Greetings all and Happy New Year! Today we are going to look at a rotation and a frame fill to improve composition through the crop.
Here is our original in-studio capture. The model has a nice expression and the wind-blown, neck-tossed mane has created a nice swirling frame around her face. The original capture is deliberately wide because the model was well, wild. Keeping her in the frame was quite a challenge as she was all over the place. Compositionally, we nailed the Rule of Thirds but the picture doesn’t look as good as it could.
The big empty space in the upper right is almost like a framer’s square marking a smaller rectangle within the larger frame. It is too big, too empty, too squared to the image boundaries. We can chop it off or rotate it to change the shape and size of the space.
Any time you rotate you lose pixels and we are glad to lose them here. The image needs to be much tighter and compositionally we can sacrifice that waving hand out in space. The goal here was to unsquare that awkward space. I decided to make the topside of the sleeve intersect the upper right corner and give us a nice diagonal. From there it was just a matter of how much hair was necessary to complete the portrait and retain the wind-blown head-tossed swirl of hair.
The final crop is a much more dynamic image. The aspect ratio is slightly on the wide side of the original 3:2 capture ratio but works nicely here. I could sacrifice the diagonal corner intersection or the extra hair at left to make it fit a frame if I had to. But, I don’t so I will leave things alone from here.
The final crop rotation ended up being 42° for those of you keeping score at home. Who would ever hold their camera at such a freakish angle? Perhaps me? That is another story…
Rikk Flohr © 2013
Let’s face it, people are typically photographed two ways: Portrait and Landscape. If they are standing or sitting upright, we tend to shoot with the camera in the portrait orientation. If they are sitting, reclining or laying down, we tend to use the landscape orientation. Unless you are shooting a square aspect medium format form factor, when shooting you seldom consider that ratio between landscape and portrait: the square.
Consider this image of Art Model Brooke Lynne taken at my recent figure workshop. The figure is not standing so the temptation to shoot landscape lured me into a horizontal mindset. The DSLR form factor forces me to choose one or the other and I picked the easiest grip to hold. The abstract pose struck by the model suggests a way to go with the crop.
Rather than choose traditional portrait or landscape, why not go square and be a little uncommon? To me the interesting part of the pose is the back. It isn’t something we see featured in photographs very often. My goal was to celebrate the human form but also make us pause for a moment to consider just exactly what we are viewing. To get from the original capture to the crop above, what is necessary?
Looking at the execution of the crop, there are several key crop concepts that drove this preliminary crop.
- The shape of the pose is roughly square. A square crop can emphasize that.
- The frame is filled and overflowing with the figure isolating the pose and the dynamics of certain portions of the picture.
- Crop Rotation was used to enhance the angles and provide good shape to the white space resulting in three of the four corners.
This composition might not be your cup of tea and that’s ok. Keep your eye on Holy Crop! over the coming days as we turn this crop on its head and I show you the crop I absolutely adore…
Rikk Flohr © 2012
Normally we crop to eliminate distractions: getting rid of dark areas at the bottom, bright areas at the top, intrusions from the side and other in-image elements that deemphasize our primary subject. Sometimes it isn’t about subject-its about setting. Cropping out distractions can help with ambiguity of place.
Case in point, this capture of a red-headed woodpecker at Big Woods State Park near Nerstrand, MN. I had been trying to capture this bird for two seasons but it had eluded me. I had a client lined up for an image of this bird but needed a more natural looking setting. The obvious roof-line, door and sign give the bird a decidedly unnatural setting. What can a crop do for us?
Cropping in tightly gives a certain ambiguity to the bird’s surrounding. Many of the tell-tales that reveal the bird is near to a building have been eliminated by the tight crop. The prominent position of the subject and its relative size-to-frame have pushed the background back as well. It is becoming that image my client wants. Breakup that remaining line behind the bird and we are ready for sale!
I guess it comes down to sense of place. The more place you eliminate through your crop, the less you sense its being there.
Rikk Flohr © 2012