enlarging heads in composite photography

The Science Behind My BIG Head

When you think of Enlarging the Heads of your subjects, what comes to mind? Perhaps a Cartoony Looking Portrait, or maybe a Caricature Style Portrait is the image that comes to you.

Today, I’m going to show you WHY I Enlarge the Heads in all my Portraits and WHY I do it.

I know this is going to sound weird, but if you’re a Portrait Photographer and you’re not Enlarging the Heads of your subjects, you’re missing out on a HUGE opportunity. You may be thinking I’m off my rocker, but read on and I’ll show you what you’re missing and I’ll back it up with science.

So, put your thumb in your mouth and blow because we’re about to Enlarge some Heads.

Making Heads BIGGER

I know you’re thinking I’ve lost it, but would you be surprised if I told you I Enlarged the Heads on EVERY Portrait I create?

Yep, you read that right, I Enlarge the Heads on every single Portrait I create.

Funny thing is, when I started out in Composite Photography, I swore I would never do that big head caricature thing like everyone was doing at the time. It was so cliche and I couldn’t fathom the thought of me doing something cliche.

After all, I’m an “Artist”!

Anyway, it didn’t take me long to at the very least try it out and much to my surprise, I FREAKING LOVED IT!

enlarging heads in composite photography

(I cringe at the thought of showing you these Composites I created back when I was starting as I look at them now and realize I was totally wrong in thinking I was good. But, hey, we all have to start somewhere, right?)

For some reason, it just looked “Normal” to me, and when I started comparing the After pictures with the Enlarged Head with the Before pictures with normal heads, the Before pictures just didn’t look right to me anymore.

Now, like everything we do as artists, when I started out with the Big Heads in my Portraits, I went overboard and made them too Big, but after many generations of Composites, I’ve since pulled back to a point that I would argue you can’t even tell the heads in my Portraits have been altered.

head too big in family portrait by dallas portrait photographer

An Enlarged Opportunity

When you think of your husband or wife, your grandparents, or your children, what’s the first image of that comes to your mind?

YES! Their Face. (if you answered their foot or the back of their knee, then you may have a problem)

Throughout every facet of life, we are neurologically programmed to look at and read faces. Whether it be of your closest loved ones, in business, friendships, or ‘enemy-ships’, we are neurologically wired to look at faces in order to recognize people and read emotions.

Can you imagine what life would be like if you weren’t wired to look at faces?

The Sad thing is there are people who suffer from a neurological disorder called Face Blindness preventing them from recognizing the faces of anyone, even those they love most.

So, if we’re programmed to see, look at, and read faces more than we are bodies and extremities (arms and legs), then it only makes sense to give people what they want.

Larger Heads to look at.

Here’s a Before and After of one of my subjects to you can see for yourself it looks quite normal and doesn’t have to be done like the obnoxious caricatures we see all over the internet.

before and after comparison of enlarging the head in a composite photography portrait

the science behind big heads in composite photography

I believe one of the reasons people resonate with my Portrait Style is because I give them exactly what they’re neurologically programmed to want to see, BIGGER faces.

The Science behind BIG Heads

Ok, so you don’t think I’m some nut job Portrait Photographer trying to pull one over on you, I’m going to share what I’ve paid thousands of dollars to learn through years of schooling in Chiropractic and Neurology.

I here bequeath my knowledge upon you.

Your brain is a super complex system that literally runs every single cell, organ, and function within your body, and it’s designed to SURVIVE and keep you ALIVE.

For this reason, when you take a cross section of the brain (cut it in half from ear to ear), scientists, through a complex process of electro-stimulation, have mapped out the human body.

This mapping is called the Brain Homunculus.

As you can see, your entire body is mapped out on both the sensory and motor sections of your brain, with the largest amounts of real estate going to your face and hands.

Why do you think your face and hands get the most attention?

Using the lion’s share of neurologic processing, the face portion of the brain is designed to create facial expressions and to read others facial expressions. It’s a survival mechanism that helps us better determine who our friends are versus who our enemies might be and plays a major role in interpreting emotions.

If you were a physical representation of your Brain Homunculus, you’d look something like this.

Granted, it’s not very attractive, but this gives you a really good idea of WHY you should consider Enlarging the Heads of your subjects.

That’s a Wrap

If you want your Portraits to engage people on a higher level and you want your people to have an emotional reaction to your Portraits, then you should definitely consider Enlarging their Heads.

To get the most realistic look, I recommend sticking with making them 10% to 15% bigger and no more.

Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts on making the Heads Bigger in your Portraits.

Comments (6)

I’m just getting into compositions, but to do one like yours is my goal. Thanks for the lesson. It make perfect sense.

That’s AWESOME JoAnn. Love hearing you’re getting into Composite Photography. Hope you LOVE it as much as I do.

Awesome information Thankyou for thecgreat article.

Awesome… Happy you got something out of it.

I am going to try larger heads! I have been doing some composition work, but mostly fairy images. I often find parents want to crop out background to have larger focus on the face….so, I think larger heads is genius….Now to try to execute it! Wish me luck!

A couple of things… Make the background relevant to your client or subject being photographed and I believe the parents will love it. Also, when enlarging heads, be careful not to go too big. In the beginning, I definitely went too big and it makes it look too cartoony. Only enlarge it around 10%, maybe 15%, and you should be fine.

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