Cropping is a great tool that we, as photographers, have in our arsenal. It has the ability to transform a good photo into a better photo or a marginal photo into a great photo. However, it can also transform a good photo in to an awkward photo. Many people think they’re cropping in to get more detail into the frame, but fail to realize that they’ve created an awkwardness by the way they’ve done it. Let me explain.
Here’s a beautiful image of a bride getting ready with the help of her sister.
Some people will want to crop in more on this photo to get an even more intimate shot. Why not? Her makeup is gorgeous. Her eyes and skin are shining. Well, let’s see what happens when we crop in:
We get a “naked” bride! While you have achieved the goal of getting closer in on the action, we see nothing of her dress and the viewer has no idea what she is (or isn’t) wearing! Don’t undress your brides!
Let’s look at another awkward scenario. In this sweet engagement photo, something doesn’t feel quite right. The crop is right through his elbow and both of their kneecaps. Ever heard the expression not to cut someone off at the knees? This is it in action! The “break” at the edge of the frame is important for the overall visual comfort of the composition. When we awkwardly break our client’s joints, it seems forced.
In this version, by letting the composition breathe a little bit and also by not cropping in the middle of the couples’ joints, there’s a greater harmony in the composition. We also don’t turn her legs into looking like hot dogs and we gain movement in the composition because of the bend in her leg.
Now there are also photos that can go either way, wide or close. But you just have to be careful not to go to that awkward in between spot. Here’s what I mean:
This image is nice and wide. It shows a bit of the scene. You get a good sense that they’re sitting. There’s a nice central circle of eye movement around their heads, down their arms, to their hands and back around. However, it could be more impactful if we cropped in.
When we go to crop it but don’t crop it enough this is what we end up with; cut up hands and flowers, no real sense of sitting or standing, and a feeling like the composition is falling out of the bottom of the frame.
What we need to do to fix this is to get even closer. By going further in, we avoid all possibility of cutting them off in the center of their joints but we gain a greater sense of connection in the image.
So the next time you’re cropping your images, remember to be conscious of where you’re cutting your clients’ bodies. We want our crops to enhance the emotion connection as well as the strength of the composition.
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