Crop Guidelines for Portrait Photography

Here’s a helpful illustration that shows acceptable places to crop when shooting portraits. Cropping at green lines should be fine, while cropping at red lines might leave you with an awkward looking photograph.

Image credit: Don’t Chop at the red by J. Southard Photography

  • Patent Attorney

    One of the most famous portraiture photographers, Helmut Newton said, “My job as a portrait photographer is to seduce, amuse, and entertain.” I absolutely agree with his assessment. A photographer standing with a camera up to their face waiting for the perfect expressive moment would generally make the subject to be photographed nervous.  I am sure there are times when candid portraits work quite well, and there are those people that are “naturals” and just know how to pose, but in my experience most people rely on the photographer for direction.

  • P Neill Photography

    Looks more like an instruction manual for Dexter :)

  • Shane Guthrie

    Pity that the photos on her flickr stream cut the images with nasty watermarks. 

  • Anonymous

    It’s funny getting portrait advice from someone that doesn’t really provide good instances of great portraiture. Once again, something that can be helpful, but is not meant as a rule. At best, more of a guideline.

  • Daniel Austin Hoherd

    I don’t see any red lines.

  • Asad

    Bad diagram for people who are red/green colour blind…

  • Michael Zhang

    Dang, you’re right… Oops

  • Anonymous

    EDIT 2: Here is a grayscale version for the color-blind. Grey lines indicate good crops whereas black indicate poor crops. Again, according to this lady and her image. All rights belong to J. Southard Photography, original located at
    Once again, not my image, hers. Just made color-blind friendly.

  • Michael Zhang

    Thanks for that Christian. Was thinking of doing that myself later when I had more time, but glad you beat me to it!

  • Anonymous

    NP! I’ll help when I can. :) Cheers!

  • Asad

    Thanks Christian

  • Anonymous

    I was bored at work, seemed like more fun to play around with Paint than do my job… :P

  • John Goldsmith / Waxy

    It’s all green for street photographers. The more cuts, the better. :)

  • John Godwin

    I don’t think this is her own creation. For a start, barely any of the portraiture appears to be her own, and secondly, I’ve seen this image, or something identical several times.

  • Clint

    WHY do people still insist on doing color-coded charts of the most common colorblind colors: red and green :rant:

  • Chris

    I agree Clint.

  • cmbfoto

    I agree Clint.

  • Sebastián Soto

    It looks she doesn’t apply this diagram in animals.

  • Markcharb

    I agree in principle with the thought, but would have some concern depending on the context of the picture. For example if the extremities are clothed you can get away with the trim points. However if the extremity is exposed, it begs the question: Why is the hand/foot missing? What is the hand doing? It reaches to a reference of body image / whole body. Intellectually we know (99% of the time) everyone is OK. Subconsciously we want the assurance that everyone is OK and has all the parts. Chopping off exposed parts (especially hands) can  be a bit disturbing. 

  • Nigel

    It says on her website that all images are her own. From what are you making the assumption that they are not her shots? Curious. If they are not her shots, then SHAME, SHAME, SHAME!!!

  • Fabio Azevedo

    Like me!

  • Trevor C

    Is this another case of someone trying to tell us that the only right way of doing things is their way?

  • Barry Wilkinson

    Careful CR, I saw a person who said she was bored at work she got a helping hand from her boss, he sacked her.