Cropping Tips & Techniques

Does “one size fits all” really make sense? I know I’ve made the mistake of buying a garment that claims to be OSFA only to find that it sure as heck doesn’t fit ME! Similarly, we can’t possibly expect every image to fit neatly into the camera’s standard 2:3 format (or 3:4).

How often do you crop an image? Oftentimes nature offers up a display that simply doesn’t fit within the standard format of the camera. Rather than feeling confined by the frame the camera offers, consider cropping to make the composition more effective.

Creating PanoramaElowah Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon (OR), USA

This panoramic image was created by cropping out the distracting, uneven foreground shown in the original image below. The waterfall is the central point of interest – it stands out because it’s brighter than the surrounding area. The foreground in the original shot adds little or nothing to the photo. In fact, it’s somewhat distracting. A quick and simple crop removes the distraction, leaving us with an effective photo in an unusual and attention-grabbing format.

Elowah Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon (OR), USA

Creating 3:4 Crop

  • Life on the Edge 3-2

    Original Photo: 3:2 Format

  • Life on the Edge 4-3

    Fine Art Format: 4:3

I have to admit that the square (or 4:3) crops are not my favorite; however, most interior designers I’ve dealt with prefer the 4:3 crop. For this reason, we sell a lot more of 4:3 fine art images then 3:2. If I know that the image is going to be used for fine arts, I try to select the composition to allow a little extra room to crop and create a 4:3 composition without losing the most critical elements in the scene… especially if the scene has a strong point of interest.

Creating 16:9 Crop for Videos

  • Anna Bay, Australia

    Image for Sales Page: 3:2 Format

  • Anna Bay, Australia

    Image for Video: 16:9 Format

These days, we produce a lot of videos and the video format calls for a 16:9 format image. It’s possible to use a vertical image in a video, but the impact is not quite as good as using a horizontal formatted image. For this reason, when we are shooting a video course, we always add extra space above and below the point of interest for any photo taken with a 3:2 DSLR. Here’s an example that shows where we used this gorgeous shot from Cannibal Bay in New Zealand in both 3:2 format as well as 16:9 format. The 16:9 format was featured in our Sales and Intro videos, while the 3:2 format was used as a feature image on the sales page and in other promo materials.

The next time an image doesn’t feel quite right in its 2:3 frame, see if a crop helps to make the image more effective. When it comes to photography, one size most definitely does NOT fit all.

About Author Jay Patel

I could startoff like this – “Seeds of Jay Patel’s appreciation for beautiful places were planted early in his childhood….” but it would get boring really fast. I will just sum it up and say that I am a Landscape and Wilderness Photographer who loves to capture dramatic light. My photographs have been published in various magazines, calendars and advertising materials throughout the world.
Patience is a virtue...unless you are chasing your dreams