Headshot Cropping Done Right

July 10, 2020 Leave a Comment

Headshots are generally head and shoulders, but there’s a lot more to consider when cropping a headshot.

There is a science with all visual media. Even today we are still using age old formulas designed to create a compelling photograph. One of my jobs as a headshot photographer is to make sure I get the most interesting and striking image of you possible, so let’s dive into these tried and true concepts.

Let’s start with the most basic rule of composition in any visual art… The Rule of Thirds.

This concept is one of the major tools I use when cropping and photographing subjects. This rule dates back to the 1700s, showing that when used correctly, you’re able to create focal points to an image that draws the viewer in. Understanding the basics will give you a little insight as to why photographers, graphic designers and artists pay close attention to this important rule.

The Rule of Thirds is a simple technique where an image is divided up into three rows and three columns, and at the points where the vertical and horizontal lines meet is where your focal points should be… By placing focal points at each line intersection, the image or design is made striking and effective.

Aligning a subject with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the composition than simply centering the subject.

In headshot photography the main point of interest is in the eyes, so we use the rule of thirds to showcase them.

Now you might be wondering why on earth the top of the head is cut off. To some people, this is pretty shocking. I get this question quite a lot and the reason is simple – it’s science used to make a better photograph.

First of all, nobody who looks at your picture, but you, cares that there is a little hair cropped off the top of the picture. Most people don’t even notice right away because they are busy looking at your face, your expression and your eyes. In their minds they are analyzing what your expression conveys to them. This is why we work so hard on expression coaching, to pinpoint your strengths and bring them to the surface during your session.

With all that being said, now we bring the rule of thirds into play and pair it with the well-balanced concept of bringing the chin to the bottom third of the image. Industry standard these days uses a horizontal crop (landscape) in an 8×10 aspect ratio.

Rule of Thirds Grid using photo of Peter

This technique gives your headshot a great balance of head to body ratio that doesn’t look out of proportion and creates a striking image.

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” -Pablo Picasso

Cropping your headshot for LinkedIn

You only have a little circle on the LinkedIn profile page to make a big impact with your headshot…

So let’s do it right!

Here’s a few basic guidelines when cropping your headshot for LinkedIn:

  • We want the viewer to see into your eyes. Your expression is the most important element to make a positive first impression.
  • It’s important to keep your headshot centered in the crop. Since LinkedIn changed to the circular format there’s very little wiggle room and we don’t want the crop to cut off any part of your face.
  • It’s okay to crop the top of the head. A tight crop is so common these days that it doesn’t look out of the ordinary. Cropping in tight is professional and shows that you are confident.
  • Size your image correctly. A well sized web image keeps your picture from looking blurry or out of focus. It should be cropped and sized exactly to LinkedIn specs. I include an image cropped and resized for LinkedIn to all my headshot clients. This will work for most social media outlets and is designed to drop right in without you having to mess with it.

Smiling woman headshot Smiling woman headshot in context of LinkedIn profile circle

Listen to the experts! Here’s a good article from LinkedIn: Crop It Tight & Get It Right: The Best Crop for LinkedIn

If you are ready to book your headshot you can take a look at my headshot sessions here and send me an email at lisa@lisachristiansonphotography.com

Headshot of Lisa Christianson

About Lisa Christianson Photography

I'm a professional Headshot and Portrait Photographer located in Castle Rock, CO. My headshot style is clean, modern and minimal. I urge professionals to showcase their branding with a professional headshot where the focus is on expression and image. With a background in graphic design, branding and marketing, I bring all these elements together to provide my clients a stellar headshot that supports their brand identity.

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