looking into it. In other words, you'll see a little more of one side of the face than the other. You will usually still see the subject's far ear, so try to keep it out of focus (if that's a distraction). Move the head a bit more and you can get rid of the far ear (as in the example above)

    Three - Quarters position

    Photo by Nomads: will create

    In this view, the far ear is hidden from the camera and even more of one side of the ear is visible. Because of the distance from the camera, the far eye will appear smaller than the near eye, hence position your subject so that the smaller eye is closer to the camera (most humans don't have equally sized eyes).

    Profile position

    Photo by cobalt123

    In the profile, the head is turned almost 90 degrees to the camera and only one eye is visible. There is not much to say here, but its nice if the shoulders are at an angle to the camera in this position.

    There is much much more to portrait photography. Even head positions can be accentuated by tilting the head. This tutorial was just to get you started.
    My photostream on FlickR
    Canon entry level camera, a few lenses, some flashes and light modifiers

  • #2

    Nice easy to understand tutorial, thx
    Pentax K20D & in love with light


    • #3
      Much Better

      That was a much better article than the one that started all this. Well written, well ilustrated and very attractive photos. THANKS!


      • #4
        Excellent - thank you very much
        Join the 365 DPS Assignment group on flickr and challenge yourself!

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        • #5
          Great article! I just wanted to mention that the first two photos don't seem to exist any more. However, the 7/8ths and 3/4 positions were described excellently and easily understood without the visual assistance. Thanks!


          • #6
            I don't know if it's just me but the first 3 photos aren't showing up. Thanks for the great write-up on this, though. Will check back and hopefully the images will work for me.


            • #7
              I cannot see the images either
              ~You will never succeed unless you're willing to fail~