Is the world made up of rectangles? Of course it isn’t, but our digital cameras make us look at the world as if it was, because most digital camera sensors are rectangular.
The sensor may be in the classic 35mm film format proportions of 1×1.5, or in the somewhat squarer 4×3 proportions of most compact digital cameras. Whichever shape they are, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to leave your images in the shape that they come out of the camera. You can often improve them by changing their proportions. It’s called “cropping” and simply means that you take off some of the top/bottom or the side/sides.
In this landscape photograph of the Corbiere lighthouse on the Channel Island of Jersey, I’ve left it as it came out of the camera. I think it’s a good image, with the waves splashing, the light reflecting from the sea, and the feel of a black and white photograph.
With the next version of the image I’ve cropped off some of the top and bottom to make it longer and thinner. It certainly helps, by taking away some of the grey sky at the top, and the grey sea at the bottom.
In this final version I’ve cropped off even more of the top and bottom. This helps you concentrate on the really interesting central parts of the image, and fits with the horizontal elements of the rocks and the waves.
To me this is the most successful crop, but you may prefer it uncropped, or partly cropped. That’s one of the great things about photography; it’s down to your individual preferences.
Try cropping your images! You can use simple programs like Google Picasa, or more complex ones like Adobe Photoshop. Whatever program you use, it’s best to save your cropped image with a different name to the original file so you can revisit the original later if you need to, or if you want to write a blog post about cropping images!
Image enhancement by cropping is part of creative photography, and is covered in our “The Creative Eye” course. Check it out at www.lifestylephotos.co.uk