What Is a 3/4, 1/2, 1/4 and Full-Body Headshot or Full Body Portraits?

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By The Light Committee

When most people think of a headshot, they likely think it is a close-up photo of someone’s face, cropped from around the upper chest to just above the head. It’s also typically created by a headshot photographer. But a headshot can also be shot at wider distances. How wide depends on the goal and these can be referred to as a half body shot (1/2), a three-quarter body shot (3/4), a one-quarter face shot (1/4), and a full body shot. But what do these look like?

A woman in a modeling digitals model comp card made in a studio in Los Angeles
A Modeling Comp Card Typically Has Many Types of Shots on it, Like a 1/4 Headshot, Full Body Shot, and More

The need for someone to have all these shots in one portfolio is usually for models. This is typically the case because a 3/4, 1/4, or full body shot are used to accompany a classic headshot in a modeling portfolio. They are most often essential for modeling digitals, but actors sometimes employ them as well. However, they are not exclusive for use in just modeling and acting. Real estate agents, lawyers, and various other professions uses photos of themselves at various distances for their marketing.

For sure, these shots are different in many ways. The wider you get, the more what you are wearing, and the background will matter, while the closer you get, the more your facial expressions will matter. So, it is a matter of what you want to convey with such a headshot. In modeling, the different distances are required for the obvious reason that agencies need to evaluate the entire person’s look, head to toe.

It is important to note that we are focused here on headshots and not portraits. The difference between a headshot and portrait is important because of how you plan to use the headshot will drive the decision on which distance you opt for. Putting it another way, you might view a headshot as being only from the chest up, or 1/4 shot. Just about all other shots that are farther out might be more for lifestyle shots. Lifestyle, or editorial, can be used more to convey a person’s profession. So, it might be a full body shot of a real estate agent on a front porch, to convey they sell homes.

So, what are each of these different shots and how might they look?

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A 3/4 Headshot

When getting a 3/4 headshot done, this is more like a 3/4 body shot. This photograph is commonly from around the mid-thigh to just above the head. However, it can also be from around the calf area up to above the head.

For modeling, there is not a specific pose to capture for certain but, normally you will at least want to have in a portfolio a straight 3/4 shot with arms straight down to the side. Some modeling agencies ask for such a basic shot and therefore it is good to have it. After this is captured, creativity in posing can take over.

A 1/2 Headshot

For this shot, it is usually cropped right around the waist area. Some photographers argue to not crop right along joint-like areas as it amplifies body parts looking cutoff. So, you might opt to crop slightly above the waist – like the belly button – or slightly below – like the lower hip.

Again, for modeling digitals, it is a good idea to have one shot with your arms straight to the side. Usually you will want very form-fitting clothes – for models. Again, this is to allow an agency or would-be client to evaluate your physique more easily.

A shot from around the belly button up is also a popular crop for some corporate headshots or business portraits. This might be for several reasons, one of which includes that it is not as necessary to have a close-up shot for corporate photos as with headshots for actors or modeling headshots.

Sometimes a business wants to get across the person’s attire to get across a level of professionalism more easily. This is often the case with companies that wear full suits to work or to meet with clients. It also provides a good opportunity to pose the arms and hands. How you pose your arms and hands can also get across several messages, such as confidence or approachability.

But it is clearly from around this shot – the half-body shot, that a clearer distinction is possible leaning closer toward a headshot rather than a lifestyle shot. And in the next section, we’ll get more precisely to a classic headshot.

The 1/4 Headshot

And this brings us to the 1/4 headshot, and this shot is more commonly referred to without the 1/4. This is because it is common understanding that most headshots are 1/4 in terms of crop. Thus, other crops – 3/4, 1/2 – usually must be specified as such because the 1/4 is commonly assumed.

This headshot is usually from around the mid to upper chest and up. It is a very necessary shot for actor headshots and models to have in their portfolios. However, actors and models sometimes opt for an even tighter crop, at around the shoulder line and up. It can be important for them to get across their look, which is why they might choose to do so.

This tighter crop is not exclusive to actors and models. Dancers and authors can sometimes use it too, for example. Generally, it is more used by creative professions.

The Full Body Shot

Finally, there is the full body shot where the entire body – head to toe – is visible. It is most common to have this for modeling and it is often done against a seamless solid-colored background, such as gray or white. But it is also common to do it against a plain wall and floor background.

The full body shot can also be used in what we commonly refer to as the business world. For example, a real estate agent in Los Angeles might use a combination 1/4 headshot and a full body shot in their marketing collateral for delivering different business messaging. This is not exclusively marketing just for real estate agents. An insurance agent, lawyer, accountant, and so on might also opt to use full body shots in their marketing / branding.

There are many types of professional headshots one can get done and there are usually no rules for how tight or how far back a person should be in their headshot. However, there are some expectations in certain industries, like acting and modeling where there are expectations. There are also some headshot submission requirements, such as with ERAS residency applicants. To conform to ERAS, an applicant must submit a headshot with a dimensions of 2.5 in. x 3.5 in. and with a resolution of 150dpi. In addition, the file size must be no more than 150kb.

A corporation might also require headshots to conform to a style for branding purposes. Whatever rules you might need to follow or not follow, remember it is important that the crop fit the goal for the headshot. For example, when building out a modeling portfolio there are common shots you must have. But if you are using headshots for promoting a company team online, the web design layout might factor into the size of headshots to use.

When you get headshots in Los Angeles, or other metro areas, the photographer can often help guide you as to what headshots or crop factors to consider. As touched on earlier, other factors that might influence the crop to use include angles, backgrounds, and more. Do your homework before planning a headshot session to ensure you get the crops you need.