Cropping is usually the single biggest impact operation on a photo to improve it, though not always. The general rule is do biggest impact global changes first, and local changes later. Sometimes exposure may trump cropping. In the leading image it is a toss up as to whether cropping or exposure needs to be address first. Below are a set of samples that show different types of cropping and exposure changes that lead to the finished image.
As can be seen it looks interesting but it is over exposed and the surfer is up in the corner. How can cropping help this?
Adobe’s Lightroom(LR), has several built in guides that represent classic composition guidelines. These include:
- Rule of Thirds
- Magic Triangles (my name)
- Golden Mean (modified thirds)
- Golden Spiral
These overlays are helpful guides to use when trying out various crops on a photo. Below are examples of the crops. Before cropping, I made some exposure changes to make the photo easier to work with as seen here. The guides should have the guide lines match lines in the photo and have guide line intersections at points of interest in the photo.
Now there is a little more definition in the shape of the wave, and we can see that it makes a nice leading line as well as framing the surfer. Its just not at an interesting place in the photo, so we try cropping it to make it look better. Notice the sliders over on the right that were diddled with; Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Whites to improve the appearance.
Below is a first guess at using the rule of thirds for cropping. The surfer’s eyes are on a third line and so is his body. But, the nice line of the wave is lost.
So, a second possible crop with thirds is cropping more off the bottom to bring the bottom third line up. This looks interesting, the surfer’s expression is great, but I want more wave not less.
So, let’s try a third time with rule of thirds. This is better from my aesthetic because there is more wave in the photo with the nice lines. This is starting to work.
So, let’s check it out with some of the other guides and see how it lines up…
This shows the the diagonal cropping guides. Notice that they place the surfer at the center, and approximately match the leading line of the wave, all pluses.
Checking out the magic triangle cropping (below) shows that the guides also line up with the image. I like magic triangles, and in this case they work nicely as well
Often, when you have a good crop, the guides will all agree on the crop. And it will be visually pleasing.
For more images visit my website.