Cropping Your Photographs:
Tips, and mistakes to avoid
In this article, we’re going to cover two elements of cropping:-
- In-camera tips — framing your image and paying attention to the little details.
- Post editing — how to crop your images effectively in editing or remove distractions.
In-camera cropping: how to de-clutter your images
(get some landscape photography tips here!)
As well as thinking about the usual compositional techniques such as the rule of thirds, and leading lines, it is also best practice to quickly check the edges of your image for any distractions. Ask yourself:
- Have I chopped something in half at the edge of the frame?
- Would this image work better keeping this element in, or removing it entirely?
- Does this element add to the image, or distract from it?
The people add a sense of scale and tell a story of the place. If we crop these little details out of frame, the image overall becomes much weaker.
Mistakes like this happen more often than you’d think! We’re often so excited about the scenery and the main subject that we might not pay attention to little details.
Get into the habit of scanning around the edges of your frame before you click your shutter. This one-second check can make huge improvements in your photography!
Taking care to keeping elements fully in frame (or fully out of frame!) can have a huge impact on the overall feel of the image.
Cropping in post: How to remove distractions
In this example below, cropping would have made the composition less strong. The image would lose a lot of the grandeur that makes it so appealing. Luckily, with a little Photoshop wizardry, removing the distraction was simple.
Tips for cropping portraits
It is also important if we need to, to crop limbs in the correct places. A popular rule is:
Never crop a person at the joints.
So this means no cropping at the knees or elbows. Something above or below is usually much more pleasing. Let’s see an example!
On the left image below, we see a crop above the knees. This seems more natural and doesn’t distract the viewer. It looks deliberate.
On the right, however, when the image is cropped at the knees, it gives the viewer a feeling that something is missing from the image. Where are her legs! It feels like an unnatural place to crop the image.
In the image below you should clearly be able to see how distracting it is to crop half of the model’s feet out of the frame.
When we are concentrating on the face and the eyes, it can be an easy mistake to make. Check your framing every time to avoid making these sorts of mistakes.
(check out some portrait photography tips here!)
Leaving headroom means that your subject has some space around it and it isn’t almost touching an edge. Most of the time we don’t want our subject to get too close to any edge of the frame. Leaving a bit of space around the subject makes the composition feel deliberate and makes the image more effective. See an example of this below. The second image is more balanced and pleasing.
If you get into the habit of quickly checking the edges of your image before taking a photo, your photography will improve and, better still, your editing process will be much faster.
Headroom is also something we should keep an eye on to make sure our subjects aren’t lost in the frame. In some photography genres, like portraiture, it is easy to make sure your subject is central, but other forms, like macro photography, can be a bit more tricky.
Master cropping and you’ll be well on the way to creating more deliberate, pleasing images!
What Others Are Reading
iPhotography Course not only teaches you all the standard technical expertise, settings, skills, and special effects with your camera – but we also show you how to use these skills to develop your own individual style as a photographer.