Technique Thursday — Cutting off Their Heads

Last week, Steve Huff Photo Blog ran an article we wrote and some of Wendy’s images with the article.  There were a lot of positive and great comments (thank you readers) but there was a big discussion over whether its OK or proper to cut off people’s heads in an image.   And it got us thinking.   When does it work and when is it weird?

We would LOVE to hear your comments on this one. What do you think about “creative” crops and head chopping? Constructive criticism is always good.  We are all learning all the time and we do not claim to be experts by any means. We just know what we like, what do you guys think?  Do you crop off heads?  Or are you in the “give me head” crowd?

Here are some examples of creative crops that our readers sent in.  Tell us where and when it works and why.

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In looking through these images – what Amy from a beautiful life photo said just resinates with me. Each one of these images makes me feel as if I was there…even though I don’t know these people personally…I can FEEL their personality and how they were feeling at the exact moment in time. And THIS is why they are interesting, foreheads or not.


oh! and Thank you to all our talented contributors – here are the links – in order.
a beautiful life photo
Heather Perera
Jax Harmon
Amanda McKinley
Photography by Victoria
Wendy Laurel
Ana Pratas
Kate T Parker
Brianna Webb
Jen and Jonah
Marie Virnich
Monika Eisenbart
Omar Olvera
Reaux Photo


  • Jenni Bailey says:

    Personally, I’m down with creative cropping. The front page image on my website has chopped heads but it has remained one of my favorites (and a favorite of the mother in the photo, as well). But I think, as with anything, it’s all about variety. It’s good to have some of each and the ratio, for me, is usually dictated by the client’s personality (if there is a paying client involved). Some people I know, just upon meeting them, are going to want things a bit more traditional and some people won’t care if they get 150 prints and not a single one of their face. That’s the fun and the challenge of the job – reading those cues and personal particulars and coming up with a collection that everyone loves in the end.

  • Eryn says:

    I love all of these. There’s a couple that are a little “iffy” as far as the crop but it doesn’t break the image for me. In my recent sessions, I’ve started to think outside the box a lot more and those “wrong” images end up being my favorites. For me…they tell the best story. Have the most emotion.

    With all of this in mind…I do NOT consider myself a very traditional photographer. I find when I think too much about the rules of an image, it doesn’t work as well for me. Maybe it’s because of my style. Maybe this makes me less of a professional in some eyes, but it’s what I love and what my clients love so it works for me. (And those images above as well) 🙂

  • amy grace says:

    every one of these does such a wonderful job of catching the color and feel of the moment. you really do feel a part of the picture when it is framed in the kind of way our eyes see. so rarely does life come at you with people perfectly posed and smiling. this is lovely real life. so much in the spirit of your super awesome blog 🙂

  • amy grace says:

    and sorry…thank you for including my photo today! xo

  • yan palmer says:

    head chops are pretty much my fav photos.

  • Chris Bodnar says:

    Heads crops – like anything else – are all about proper timing, and just used well in general. I don’t think you could do an entire session with heads cropped off in an entire image, but there are a LOT of samples here that completely do it justice!

    I seem to think it’s best used while laying – kids amongst their parents arms, for instance. Or focusing/capturing someones expression without their eyes involved (a tricky thing to do, indeed!). Then again, Omar’s shot is absolutely fantastic as well, and a perfect example of how well it can be done when used creatively!

  • Chris Bodnar says:

    By ‘laying’ I meant LAYERING. Oops.

  • kjrsten says:

    awesome post! Head crops FTW! (and PS Omar blows my mind!)

  • Great post guys! Obviously I’m all for cropping, but as all things, has the potential to work or not. For me, I crop when the entire subject(s) is not the focus of the photo. Sometimes I crop because I’m rushed or kids are moving fast and those aren’t as awesome! Great discussion, totally personal thing, but that’s why I love photography. Everyone get a voice and everyones voice is different! Cheers ladies!

  • Lea says:

    I think the biggest thing for me in whether cutting a head off in a photo is the emotion. When the focus is clearly on the emotion displayed in the image then cropping a head, especially if it allows you to get closer to the face, works.

  • interesting – I think all of these work – I think it works best when the emotion and movement of an image is being caught……but equally the one with just the hands – brilliant!

  • Molly says:

    I see absolutely NOTHING wrong with “cutting off heads” if you still get the feel and emotion you want from a photo. I mean, wouldn’t you prefer emotion over some extra forehead and hair? 🙂

  • I love Omar’s photo!

  • GREAT post as always girls… way to get people thinking and way to get people talking. REAL life photography… perfect.

  • I just spent some time on Omar’s blog and I think his work is the epitome of awesome. He has a solid grip on what breaking the rules and doing it right should look like. I know most people can’t read what he has written, but it’s worth hitting the “translate this page” button in Google. His heart is just as beautiful as his photography.

  • Laura Reaux says:

    Yes! I love compositions that scream, “I am NOT traditional!” I love how the common theme in most of these is “real moments” … so much joy, chopped heads or not.

  • Rashmi says:

    I think i am more traditional in that sense.. most of these made me uncomfortable. I loved the photos but ..
    1. whole head and hands
    2. father’s head.
    3. entire red shoes
    4. kid in stroller and dad?
    5. mom’s entire head.
    6. parent’s heads
    7. mother’s and father’s heads.. or at least father’s smile.
    8. baby’s face!
    9. this one works for me.
    10. ahh.. would have loved to see baby’s head.
    11. these work for me.. the overhang crops the head not a camera crop..
    12. this works for me.. since both parents are smiling.
    13. would have loved to see the whole child.
    15. i find this VERY interesting!
    16. works!
    17. not sure
    But that is because I am more traditional.. it is nothing to do with the beautiful photos! xo

  • Jen O. says:

    Great topic this week! So happy to be a part of it. Thank you so much!

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