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A Guest Post by Matthew Dutile
If you read my last post on Digital Photography School, Stop Taking Pictures, Start Creating Images, you know that I’m a big advocate of planning out the reason for taking a photo, and setting yourself a client for direction.
Beyond the creative goals (or rare capture if you are a wildlife photographer) of knowing who or what you are shooting for, you should start raising your awareness to some of the format demands of your client – even if it’s just yourself. Particularly, start shooting for popular crops.
By that, I’m not referring to cropping to improve an images’ composition. There are already a lot of great posts about that on this site. Rather, I’m talking about specifically composing a photo in-camera with the intent to later crop or size it for prints, publication, comp cards, web banners and more.
We all generally tend to compose our images by the 3:2 aspect ratio (that’s a 4×6” print size). After all, that’s what you see when looking through the viewfinder of most common consumer and DSLR cameras. There are cameras that have the 4:3 (squarer) and 16:9 (longer) aspect ratios as well. Make sure you know what aspect ratio your camera is. For the sake of this discussion let’s focus on the 3:2 ratio most of you are likely using.
Unfortunately, many popular print sizes don’t follow the 3:2 aspect ratio. Most magazines are 8.5×11” full pages with 11×17” double trucks (that’s a two-page spread) and one of the most common print sizes is the 8×10”. Each of these is different from the standard 3:2 photos you’re capturing. There’s nothing worse than taking a great photo of a friend, family member or client, only to discover later when you want to print a different crop that you’ve cut off the top of their head, a hand or some other important element to the photo.
Here’s a look at three popular crops and what to look for when shooting for them.
Invariably, this is an extremely popular crop and print size for portrait photography. You’ll find the 8×10” photo framing up couples, families, wedding formals and senior pictures on end tables and bookshelves in households around the world. What you may not have thought of at first is that it’s a full two inches shorter on the top, bottom or a bit on both ends. Your friend or a client may not directly tell you that they’d like some 8×10”s before embarking on a photo session, but you can bet that’s what they’ll likely try to get printed after it.
You can see in the image here of one of my friends, that while I left a good deal of room around this full body shot, I still added in quite a bit of extra head room for an 8×10” crop. Ultimately, the shorter image is much more flattering (and likely why it’s such a popular choice amongst everyone). Inside is an alternative, closer cropped 8×10” option. Do remember not to crop so close though that if the person frames the photo a part of the frame ends up overlapping and cutting off a bit.
I’ll caveat this section by first saying not all magazines use an 8.5×11” page size. There are squarer magazines, taller ones and everything in between. If you do end up shooting full-page photos for publication, be sure to speak with the editor or art director to find out what size their magazine is. However, most will use 8.5×11” pages.
The nice thing is if you’ve mastered the 8×10” the 8.5×11” is nearly identical. The only difference is with the 8.5×11” you get just a bit of extra room on the top or bottom. So if you’re shooting for the squarer 8×10” already, you’ll have this full page crop easily.
A double truck crop is an image that is spread across two facing pages of a magazine or newspaper, or more commonly known as the two-page spread. The great thing about this crop – it’s nearly identical to a 3:2 ratio landscape, with only a small margin cropped from the top or bottom.
The important element to remember is to compose your photo so that the subject of it isn’t chopped in half at the middle of the bind. As you can see in this photo of my friend leaning against the parking meter, the focus and subject of the photo is almost completely on the left page. This also leaves a page of negative space open for editorial or ad copy.
There’s an infinite number of ways to crop a photo for all sorts of purposes. Web banners, model comp cards, business cards, large landscape, square, tall, skinny and the list goes on. Whatever it is you’re shooting for know what the crop will look like in relation to the aspect ratio of your camera. Test out some sizes on existing photos you have, even if they don’t fit the frame. When you go out shooting and you’d like a new Web banner for your blog or Web site, at least you’ll know where you’ll have to keep the relevant content in your framing.
Here’s something that helped me learn to remember my crops. I often assist and speak with Phoenix photographer Adam Nollmeyer for advice. Every time I would return from a shoot and proof the images with him, he would pick out the ones that I had framed too close or cut a body part on and deduct a few dollars off our next assisting fee. It’s a very effective and quick way to learn. You can duplicate it at home by putting a little jar on top of your fridge. Every time you frame too closely and can’t deliver an 8×10” photo, put a few bucks in. When you start getting it right consistently, treat yourself with the money in there to a little reward.
Even if you’re not looking to ever shoot for publication or portfolio prints, perhaps you’d like to create your own photography book to display your images to your friends and family. Knowing these crops will help you if ever the urge strikes. You’ll be able to proudly display your work in an appealing format and with all the elements in tact that made you first think when taking the photo, “this will be a great image.”
About Guest Contributor: Matthew Dutile is a part-time lifestyle photographer and communications professional out of Phoenix, AZ. You can view his Web site for more images or find him on Facebook. Contact him anytime. He wants to hear from you!