Portrait without a head

Do all por­traits need a head or is it okay to frame or crop a photo so that it is head­less? Most times I’d say, “for the love of God include the head”. Nor­mally we con­nect with the sub­ject of a por­trait pri­mar­ily by look­ing at the subject’s eyes, which reveal much about the per­son being photographed.

But.…once you know the rules, you can try to break them to achieve a par­tic­u­lar result. This image is a good exam­ple of a head­less por­trait that works IMO. If we try to ana­lyze WHY it works, it works because the cou­pled ele­ments tell a story. The Jake tat­too on the hand cou­pled with the suit, cou­pled with the Royal Monaco car actu­ally tell a SPECIFIC story. These are all ele­ments of the movie The Blues Broth­ers and both the pho­tog­ra­pher and I likely show our age by know­ing this fact.

How­ever, even if I did not catch the Blues Broth­ers con­nec­tion, for me this shot still works. The ele­ments are still there. The tat­too, older freck­led skin, suit and older car all sug­gest a story. The fact that the shot is in black and white rein­force this fact. It’s up to the viewer to extract the story for them­selves, but all the ele­ments are there.

Okay then — do you agree? What do YOU think about this shot and the con­cept of a head­less portrait?

Many thanks to 1putts of our pho­tog­ra­phy forum for allow­ing me to use this image. Here’s the orig­i­nal photo.


  1. Clement (ZENON5940) says:

    I’ve flis­tened to all your pod­casts (71) so far… Just unbe­liev­able all the use­ful info I found in them.
    Thank you Marko.

  2. Ed Spadoni says:

    Def­i­nitely works Marco. A good reminder to com­pose by think­ing out­side the box, or maybe out­side the head!

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