Select three of your own photographs, each of a different subject. Consider the ways that they could be cropped.
For this exercise I chose to use the cropping tool in the image-editing software to crop my images and to see if other potential photographs lie within them.
Freeman (2007) defines cropping as a way of reworking an image after it has been shot. It offers the option of delaying design decisions and to explore new ways of reworking the image.
As I noted in the previous exercise, many images often work well with either a horizontal frame or vertical frame. With this in mind, I cropped this photograph to alter the frame shape from vertical to horizontal.
The second floor of the building is lost in the crop. However, the graphic features that remain, the old blue door, railings, brickwork and windows, now become the focus of attention leading the viewer to notice smaller details such as the texture in the bricks, the moss on the wall and the dust on the ill-fitting door.
When working with the cropping tool in the past, I have considered it to be useful in removing unwanted elements from the frame rather than as an instrument that could encourage me to look at an image in a fresh ways.
While Präkel (2006) stresses the importance of composing in-camera, he also notes that the process of cropping can have advantages. He describes one such advantage as ‘tidying up’ an image. This minimal cropping removes ‘distracting or intrusive elements from the edges of the frame’. This is how I would describe the timid crop of this Zürich street scene. While this did ‘tidy up’ the image, it didn’t make me look at the image in a fresh way.
In order to look at the image in a fresh way, I experimented with a range of crops, changing the dominant feature within the frame.
This crop captured the activity within the street. It also changed the frame format from the 3:2 rectangle to a square (ish) format. As it eliminates the sky it does make the overall image look quite dark.
Crop 3 shifts the emphasis from the street to the buildings above, drawing the eye to notice the flags, windows and shutters.
In crop 4, only the lower half of the building and the customer are in the frame.
Crop 5 is a severe crop, which zooms in on the flower shop. As it is only a fragment of the original image it is quite dark and many details are not visible.
Cropping this image reminded me of the sequence of composition exercise. It made me wish that rather than cropping to isolate the flower shop scene I had composed via the viewfinder. This could have allowed me more control to include more detail in the shadows and create an overall better photograph.
Next, I decided to use the cropping tool to experiment with positioning an object within the frame. The original image, of a cemetery, is above. I chose to use the tall headstone as the dominant feature.
This crop has eliminated most of the sky and over hanging branches. It has had the effect of ‘pushing’ the headstone up the frame. This crop now favours the cemetery as a focal point over the foliage above and in the background. The wall in the background has also moved from being centrally placed to a higher position creating a less static composition.
In crop 2, I have placed the headstone centrally and at the base of the frame. Details in the foreground and to the left are lost while the background and sky are favoured. It is a very symmetrical and static composition.
Crop 3 shows the headstone placed towards the left with some foreground and background in the shot. The vertical format along draws the eye upwards and behind the headstone to the sunny patch. Freeman (2007) notes that some off-centredness is usually desirable to set up a relationship between the subject and it’s surroundings. I think the slight off-centre position here works well and adds some dynamism to the image, which I found lacking in crop 2.
This is my favourite crop of the 4. The position of the headstone to the left and the inclusion of the tree’s height and unusual shape to the right create dynamic balance within the image. When considering locations within the frame Präkel (2006) talks of how a subject ‘will lay claim to a part of the space around it’. I think this is shown here as the area directly in front of the headstone ‘belongs’ to the headstone and is also the direction in which the headstone ‘looks’.
This exercise was useful not only in terms of using cropping as a tool but also for applying aspects I have learnt about the frame, such as positioning an object within the frame, working with vertical and horizontal frames and also a sequence of composition.
While I found interesting alternative images within the photographs during the cropping process I do think it would have been more satisfying to compose those shots in-camera. As someone new to photography this would have also given me valuable practice in considering which setting on my camera would give best results when taking each shot.
Freeman, M. (2007) The Photographer’s Eye. Lewes: ILEX
Präkel, D. (2006) Composition. Lausanne: AVA