Sometimes an image needs to be bigger than life-life as seen through your viewfinder.
Referring to our Crop Dictionary here at Holy Crop! we find that images whose aspect ratios are greater than or equal to 2.0 are classified as a panoramic crop. This means if it is twice or more wide than it is tall it is a panoramic crop-by our definition.
Aspect Ratio: 4.74 – Cropped for a Web Banner
True panoramas are made by either capturing ultra-wide scenes by a continuous capture process or stitching multiple images together. These images need cropping by default because of distortions and leveling issues. That isn’t what we are talking about here. This article is devoted to the cropping of an image to simulate a panoramic feel.
When you go to your next art show, look at how square or nearly-square all the images seem. If a panoramic crop exists, watch how the people gravitate to it. Panoramics capture the eye and the imagination by being different, bold and in many places the most appropriate crop available .
There are many reasons to crop to the panorama persuasion. When you are trying to convey a sense of space, wide-open space, a wide-open crop is the first choice. It makes the scene feel more expansive.
Often you are trying to convey a sense of horizontal motion. In this case, a radically horizontal crop can aid in telling the motion story. The movement of the panning, the travel direction of the NA Pronghorn and the crop all enhance the motion I am trying to convey.
Sometimes you are cropping to remove negative or dead space from your image. In the image above, the sky is a nondescript blue field void of any useful detail. The foreground is interesting. The peak on the right and the moon on the left are both desirable elements. To leave them both in means more interesting foreground (to the point of making to too much of a good thing), more uninteresting sky, or a panoramic crop.
One thing you might not have noticed about the panoramic crop. You can get away (sometimes) with breaking a rule of composition when you crop extra-wide. Horizons-close to center, all of a sudden, don’t stand out as much when you go wide.
Sometimes you just have wide subjects. When this happens try a horizontal crop with an aspect greater than 2.0 and see if the subject becomes more powerful. This waterfall is very wide and shot straight-on, it is difficult to compose-especially given the early-morning canyon light. A tight panoramic crop brings the subject into strength and eliminates some difficult areas.
Banners in web and print often call for radically horizontal cropping. The first image in this article was cropped to fit the needs of a web banner for one of my blogs. There are many places in the world for the panoramic crop style.
As I looked through my panoramic crops, I find that I tend to try certain ratios first:
Depending upon my needs these are the aspects I try first. They tend to work out better when printing them N-up on a more traditionally ratio paper. After choosing the ratio that seems most pleasing, I might tweak it to obtain a stronger image or remove a distraction. If I end up at 2.77, I am not concerned-as long as the image is as strong as possible. If I had to pick a favorite, I would have to say that 2.5:1 tends towards the top.
Don’t be afraid to chop off the top and bottom in your quest for a stronger image.
Rikk Flohr © 2010