Cropping – dealing with a finished image.
So: you took out your camera (or camera phone), and captured this great image, but now you want to do more with it. That is where cropping comes into play, and it helps to know a little about this subject before you take the photo in the first place. In most cases, you will find that the original image, no matter how good it may be, is usually just a starting place for the finished image. Probably the easiest way to describe cropping is to say that it is clipping (or cutting) our original image to fit into another format.
Most typical cameras record in a format equivalent to 4” x 6” prints, and that is why this is our most common format for prints. When we talk about enlargements the most common sizes you will hear about are 5” x 7” and 8” x 10”. Therefore, if we do a little bit of simple math we can figure out the 4” x 6” format would fit an 8” x 12” enlargement. So, what are we going to do with the extra 2” when we want to create an 8” x 10” print? The simple answer is: cropping. Probably the most important thing for you to remember with every shot you take; is that you must leave enough room around your subject to execute a proper crop after-the-fact. If you do all of your composition through the viewfinder, you will find it difficult to edit your images to create the photos you want later. It is never any fun when you have to pick to crop off somebody’s head or feet, because you cropped in too close when you shot the image in the first place. When you create the image in the first place, make sure you keep it loose enough to crop to whatever end-result you desire.
In the example photo that I have provided here, you will see that the original leaves plenty of room around the subject for cropping. I have drawn some outlines on the image to illustrate some potential cropping options. You will notice that either a 5 x 7 or 8 x 10 crop can be executed without any issue. Each crop creates a completely acceptable image without any negative effects on the subject.
One other thing to notice about this photo is the control of the depth-of-field. It is important that whenever you shoot portraits that you control the depth-of-field carefully. By keeping your aperture wide-open you reduce the depth-of-field and that will keep the subject in focus while the background remains out of focus. This helps to provide separation between the subject and the background, giving your subject great definition. It is also important to note that the closer you are to the subject the smaller the depth-of-field will be, likewise, the further you are from your subject, the greater the depth-of-field will be. This subject and the same background look completely different in shots taken from just 6 feet further back because of the increased depth-of-field. Therefore, when you are taking shots of a subject, you might want to consider taking several versions so you can create different effects.
©2012 Jeff Cowell, jrcowell.com