I typically try to get my photos “right” in camera. I try to really think about what I want the end result to be, and shoot with that in mind. But occasionally, I will shoot an image, and as I begin the editing process, I will begin to see something completely different than I had when I first shot the photo. It’s important not to forget that the creative process of post-processing can be just as significant to a good image as the technical aspects of taking the photo in the first place. And, it can be just as fun! Today I want to talk to you about how to transform your photos by cropping. There are several reasons why you might use cropping to enhance your images, and these are a few of my favorites!
To Add Drama
This image is part of a larger set of photos where I was trying to capture fun, candid shots of my daughter playing in the rain and jumping in puddles in our driveway. Because my original intent was to capture a series of her jumping and then splashing into the puddle (mainly focusing on her feet and the water), the composition of this shot ended up a little “off” and the result was pretty reminiscent of a basic snapshot. However, when cropped, it tells a great story and you really notice the details of the falling rain and the movement of her damp hair. I ended up getting several useable full-length shots with this set, but this particular photo was the only one that showed the movement and details so clearly. By cropping the photo this way, I was able to add some drama to the image and ended up with a more powerful final image.
To Lead Your Eye
This image was the very last photo taken in this session. We were moving very quickly, trying to complete the shoot between storms that day, and with the wind picking up and thunder in the background, we were heading out for safe, dry shelter. The rush of this shot caused me to not think much about composition or the framing of my subjects, so in the original photo, your eye is not sure where to look and the image feels out of balance and not thought out. But in the cropped version, your eye is led right to the subjects because the composition of the overall image is much stronger. At first glance, this was a throw-away shot to me, but with a little creativity in my final crop, it easily becomes a photo I’m pretty happy with!
To Remove Distractions
In this example, the first image is perfectly fine. While it’s not technically perfect, it is a basically good picture. However, in the cropped version, you really lock into her eyes and focus on HER. I really liked the leading lines of the sunlight on the stairs, and I knew they had the potential to pull your eyes right to the subject. By cropping the photo, instead of your eye wandering up the stairs, the horizontal lines guide your eyes right into the sweet moment of the girl resting her head and looking right into my camera. That is what I wanted to be the focal point of this image. Cropping the photo helped me to eliminate the distractions and draw the viewer right into the heart of the image.
A Creative Goal
Another reason you may crop a photo is for a certain creative goal. After shooting this image and seeing the gorgeous bokeh produced by the evening light in the background, I realized I really wanted to play up that element of the photo, and make it a more dynamic part of the final product. I knew I needed to be intentional with my edit to be sure the warm, colorful bokeh wasn’t overlooked. To reach my final vision, I decided to crop this photo to ensure that part of the image didn’t get lost in the background. This was my final edit:
Cropping can have a really powerful impact on your photos. Don’t be afraid to utilize this tool to get a fresh take on an image! Also, keep in mind I’m not saying not to worry about your composition in camera and just crop it later. In fact, you can lose significant image quality by cropping photos too much. I AM saying, however, that there is more to carrying out an artistic vision than technical perfection, and that the creative process doesn’t stop after capturing the photo. Take a good look at your images and think about how you can make them better using the tools you have at your disposal. Sometimes, cropping them a new way can give your photos the artistic variation they need to really take them to the next level!