How to Crop Your Photos to Maximize Visual Impact

 

When we take pictures, we make a lot of decisions right before we press that shutter button. Not only do we think of what parts of the subject or scene we want to include in the frame, but just as importantly, we also have to decide what parts to leave out. However, there are times when we look at the photos we have taken and discover they could either have been composed better or there might be distracting elements that should not have been part of the shot. Using the crop tool often works to solve the problem. Another option is to reshoot but that might not be necessary if we are successful in cropping the shot to our liking. 

Using the Crop Tool

The crop tool is found in most, if not all photo editing software. To crop in Adobe Photoshop, choose the crop tool then click on the edge of the area you want to keep. Drag the cursor while holding down the left mouse button until the entire selected area has been highlighted in a square or rectangle. Anything that is not included in the selection will be cut or cropped. If you want a perfect square crop, press on the Shift keyboard button as you make your selection. If you want to maintain the pixel aspect ratio, select the entire image first, then hold down the Shift keyboard button as you move the little square found at any of the four corners of the frame to make the selection smaller. You can always move the crop selection to certain parts of the image.

You can also rotate the crop selection by pointing your cursor a little bit away from one of the four crop corners. Instead of a straight arrow, you will see a curved arrow. Once it appears, press the mouse button and you can now rotate the crop selection to the desired angle.

Take note to crop using a duplicate of the original image. When you save the image, most editing programs will replace the original with the cropped version.  

Crop Sizes

  • For printing – if you are planning to print your shots, make sure you did not crop too much of your shot at you’ll be left with a one inch image. When you crop an image, you are also resizing it because you are getting rid of pixels that make up the size of the image. By clicking on the arrow beside the Crop tool, you will see a dropdown list of the conventional picture sizes such as 4 by 5 inches or 8 by 10 inches.
  • For online publishing – the crop size really depends on what you are going to use it for. If you are selling your photos, keep your image resolution at its highest since it's the buyers who will crop your image, if needed. If you are going to present your photos in a portfolio, make sure the image is large enough so that the little details can be seen and appreciated.

Crop to Remove Background Clutter

dessert before How to Crop Your Photos to Maximize Visual Impact

A lot of distracting elements can be eliminated with the simple action of cropping them out of the shot. In this photo, the hand and fork were distracting so they were cropped out. I wanted the textures of the dessert to be apparent, from the moist chdessert after How to Crop Your Photos to Maximize Visual Impactocolate cake to the gooey caramel oozing down the sides to the smooth cherry nestled on top. With a tight crop and a simple white background, these various textures were brought forward.

 

Crop to Improve Composition

Cropping is also a very effective way to improve on the balance and composition of the image. For example, if your subject is smack dab in the center of the frame and you prefer it to be off to one side, use the Rule of Thirds when you crop. By cropping one side of the image, you are moving the placement of the subject in the frame, thus no longer making it centered. 

The original shot below left shows the wire bisecting the middle of the frame. By rotating the crop selection, the photo on the right shows the bird now located at the left side of the shot and the wire is now cutting the frame in a diagonal angle which provides more tension and impact.

birds How to Crop Your Photos to Maximize Visual Impact

 

 

Try various ways to crop your image. You can achieve different interpretations with thoughtful cropping.

 


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Photography Webinar This Thursday: Event Marketing Strategies

140910title Photography Webinar This Thursday: Event Marketing Strategies
140910titlesub Photography Webinar This Thursday: Event Marketing Strategies

We would like to invite you to our free upcoming "Advanced Event Marketing" training webinar this Thursday, September 16th, 2010 at 1:00 PM Eastern where we will be focusing on how to maximize your profit from every event shoot using some of the more advanced marketing tools in your account.. Register Now!

andrew Photography Webinar This Thursday: Event Marketing Strategies

Hosted by our head of marketing and sales, Andrew Fishman, you will learn how to effectively use and combine some of the following marketing tools to dramatically increase your online sales!:

  • Coupons
  • Packages
  • Discount Rules
  • Featured Products
  • Business Cards and Flyers
  • Email Collection Sheets

 register Photography Webinar This Thursday: Event Marketing Strategies

AThis "Advanced Event Marketing" training webinar will give you an inside look at proven strategies that have increased online sales for thousands of our members. Seating is limited so if you are interested, please be sure to reserve your seat today!

title3 Photography Webinar This Thursday: Event Marketing Strategies

We are currently running a series of free educational webinars catering to both new members and users looking to learn specific functionality or some of the more advanced features of our service.

As space is limited, we encourage you to register and reserve your seat for the upcoming webinar(s) of your choice today!

Webinar Date Register
Stock Sales Training Sep 22nd Register
Self Fulfillment Training Sep 29th Register
Intro to Photostockplus Oct 7th Register

 For an up to date schedule and more details on our current webinar series, head on over to our Webinar page!

 webinars Photography Webinar This Thursday: Event Marketing Strategies

We look forward to seeing you at one of our upcoming webinars! If you have any questions in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

Best Regards.

Ilan Artzy
President


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Shooting in Direct Sunlight

 

 

Sunlight can be a photographer’s best friend since it is a natural light source that can illuminate your subject in several different ways, free of cost. Knowing how to use sunlight to get an intended effect is part of the tricks of the trade. Many people prefer to shoot on a bright but cloudy day when the scene is adequately lit but the intensity of the light is just enough not to cause any harsh and strong shadows. There are other times, however, when you just can’t wait for the clouds to come and you have to shoot in direct sunlight.

Direct sunlight can negatively impact the shot. It can cause blown out highlights, hard shadows, chromatic aberration, lens flare and oversaturated colors. These are quite a lot of issues that we have to consider but there are simple ways to counter the problems we might face when shooting in the bright light of day.

Shoot in the shade – If you’re shooting a person or a portable object, transfer to the shade.  Be prepared and bring an umbrella or a sheet of cloth in case there is no shade nearby. This also drastically lessens the chances of the subject to squint from the sun’s glare. A photo of a person squinting will not look so good.

Use fill flash – direct sunlight behind a subject will darken the foreground. By using a flash to illuminate it, you can make sure that the subject’s features will be more visible. Adjust the intensity of the flash to a setting less than its regular output so that the lighting will appear more natural rather than as if the subject was caught by a car’s headlights.

Change the perspective – just moving your camera at a different angle can cut down on glare caused by the sun. Move around your subject; play around with different camera viewpoints until you are satisfied with the composition as well as the lighting.

 

polarized 1024x768 Shooting in Direct SunlightUse a filter – a polarized filter can mean a world of difference when shooting in bright sunlight. It cuts atmospheric haze and darkens scenes that looked washed out by the glare. Colors come out more vibrant with less blown out areas. If you don’t have a polarizer, you can improvise by using a pair of polarized sunglasses instead. This photo shows the outcome of using the sun shades with polarized lens. The upper left portion that hasn’t been included in the glasses’ frame looks very different from the area which the lens covers.

Use a lens hood – lens hoods are pretty basic accessories but they do help a lot in shielding the lens from the sun’s harsh glare. A lens hood lessens the possibility of lens flare and chromatic aberration.

Use a diffuser – a simple diffuser such as a white sheet or foam board can soften the intensity of the harsh light. This creates a more even lighting for your subject and reduces areas that might become over or underexposed without the diffuser.

Turn your subject into a silhouette – If your subject appears too dark because of the sun hitting it directly from behind, and you choose not to or are not able to use a fill flash, then turn your subject into a silhouette instead. Lines, shapes and textures become prominent as well as the mood of a scene can become more dramatic. Ships sailing on bright empty seas, trees swaying in the heat of the sun, people frolicking on the shore, these and many more would make fantastic silhouette shots.

 


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Photographing the Beauty in Urban Decay

Man-made structures that are falling apart or have been abandoned a long time ago seem to captivate and enthrall us, whether we are photographers or not. Maybe it is because we are pulled to their beauty even in the face of dilapidation. Or perhaps there is something about the way these crumbling buildings look that resonates within us; that even strong foundations can collapse, that over time people can deface it with graffiti, or that nature will always try to take back her territory.

poolweb Photographing the Beauty in Urban DecayTaking photographs of urban decay can take you on an adventure into places that are little visited or have been forgotten by most people. They may be large in scale such as ruins of buildings, or something up close such broken doorknobs or corroded window frames. The following are some tips that will help you make the most of urban decay photography:

Do a little research – although you might come across a lot of urban decay as you travel your city streets, you might be surprised that after doing some research, there are many more that you didn’t know about. Also, try to know a bit more about the area you will photograph before visiting the place. They often have some interesting history behind them, and how they ended up like that can give you insights on how to approach your composition. For example, if you are going to photograph a broken down house, knowing that it had previously caught fire will give you an idea of the meaning of those blackened patterns on the walls. These places have stories to tell, it’s up to you to listen and make use of them in your photographs.

Bring a flashlight – if you’re planning to shoot indoors, a flashlight would come in handy since most likely the place won’t have any working electricity. Even in the daytime, the space might be dark and gloomy, especially if the windows are all covered in grime. That is, if there are still any windows intact. It will also illuminate possible debris that is strewn around the room. Small rusty nails, splintered wood, and broken glass can be dangerous and wound you if you step on them.

Request permission – although many abandoned locations have long been forgotten, there are those for which you might still need permission to access and take photos of. Just because no one is using the structure anymore doesn’t mean you won’t have to worry about trespassing.

Shoot at different times in the day – the environment where your subject is located can be drastically different at different hours in the day, especially if it is situated in a very public area. If you want little distractions, a short time after dawn is a good hour to shoot. Most of the people are still asleep or in their homes so if you are taking pictures of urban decay in a populated setting, there will be fewer distractions from Lincolnweb Photographing the Beauty in Urban Decaypeople passing by and obstructing your lens. The lighting will be great since the morning sun will still be at the horizon, giving off diffused light. This same location, however, might appear entirely different during rush hour. For example if your structure is a rundown building, crowds of people might be passing it by, oblivious to it being there. Street children might be playing hide and seek in it or someone might be tacking an advertisement on its wall. The impact may come out different from your early morning shoot but may still be just as powerful.

Play with details – there are times when you can capture the essence of a decrepit structure by focusing on only a portion. Instead of trying to include the entire building in your shot, try to concentrate on only the stairs, for example, or the door. This makes the viewer see much more details such as the textures of rusty metal or chipped paint, the faded wallpaper design, or the lush green vines that are wrapped around a banister.

Travel light – don’t take gear that is more than you can comfortably carry. You will be moving around a lot as you look for strategic positions to take your picture and the last thing you would want to feel is weighed down by excess gear. Your camera, a tripod, and if you have a DSLR, an extra lens such as a wide-angle lens should be enough.

Use the surroundings – the area around your subject can place it within context and can provide more drama to your shot. If your decaying structure is smack dab in the middle of a busy commercial area, you can tell a story by including the bright and shiny establishment that stands right beside it. People can also provide context by how they react to or ignore your subject. Observe what is going on in the scene, there are usually a lot of photo opportunities to be had as long as you are prepared.

 

 


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How to Photograph Bubbles

Photographing bubbles can be quite frustrating because they are one subject that disappears on you in the space of a few seconds. They seem to pop right when you press the shutter button. Plus they are extremely fragile, they can float away from you, are very hard to hold, hard to focus on and are transparent so you’ll really need to watch your background.

bubbles How to Photograph BubblesHowever, the effort is worth it because they are very pretty to look at, can be iridescent like a rainbow caught in a tiny orb, they provide a sense of whimsy, and they make interesting shapes since they can attach to each other to form a cluster.

To shoot bubbles, you must first have a bubble solution. You can buy it from toy stores and hobby shops but you can also create your own with a few key ingredients. 

Homemade bubble solution:

Mix around 1/3 cup of liquid detergent (preferably Joy Ultra) in a cup of water. Add a teaspoon of glycerin or sugar. This will help stabilize the bubble shape to make it last longer before it bursts. Leave the mixture alone for at least a few hours. Your bubble wand can just a length of wire that has been looped to form a circle with a handle.

Lighting bubbles can be tricky. Sunlight does a great job of it since it can evenly light the bubbles. Take note that they can reflect whatever is near them such as trees, bushes, your house, even yourself. If you are indoors and want to take a close-up shot, a bright lamp will do but you’ll have to strategically place it in such a way that it doesn’t get reflected in the bubble. You can use a large white sheet to bounce off the light. This will show the bubble’s iridescence without the lamp also appearing in the image. Another light source can be a flash. Place a black backdrop, focus on the area where your bubbles will be, then use the flash when the bubbles are in position. Try using the burst mode if your camera has that feature.

The camera settings really depend on your setup. If you are outdoors in the sunlight, then a fast shutter speed will freeze those bubbles in mid-air. If you are indoors and are taking macro shots, a slow shutter speed such as ¼ of a second might work better. Since bubbles explode, they usually leave a soapy residue so be careful of sticking your camera lens too close to the bubble. 

Rainbow Swirls How to Photograph BubblesThere are all kinds of bubbles, from the blow bubbles children play with to those you get when you shake the shampoo bottle. There are giant bubbles and there are tiny ones. There’s even bubble film, which is the flat ‘sheet’ of bubble on the bubble wand before you swipe it in the air or blow on it to form a bubble globe.

There are so many ways of photographing bubbles, some use an elaborate setup while others just use whatever is at hand. Experiment with other people’s tactics or be inventive and create your own setup. Also experiment with composition by thinking out of the box. Bubbles are already naturally visually appealing but are quite common subjects.  It’s up to you to make your bubble image pop (yes, pun is intended) and stand out from the rest.


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Understanding the Histogram

One of the most useful yet most ignored camera features is the histogram. The histogram is available in most, if not all, digital cameras. It can be viewed in the LCD while you are also composing your shot, or separately after the image is taken.

histogram Understanding the Histogram

What does a histogram do, exactly? Simply put, it measures the brightness of a scene.  You will see a graph with a strip below it showing black at the left and white at the right, with all the gradients of gray in between. This includes all the pixels in your image.  Now the graph counts the number or pixels at each level between the black and white areas in an image. The deepest darkest shadows are to the left of the graph and the bright highlights are found at the right. The heights of points in the graph shows how many pixels are found at a certain brightness level.

If your image is underexposed and is very dark, most of the pixels will be situated at the left side of the histogram, probably even hitting the left edge. If the scene is too bright, majority of the pixels will be at the right side. This histogram shows most of the pixels in the middle area, which means the scene or image is more or less evenly exposed. An evenly spread pixel area doesn’t mean your image is now perfect, just that the exposure is balanced. The histogram of a dark key image might show most of the pixels at the left of the graph but that’s okay because you intentionally are making the image dark.

Although the best judge of the exposure of a scene is still our eyes, the histogram can greatly aid us when it is hard to see the image in the LCD such as when we are out in the sunlight. With this graph, we can also foresee whether the scene will come out too dark or too bright and we can adjust our camera settings accordingly. 


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Upcoming Photo Webinar – Setting Up Your Storefront and Photo Galleries

070910title 300x22 Upcoming Photo Webinar   Setting Up Your Storefront and Photo Galleries
070910titlesub 300x19 Upcoming Photo Webinar   Setting Up Your Storefront and Photo Galleries

We would like to invite you to our free upcoming "Introduction to Photostockplus" webinar this Thursday, September 9th, 2010 at 1:00 PM Eastern where we will be focusing on properly setting up an online storefront and professional e-commerce enabled photo galleries to show off your work with your Photostockplus account. Register Now!

andrew Upcoming Photo Webinar   Setting Up Your Storefront and Photo Galleries

Hosted by our head of marketing and sales, Andrew Fishman, we assure you will leave the webinar with the confidence and know how to set up your online photography business with a proper foundation.

The webinar will be focused on the following areas of your Photostockplus account:

  • Uploading Your Photos
  • Setting Up Photo Galleries
  • Customizing Your Online Storefront
  • Pricing Your Images and Photo Gift Items

 register Upcoming Photo Webinar   Setting Up Your Storefront and Photo Galleries

As our first evening webinar, seats are filling up quicker than ever. If you are interested, be sure to put an 'X' in that calendar and reserve your seat today!

title3 Upcoming Photo Webinar   Setting Up Your Storefront and Photo Galleries

We are currently running a series of free educational webinars catering to both new members and users looking to learn specific functionality or some of the more advanced features of our service.

As space is limited, we encourage you to register and reserve your seat for the upcoming webinar(s) of your choice today!

Webinar Date Register
Advanced Event Marketing Sep 16th Register
Stock Sales Training Sep 22nd Register
Self Fulfillment Training Sep 29th Register

 For an up to date schedule and more details on our current webinar series, head on over to our Webinar page!

 webinars Upcoming Photo Webinar   Setting Up Your Storefront and Photo Galleries

We look forward to seeing you at one of our upcoming webinars! If you have any questions in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

Best Regards.

Ilan Artzy
President


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Photographing Silhouettes

 

When we take photos of subjects, we usually make sure the viewer can see them in all their glory, from their colors to their features. Yet, we can also shoot them as silhouettes, which can provide drama and mood to the image.

The following are a few helpful hints to getting a great silhouette shot:

lightbulb Photographing Silhouettes

Show distinctive shapes – When an object becomes a silhouette, it looks black and therefore loses much detail except for its shape and the textures at its edges. You will be presenting your three dimensional subject in a two dimensional manner so they must be distinct. Subjects with strong recognizable shapes make great silhouettes since these shapes are what will make the shot work.

Choose the subject’s angle – the angle of your subject should also be carefully considered because certain angles will not look as attractive as others. If your subject is a person, for example, having them in profile will show off the shape of the face and the details at the edges such as eyelashes or a beard. If they face the camera straight on, we will instead see the shape of the face and the outline of the hair.

Keep the shapes separate – Don’t place your subjects in front of each other. If your subjects overlap, they can appear as one unrecognizable or unappealing shape. Give them some space by keeping them separate during setup. This will also make the image look less cluttered and chaotic. 

Set exposure based on the light, not the subject – adjust your camera settings to give proper exposure to the lighted areas rather than the subject. This will underexpose the subject and make it even darker.

Use backlighting – to create a silhouette, the light should be behind the subject. This illuminates the area around the subject while keeping the front of the subject in darkness. Sunlight can be a fantastic light source because it can backlight subjects or scenes in the early morning or late afternoon when it is at the horizon. A lot of sunrise/sunset photographs depict silhouettes of people, architecture, trees, or animals in the foreground. For indoor shots, an ordinary lamp with a bright bulb is sufficient to turn subjects to silhouettes.

Experiment – Play around with macro setting, go crazy with your choice of subject, and fiddle with how they will be positioned in the composition. Transparent objects can be very fascinating because you can see the shapes of their insides. Capture mood by using bold colors or dramatic lighting in the background, or by how the subject interacts with its surroundings.


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Three Photo Editing Tools You Need To Know

There was a time when digital photography did not exist and film was the standard medium of photography. All pictures were developed and printed in darkrooms, under red lights and surrounded by the smell of chemicals. With the advent of digital photography, films and darkrooms are becoming obsolete but the techniques used to improve images still live on in post processing computer software such as Adobe Photoshop, Gimp and Paintshop Pro.

I will be using Adobe Photoshop CS2 as my photo editing program although other programs will have similar tools. Let us look more closely at three post processing tools that can drastically improve your images, namely the measure tool, the spot healing tool and the clone stamp tool.

1.  The Measure Tool

Have you ever taken shots where the image is askew? The horizon looks tilted and the subject in your shot looks like it’s about to slide to one side of the frame. The measure tool is a very simple way to straighten your shots. It can be located at the tools banner at the left side of the screen. You might see the eyedropper tool first but right click on it and the measure tool should appear. 

fireworkscrooked Three Photo Editing Tools You Need To Know

Using your cursor, draw a line from one end of the horizon to the other. When you’re done, click on Image>Rotate Canvas>Arbitrary… A little window will appear showing the angle of the ruler, the acronyms CW (clockwise) and CCW (counterclockwise). The software will automatically choose on which side the picture should be rotated to straighten the shot by bringing the angle down to 0. You don’t have to change anything in this window, just press the OK button and voila! Your horizon is now straight.

fireworksstraight Three Photo Editing Tools You Need To KnowYou can also use the measure tool to align your subject vertically, such as straightening crooked buildings or lampposts. Once you get the hang of this tool, straightening your image will take only a few seconds.

 2.  Spot Healing Brush Tool

 Spot healing, as the name suggests, is great for cleaning up little areas in the image such as sensor dust, grains of dirt, and it is the perfect solution to removing facial blemishes. It makes these small imperfections vanish by matching information from the surrounding pixels such as texture, lighting, and shading, and then blending them to seamlessly cover the specific area where you click the spot healing brush. You do not need to specify a sample spot for an area to be healed, unlike with the Healing Brush tool.

In this screenshot, you can see the problem spots on the leaf image. There are several small dots on the leaf (by the red arrows) that are lighter in shade which seem to make the image look unclean. The Spot Healing Brush tool is perfect in quickly removing these blemishes. 

ps healing1 Three Photo Editing Tools You Need To Know

When you click on this particular tool, the toolbar at the top will change to the brush preferences. Click on the arrow button beside the word ‘Brush’ for a dropdown window to appear. Choose a brush diameter that is slightly bigger than the spot you want to heal. Using the hardness scale, you can choose how strong and solid you want your brush tip to be.  

For simple retouching, set your Brush mode to ‘Normal’ and choose between two types of healing options, the Proximity Match and the Create Texture. Proximity Match is used in most cases. It samples the nearby pixels at the selection’s edge to correct the blemish while Create Texture makes use of all the pixels inside the selection to create a texture to cover the flaw.

You can also click on the ‘Sample All Layers’ option which creates a new layer for which to use your spot healing brush. This gives you the results at the top layer while the image in the original layer remains untouched. The great advantage of this is that if you made a mistake and want to redo your spot editing, then you can just delete the top layer while the rest of the work you did at the lower layers or the original image will not be affected.

This is a ‘before and after’ example of what the Spot Healing Brush tool can do. Without the distracting little dots sprinkled around the leaf image, it now looks smooth and clean.

leaf heal Three Photo Editing Tools You Need To Know

3.  The Clone Stamp Tool

There are two main reasons the Clone Stamp tool is most often used. One is for copying a detail to another location in the image and the other is to remove objects. After selecting the Clone Stamp tool found on the left toolbar, press on the Alt button on the keyboard then click on the image area which you want to copy. After that, click on the spot where you want the selected area to emerge and, while holding down the left mouse button, drag your cursor back and forth until the sample area appears.

To give you an exaggerated example as to how the Clone Stamp tool works, here is an image of the moon. It’s a pretty moon but what if I wanted two moons in one sky? By using this tool, I can copy the moon to add another in the same shot. 

moon Three Photo Editing Tools You Need To Know

What if, instead of adding, you want to remove something? In this macro shot of a paper tear, I used the clone stamp tool to remove the diagonal line at the center of the frame. I cloned over the line by selecting the nearby empty parts of the paper as my sample area.

paper Three Photo Editing Tools You Need To Know

Play around with your brush size since if it’s too big, it will clone a bigger area that you might not want to include. Also, don’t forget to first make a copy layer of your original image. This way, you can protect it while you are doing your retouching. In case you make a mistake, you can just delete the clone stamp layer without harming the original image.

These three photo editing tools are quick to use, can easily improve your shots in a few minutes and are necessary components of your photo editing skills. As you practice your digital darkroom techniques you will soon find these tools invaluable. 


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