OK, that’s a little melodramatic. But here are 5 things that I either learned in photography or graphic design classes that help me out when I am either framing a picture in the viewfinder/LCD or looking for a more interesting crop later in my editing programs. (For the record, I use a combination of iPhoto and Photoshop).
1. Remember the design principal of Thirds.
Things look better in 3’s. It’s just the way it is. So, instead of sticking your focal point in the middle of the frame, try moving dividing the plane in thirds and putting the subject in one of the outer thirds? Or at least look at your photo almost like a grid and think about interesting places to place your subject, other than smack center. (Don’t get me wrong, center is good sometimes too. Just not ALL the time).
2. Crop along natural body lines.
Which are: bust, waist and knees. NOT THE ANKLES. If you have a big group and can’t get them all in, either step back and get their feet in, or zoom in closer and crop at the knees. It is a huge pet peeve of mine to see de-pedified groups of people in photos.
3. Look around the edges.
When you are cropping, move your cropping tool around a bit. Then take a look around the edges. Is there something funky that if you moved just a smidge further, you could get rid of it? Some sign in the background that is distracting? Some edge of a table that doesn’t need to be there? Or even the opposite way? Something appearing on the edges that *should* be there, and you should pull out to include? Also, check to make sure the spacing around your subject and the edge of the frame is appropriate for what you are going for.
Here is the cropped version. I got rid of the garden on the left, the sidewalk chalk in front and the gardening can in the bottom right. I also got the aspen in the back to line up nicely on the edge, and the boy on the left and Declan are both similar distance from the edge of the frame.
4. Get close. If it suits to mood, of course.
This is somewhat of a personal preference, but I like closeups. I crop the tops of heads off a lot because when I do, it gets me closer to the eyes – which, as they say, are the windows to the soul, and are usually the focus (of a portrait, anyway). The beauty of these large megapixel cameras is shooting something one way and seeing something differently later, and being able to crop in for it. Let it all hang out, baby, let body parts hang out of the frame!
5. Experiment and have fun!
Continuing the theme of #4, save different versions of crops and see how the mood changes. My friend Kelly is a graphic designer as well and took a portrait I did of her daughter and used it on the cover of a brochure for the Kempe Center. When she cropped in tight on Tess, the photo seems much more mournful, and the right mood for an organization that works to prevent child abuse. But the original feels completely different. And now we have both versions to love. (I am not putting that version up because I don’t want to mess up my new relationship with Kempe, sah-ry. But it perfectly illustrated what I was trying to say – I SWEAR!). Here is another example of kids at a field trip from Declan’s school, though. And, of yeah, don’t forget you can drop vertically *and* horizontally *and* on funky angles! This is digital, go crazy!
P.S. 30 Days of Thanks
I am thankful for every single thing I forgot to give thanks for this month.