Cropping in Photography
We often hear the advice to crop in camera. That’s good, solid advice. That said, sometimes we have no choice but to crop in post.
The question is: why do we crop in the first place and what role does cropping, in general, have when telling the visual story?
Cropping is part of composing the image. When we crop in camera, as well as when we use selective focus (in camera), the rule of thirds, and others, we try to best compose the image to emphasize the subject.
In general, we crop to tell a particular story in a particular way, to eliminate distractions, to emphasize a certain mood, look, etc. We crop to capture a detail or an overall scene, depending on the story.
Preparing and having the image we want to photograph in our mind, helps us better compose and crop in-camera. That said, sometimes we have no choice but to crop in post.
Let’s look at a few examples:
Here’s an image of the Manhattan skyline silhouetted by the first light of the day as captured with my 28-300mm Nikon lens, zoomed out at 28mm:
Here’s a pano image (cropped in post) of that image posted above:
There’s not much of a difference between the two images, but the pano crop can be the best fit, without additional cropping or adjustments, when using it as part of a timeline image or the like. By including less sky and more city skyline, it helps emphasize the subject.
Sometimes the crop is more drastic, like in the close-up image posted below. Here’s a detail from the skyline image (above), captured with the same Nikon 28-300mm lens zoomed in to 300mm. The above image offers an overall view of the skyline, while the image posted below takes the eye up close and personal, offering specific details.
Sometimes the crop is more drastic, other times it’s much more subtle. Sometimes, as previously mentioned, we crop to emphasize a certain element in the image. Here’s an image of Times Square on the night of NYC Pride 2018. The bright lights are a symbol of Times Square. The bright billboard lights really grab the attention, because they are so very bright. That would work if the image were to focus on Times Square and not necessarily on NYC Pride.
To make the image more about NYC Pride and the fireworks display celebrating Pride, I thought to crop out the bright billboard lights, to try to emphasize not Times Square at night, but rather Times Square on NYC Pride night–antennas displaying the rainbow flag and the fireworks. Here’s the image above, slightly cropped to eliminate the bright light:
Those are only a few examples of how cropping can help tell a story, enhance a subject, emphasize certain details, guide the eye, and so on. With that in mind, we can crop any image, be that when photographing cities, nature, or people.
As always, thanks for stopping by!
Alina, love the photos and the article. You are a great teacher.
Hi Gloria, Appreciate your note. It means so much to me. Glad you liked it. Thank you!