Cropping Images: Quick Tips for Clean, Polished Photographs
Hey, Daily Posters! For those of you who haven’t heard, we’re running our Zero to Hero challenge this month: 30 days of assignments to give you a solid blogging foundation (or to reintroduce tasks you might have skipped when you first started blogging). So, be sure to check it out — in today’s task, participants are asked to publish a post with at least one image, so today’s tutorial on cropping images might be helpful.
In our Photography 101 series, Leanne Cole talked about image editing in her Photoshop tutorial, covering tasks like straightening, cropping, and spot-correcting. Since cropping is a fairly simple yet effective way to improve a photograph, let’s talk a bit more about how you can cut and frame your images.
When I’m out with my iPhone or camera, I don’t always have time to carefully compose a shot, and if you sift through my image library, you’ll see multiple versions of one shot. Great photographs don’t just happen (though sometimes we do get lucky!). These days, you can use various editing tools to achieve a desired effect.
You don’t need Photoshop to edit your images — you can upload a photo into your WordPress.com dashboard, and then crop and edit it in your Media Manager. If you’re a mobile or touch device user, you can usually crop an image right after you’ve taken it, depending on your device or app (like Instagram or Adobe Photoshop Express for iOS). And if you’re looking for more tools, you can use free photo editors like PicMonkey, Pixlr, and Picasa.
Remember our “Grand” photo challenge? I received many kind comments on the featured photograph from Halong Bay, which I took as our boat floated toward a massive limestone gate. Here’s a variation of it — cropped, edited, and instagrammed:
Let’s use this scene to illustrate how cropping can drastically improve an image. Here’s the original shot:
If you open an image in your Media Manager, you can select the crop tool to:
- Remove extraneous details and distracting lines, shapes, and objects (such as a person’s elbow and yellow life jacket).
- Change the shape of your canvas (from a vertical composition to a square).
- Force a new frame or composition (make a wall of rocks more prominent, even imposing).
- Direct or change the subject matter of a scene (make a small boat the ultimate focal point).
As illustrated above, cropping allows you to control what’s in the frame, and it not only lets you “clean up” a shot (remove a lamp post or power lines in a street shot or cut out your ex-boyfriend), but also allows you to show your point of view and your own distinct way of looking at the world.
Consider this shot of a tiled floor, which I took over the weekend at a hotel in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic:
I thought placing my feet off-center and along the edge of the frame (and rotating the image, which you can also do in your Media Manager) would make this mundane shot a bit more fun and different:
Other tips to consider:
- There’s no right or wrong way to crop — to begin experimenting, shave off just one side of an image, then continue by cutting the other sides. You’ll often find you don’t have to crop all four sides to create the look you want.
- Consider whether a shot looks better in portrait or landscape orientation (revisit Jeff Sinon’s tips on finding the best shot, if needed). If you want to change the orientation, use the cropping tool to change the dimensions of the image.
- Remember basic composition rules, such as the Rule of Thirds. You can control where you’d like an object to appear in a frame by cropping one or more borders of your image.
- Avoid cropping too much! You can create visual harmony by placing an object, like the deer above, where the horizontal and vertical lines intersect, but be careful with objects that are closer to the edge of a frame, which might make an image lopsided, as shown on the right with the placement of the red bus:
- That said, you may want to crop a certain way to create a specific effect — sometimes extreme, deliberate crops produce interesting, dynamic compositions. So remember, these are merely guidelines.
What other tips do you have for successfully cropping an image?
What other editing tasks would you like to learn about?