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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Master Your Composition and Lighting Skills with Still Life Photography

The definition of still life is simply the interpretation of inanimate objects with the use of photography. It is an art form that is extremely popular where photographers can showcase their own unique styles. The purpose and challenge of this style is to communicate a story using different techniques in lighting and composition.

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Creating Dramatic Viewpoints and Camera Angles

We are so used to seeing everything at eye-level, which is straight ahead and a few feet from the ground. Most of our shots can end up predictable since if we keep shooting images from the same viewpoint that everyone else is so used to seeing. Just by positioning our camera in an uncommon way can be enough to capture strange but wonderful perspectives.

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Providing Balance in Your Photographs

Balance is one of the principles a photographer strives to achieve because it makes images look visually appealing. By arranging subjects or elements such as colors, light and shadows and shapes and making them work together, you can portray balance in your shots.

Symmetry – One of the major principles of photography is the Rule of Thirds where the subject pinkpaper 1024x778 Providing Balance in Your Photographsis placed on one third of the frame, either in a horizontal or a vertical section. However, we also have the composition technique called 'symmetrical balance' or 'formal symmetry' which shows half of the frame as mirroring the other half. Subjects that have repeating patterns or have uniform shapes are good examples of symmetrical images.

Images that show pure symmetry might not retain the viewer's attention for long because there is no particular spot for the eyes to linger. Symmetrical images would be great as PC wallpapers or website background templates since they support rather than take away from the main point of interest such as program icons or the body of text.

Asymmetry – Also known as 'informal symmetry', this kind of composition can be applied to subjects that are not identical or even similar. Asymmetrical images are usually more striking than the symmetrical shots because the various elements lead the eye to the main point of interest.

There are many ways to show balance with asymmetrical compositions. The primary subject may be found on one portion of the frame but by placing secondary subjects on the space unoccupied by the focal point, you can achieve balance as well. If your subject is situated at the foreground, it can seem to exude weight or mass. If it occupies a large part of the frame, it also implies mass. You can counterbalance this 'heavy' subject by placing a smaller subject on the negative space.

Another way is to use depth of field. By focusing on the primary subject at one side of the frame and placing one or two secondary subjects further away, they act as blurry counterpoints that keep the image from looking lopsided.

Bear in mind that certain compositions can trigger impressions from the viewer, and this balancing between subjects can imply various meanings such as weakness, strength, emptiness or steadfastness.

Reading about photographic balance is a good way to understand the concept but putting them into practice is the best way to learn this principle. As you compose your shots, be aware of how it would look once the image is captured. Take note of the secondary subjects, not just the primary, because these are what will help balance and enhance your image. Aside from subjects, you can use contrasting textures, colors, leading lines, or light and shadows, as all these can also provide balance to your image.


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Using Diagonal Leading Lines in Your Composition

In composition, leading lines are used to draw the eyes of the viewer to a point of interest. Diagonal lines are often considered more dynamic compared to vertical or horizontal lines. If used successfully, diagonals can express some movement flowing in the frame. Another effect is they add a sense of perspective by providing depth to the image.

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Using Texture to Enhance Visual Experience

When we look at an object with attractive textures, we have this urge to reach out and touch it. We remember the pleasant feelings these textures triggered before so we want to experience it again. We may also remember being pricked by objects with sharp surfaces so we might be wary when we are near them. These are called 'sense memories' and can be very powerful. Showing texture in your photographs can give it a tactile dimension which can hook a viewer's interest.

There are many kinds of textures we can represent in a photograph. Although texture connotes a physical sensation, emotional experiences can be triggered by their appearance. Let us analyze a few textures that may be used in a shot:

rusty 1024x768 Using Texture to Enhance Visual ExperienceSmooth – Smoothness is considered a very pleasant and calming texture. A baby's skin, rose petals and silk are just a few examples of subjects that are smooth. There are many things you can do with a camera to make a subject appear smooth. For example, by using a slow shutter speed, you can take a picture of a waterfall and make the moving water appear very smooth.

Rough – objects with rough textures, such as rusty metal or old tree bark, may not be as pleasant as smooth skin but they can also evoke vivid tactile sensations from the viewer.

Sticky or slimy – this texture may or may not be pleasant to the touch but it can provide great impact when captured in a photograph. Imagine looking at a picture of a hand covered in honey and you can probably almost feel what it would be like as if that hand were yours.

Frame your shots wisely when showing off texture. Finer textures, such as the stubble of a man's chin, would be more prominent if you get a close up shot or do a tighter crop. On the other hand, if you want to present texture in a larger scale like the cracks on a dry riverbed, it would be better to step back and capture more of the scene. A great way to highlight texture in your shot is to shoot contrasting surfaces such a soft stuffed toy lying down on rough cement.

Lighting is crucial in successfully presenting textures. Sidelighting is often used because it brings out all the little details. Angling your light source shows the facets of the subject's surface due to the highlights and shadows that are formed. The strength of the light is as important as its angle. Bright light can erase fine details such as fiber, sand or fuzz but it can show off large and prominent textures such as the rough façade of a crumbling wall.

Use texture to add visual interest and emotional impact. If your shot can get a reaction from a viewer then it will have been successful in enhancing the viewer's experience.


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Less is More: Using Minimalism in Your Shots

In the world of art and design, minimalism is a style where the subject is trimmed down to its bare essentials. If you were to research on minimalism, you will find it is used in various forms from architecture to paintings, even writing and music. It is also a popular style in photography because not only can a photograph be stunning in its simplicity, but it can also push the photographer to improve his skills.

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Using Repetition in Photography

The word 'repetition' in everyday life can be connoted to monotony which often leads to being boring or tedious. However, when used in photography, it provides structure which makes the image very attractive to viewers. We are seeing order as opposed to chaos and this is what hooks our interest and propels us from just looking at an image to actually experiencing it because of its emotional impact.

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A Guide to Taking Group Shots

Group photos are very popular and knowing how to take them is a great advantage, especially if you are planning to be an event photographer. From regular family events to activities like sports games, to weddings and other special occasions, the opportunities to take them are always available. However, photographing a lot of people in one shot can be quite a challenge. There are a lot of elements that might be hard to control, such as hyperactive children.

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How to Use the Framing Technique to Provide A Point of Focus

There are several ways to entice the viewer's eyes to focus on your subject and one effective technique is framing. When you frame an object or a scene, you are bringing attention to it by removing all distracting clutter around it so that there is nowhere else to look but at the point of interest.

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