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Portrait Tips: Crop the crud

Everyone knows that to make romantic, intimate-looking photos you need to be in a romantic kind of place. You’d better build a strong relationship with the Italian restaurant nearby so you can make great pictures — I wonder if the Mob needs a photographer …?

Psych! Of course you don’t need to make pictures in amazing places just to show a relationship between people. In fact, what you need to do is stop worrying about the place and focus on the people.

Get closer

I’d bet that you don’t get close enough to your subjects. If you just bring your camera closer to your subjects you’ll be able to fill the frame with them instead of having it full of a place that doesn’t matter.

I made these pictures with Dana and Reggie in the lobby of the university where Dana works. It’s not the place they fell in love. It’s not a dream vacation location. It’s just a place that was available when we needed to make a picture.

We made pictures that included some of the room, but the room is inconsequential to the photo. It’s just a place to put my subjects together. The table is just a place to sit that brings their hands upward in the frame. Don’t sweat the place, and certainly don’t focus on it.

Big face, small prints

Another benefit of filling the frame with your subject and cropping out the extraneous place around them is that you don’t have to print huge pictures to see your subjects. The picture above printed as an 8×10″ has little faces on a piece of paper.

The below photo printed on a 5×7″ shows the subjects large and clearly without making a bigger picture. A 16×20″ of this would be great on a wall, whereas the above shot needs to be 24×30″ to make a strong impact.

Nikon D800, 70-200mm f/2.8 lens @140mm, f/4, 1/250s, ISO 100, one flash in a softbox.

Crop the crud

Everything that’s not your subjects is extraneous and runs the risk of distracting from your people. I’m not saying that you should only shoot close-ups. But you should definitely plan to make impactful pictures by cropping out the crud and featuring your people.

Portrait Tips come out each week, and you can see them all right here.

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