Sunday, November 08, 2009
Composition part 7: cropping 
The seventh in a series on basic composition rules to further enhance the quality of your photographs if you are not aware of them yet - the first one, dealing with the rule of thirds, can be found here, the second one, dealing with the background choice, can be found here, the third one, dealing with framing within the frame, can be found here, the fourth one, dealing with leading lines, can be found here, the fifth one, dealing with viewpoint can be found here, the sixth one, dealing with cropping, can be found here. I am using an article on the site Amateur Snapper as a guideline here, but providing examples from my own stream. This is the second of two contributions on the subject of cropping, and will focus on the shape of the final photograph, requiring editing the shot in suitable software. Many beginning amateur photographers tend to think that the 1.333 ratio (4:3) that digital cameras typically produce is holy, and should remain intact even when the shot is cropped to improve the composition. I would like to point out a couple of alternatives that in some cases work far better. First off, the square crop has become pretty popular, not in the least by the familiarity caused by album and CD covers. There are plenty of examples of this crop in my blog, both in my own photographs and in my Flickr favourites. A much less used format that can lead to intriguing results is what I have dubbed the ob-long crop: the long side is at least twice the short side. In landscape format this is also known as the letterbox crop, and it is of course frequently used for panorama shots. But it has wider potential than that. In portrait form, I have also used the term Chinese crop, inspired by Chinese art which often uses this lay-out, and this shape can give a different dimension to some shots. All of these crops can easily be tried out with simple freeware like Picasa. Recently I have started experimenting with even more deviating shapes such as ovals, triangles and circles, in Photoshop. An example from my own stream (Autumnal Almere) is shown above. The circular crop really gives a different feeling to the shot making it stand out from the usual autumn photographs. The basic message: start playing around with different crops and see what works best.