Your Photos and Why You Should Give a Crop
Smartphone photo-editing apps have made it easy for anyone to take a photo and then manipulate it until they achieve the look they are after. Filters, frames, lighting, and color adjustments are possible with just a few swipes and clicks and can produce dramatic results. But an often overlooked yet powerful editing option is the crop tool. “Okay kids, smile!” The photo is snapped. Everyone’s heads and feet are in the frame, and we can all tell it’s little Lucy and Meg — but that’s just the beginning. Use the crop tool to get creative.
Everyone has cropped out the photo-bomber making their move to get into the picture, or that guy yawning in the background, or the edge of the parking lot that spoiled the otherwise remote feel to the location shot. But cropping goes beyond eliminating unwanted areas and can actually be used to compose the picture after the fact. Creative cropping can create intimacy or mystery or change the entire message conveyed by changing what the focus is.
When we look at the world with our eyes, we key in on what interests us the most and put it at the center of our field of vision. In photography centering the subject seems natural. However when you take into consideration “The Rule of Thirds,” you can create a stronger more interesting image. Simply divide the view field in thirds both vertically and horizontally and put the subject or a main area of interest, on one of the dividing lines, or where the lines cross. For a portrait shot this could mean cropping the image so that the subjects eyes are centered in the cross-section of the dividing lines. For a landscape this could mean the horizon line.
Much of the world reads from left to right. Placing the subject on the right can provide a pleasing little subconscious reward as the viewer moves their gaze over the photo and finally comes to rest on the familiar right side. In the example of the flying birds, leaving the left side open, visually gives the birds someplace to fly.
Creative cropping can help rid your image of unsightly background components. It can put more emphasis on the main subject by having them take up a proportionately larger amount of the space. Cropping can simplify the scene by zooming in and cutting out confusion, or it can be used to create a composition after the fact. Although cropping is common and easy to do, it remains an under-utilized yet powerful editing technique.