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Lesson 19 from: The Beginner Photographer’s Crash Course

Khara Plicanic

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Lesson Info

19. Cropping

Lesson Info


The other thing that you don't wanna do to your photos, would be, what. Any of you two have a guess? It's something that's very common, that people, it's often, I would say, one of the first things people do when they are gonna edit their photos, it's probably the number one thing that they do, to try to make the photo better. And it destroys their options for resolutions. Do we have a guess. The only thing I can think that normally I would try to do is to crop it, resize it. Cropping it, or resizing it. That's a very dangerous thing to do, Jose. Did you know that you were being so dangerous with your photos? Well here's the thing. Yeah, people get mad at me when I have to tell them this, and I'm like, don't shoot the messenger, it's a real thing, but, you know, it's not my fault. But it is true. And today, it's less of a problem because our cameras are so crazy big, I mean it's kind of getting ridiculous, like 25 megapixels, or whatever is common now, is a lot. So, the damage you ...

do is lessened, but, people never cease to amaze with what they can try to make their photos do. So here's how this works. Cropping is the problem. So you don't wanna crop your photos, in post-production, without knowing what you're doing. So here's the thing. There's three levels of cropping, I like to say. So, some cropping is completely unavoidable. And that would be okay. So I call that healthy, unavoidable cropping, it's not a problem. And that would be, for example, if you take a picture on a full-frame censor, and then you, so that would have a ratio 2 x 3. Let's say you wanna print an 8 x 10 out of that. You have to crop it, because the image, as you shot it, is very rectangular, and an 8 x 10, while not a square, is a much more square format. So you would have to crop. And you know this. If you take pictures and then you have to crop it for Instagram, you're cropping it into a square. That's okay. When you're changing the shape like that, for the reason that a square doesn't fit into a rectangle, a rectangle doesn't fit into a square, that's okay. So that's healthy unavoidable cropping. That's what's depicted here, when you have this rectangle, and you're gonna crop it into a square, for example. What's less healthy, is what I call, meh, cropping. Now that's where you are cropping in a little. So if we go back, let's look at our healthy rectangle-to-square, we can see that the square is as big as it can be, within the confines of the rectangle. That is a healthy crop. Meh cropping, is now this rectangle is now cropped in, a little bit, and because our cameras are so high-resolution, high number of pixels, you're probably fine, probably. So it really just depends, how, what you're cropping, and what you plan to do with it, but that's okay. There's some wiggle room, that's okay. Here's what's not okay, is what I call death by cropping. And this, happens, a lot, and you know, I love to teach new photographers, beginning photographers, and a lot of times, when we get to this topic, people just are like, oh no, because they're realizing that they've done this to a lot of their images. What is the reason? Why do people crop their photos? Why do you guys crop your photos? Just share. Usually, I would imagine, that the composition wasn't done correctly, it has something I don't want in the picture, but I didn't see it when I took it, so I wanna get rid of it. Yes. Gabby? You've been quiet. Yeah, I do it. I just see something that I don't like, and I just want it out, so I just move it in. Just get it out of there. Just crop that out. Obviously it's not so good? (laughter) Well that's exactly. That's why people crop, often, is for composition. They didn't realize, oh, I didn't see that thing back there, or the cat snuck into the corner of the frame, or, whatever. Yeah, so it's usually for compensating for some sort of lack in composition, and the greater the oversight, the greater the problem. So here is one example. So here's little Zay, somehow this didn't get exported very well, it's looking a little pixely. But, here's little Zay, just, I bought this rug, and he loves it, like I had to get it, because he threw himself on it at the store, and it was really inexpensive, and our house has wood floors everywhere, so he doesn't have fluffy rugs. So I thought, I'm gonna get this, and he loves to lay on it. So then, I got out the camera and I snapped this really bad photo, and you can see that he had been emptying the laundry basket, so on the left, there's towels laying around on the floor, and, the bed is a mess, and who knows what else is going on, and he's just sort of in the center of the frame, and it's crooked, and it's just dumb. There's a lot of nothing happening, and not a useful nothing, not active negative space, just me not trying, really. Is what that is. So, we might, we might wanna crop that. So let's look at some examples of how that might get cropped. Well, the original picture, oh, I was really close when I was guessing those numbers earlier, I was really just making them up, but I was kind of close. So, the original photo out of my camera measured 5,760 pixels by 3,840, okay. If we do healthy unavoidable cropping, and I wanna crop this into an 8 x 10, that would be this top level here. So this, it's green, because it's a healthy green light, you can go ahead and do that, okay. I tried to be clever with all of my color coding here. So it's green, and it's okay, you can see that only the edges are being cut off, only the edges are being trimmed, so it's not wasting a whole ton, but of course, it's not really helping out the composition situation either, so, the resulting photo would then be, 4800 pixels by roughly 3800 pixels, that would be the 8 x 10. So, plenty of pixels, that would weigh in, as an 8 x 10, if we shake those, spread those pixels, spread that peanut butter out onto an 8 x 10, it would be 480 pixels per inch deep. Which is way more than we even need. So, plenty of pixels. Okay, so that's not too bad. So we can afford to crop it in a little bit. So let's say, in this next level down, we crop in on that. So now it's yellow, because of like, you can do that. You can, okay, but proceed with caution, proceed with caution, so, we crop in on that, and that's gonna get us down to 2800 pixels by 2200 pixels, we're now under 300 pixels per inch, so we're coming in at 287 or so pixels per inch, still fine, that's close enough to 300, that would still be fine, the composition is improved, that's really not a problem. Now if we say, oh, I wanna make a huge poster of that, or something, than we're gonna maybe run into some trouble. But, it can be okay. And then down below, what if we're like, oh, I just really love this little face, I love this expression, so we crop in even further, now we're down to 170 pixels per inch, for that 8 x 10. So you can see, in this case, we may be okay, because I started with a monster huge file, like a ridiculous file. So we have a lot of latitude. But you can see how quickly we go from 480 pixels per inch, to 170 pixels per inch, by just cropping. And you can see why, if you didn't know what was happening, this could really be a problem. Especially if you then crop in even further, and it just, it can really be bad. So, what could we do, to avoid this? Besides buying like a 35 megapixel camera. I would believe you can adjust the composition by zooming in, and get more in camera, then outside the camera. Yes! Imagine that. So we could essentially, I think what you're saying Jose, is, we could take better pictures, maybe, right. We could take better pictures, and we could do that, by getting closer. So, in this case, instead of shooting this, maybe we step in and shoot that. Right. And now we, maybe we zoom, because maybe it's in our lens, so we can just zoom in on that, and maybe we, actually use our feet like a zoom, and we walk closer and get up in there, then, that's an option, too. Either way, the idea is, you wanna get closer and shoot the picture, in camera, the way you would otherwise want to have cropped it later. And not only will your pictures improve, you save yourself the work, right. Now you don't have to go through and crop, crop stuff. You can just shoot a better photo. Okay. So that's a really simple fix, and it's less of a problem these days, with our cameras, but, you know, your phone, doesn't shoot, at least I wouldn't want mine to shoot 25, I mean, I take so many pictures on my phone, and I have a lot of memory space, but it still fills up so fast. My husband still has, like he hasn't downloaded his photos since, I don't know, 2012, or something, it's still all, it's on his phone. But, mine has to download twice a year, because it's completely, and it's massive storage, but. Anyway, so it can help you manage all that. But, you wanna just take better photos. So, we talk more about that in the composition course, how you can get better photos, but that, getting closer, is a huge part of that.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Bonus Video - Shooting In Natural Light HD
New Camera Setup

Ratings and Reviews

Kate Ambers

Khara is awesome! She really breaks down how the camera works, photography terminology, and technique. She does it all with a fun and entertaining personality and really makes it easy to understand what you are learning! I love this course!!! So worth it!

Holly Cooper

Loved this course and have recommended it to a friend who is looking to purchase his first DSLR. This course is perfect for beginners or someone who is self taught and who has picked a few bits up along the way; Khara then puts all these little bits of information together. I feel like the pieces have come together for me and I have taken my best/favourite photographs after watching these videos. Thank you CL and Thank you Khara x


I’ve taken a number of excellent courses from Creative Live, and this very thoughtfully organized, well taught class took me from “I love photography but I’ll never get how to do it” to “wow I get it!” It created a huge shift (finally!) for me. There is an intelligent simplicity that really does make for lightbulb moments. I’m extremely grateful for this class. Now I can go back and watch the others courses again and they will make much more sense and I can apply what I learned here.

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