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We’ve talked previously on a number of occasions about composing digital photographs for maximum effect when taking your shots but even the best photographers will often get back to their computers to view their photos and find that their composition is not ideal for one reason or another including distracting background elements, framing mistakes, unbalanced images etc.
While the temptation might be to delete such images the beauty of shooting in the digital format is that editing images after shooting them is relatively quick and easy. Cropping is one option for fixing such problems. This is usually done in photo editing software (most cameras come with software that will enable this) but these days many cameras can also do it within the camera itself.
Cropping images give you a second chance to frame your images and can be used in some of the following ways:
One common problem that face digital photographers are shots that have one side of your subject very close to the edge of the frame, or even have it chopped off by the frame. This can leave the shot feeling quite cramped, incomplete or uneven. For example when taking a portrait and you slightly clip the ear of your subject.
While you can never really add to the photograph to put more space around your subject (or recover the ear you clipped), cropping the image even tighter can take the focus away from the clipped part of your subject and make the image quite dynamic.
Whilst the following shot isn’t quite the framing mistake mentioned above it is an illustration of poor framing (that big light colored floor). There would be many ways to crop the shot to get rid of the floor including the one below it.
Another problem that cropping images can help address is the unbalanced image. For example a shot where you attempted to put your subject in the dead centre of your shot but where it ended up being slightly off centre – or where you want to use the rule of thirds but when framing the shot forgot about the principle.
I’ll illustrate this below with a picture I took of a bee a few months back. While I was pleased to get the first shot I wanted to get in closer but also make the bee’s eye in a stronger position (using the rule of thirds). I also wanted to remove the second stem of lavender in the background.
You’ll notice I also did a little other editing of the shot in terms of contrast and color balance but I think the cropping makes a definite impact upon the shot.
There’s nothing worse than thinking you’ve taken the ‘money shot’ and getting home to view your image to find that somewhere in the background of your image there is a distracting element that you’d not seen when framing your shot.
Cropping can solve this problem in some instances – particularly when the distraction is on the edges of your image. If it’s more central you might need to explore some other post editing technique. I illustrated this above with the bee shot in editing out the distracting lavender.
Sometimes the problem with an image is that the format you’ve chosen to shoot it in (ie how you’ve held the camera, vertically or horizontally) is just wrong for the image.
While you can retain the shape of your image with cropping you can also change it considerably moving it from a horizontal framing to a vertical one or the other way around.
Also in this way you can move into some non standard image sizes if it adds to your shot. For example sometimes cropping an image into a square can add impact or cropping the top and bottom of a horizontal shot into a panoramic one can have a dramatic impact also. Experiment with different shapes of images to see what works best.
I’ve illustrated this below with a shot that I took on a beach earlier in the year. The first image is un-cropped and while it’s a nice blue sky and the colors of the flag are nice the picture is a little empty. Below the first one I’ve added a few other options which might help make the shot a little stronger.
Quite often cropping is just a matter of trimming the edges of an image but being bold and tightly cropping images to focus in on different elements within an image can also result in some interesting and often abstract results.
In this way you can actually break down a larger image into numerous smaller ones.
Really the possibilities are endless: