The Rare Horizontal Headshot

When doing portfolio work for a model, it is always a good idea to be on the lookout for horizontal headshots. There is nothing profound nor great about the horizontal headshot, except for one thing: they are rare. The reason for this is simply that a model's head and shoulders fit better into a vertical format. If you can deliver a horizontal headshot or two, the model will have something that other photographers will most likely overlook.

What follows are five horizontal headshots of Dolly Myat Noe, along with comments. It is hoped these may give models and photographers alike awareness that they exist, and should be pursued whenever possible. Here is the first example:

Rule of thirds go home!

Rule of thirds go home!

In this example, Dolly is placed in the middle of the frame. This is unsatisfying to me. Even though the rule of thirds is only a guideline and not a rule, there is some merit to placing key elements (such as eyes) at a point one third into the width and/or height of the frame.

Negative space can be used to fill out the frame.

Negative space can be used to fill out the frame.

One solution is to simply fill one side of the frame with empty background, also called negative space. This unbalances the headshot, and gives the headshot a bit more interest.

Hands can also be used to fill out the negative space.

Hands can also be used to fill out the negative space.

Hands can be placed in the negative space, as shown in the above example. If the hands are holding something, and the model is looking at that object, the headshot becomes even more interesting.

An entire arm can also be included in the shot.

An entire arm can also be included in the shot.

If a hand works, the model's arm will work as well. The pose Dolly is striking above has the added benefit of forming a strong triangle, which adds even more interest.

Coming in close also works.

Coming in close also works.

The most common solution to the problem poised by the horizontal headshot is to come in close. In my earlier days, I always wanted to show all of the model's hair. Later, I learned that it is totally permissible to crop the top (and even the sides) of the head in camera.

I hope these images will inspire you to experiment with this format. There are no doubt countless other solutions to the problem of fitting what is naturally a vertical portrait into a horizontal frame.