Art of Photography

Rob Townsend

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Exercise – Cropping


Take three already-taken photographs of different subjects. Crop them to change the composition – to find the image inside the image. Explain the logic for the choice of crop in each case.


1: Cricket match

This shot of a game of cricket seemed to be too wide and distant to have enough interest; too much sky, too much grass, not enough cricket.

Cricket - before

Cricket – before

I decided to focus on fewer of the players and ensure that I had the bowler and the batsman both in shot. I cropped top and bottom to remove some of the expanses of blue and green.

Cricket - crop

Cricket – crop

The resultant shot is more about the players and the action while the original shot was more about the environment. It is in a wider ratio than the original, almost panoramic, but I think this works for the subject.

Cricket - after

Cricket – after

2. Street entertainer

I took this shot of an optical illusionist at Covent Garden in horizontal format on autopilot.

Street entertainer - before

Street entertainer – before

Looking at it again with a critical eye, it needed to have some of the distracting background cropped out so that it focuses the eye more on the man himself. Thus, a portrait crop was chosen.

Street entertainer - crop

Street entertainer – crop

I’m fine with the fact that one pedestrian is left in shot, as this gives the image some context, as does the reflection of other passersby in the shop window. But the emphasis is much more on the levitating gold man.

Street entertainer - after

Street entertainer – after

3. Tree

This wide landscape shot was one of a few that I took that day, not really thinking too much about composition or balance (before this course, obviously…).

Tree - before

Tree – before

It’s clear to me now that I should have peered over the hedge more to get this distraction out of the frame. I tried just a simple crop underneath the base of the tree at first, but the tree looked a little lost. I needed to crop out more sky and a little to the sides.

Tree - crop

Tree – crop

The final crop makes the tree fill the right amount of frame to be an appropriately eye-catching subject.

Tree - after

Tree – after

What I’ve learned:

Whilst I prefer to compose in-camera and get the right elements in the frame at the time of shooting, it’s evident that in some cases, the composition and balance of an image can be greatly improved be a judicious crop. In other cases a crop is necessary to remove a distracting element that wasn’t obvious at the time of the capture. I need to be careful, however, not to rely on cropping as a fallback, and to continue to strive to get it right in the viewfinder.