Photography: Playing around with cropping

This post is about cropping photographs. One of the basic rules in photography is that every image needs cropping; and if you think it doesn’t then you are not looking at it right.

Most post-processing workflows tend to recommend that you crop at the start of your workflow. The logic here is that this means your computer will process the smaller 'master' image faster as you progress with the rest of your post-processing workflow.

However, I tend to crop towards the end just before I do the two basic sharpening steps; before I save the finished product. With modern four core i7-based computers that have an SSD as the primary disk it only takes a few second more to work with the full un-cropped image. But I am not going to go into the pros and cons of this approach as a discussion of why and what various photographers do as part of their post-processing workflow would likely fill a 1TB hard disk.

In this quick post I just want to demonstrate how cropping can make a difference to the look of the finished product.

So, to start, here is the image before cropping. This is how it was framed in the camera as I pushed to shutter button.

As shot

Note that all images are resized to be 1000 pixels on the long edge, are purposely border-less,  and have 30 percent compression.

In this first crop I decided to go for a landscape view, possibly for printing on canvas.

First crop

Then I thought I might try it with the tree further to the right and maybe with the clouds at the top cropped out, even though it means cropping the top off the tree.

Second crop

At this stage I am thinking that I did like it better in portrait mode, so I will try that again but this time I will crop some of the foreground out.

Third crop

In the above crop I have the trunk of the tree smack in the middle of the 'thirds rule' on the right hand side.

I think I am getting close now. But I want to force the tree further into the top right zone and I want the crop a little taller.

Fourth crop

I like this crop. I like the tree sort of isolated up there in the top right, almost alone in its top right third (using the Rule of Thirds); almost out of the picture. In a finished edit I would probably edit out the clouds at the very top of the picture as they tend to be a little distracting.

I might try one last crop and put the tree in the middle of the crop and little lower.

Fifth crop

I think I still prefer the fourth crop if I was going to print one of these.

So. Just a really quick demonstration of how cropping can change the look of your image.