Sometimes a simple twist of the wrist can allow you to remove distractions, improve composition and increase megapixels.
Every time we place a camera to our eye we crop off most of the world. Deliberate care in how we do this becomes the art of composition. In making our pictures stronger, we must consider composition as an in-camera process first. Case in point:
Here is a shot from the Minnesota Zoo’s Butterfly exhibit. I found these two butterflies on separate orange flowers and thought they made for an interesting composition. My first instinct was to shoot from a standing position with my Canon 100MM F2.8 Macro. I noticed I had some distracting elements in the intruding leaves on the upper left corner. I tried a second time-this time, zooming with my legs and kneeling over the scene.
Moving in closer lessened the impact of the top-left distraction and brought the butterflies more into prominence in the image. The composition is still a little vertical with one of the butterflies essentially in the middle of the image horizontally. Normally people resort to software at this point and painstakingly clone out the leaf at the top left or subdue it in some fashion. Not me. I decided to employ a little “Crop Rotation".
Rotating the camera in-hand by about 15° clockwise, I found that the distraction was eliminated. We learned in one of the initial articles on the Three Stages of Crop that rotating (straightening) is a crop by default. Here is that article for reference. Another wonderful thing happened as well. Our centered butterfly on the top now lines up with the upper left rule-of-thirds junction. Our butterfly on the bottom is now at the lower right rule-of-thirds junction. Our composition is greatly improved because our subjects are placed at more powerful points within the image and the distractions were removed. All of this was done in-camera! I won’t debate the inherent problems in a two-object composition in this article-that is for a future discussion. So, let’s move on.
What would happen if we took the second image and did a crop rotation on it in software?
Well, the distracting leaf in upper left does disappear. That is the good news. The bad news is we lost our tip off our lower butterfly’s wing in the process. Crop rotation in-camera beats crop rotation in software. Thinking about our first shot where we had a little more real estate with which to work what would happen?
We have enough room to hold both butterflies in the shot. More good news: we have a better composition too. But, as the quote goes, there is no free lunch. The image above, shot wider and crop-rotated in software is 2015×3023 pixels or just over 6 megapixels. The in-camera rotated image is 2592×3588 or just over 10 megapixels. That means a bigger print or a higher quality smaller print.
The in-camera crop saved 4 megapixels!
Let’s recap. Rotating your camera accomplished the following over rotating in software:
- Removed Distractions
- Improved Composition
- Saved 4 Megapixels of information
- Provided a Much Sharper Image
“Whoa! Rikk, you didn’t say anything about a sharper image.” You might admonish me. You are right. I didn’t… yet. That too is a subject of a future article.
Rikk Flohr © 2010