Make your photos SPEAK through cropping.
In my endeavor to learn more about photography and what seems to look, feel, and make a better image I've been playing around with cropping pictures. I want to share with you some of the things I have learned.
Composition is very important to making a picture speak what you intend it to say. We should spend as much time with the subject as possible to capture it in the best way to get your message across to the viewer. Once the shutter has been released, we have one last opportunity to compose an image that is pleasing to the eye through the art of cropping. I've posted two pictures on Streamzoo and Instagram that I will use to illustrate some of the things to keep in mind when editing an image.
The first photo was taken in an old mining town that was a flourishing hub of activity in the mid to late 1860's. I had been taking pictures all morning and was just about out of battery life, hungry for breakfast and heading back to my car, when I saw this scene and thought I would take one more picture. I liked the all the various lines and textures in the scene and I'm a sucker for a white picket fence. Over breakfast, I picked this one picture to play with. Playing with apps in a casual manner is a great way for me to open up my creativity and learn new things. It was never my intention to post this picture to Streamzoo or Instagram. It sat in my photo album for a few days when I stumbled upon it and, on a whim, posted it to both sites. I like it but I'm not wild about it. I stepped back from it and realized, among a few other things, that it needed to be cropped differently.I had originally cropped my car out of the picture, which was parked next to the boardwalk, while trying to retain as much of the picture as possible. This crop was successful for that objective because I was just playing with the photo and I didn't care too much if it was compositionally pleasing. I just wanted the car out of the scene. The resulting image felt like it was broken into four equal squares of a bigger square. I have all the elements of the scene that I liked when I took the picture but it doesn't feel right. I put the photo back into Filterstorm for one more crop. I cropped it from the 1:1 ratio to a 3:4 ratio which you see here. This is more pleasing to the eye and feels a lot better to me.
I have found, more times than not, I need to keep cropping beyond what I think is appropriate at the beginning of the edit. In this case, I didn't need near as much of the house or fence to create an image that would communicate the lines and textures that spoke to me originally.
The second photo that I posted was of an older gentleman walking with a walker. He had a dignity to him that we don't usually recognize in this culture we live in today. This shot was a total grab shot as he was moving along toward me and I was headed in his direction. The gap was closing quickly, which would have helped to get a closer shot, except I didn't want him to know I was taking a picture of him. I was in front of an antique shop so I dropped down to the camera angle I desired and pretended to take a picture of an old garden cart. I'm so clever! Maybe not. The picture had some interest as it was taken but it left the gentleman too far in the background.
This one I cropped many different ways to see how it looked and felt the best. There are merits to some of the crops but I had to pick the right one for the way it was going to be displayed. I like to crop as many images that I can to a 16:9 ratio so I can include them in slideshows for my television. It's a great way to see pictures in a lot larger size and is very powerful when the images fit the full screen.
I wanted to post this picture to Streamzoo and Instagram also and I knew there was a size that would make this shot sing. Crop, crop, crop. I tried a 3:4 ration and it was appealing but I thought there wasn't enough of the bench in the photo when I cropped the cars out of the other side of the frame. I think the bench adds to the story. It gives the image action. It gives the man a destination. I wanted more of the bench. I don't think that an image needs everything in it to be whole to convey the message. This image needs more bench but not the whole thing. You do need to be careful what you partially crop. Some things become a distraction when they are not fully in the scene.
The final image was cropped into a 1:1 ratio which works great for Instagram. This ratio gives me everything that I need to convey meaning in the photo without anything unnecessary or distracting. I have my beloved bench for the man to sit on, which also takes the eye deeper into the frame to find the man on his way down the sidewalk. This square photo is visually appealing and feels good to me.
I feel I am learning a lot from each picture that I create. The more I actively engage in the process of taking and editing pictures, the more I will learn and better my photography. Here I've listed five things that I've learned with these pictures and others that I have created. I hope these ideas can help you on your way to taking better pictures.
1. Think about your composition before you take the shot. What do you want in the frame? Would a landscape or portrait view work the best?
2. Experiment. Open up your creativity and learn new things.
3. Crop, crop, crop. Remove the things that detract or distract from your message.
4. Keep in mind how the image will be displayed. Crop for the right orientation and dimension that enhances the photograph for the situation.
5. It is possible to partially crop things out of the frame. The viewer's mind will adjust for it when the image is compelling. Pay attention to the times that this enhances or detracts from the image.