Lets start with the basics. One of the first questions you should ask yourself is, “How do I go about cropping an image? Where do I start?”
For many the answer is with the software’s crop tool. Too often we just hit that “C” key and drag a marquee selection across our image hoping to hit the magical combination of adequate pixels and composition. Sometimes we click on the toolbar and then give it some careful consideration but ultimately most would-be croppers just click-n-drag somewhat indiscriminately. I used to be just as guilty as you of not considering all the factors.
“There is a process to cropping: a step-by-step that will help ensure a successful crop.”
As Easy as 1-2-3
1. The first step in cropping an image is to Straighten. What do I mean by straight? Straight means that a vertical object (building/pole/tree) is vertical and a horizontal object (horizon) is horizontal. Straightening is a user-necessitated correction, meaning that if you get it right in camera you will have less to do in this step-perhaps even omitting it all-together. Ultimately the lack of straightness occurs with the photographer’s technique. Many Cropping Tools have a built in straightening feature and for good reason.
2. The second step in cropping an image is Perspective Correction. The objects in the image may be distorted dramatically depending upon the lens used, the proximity to and the size and shape of the subject. Unlike straighten issues which can be cured at capture with judicious use of a leveling indicator, perspective correction in the field is more problematic. Unless you have super powers or a tilt/shift lens, you are probably stuck, at times, with having to correct perspective. Why isn’t this the first step? If the image isn’t straight, how will you tell what its perspective issues are and ultimately correct them?
3. Step three is to Compose. After you’ve straightened and corrected perspective the next thing to do is to compose the remaining pixels so that your image fits the requirement of the horizontal bitmap format by trimming off the dead space created in the two previous steps.. In addition, now is the time when you will make your image stronger by cropping to showcase the content within.
The order of the steps is import as you will see when we tackle each step individually and in detail in the next three articles. Stay-tuned.
Rikk Flohr © 2010