Monday, May 14, 2012

Extreme Cropping: headless models, etc.

I have a confession, and I'm afraid I may be all alone in this, but here it is:
I like Extreme Cropping in cover photos.

Now, I know that headless models were so common on YA book covers a couple of years ago that it bordered on the ridiculous. I've even envisioned a cartoon labeled, "YA Models Convention," where the picture would have a bunch of headless figures, sitting around holding coffee cups and wearing nametags and going to lectures and such. But I have to admit that I even like headless models, in moderation.

As a reader who has very strong feelings about wanting to picture the characters myself, I like the "Everygirl" (or is it "Anygirl?") quality of the headless model.

But lopping off heads isn't the only kind of extreme cropping that cover designers indulge in. Sometimes the top of the head is all that's kept:

I loved this cover, by the way. The dark background was appropriate to the fact that the characters usually met at night. Best of all, the hiddenness of the faces captured the secrecy of the relationship.

But I've seen complaints that the cropping of photos--especially photos of girls--can sometimes seem like dismemberment, objectification. Some people see the YA collection, with its extreme cropping, as a series of covers strewn with body parts.

I don't. Instead, I think back to my rudimentary education in visual art. When we first learn to draw, most of us tend to place the figure we're drawing exactly in the middle of the page. We don't really use the whole page; most of it becomes nothing more than background, margins. But when we advance a little bit, we learn that off-center compositions are usually more interesting. And that the edge of a page (or canvas, or book cover) can do more than serve as a margin. For example, this cover:

And sometimes cropping is used to focus on details relevant to the story:

Of course, we can still get visually interesting covers even when the whole model is shown (and even when the figure is centered!). It just takes a little creativity:

I've seen a lot of complaints about photo cropping on book covers, and I do understand some of the criticisms. But I wanted to speak up for the designers who use cropping to show us something interesting, eye-catching.


  1. So glad to hear someone stand up in defense. I've often been asked how I feel about this issue and honestly, it doesn't bother me. I'd rather see a headless body than the whole body of someone who doesn't resemble the MC at all!

    1. I like it when the cover is not quite literal ...

  2. When it is done well, the cropping works for me. :)

    1. I suppose that sometimes it's art, and sometimes it's just half a face. ;-)

  3. Hey, you could combine the YA model convention with the romance Headless Torso Guys convention!

  4. I don't mind extreme cropping -- I just don't like how it ends up looking on 90% of the covers that it's used on!