"But she has big hair!"

Susan Keith | Rutgers

Mugshots are an integral part of newspaper pages, often used to add a bit of visual interest to gray columns of type. Beginning copy editors and page designers, however, often have trouble cropping mugshots effectively, especially when several mugshots are displayed together. It�s not unusual to find that students have cropped a mug of a bald man (think Homer Simpson) very close to his ears, while leaving in the entire coiffure of someone who has much more hair (think Marge Simpson). The result: Homer�s facial features will be disproportionately larger than Marge�s.


Primary goal: To help students learn how to size and crop mug shots that run side by side on a page so that the subjects� facial features are the same size

Secondary goals: To give students practice importing and sizing photographs in QuarkXPress, to give students practice in spacing items on a page

Time required: 15 to 25 minutes, depending on students� skill level

Resources required: QuarkXPress (or PageMaker or InDesign) and a selection of photographs of people that can be cropped into mug shots. Ideally, the photographs should be taken from different ranges. Some should be close-ups, others head-and-shoulders shots, others waist-up shots and still others full-body shots.

Part I

Draw on a chalk or white board two vertical rectangles roughly proportional to a 6-pica by 8-pica or 5-pica by 7-pica mug shot. The rectangles should be side by side and about 3 feet apart. They should also be roughly the width of a person�s head and be at about shoulder height from the ground.

Select two students, one who has close-cropped hair, and another who wears a wider hairstyle. Stand one student in front of each rectangle, so that the head of the person with the close-cropped hairstyle is framed as it would be in a mugshot.

Now point out to the students that they can�t see the lines, or at least not all of the lines, around the head of the person with a wider hairstyle because hair hangs out beyond them. Note that to get mugshots of the two people with similar-sized features, the students would have to crop out the hair that extends beyond the box on the person with the wide hairstyle.

Variation: Bring to class a hat that is wide vertically. Have a student wear the hat and stand beside a hatless student who is not wearing a hat. Point out that some of the hat would extend beyond the horizontal boundaries of the box on the board. As a result, some of the width of the hat would have to be cropped out if you want features to be proportional to those of the person not wearing a hat.

Cautions: If you use students with close-cropped and wide hairstyles, you should, of course, avoid suggesting that one person�s choice of hairstyle or hair texture is somehow better than another�s.

Part II

Give students electronic copies of photographs of 10 people and have them import the photographs onto a QuarkXPress, PageMaker or InDesign page and crop them into 6- by 8-pica or 5- by 7-pica mugshots that are lined up side by side. To increase the difficulty of the exercise, have student space the mugshots exactly 1 pica apart.

If you have access to the Associated Press photo archives, you might give students a series of shots of the same person taken over time. I use Elvis Presley (whose hairstyle and face width change over time) and Michael Jackson (of whom there are many photos in hats and masks). I give the students printouts of the wire photos so they can practice arranging the photos chronologically. I also include a photo of a Michael Jackson look-alike to see if they are reading the AP captions carefully!

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