Why you should crop

Your camera has a fixed sensor size and aspect ratio. Very often your image will capture things that you might want to crop out. Maybe you have shot some scenery with a wide angle lens to capture the broad horizon and want to crop out the foreground and background to make a panoramic image. Perhaps you shot a portrait, but now realise that the composition would have been better if you had missed out all the distractions in the background. Cropping is a simple but powerful tool.

Consider the images below. The left panel is uncropped. Verticals are slightly off vertical (note the lamposts tilted relative to the side edges of the image) and there is a lot of space on the left and foreground that adds nothing to the image. Straightening and cropping gives a stronger image.

Sometimes a very severe crop is needed. Today’s cameras have so many pixels you can throw most away and still get a good result. On the example below, the original frame captured was lack-lustre. Cropping tightly down on the feet of the horses and the polo ball makes a far more interesting image.

Cropping can help you improve your compositions by cutting out distractions, balancing compositions by moving elements relative to the frame, focusing on key details, and generally giving you a tool to make more eye-catching images.

Some general principles

  • Straighten horizons (in general). We are used to horizons being horizontal and tilted horizons can be unsettling to the viewer. Crop tools usually have rotation functions to facilitate this. On the other hand, you might want to creatively tilt an image for dramatic effect. A strong diagonal element in a composition can add a dynamic component.
  • Crop off parts of the image that do not assist with the “story” of the image or contribute to the compositional balance.
  • You can use cropping to remove distractions from the edges of your image
  • Consider converging verticals – sometimes images are improved if you correct the verticals (see Transformations and distortions)

More Resources

The following resources may be useful

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