When cropping people the general rule is to try to avoid cropping hands, feet and joints. When you crop at those points the image looks unfinished or haphazard, so try to crop between the joints. Here is a run down of cutting up bodies that would have Hannibal salivating.

crop 3a

cropping feet = big no no


cropping between feet and knees looks more deliberate and acceptable

crop 5

cropping between knees and hips is usually ok too, but notice in this example that the shorts and the lines on the socks create visual tension with the frame. Not the best crop.

crop 4

cropping the hand is usually another no-no


cutting off the entire hand but leaving the other intact is mo’ better


If you need to crop the elbow… less is not better… feels like an accident


cropping between the hand and elbow feels better… for the viewer 😀


cropping above the hand but missing the elbow is workable

crop 1

Above the elbow below the neck feels comfortable to the eyes


The one exception is the shoulders… you need to leave something for the head to rest on, otherwise it can look a little creepy with just a neck and head.

So try to be aware of where you are going to crop body parts so that you can avoid unnecessary tension… and happy cutting!



  1. James Klebau 1 May, 2015 at 11:33 Reply

    Thanks, Pete.

    An all-purpose rule of thumb, no pun intended, is not to crop at any joint – not to be confused with a disreputable place.


  2. Craig 28 April, 2015 at 06:48 Reply

    What if the elbow is bent on person A and the hand come back up towards the chest. They are next to person B who. is shorter. Can you crop the elbow and leave the hand and wrist?

    • Pete Collins 4 May, 2015 at 13:02 Reply

      At the end of the day, what is being communicated by the crop? Usually one crop has less tension that another and I would always try to go for that unless tension is the goal. Each image has to be judged and cropped based on all the factors in the frame, so there is no way to answer the question in a blanket statement. What may be a yes for one image would be a no for another. That is why the “rules” of cropping always have to be subservient to what the image is trying to say.

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