Cropping an Image to Explore New Formats

Getting composition right when under pressure to “take the shot” can be challenging for a lot of photographers, both experienced and not so experienced. Making sure the focus point is where it needs to be, for example, can lead to a bit of “centre” heavy composing – where the subject is smack, bang in the middle of the frame in a fairly uninspired spot.

Just because you haven’t composed the shot perfectly, why not transform a good image into a great one by spending some time cropping it? A good crop can make difference between artsy and also ran with images. You should know your rule of thirds, so why not apply it in the post process?

Great news is, most digital cameras have enough megaunbelievablemonsterpixels to allow you to crop the shot right in and still have more than enough resolution to print, and almost always enough for an on-screen use like your FB profile…

Experimenting with composition by cropping on your computer screen can help develop your eye. Think about how you could have better positioned yourself to take the shot as you crop. Be adventurous – you can always “undo” anything that doesn’t quite turn out. If you find you are drawn to a particular style of composition through your cropping, make some notes for next time you are out as a reminder to give it a try.

To try a different format, there are a couple of options.

1. Beg or borrow some film gear.

2. Buy some low cost film gear.

3. Grab a camera with a “live view” LCD on the back and mask it to the format you want to try. Crop the images to match what you see on the LCD when you get home.

There are plenty of relatively inexpensive film cameras to assist in your exploration.

  • Yashica TLRs
  • Bronica 6×6
  • Bronica 645 format (the viewfinder has panoramic framelines for running 35mm through the camera with a specially designed back)
  • Holga 6×6 toy camera – a very cost effective way to try square format! I would start with a Holga.
  • Sprocket Rocket – 35mm panoramic toy camera

My favourite image format at the moment is panorama – yes, I have a camera that shoots in this format, but why not try the same format out on some of your photos by giving your crop tool a work out and see what happens!

Start thinking about panoramic composition when you are framing your shots. Crop to a roughly 1 : 2.7 frame size for panoramic. See if you like it… You can find out more about panoramic composition here.

Some of the most famous film cameras of the past shoot in a square format – 6×6. The Rolleiflex and Hasselblad 500 series both capture in this format. Square composition makes composition a different challenge. The classic “Rule of Thirds” doesn’t necessarily need to be applied to achieve pleasing compositions.

Again, think about square when you are composing and crop the images on your computer.

Ok – if you have made it this far, I have one more thought…

This photo below is one of my all time most viewed on flickr. All the kids pick it up for their Tumblr feeds. It is not a super remarkable image, but I think it has two things going for it that the sk8trs like…

1. the moment of anticipation – the bmxer is just about to take off

2. people like images of people where you cannot see the face – and can therefore project themselves into the image

Try taking some more images of people where the actual face is not recognisable. At most shows I participate in, the best selling images tend subscribe to the “Rückenfigur” style. Literally meaning “back figure”, the term rückenfigur is usually associated with German romantic painters, such as Caspar David Friedrich, to describe a viewpoint that includes another person seen from behind, viewing a scene spread out before the viewer. You can read more about it here.

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