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Cropping is the most effective way to enhance photographs


This tutorial teaches you how to get gorgeous images without a camera

Detail of the Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

Detail of the Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

You want to make beautiful photographs, don’t you?
And you put all your effort into shooting the best way, maybe with the best equipment, right?

So stop shooting, store your camera away, get some old illustrated magazines out of the dusty pile in your living-room, a pair of scissors, and put yourself at work.

Learn cropping

It is time to get serious about photography.
Now, yes, learn cropping.

Cropping requires no camera.
It is a photography composition exercise that you can do about anytime and anywhere, at no cost, with no equipment, no batteries required, it doesn’t harm animals, and it will definitely prove to be the most effective advance in your photographic skills ever.

No matter which image you have in front of you, cropping should be considered as a possible enhancement. True, there are some rare images which should not be touched, but the vast majority of the photographs would (or could) require a certain amount of cropping.

Train yourself to crop whatever image you have at hand, to be creative, and to crop the same image in many different ways if you can.

Give pictures a spark of life

Look at this fresco from the Sistine Chapel ceiling in Rome, Italy.
It was painted circa 1511 and it illustrates the biblical story from the Book of Genesis in which God the Father breathes life into Adam, the first man. God’s right arm is outstretched to impart the spark of life from his own finger into that of Adam.

Granted, Michelangelo does not need our crops for better pictures, yet it is for us a good playground for the first steps.

Try and click on the buttons below, and see how this image could be cropped in many ways. The picture at the start of this very page is itself a crop from Michelangelo’s masterpiece.
Try also to find your own crops, by moving the little handles you find on the picture.

Practice carefully, as it is this kind of training which will give you an edge when shooting your photos.

Is there any suggestion in order to crop well?

Not properly.
There is no absolute rule, nor any fixed criteria.
Sure, good composition is usually the way to go.
Yet it really depends on what you are after. There could be many reasons for you to crop an image, among which:

  • get a better overall composition
  • add emphasis to some details
  • eliminate some details
  • distort/twist the meaning of the picture
  • fit the image for a specific use: imagine you have a landscape and crop it in order to let it fit properly for a vertical frame.

As a proof of concept, look at the image by Tatiana and Rob here below: every time you press the button, a different crop is set at random. Try it! You will see that the vast majority of such random crops will make sense: if enlarged enough they could be used for decorative purposes.

So, cropping really depends on you.

As a rule, you should crop your scene while shooting with your camera (zoom in and out, or change your lens appropriately), but the good news is that cropping will be available anytime afterwards: you can crop your digital pictures by means of an image editing tool or else, once printed on paper, you can also crop with a simple snap-off cutter blade.

3 more ideas

  1. Making better photographs by cropping: you might also want to check this other page I have for you.
  2. Resize is another useful edit for your pictures. I have an useful page for you on content aware image resizing which you might well consider reading.
  3. Take action! There is no other effective way to learn than put yourself at work. Shoot some photographs and post your crops in the comments.

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  1. By kirpi, on October 29, 2010, at 11:23 AM
    As a side note: discover the real Sistine Chapel here


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