Following up on our previous article on the first of the three families of crop, Portrait, we move on to the second family: Landscape.
Landscape crops are defined as such:
An Aspect Ratio whose orientation has more pixels horizontally than vertically. Aspect Ratio > 1.0.
The name, Landscape, is derived from the common practice of painting landscapes on a canvas whose width was more than its height. Landscape crops are wider than they are tall. If you divide the width of a portrait image by its height the result will always be greater than one. Again, enough math!
Example Landscape Images:
The above image is very nearly square but it is slightly wider than it is tall. It has an aspect ratio of roughly 11:10.
This image is a more traditional 3:2 crop similar to your DSLR’s sensor capture. It makes a 4×6 print easily without losing any of your image or leaving white space (letterbox).
This decidedly more horizontal crop is an example of a crop where the aspect ratio is greater than 2.0. It is more than twice as wide as it is tall. We will be discussing the this more extreme version of the landscape crop in an upcoming article.
As in the portrait examples in the previous article, each of these crops was chosen to express a more powerful version of the original image. Each of these subjects lent itself to a more horizontal interpretation. As a rule, landscape crops work best in the following situations.
- Traditional landscape images of earth and sky: Typically images with interesting horizons and centers of interest near the horizon benefit from a landscape crop.
- Wide Subjects: Large groups of animals such as herds, flocks, and skeins.
- Leading lines of less than 45° angle: Items moving from right to left or left to right at shallow angles such as roads, river ways, hills, canyons and other formations.
- Horizontal Motion: Running animals, moving vehicles, rushing water all tend to look better when the crop and the motion agree.
- Balanced objects with horizontal separation: Think of person looking at a distant sunset, boat sailing toward a distant shoreline.
Cameras, for the most part are set up to capture landscape by default. Simply holding your camera as intended will give you a native landscape image. It is easy thus to be lulled into a landscape lethargy as most of what you capture is landscape. Your subject should dictate your camera orientation.
As in the previous article on cropping to a portrait from an original landscape, you can derive a landscape image from a portrait crop. With today’s high megapixel cameras, there is often enough head room to remove large portions of a portrait image and create a landscape as in the image above. Here the crop serves to focus on the intensity of face and give space into which to look.
Take an existing Landscape image from your archives. Make it more horizontal by cropping off only the top or the bottom. Can you make it stronger? Try removing from the top and the bottom on the same crop. Which of your various experiments yields the most compelling image?
Take a vertical image that seems to have a lot of space and try cropping the more important portions within a landscape orientation. Does the picture become stronger or weaker?
Find scenes with compelling object separated by horizontal distance. Compose the scene in camera with either zoom, lens choice or zooming with your feet. Find a way to make the separated objects fit within frame and compliment each other.
In the third article on the Three Families of Crop, we will constrain our discussions to that crop that exists in an infinitesimally narrow band between the worlds of Landscape and Portrait.
Rikk Flohr © 2010