Have you ever looked at a one of your kid’s photos, whether partial or full-body, and thought “there’s something wrong here, but I can’t quite put my finger on it”? Odds are that the image contained a poorly-cropped head, arm, leg, hand, foot, etc. You see, when you gaze on an image and see parts of the body cut off, your brain naturally sounds the alarm at the unnaturalness of it all, which takes away from the power of the image. This is why it’s important to learn where to crop your shots, and where not to.
The main rule for cropping in kid’s photos is “never crop at a joint” – such as the ankle, wrist, knee, elbow, etc. The reason is that it tends to give the person an amputated look, which makes the viewer’s brain wonder where the rest of the limb went, rather than enjoying the overall image.
There’s more, however. For instance, you don’t want to crop off part of a hand or foot, either include the whole hand/foot or have your subject tuck them out of view. The same goes for ears (not the tucking out of view part, that would be hard!). You can absolutely crop the top of the head if needed, or the torso above the waist or near the chest area.
There’s always more where that came from! If you’re cropping the legs go above the knee or lower/mid calf area, so you are avoiding the joints at the knee and ankle.
If you are ever not sure about where to crop when you are taking a kid’s photo, back up a bit. It’s always easier to crop later than it is to put body parts back into an image. Eventually it will become second nature and your images will improve as a result.
In the meantime, add this chart to your collection of helpful photography tips, it marks all of the “good” and “bad” cropping areas. Print it out and keep it in your camera bag!
Remember that it’s not all about where you crop, you also want to incorporate other rules of photography – such as leaving space for your child to look into (rather than cropping so close that there’s no room), the rule of thirds, and leading lines. Incorporating a few photography rules will make your kid’s photos all that more powerful.