5 ways cropping can affect your image
09 Oct 2017
So you’ve got the perfect picture, you’ve captured that beautiful shot. But there’s something missing, it’s not quite delivering that impact you want. Naturally, you’ve tried all the filters. Gingham just didn’t quite bring out the emotion you wanted. Mayfair just made it all kinds of blah. Sierra? Please. And obviously, Valencia isn’t going to solve your problems.
So what to do?
Cropping is where you can do more to hone and focus your picture than any colorizing filter. Here are five ways that you can crop your image to bring it to life.
The Rule of Thirds
This is a design consideration for the story you are trying to tell with your picture. If you divide your image into three equal parts, horizontally and vertically, is there a balance? If you are heavy in one third, is there a balanced movement towards the lighter end? Considering your image this way helps you compose a balanced picture. Composting with unbalanced thirds can convey more drama or action.
Many Cameras and most smartphones have an overlay for this. Bringing up this overlay will let you zoom and pan your image around a divided set of rectangles to try out different balances for your photo. Play around with this composition and save out multiple cropped versions to see how they look.
Note: you may also find out more by investigating the Golden Ratio, and the Golden Spiral. These are ratios found repeatedly in nature and as such can inform how you can make a balanced image.
You may have taken your image straight on, but want more drama, more excitement, more power from it. Try rotating slightly (or a lot!) and then cropping to make a full image again. Try various levels of rotation to see how the image appears. Again, save out multiple versions, then consider them with fresh eyes. How does the tilt of this new image make you feel? How does the story of this image change based on this new angle? Trying out minor to extreme rotations will help you lock in the emotion you want to deliver.
Let it breathe
One compositional element often overlooked is the open space. You can focus too much on the central subject of your image and forget to ensure that the subject has sufficient space to help the subject pop in contrast. If you look at your picture and find that there are objects that are competing for attention, or distracting from your central subject, crop them out and see if the result is a stronger presentation. Don’t be afraid to be aggressive here: sometimes you might have to crop out half of your subject to remove the distractions, only to find that the resulting image that only hints at the rest of the subject is a stronger image by far. Save several copies with greater or lesser open space for your central subject and see what strikes you.
Look at how lines and points connect in your picture. Do the top points of a fence fade away to the distance? Do the lines of a building pull your eye from one side of the picture to another? Or is perspective confused by competing lines that leave the viewer unsure of where to look? Use your zoom to obscure sections of the picture, paying close attention to straight lines and where they lead. You will find that when you have a strong balance of lines leading the same direction, the viewer’s eye will naturally be drawn across your image, yielding a pleasing and comprehensive viewing experience. Crop out distracting lines to gain a stronger final result.
Lastly, take all of these post-capture cropping techniques and keep them in mind when viewing your subject during your photo session. As you get more comfortable with this, you will start to naturally see the perspective lines through your viewfinder. You will notice the balance of the rule of thirds and the Golden Ratio without even having the guides up. You will optimize for white space to highlight your subject. And when you are great at cropping while taking your initial photos, you will save hours of time later. The time you can spend playing with new filters.