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CS #92 - It's all about cropping

Discussion in 'The Collective Shoot' started by Mike Buckley, Jul 11, 2008.

  1. Almost always

    25 vote(s)
  2. Usually

    22 vote(s)
  3. Sometimes

    20 vote(s)
  4. Rarely

    8 vote(s)
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    Welcome to Collective Shoot #92, which is all about cropping.

    As a slide film shooter for 25 years, I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoy the luxury of being able to easily crop an electronic file. That’s such a godsend (surely there is a god of photography) that I encourage everyone to regularly take advantage of it.

    Even though cropping was far more difficult during the film era, some of the best images made by master photographers of bygone decades were cropped. Perhaps the most famous known crop, possibly because it might also be the most documented crop, is the portrait of Pablo Picasso made by Arnold Newman in 1954. Not only did Newman change the aspect ratio of the crop, he also rotated the image and used only a very small portion of the original, as you can see here.


    There are lots of great reasons to crop your images. An effective crop will allow you to:

    1) Eliminate extraneous material.

    2) Emphasize a pattern of color, texture, or shapes.

    3) Position uncluttered space such as a cloudless, blue sky so it becomes the ideal background for the text of your title image.

    4) Create a strong diagonal.

    5) Place the subject at a strong position within your frame, such as when using the rule of thirds or a variation on that theme.

    6) Move a well-defined horizon closer to the top or bottom. (An horizon that appears dead center often results in a static image.)

    7) Frame your square or very narrow subject with an aspect ratio that conforms to the shape of your subject.

    8) Use your Crop Tool as a Zoom Tool. You’re not the only one who wants to maintain your in-camera aspect ratio but doesn’t always have a long lens mounted to your camera at the moment you need it.

    9) Make a picture within a picture. Cropping isn’t always about making a weak picture strong; sometimes it’s about getting two or more strong images out of the same capture.

    10) Correct your mistake. (It’s okay to admit it.)

    11) Enhance an unusual angle or perspective.

    EDIT: 12) Thanks to Uncle Frank, we can add this to the list: Change the aspect ratio to a standard print size such as 5" x 7" or 8" x 10", so it can be framed without having to purchase a custom frame.

    13) This last reason is perhaps best—to get us thinking more creatively!


    WHEN? Press your shutter release Friday, July 11 through Thursday, July 17. Have at it for the entire week! Post your images before midnight Thursday, July 17. All times are your local time.

    EDIT: If you become involved in a discussion about cropping and could easily demonstrate your point by providing an example made before the Collective Shoot began, please do so. Providing a handy example right away might motivate others to apply the same thinking to pictures they make as part of our Shoot.

    HOW MANY? Post up to three in-camera crops and up to two additional crops of each in-camera version. Important: Don’t forget to post the in-camera crop so we can see what you started with.

    EDIT: Cropping in the camera means nothing more than composing the image with thought to how the image is framed before pressing the shutter release. For more explanations of the term, "in-camera crop," see post #46 as well as posts #2, #4 and #8.

    WHAT TO EXPLAIN? You might explain the intended outcome of each crop, such as any of those mentioned above or some that are better. Alternatively, you might instead ask us what we think your crops accomplish so you can determine if your intentions are realized. That leads to our next guideline.

    WHAT TO EXPECT? Please feel free to mention that you prefer that your images are NOT critiqued. Otherwise, expect helpful, constructive comments about your crops. All of us lounging around the Café will be supportive in the way we explain why maybe your crop is successful or not. We also might suggest other crops. Regardless, our exchange of ideas will be both informative and fun!

    WHAT IS OFF LIMITS? We’re focusing (yeah, I know) on cropping technique, so we won’t discuss any other aspects of your images unless of course it’s complimentary critique, which we always encourage.

    WHAT SIZE? Please limit the long dimension of your images to 900 pixels and the size to 200 kilobytes.

    WHAT IF? If you don’t have time to post-process your image with regard to anything other than the crop, don’t hesitate to post it. Remember: this collective shoot is all about cropping!

    ONE LAST THOUGHT: As my signature indicates, I’ll always be learning. However, if the theme of cropping that I chose shows that I’ve got just one thing down pat, it’s that I’m absolutely certain that great photography is all about making pictures, not just taking them. Have a great time making some pictures and showing us your crops!
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 13, 2008
  2. I was asked what an in-camera crop is, which is a really great question. Our pictures inherently limit the viewer's eye to the part of the scene that we decide to capture. That capture as it is recorded on the memory card is a crop of the larger scene the photographer saw. That's why it's sometimes called an in-camera crop, as opposed to a crop that takes place during post-processing.

    Make sense?

    I encourage others to provide more clarification, additional helpful information, and questions about cropping. There is no need to wait until people start posting pictures to discuss the topic of cropping.
  3. MontyDog


    Jan 30, 2005
    #1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax;
  4. To me, in camera crop simply means the image straight out of the camera. You can achieve in camera cropping by zooming, moving your feet, tilting the camera, etc.

    I think there is confusion due to the term, but it really just means, what you shot, without any photoshop cropping.
  5. MontyDog


    Jan 30, 2005
    #1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax;
  6. Paul I know what you mean, I also try to crop as best a time of shooting. Occasionally, I have shot an image that cropped into a nice panorama, which wasn't possible at time of shooting. Another shot that comes to mind is of a nearby waterfall that is very tall and slender, so I have cropped the sides and had it printed as a 10x20.
  7. Single blooms

    Perfect timing Mike.

    Every year, I like to photograph different flowers as they come out around the yard. When there are stems or adjacent leaf patterns, it’s often easy to spice up the composition with diagonal lines or groupings. However, what do you do with a symmetrical flower against a jumbled background? Crop it square; darken the background; use an oval gradient to frame the flower; crop it round with a soft frame; forget about it until next year:biggrin:?

    After I read the CS announcement this morning, I ran out the back door and shot this lone dahlia.


    I tried processing several different ways. For the version below, I cropped it square to reflect the symmetry of the flower, and used a horizontal gradient to selectively darken the background. I felt this gave some direction to the image while concealing the “nothingness” of the right side.

    Any suggestions for improving this kind of image would be appreciated.

  8. Yo, Paul and Rodney! Thanks for dropping by!

    The two of you are having a really fascinating conversation about "in-camera crop" as if neither of you see my post that clarifies the term about 3 hours earlier. I'm wondering if we have a technological glitch going on here. Are you not able to see Post #2 written by me?

    By the way, Rodney is correct about my understanding of the term. An in-camera crop is nothing other than the aspect ratio and size that are recorded on the memory card. Post #2 explains why it's called a crop even though it's unaltered from the captured version.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 13, 2008
  9. Yes, I saw your post. Also your statement: "I encourage others to provide more clarification, additional helpful information, and questions about cropping. There is no need to wait until people start posting pictures to discuss the topic of cropping." :biggrin:
  10. Single blooms like bob posted are perfect square crops. Nice job!
  11. Hi, Bob! Nice to see you again!

    Special thanks for being the first to jump into the frey with some images. Even more important, your post is a fabulous example of explaining what you did and why you did it.

    That's a gorgeous dahlia you've got growing in your yard. I'm very jealous. I'm talking about both the flower and the image. You did a marvelous post-processing job of separating the subject from the background and, of course, the crop is just perfect. It's a perfect example of Reason #7 explained in the thread's first post.

    You asked for other ideas. I can't think of anything that would be an improvement, but something that is a little different is to use dramatic crops with flowers that intentionally eliminate entire portions. Once I'm on my computer at home, I'll provide an example.

    By the way, that brings up a point that though this is a Collective Shoot with a pre-determined time period, I hope everyone will feel free to provide examples for purposes of clarifying the discussion even if the examples were made years ago. I'll immediately edit the first post to make that clarification.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 13, 2008
  12. Ouch! Ya got me, Rodney! Very cool! :biggrin:
  13. Poll Added to the First Post in the Thread

    Good point, Paul. Thanks for mentioning it.

    I added a poll about that to the first post in the thread. I wish I had thought of the poll from the outset.

    I voted "Usually."
  14. Now that I'm at my home computer, I can provide the example of cropping a flower to eliminate major portions of it. This image is not a macro, just a cropped close-up.
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Sorry, but I don't have the original image as it came out of the camera. I took this picture a couple years ago.
  15. Very nice, Mike. As it started to download on my slow system, I thought it was butterfly weed:biggrin:
  16. That reminds me of when I came back from my honeymoon 25 years ago and showed some friends pictures of some really neat plants. They could barely stop laughing because they came from a different part of the country that loathed them as weeds. It's all a matter of perspective. :smile:
  17. FXphotos

    FXphotos Guest

    A weed is someone else's software that you don't care for yourself or is that a bug? :biggrin:
  18. Oval crop?

    Hope you don’t mind Mike, but I was curious to see how this “oval crop” would blend with the Café’s background.


    Darn, I forgot about the black edge supplied by the Cafe software:redface:​
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 14, 2008
  19. There's nothing quite like informative results from an experiment, Bob. Now ya know. :smile: Nice job of matching the color of everything outside the vignette with the Cafe's background color.

    Considering the circular shape of the blossom, rather than an oval shape, my guess is that I might prefer a circular vignette.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 13, 2008
  20. There are several reasons why cropping is an important step for preparing my hummer pics.

    The Anna's is the largest hummingbird seen on the west coast, and yet it weighs just a bit over 4 grams (1/100th of a pound), and only measures 10cm (4 inches) from the tip of its beak to the bottom of its tail. Even with a long lens, it's rare to get close enough to fill the frame with a hummer, particularly if they are flying. So the typical shot...

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    just begs to be cropped to get a closer look at the wee beastie.

    View attachment 217121

    It's difficult to capture a picture of a hummer in free flight. The best place to catch them is at their lunchroom... a backyard feeder. But even the sharpest of feeder shots lack excitement.

    View attachment 217122

    So my goal is to take a pedestrian shot like this...

    View attachment 217123

    and crop/clone for dramatic effect.

    View attachment 217124
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