Types of portrait framing

2 Nov

The classic portrait composition is head, shoulders and torso. Just head and shoulder and in the end just a headshot gives different possibilities and things to take into consideration.

As all three of the framing are very close the head and expression/eyes take a strong role in it. The further you go away, meaning the more of the model you have in the picture the more the overall impression gets more important.

Often having the head looking straight into the camera in combination with straight shoulders a very static value while tilting the head can give more interest. Turning away from the camera with you torso and then looking back with eyes or respective head gives a more flattering impression.

Camera position should be slightly above or around eye-level of the subject. Of course can there be reasons to shoot from below the head to give more feeling of size to the subject but can be unflattering when e.g. having a double-chin.

Just a head shot has the problem that you have to focus very accurately on the eyes because they are normally the most interesting things in the face.

When shooting portrait pictures you often have a very short depth of field and a miss in focusing can destroy an otherwise fine picture.

When moving further away from the subject you have to deal with the problem what the subject should do with his/her arms and legs and what pose they should intake. People not being used to standing in front of the camera can be guided to e.g. stand on their favourite leg, lean against something, giving them some security.

Body language is then normally more important than facial expression due to taking up more space in the frame.


Two headshots with different lighting. The glasses take over a little of the attention in especially the second picture due to the shade the eyes are in but in the first picture the eyes are the most important feature.



Head and shoulders, Johan leaning against a tree to give an impression of the surroundings without being too distracting. Again the eyes main interest (too bad that the sun was too bright for a good shot). The head and shoulders forming a triangle with apex at the top giving a steady impression. The vertical lines of the tree giving even more static.

Head and shoulders


Torso, cut above the waistline, just having the arms in the frame, crossed in front of his chest. The pose came naturally to him when leaning against the tree. The pose being closed leaves again the main interest in his face, maybe at second glance on his watch.

Torso, cut off above waistline

Torso, this time cut off below the waistline giving a better idea of how the person is standing. The crossed arms showing strength and steadiness. In combination with the smiling face though not too aggressive. Manly? He is cold?

Torso, cut off below waistline


Full figure, this time even having the legs within the frame. Looking not as aggressive as the shot above, more like he is leaning against the tree and waiting for something, having the arms crossed for comfort and not to express aggression.

Full figure


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