Article by Ron Brinkmann
One of the quickest and easiest things you can do to improve a photo is to selectively crop it. The world (and the subject that you are photographing) doesn’t restrict itself to living inside a particular aspect ratio, so don’t restrict yourself either! I’ll spend a lot of time in my photo-editing tool massaging color-corrections and noise reductions and sharpening parameters… they’re very subjective and very subtle. But I find that often I can whip through dozens of photos doing quick minor crops in far less time than it takes me to color-tweak a single image.
Take a look at the nicely-framed shot at the top of this post. (We’ve had entirely too many bird-photos posted… time for puppies!)
Now compare that to the original image. The straight-out-of-camera shot has an ugly glare-spot on the hardwood floor, a few bits of extra puppy-parts intruding in the frame in the upper-right corner… it’s really not a nice or memorable shot. Cropping is good.
It’s important to keep cropping in mind throughout the picture-taking process. It’s not just something you deal with in postproduction, you need to be aware of it while you’re shooting photos as well. I’ve had many situations in the field where I zoomed-in in order to exclude some extraneous pole/tree/wire/person that was on the edge of frame but as a result I ended up closer to the subject than I really wanted to be. Had I just left the subject in the frame the way I wanted it and shaved off a few pixels on the side of the frame later, I would have had a much better photo.
When in doubt, I try to err on the side of framing things too wide, knowing that (with today’s modern cameras) I’ve usually got wayyy more resolution than I need… and a fair bit of cropping won’t be at all problematic. It’s also a really useful thing when you’re trying to get a photo of some hard-to-control subject (like a puppy) – take a step back a little bit or zoom out a little bit and you’ll have a much better chance of getting the shot you want without having the subject cutting across the edge of the frame.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I agree with everything Ron says except too many bird photos. You can never have too many bird photos 🙂
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