Continuing on from Part 1, I will continue my discussion of the first C: Crop.
Images are about stories. An image can tell a story. It can tell a story better with a crop. It can even tell several different stories with different applications of the crop. There are two distinct paths to cropping a photo:
1. Let the story the photo is telling you dictate the crop.
2. Let the story you need to tell dictate the crop.
Taking the first path requires an evaluation of the aesthetics of the image to divine the most powerful story within the image. Once you have found the overwhelming story, the crop process is initiated to place the strongest elements in places which will create the most tension or drama in the scene. This normally means moving a central element to a place that is other than the edges of the frame or dead center. Dead center is deadly is good advice when applying any crop. Make certain that by cropping an image you don’t move the center of interest into the middle.
Horizon-centered Crop is where the image was cropped so that the horizon is close to the center of the image.
As you can see in our examples of Split Rock Lighthouse from the North Shore of Lake Superior, crops create different pictures. In the Horizon-centered crop, the image is split in half and gives two competing sections. The Subject-centered crop takes on the image of snap shot It is a picture of a lighthouse at sunrise and no more. The Dynamic Crop was done in the camera. This is the full-frame image. It has much more tension and drama than the other two crops and the colored cloud layers and the subtle reflections all serve to draw your eye into the scene.
This brings up a good point. Image editing programs are all well and good. With them you can do amazing things to your images. All photography is a compromise. You are taking a slice of the world when you snap the shutter. Make certain you take a good slice. By cropping in the view finder consciously when you capture the image, you are eliminating much work later and giving yourself more pixels with which to work later. If I’d taken the first two images as they are shown here, I would have had very little with which to work to make those pictures more dynamic.
There are many methods for cropping dynamically. Rule of Thirds is a great starting point. There are many others.
For review, we are discussing the first C in image editing: The Crop. You now know to straighten and correct perspective before applying a crop because these two operations will crop your image by virtue of their nature. We’ve also discussed finding the story in your image and finding a way to present that story in a dramatic fashion. In the next installment, we will discuss creating the story we chose with the image we have and the ways of finding multiple stories within an image.
Rikk Flohr © 2007