Tips for Cropping Photos for the Best Effect

#26 in the Judging a Photograph Series

.Tips for Cropping Photos for the Best Effect on Falcondale Life blog. Cropping a photograph to find the stand-out image within the original photo. Become a better photographer with these editing tips on finding the best crop. Stepping stones on the Wharf at Bolton Abbey.

Cropping is pretty much the most basic photo editing action, but there’s a lot you can do to an image. If you’re a regular reader of my blog then you will know that I rarely leave my photos alone SOOC (straight out of camera). In my view photography isn’t just the bit where I click the shutter, it’s also the vision I have for the finished image. Sometimes I have that vision when I take the photo, sometimes I come up with an idea later when I see it on the computer.

Editing is not tampering, it is purist photography. Why? Because since the dawn of photography there has been a developing process after the shutter has been clicked. Post processing skills are an essential part of becoming a better photographer.

Best Cropping Thoughts

I’ll just ease myself gently off my soapbox now because I’d like to share some ideas about cropping.

If I need to crop a photo, then it’s about finding the stand-out image within the original image. To do that I mainly look for

• the rule of thirds
• the image edges
• the action
• strong lines and perspective
• errors to remove

Tips for Cropping Photos for the Best Effect on Falcondale Life blog. Cropping a photograph to find the stand-out image within the original photo. Become a better photographer with these editing tips on finding the best crop. Stepping stones on the Wharf at Bolton Abbey.

Original shot, not cropped

My shot of families trying to cross stepping stones on the river Wharf at Bolton Abbey has lots going on. The main action in the image is the Dad helping his little girl to leap the gap. I want this to be the focus of the final image so I want to place this to suit the rule of thirds, i.e. one third of the way into the image from an edge.

The line of stepping stones goes the full width of the shot and marks out where the action is taking place, so I want this to be on a third line as well. As with nearly all my photos, I have shot it slightly wonky (I think I have right-hand dropsy). I have to straighten this up when I crop.

On the left hand edge is a man looking out of the frame, backwards. That’s a distraction as he’s pointing away from the action so I will crop him out.

On the right hand edge of the frame is a couple sitting on the bank, watching the family in the centre. Their viewpoint frames the image nicely and if I can leave them in, I will.

At the top of the frame are people on the hill, I would prefer not to crop their heads off even though they are very far away. Lastly the foreground contains a nice reflection and it would look a hundred times better if I left that in.

Which Crop is Best?

When I crop an image I need to think about where it is going. The original size on this camera is 6×4 and that’s a common printing size. Instagram looks best square. Pinterest and mobile phones in general usually work better with tall, thin images. Sometimes I like to crop letterbox style, wide and thin, if the image just looks better that way.

It’s a long list of cropping shapes but the wonderful thing about this Bolton Abbey stepping stones image is that ALL of these crops work.

Tips for Cropping Photos for the Best Effect on Falcondale Life blog. Cropping a photograph to find the stand-out image within the original photo. Become a better photographer with these editing tips on finding the best crop. Stepping stones on the Wharf at Bolton Abbey.

6×4 standard shape

Tips for Cropping Photos for the Best Effect on Falcondale Life blog. Cropping a photograph to find the stand-out image within the original photo. Become a better photographer with these editing tips on finding the best crop. Stepping stones on the Wharf at Bolton Abbey.

Square Instagram shape

Tips for Cropping Photos for the Best Effect on Falcondale Life blog. Cropping a photograph to find the stand-out image within the original photo. Become a better photographer with these editing tips on finding the best crop. Stepping stones on the Wharf at Bolton Abbey.

Tall shape, 6×4 for Pinterest or mobile phones

Tips for Cropping a Photograph for the Best Effect on Falcondale Life blog. Cropping a photograph to find the stand-out image within the original photo. Become a better photographer with these editing tips on finding the best crop. Stepping stones on the Wharf at Bolton Abbey.

Letterbox shape

Which crop do you prefer? Please let me know in the comments.

This is number 26 in the Judging a Photograph blog series which has now been running every Sunday for half a year. Wow, that’s a lot of blog posts! If you have enjoyed my blog then please sign up for the mailing list to get an email each time I publish. Sign up in the sidebar, or if you’re on a mobile then you can find it below.

See also Talking Crop on Safari Part 1 and Talking Crop on Safari Part 2

Last week Photographing Weddings as a Second Shooter

Photalife

 

17 Comments

  1. 31st July 2017 / 8:59 pm

    Different crops make such a difference – thanks for the great tips. Kaz

  2. 25th July 2017 / 11:58 pm

    I need all the photography skills I can get as love it but useless methinks. Great to see how the image changes so much with cropping

  3. 25th July 2017 / 1:37 pm

    I really like the letterbox shape for this image. It’s such a fun photo and I always crop so this was an interesting read

  4. 25th July 2017 / 9:36 am

    I prefer the IG crop you’ve done. It’s composed very well and tells a rather fantastic adventure story. 🙂

  5. 25th July 2017 / 7:10 am

    These all look great. I must say I very rarely edit or crop my photos. I still print a lot of photos off and stick them in albums (how very retro!), so I just leave them as they are! Although I have just cropped one I took in Weymouth at the weekend and it’s about 100 times better because I followed the rule of thirds, without even realising that’s what I was doing.

  6. 24th July 2017 / 11:01 pm

    This is so helpful, thank you! It’s amazing how different the photo looks depending on cropping. The focus really changes yet they work in different ways. I’m definitely going to consider cropping more seriously in the future.

  7. 24th July 2017 / 7:04 pm

    Great post. I always crop my photos with photoshop when I have a lot going on in the background.

  8. 24th July 2017 / 2:02 pm

    Really useful post, I do crop photos but I need to get better at doing it x

  9. 24th July 2017 / 11:25 am

    I have had to practice getting the square Instagram photos! I normally stand a bit further back than usual so I can crop 🙂

  10. 23rd July 2017 / 9:33 pm

    I like the close up one of the family together.

    When I crop my photos it is usually just to get rid of the laundry pile or the clutter in the background!

  11. 23rd July 2017 / 7:18 pm

    This is really insightful and useful, thanks for sharing X #mysundayphoto

  12. Your brother in the US and A
    23rd July 2017 / 4:30 pm

    I think I would have cropped down to the focal three people and the reflection and omitted the longer distance, arguably distracting background. Takes it out of context but might make a more striking image.

  13. 23rd July 2017 / 1:16 pm

    Being an Insta girl the Instagram crop tends to be my default but they all bring different things to the table don’t they…

  14. 23rd July 2017 / 9:22 am

    Good tips, I always prefer to do my cropping in camera.

    Thank you for linking up

    • 23rd July 2017 / 11:04 am

      That’s very thorough of you. Sometimes things happen too fast, like in this photo. And of course Instagram is square!

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