Writing Portfolio

Matching Portrait Head Sizes

Published By: InDesignSecrets.com
Credit: Byline
Canonical URL

When lay­ing out por­traits or head­shots close to­geth­er, such as in a news­pa­per or mag­a­zine ar­ti­cle or pub­li­ca­tions like mem­ber­ship di­rec­to­ries and year­books, the gold­en rule is that all pho­to sub­jects’ heads should be the same size. In most cas­es re­gard­less of back­ground and pose, Fred’s head should be the same size as Themla’s, Daphne’s, Shaggy’s, and Scoobie’s.

If you have to paste-up on­ly a hand­ful of por­traits, InDesign’s trans­paren­cy fea­tures come in handy. Choose one pho­to as the head-size stan­dard and lock its po­si­tion with CMD+L/CTRL+L (bet­ter is to put it on its own locked lay­er). Then, one at a time, align the frame of each sub­se­quent pho­to atop the first. Dial back the opac­i­ty on each of these sub­se­quent frames such that the first pho­to shines through. Select the im­age in­side the frame by click­ing on it with the Direct Selection Tool (key­board short­cut A), and then, hold­ing SHIFT to con­strain pro­por­tions, scale the semi-transparent im­age un­til the subject’s head close­ly ap­prox­i­mates the head in the pho­to beneath.

Another method is the old col­ored block trick. Instead of mov­ing pho­tos, move a semi-transparent proxy ob­ject over each of the pho­tos, then scale them to match. Again, choose the head-size stan­dard. Over it, draw a rec­tan­gle or oval with the Rectangle or Ellipse Tools, and fill the re­sult­ing shape with a con­trast­ing col­or (I typ­i­cal­ly use 100% ma­gen­ta). This is the proxy rep­re­sent­ing the ide­al head height. Set the proxy’s opac­i­ty such that you can see through it while still iden­ti­fy­ing the proxy it­self. One at a time, move the proxy over the oth­er por­traits, and then scale them with the Direct Selection Tool. The last method I’m go­ing to men­tion of­fers a lit­tle more precision–the Measure Tool.

The Measure Tool is hid­den be­hind the Eyedropper Tool. To use it, click on the start­ing point (say, the top of a head) and drag to the end point (the chin). The distance–and angle–between the two points will ap­pear on the Info palette (Window > Info).

Now that you have the size of one head, re­peat the mea­sure­ment as a ran­dom spot check on oth­er pho­tographs. Re-scale any that don’t match.