#5 of the Judging a Photograph Series
Last week I spoke out against using super telephoto lenses on a safari. That’s because things are rarely that far away and if you zoom so far in that you crop out the surroundings, then you might as well have gone to a zoo. This week I’m looking at the other sort of cropping; the one you do when you edit your photo on a computer.
In a great image there is a point to every area and a reason the author wants each area to look the way it does. There may be the main subject to which the eye is drawn, there may be fluffy clouds in the sky, there may be a texture to the foreground. What you don’t want – ideally – is a large area with no texture or which don’t speak of proportion or which don’t cause you to appreciate the main point of the image.
A few reasons to crop
1. To get a better look using a rule such as the rule of thirds
2. To get rid of a pointless area with no texture or function
3. To make the main subject larger in the frame
4. To cut out a distraction like a hot-spot or a fire-exit sign
5. To make a diagonal or a line finish neatly in a corner of the frame
A few reasons NOT to crop
1. When a plain area is part of a minimalist composition
2. When cropping out the action or beauty in that area would be a great loss overall
3. When the crop is too tight and there’s no space for the subject in the frame
4. When the distraction could be better removed with Photoshop
5. When you would finish up with a low resolution image
6. When you have a gut feeling!
This week’s photo of a hippo pool in the Ngorongoro crater was my entry to a pictoral photo competition. It was shot on 35mm film. It’s an ok photo, which I submitted because I liked the layers in the landscape of different textures and colour. The colour negative looks an awful lot better than the scan above which is quite blurry – my apologies.
Sometimes judges get hung up on one type of comment and say almost the same thing about everyone’s picture. The judge we had on this particular evening was a good judge except for one thing; he couldn’t stop telling us all to crop more! So when he told me to crop out the bottom of this picture with the plants and patterns in the pool, I was taken aback. He was wrong, really, because there would be a real loss to crop that out, even if the focal hippos would look larger in the image.
Let’s check the rule of thirds
If you have a look at the guide lines in this screen grab, you will see that one third is sky and the sleepy hippos are on a line and an intersection. I think the crop was fine. There are other problems with this image which would mark it down such as the sharpness and some blown out areas. But the crop is fine!
Can you think of anything else I should add to my list of when to crop and when not to? Please add them in the comments below.
Read part 1 of Talking Crop on Safari – click here