What Is The Best Crop For My Headshot?

The crop can make a big difference

When you receive your headshot, most of them will be in landscape orientation, with some room above the head. Sometimes when I know I’ve gotten good, basic shots, I will experiment with getting closer and getting a great crop in camera. These shots don’t have as much flexibility with cropping, but they often are dramatic and strong. For the images that are wider and have more space, I want to show you how cropping can make a huge difference when you use your images in various applications.

Why Landscape?

The original crop for this image is my typical landscape orientation. Why landscape? Wouldn’t it make more sense to use the other orientation…called portrait? Most web pages need images in landscape orientation. Take a look at your website and see if this holds true for you. Here are some other reasons a landscape orientation often works best.


Since generally both shoulders are in a landscape image, you will be able to move the subject to the side and easily give yourself empty space to add graphics and text. If you take the image in portrait orientation, many times one or both shoulders will not be fully in the image. It may be possible to photoshop a shoulder in, but that takes extra time and money.

headshot of woman showing graphic overlay


Many portraits are close to 8×10 ratio. The image below has been cropped from landscape to 8×10 portrait. So if you actually need an image in portrait orientation, it’s usually still possible if you take the image in landscape.

headshot of woman in portrait crop


You don’t have to cut off the top of the head or get too close to the chin – you just lose the sides. If your image starts in portrait orientation, instead of just cutting off shoulders, you are cutting off the top of the head and chest. You just don’t have as much flexibility if you start with a portrait orientation.

headshot of woman in square crop
headshot of woman with circle crop


If you can crop square, you can crop a circle that shows your face well. There are such few pixels in that tiny circle, you want to make sure the image is clear and not confusing. My headshots feature plain, neutral backgrounds so that the focus of the image is YOU. After all, that’s what the profile photo is for, right?

Don’t be afraid to get close

I know it’s intimidating to see your face so large. However, I find that cropping in super close turns a great image into an even better one. This often means cutting off the top of the head. Especially if your eyes are a great feature, this really highlights them. In the images below, the right image is much more powerful.

headshot of woman

Go in thirds

Sometimes I crop vertically to allow the eyes to sit around the 1/3 line from the top, but leave the horizontal cropping centered. Sometimes I use the 1/3 line from both the top and side. In the cropped image above, her left eye is at the 1/3 point both from the top and from the right. You can experiment and see what you like. If you are facing one side more than the other, this can work aesthetically by leaving more space on the side you are facing.

Try not to cut right at a joint

If you have a full length or 3/4 length image, avoid cropping your image at the ankles, knees, hips, wrist, elbows…you get it. It generally looks better to crop in the space between joints. In my family photography, especially with children, they are moving so fast and we are trying to tell a story, so expression and connection will always overrule joint cropping. But in your professional portraits, avoid chopping yourself off awkwardly.

Don’t have professional software? Adobe has an app for you

Although I always provide my clients with whatever crop they ask for, sometimes you may want to play around and experiment with different looks. While Adobe’s professional line of products is necessary for professionals, they have a steep learning curve. Fortunately for clients, they also have an app solely for cropping. You can crop, zoom, rotate, and flip images. You can use standard aspect ratios or a custom ratio, and show guides for different social media platforms. It’s pretty intuitive, but they also provide an FAQ for cropping.

Don’t just use the default crop you receive

I give you a wide image to give you all the flexibility you need for multiple applications. However, it might not be the best just as it comes. If you need to crop for a new use after you’ve received your images, just ask for advice. We always want to help you out even long after your session.

If you have a large number of staff images to process, we also have software to make sure to give you the images in the aspect ratio you need, with head sizes as uniform as possible. We do all of this at no additional charge.


Contact me, or fill out the form on my pricing page.

Headshot and Corporate Event Photographer in Northern Virginia

22375 Broderick Drive, Suite 135, Sterling VA 20166, Loudoun County