The first of the Three Families of Crop mentioned in the Aspect Ratio Article is Portrait.
Portrait crops are defined as such:
An Aspect Ratio whose orientation has more pixels vertically than horizontally. Aspect Ratio < 1.0.
The name, Portrait, is derived from the common practice of painting portraits of people on a canvas whose width was less than its height. Portrait crops are taller than they are wide. If you divide the width of a portrait image by its height the result will always be less than one. Enough math!
Example Portrait Images:
In each of these examples, the picture is taller than it is wide. The nearly square image at left is barely a portrait crop. The image at center is cropped to an aspect ratio of 4:5 or for an 8×10 print. The image of the Resplendent Quetzal on the right is a more severe portrait crop. It is more than twice as tall as it is wide making it fall into a unique category of crop that we will discuss in a later article.
Each of these images was cropped for content to make the picture stronger. The result of which was a portrait crop. As a rule, portrait crops are best suited to a few types of images:
Portraits: Images of the faces/heads of people, creatures and things
Individual People: For some reason we expect to see images, close-up or full figure of lone people, or maybe small groups as a portrait crop.
Vertical Subjects: Tall things work better in portrait-particularly when there is nothing but dead space to either side of the tall subject.
Vertical Motion: Places where we try to impart upward or downward motion into an image. Think Waterfall, Rocket, Diver, etc.
In the field, we make a portrait crop by capturing an image with our camera held sideways so that the longest edge of our sensor is vertical. In the image above, a Canon G10 whose sensor is a 4:3 aspect ratio is held so that the long edge is vertical. Ideally this gives you the maximum amount of Megapixels for your vertical subject.
In the event that your capture is not portrait, cropping for content can yield a portrait image as in this shot of a White-tailed Deer. Cameras are easy to hold and easy to pan in horizontal format-especially when the action is fast. With enough megapixels you can get a more vertical portrait crop in software to create a better composition. Here the vertical elements composed in a vertical crop rectangle give lift to the already-leaping deer.
A good cropping exercise is to take a couple of your existing horizontally oriented images and try a series of vertical (portrait) crops. You may find many different and powerful pictures hiding within the non-portrait image capture.
A good image capture exercise is to take pictures as you would normally. When you find you are consistently holding the camera traditionally landscape, take the picture and then rotate the camera to vertical and take another image of the same scene. Later, in image review, analyze the two similar visions of the world and determine where a portrait crop makes an image more powerful.
In the next article we will turn portrait crops on their side and discuss the landscape crop.
Rikk Flohr © 2010