Introduction to Cropping
In this lesson, we're gonna talk about composition and cropping. This is a topic that you don't think you could spend a whole lot of time on, but when you really dig into the weeds on it, there's a lot that's involved in this one topic. The crop that you can make in an image can either separate that image from being great, being all right, and being not so good, all with a crop. And the idea here is that the end user or the viewer has no idea what you did to get that image. But it's up to us to see that they see the best possible image that we can give them, not just edited-wise but also cropping-wise. We're gonna talk about what is composition. We're gonna talk about some composition basics and how to control that composition, because in turn, cropping leads to the composition that we're showing the individuals in the end. So, what is this composition thing? It's really simple. It's how we frame everything. And you gotta think about the other art forms and how they frame stuff as well...
. Painters use a canvas that frames out their image. They dictate what their image is gonna be like by the selection that they make of their canvas before they even begin. An illustrator would use paper, again, dictated by the paper size. As sculptor uses the entire three-dimensional space, depending on that three-dimensional space that they're using, and then photographers, we have the frame, but the beauty of our frame is that we aren't necessarily restricted to the canvas size that we choose in the beginning or the paper size that we choose in the beginning. We get the ability to choose what we want our images to look like before, during, and after we've had that image, before being in camera, during, in post production, and after being when it's printed and shown. So what I want you to think about is this, this is a video word that's used. It's called mise en scene. It's the placement of objects in a scene. It's typically done in films. Watch any good movements, and watch the way they place, I mean, let's talk about like Oscar-quality movies, you know? We're talking movies that really pay attention to that bike that's yellow on that street. They place these objects in these, in these places for a very specific reason. There would be no need for that bike there for any other reason than if the director really wanted it there. So, you are essentially the director of the film of your image, and where you place the objects in your scene, that mise en scene, is gonna separate your images apart from the next person who shot the exact same thing with maybe even the exact same lens and equipment that you had to set up. Let's talk about some composition basics. There's a bunch of different ways to actually frame a photo, and there are rules, and there are guides, but I say that there are rules and guides loosely. These are things that have been, they are patterned behavior of ways that images have been set up in the past to look great, and that's why we call them rules. You can contain one or more of the following two. You don't have to just use one of those rules. You can use many of those rules. You can have the rule of thirds, which divides your image up into three segments, whether that's three beautifully proportioned segments, like we would talk about the golden ratio rule of thirds, or that's just simply dividing your image into three blocks. Then there's also symmetry. Symmetry can be a form of composition. Forced perspective, that's where you're getting really low to the ground on a road to make that road just disappear into the back, or whether you're standing up to not maybe force that perspective as much. There's diagonals and triangles and geometry in general, looking for geometry in an image. And this is where we get into the great painters. The great painters didn't follow the rules of the rule of thirds or even the rule of symmetry or forced perspective. The great painters would follow these very almost algorithmic ways of composing the paintings that they created, and if you actually see some of these books where they study the great painters, you can see that a lot of their compositions are made up of diagonals and triangles. There is some dynamic symmetry with those diagonals and triangles, but a lot of it's just how your eye leads in and moves around. Now, from a painter's perspective, they get the ability to do whatever they want to you, because they have, they are painting it. Whatever they envision, they can put on that canvas. With us, it's a little bit difficult for us to see things quite like the great painters would. And then geometry using things other than diagonals and triangles, using squares and circles and ways that we can manipulate the viewer into our image. The golden ratio, this is one that, it's got the term the golden ratio on it, so you'd think it'd be the best of the best. Well, that's not necessarily the case. It just means that, the golden ratio is a way of, it's also called the golden spiral or the Fibonacci sequence, things that basically navigate your eye into the image, circling around what looks like almost like a nautilus shell shape. So this would be the rule of thirds. The placement of an object in the scene would be just on this rule of thirds marker, placing an object as close as I can to one of the quadrants in the image. And this is in post. Cropping is one of those things that happens all over the place. So, whether I did this in camera or I did it in the post, I'm putting this object close to one of those intersecting segment areas of the image. Another rule of thirds, again, putting the object there, but you see how it leads the viewer in. If I were to put that bench right in the middle of this image, it wouldn't be quite as impressive as it is leading us to this place. Now, is the image great, by any stretch of the imagination? Not really, but it gives us a sense of wanting to walk up to this, sit down on this, and spend a little bit more time with it. The thing is, if you were to take a portfolio full of images that had everything in the center, and you were to give it to somebody, that person's gonna look through your portfolio, and they're probably gonna go like this. Next, next, next, next, next, next. We're at a big disadvantage as photographers. That's why we have to use these compositional rules. Because as photographers, people can relate right away with what we photograph, because it's a photograph. They don't really spend time on the brushstrokes like they would for a painter. They don't necessarily pay attention to the line work that an illustrator would use. They aren't necessarily paying attention to the shadows that would rest on a sculpture. So a sculpture can be viewed in the round, 360. So someone can spend literally five to 10 minutes just walking around a sculpture, enjoying that sculpture. They can look at a drawing for anywhere from a minute to a minute and a half, just looking at how they put the pressure of the pencil down. And this all comes into play when we come to photographers. This is recognizable. We know what this is. So what we have to do as photographers to get someone to look through our portfolio a little bit longer is use these rules and use these ideas to our advantage to make them wanna stay somewhere longer, because the last I checked, there's a whole series of studies that's been done on people's, people's attention span for art. Photographers, it's like eight seconds. That's all we get. Eight seconds. Can you believe that? So if we're putting this dead center, how many seconds do you think we've shaved off? We definitely haven't added any seconds, 'cause people would say, oh, that's just, this is a park bench. We might get a little bit more time by letting that viewer navigate around the image a little bit more and make their brain take more time to process that image. This is a use of symmetry, though, where symmetry can actually be a pretty powerful use of symmetry where that star is, right dead center, straight in the middle. And you've got other things going on within the image, but there's a sense of symmetry there. These, the things that are happening in the image offset the balance of the photograph, but yet the photograph is still symmetrically balanced. Here's another image where we have symmetry happening, but we have a little bit of offset with some of the things that are happening within that space that are offsetting that symmetry. So I say always, you know, people say, well, don't put anything dead center. Avoid symmetry. Now, there's times when we don't wanna avoid symmetry. There's times where symmetry can be very flattering, especially for a space like this. I don't know if you'd wanna sleep here overnight, but it's flattering for the space. And we talk about forced perspective, and that's making our viewer see from the corners of our image all the way down to a vanishing point that just disappear somewhere, forcing that perspective to make that image much more dramatic, to open up that landscape a little bit more for them. Another version of forced perspective. Here, we're forcing the perspective into the corner. This is a great thing for real estate photography. You ever look at real estate images, a lot of times, you bury your back into a corner, and you shoot into another corner to really open up that space. Throw a wide angle lens on there, and that 10-foot by 10-foot room now looks like 40 feet by 40 feet. (Blake laughs) You're forcing that perspective of the viewer to make this feel a little bit more interactive and dynamic than just standing in the center of the room and shooting towards the center of that room. Here's another diagonals and triangles. You might not see it by looking at it, but when we put the overlay on here you see how the image kind of comes in from the left, from the top left-hand corner, makes its way around, and then also has another triangle that comes in like this. Little bit of geometry that's happening in there to make us see and navigate the image a little bit more using certain points, coming in from the bottom, touching on the top of this rock, coming down this way, but oh, wait, that rock is showing me more, going out that way. Here's a good use of geometry. Lot of geometrical shapes that make a stairwell in a house look attractive. It's just using the shapes that are available there and looking at it head-on and making sure that when you do that, even if it is a wide angle lens, you get all of those angles perfectly straight. What would ruin this photograph is if I just left it as the image that you saw straight out of camera, 'cause some of the angles are a little warped because of a wide angle lens. I'm standing in a hallway with that thing pretty much right in front of me. I didn't have much that I could put my back against or my camera against. So if you're gonna be using wide angle lenses, especially in this type of environment, paying attention to those perfectly vertical lines, especially in this one, the vertical lines and the horizontal lines. Here's something with the golden spiral where you have the golden ratio of the golden spiral. It comes in from the opposite side of the image, wraps around, and brings us into the photograph. It navigates our eye around into the areas that are important, and you can force that in something like cropping. It's a macro shot of a tiny little, little sweat bee, like this teeny tiny little thing. Again, this is where we're using multiple rules together, forced perspective and the rule of thirds that are driving us into the back of this image, but also using the rule of thirds to divide this up. Here's another one, forced perspective and symmetry, really forcing the viewer to the back of the image but making sure that everything is nice and symmetrical going in. Little bit of asymmetry with some of the details that are happening on the sides, but still, that giant shape just pulling us right in. This is a conference center in Kansas City. Beautiful building. We can control the composition in many different ways. I've touched on it a couple times through this, but our frame that we use kind of has unlimited capabilities for us, once we get into post production. We can do a lot of things with this. We have our in camera crop, which, that's the decision that we make right in camera. Do you use a wide angle lens or do you use a telephoto lens? What lens are you using that's already cropping your image right away? Then we have the in post crop, where you're in Photoshop, and maybe you didn't like what you did with inside the camera, so now you're fixing it in post production. And then we have the in print crop, which, this kind of throws everything else out the window when you go to print a four by six and it doesn't fit the ratio of the image that you're looking at. You're like, oh, why doesn't this work? Well, it has to do with how the print ratio versus how your camera sensor ratio works. So sometimes you're even forced to crop in print. This is the first step in mastering the comprehension of composition. So if you can, if you can understand cropping and really dig deep into the decisions that you're making in camera, in post, and in print, you're on your way to mastering the, one of the most hard compositional elements to capture or to comprehend, I should say.