Sharecropping will be featured on the second of every month providing people keep sending in those images for the Cropist to manipulate.
Today’s voluntary victim is Bill Dilworth. He was so excited about the feature he couldn’t wait to send me his image. I like this image because it wasn’t taken by a professional photographer. It was captured on Bill’s Sony Cyber-shot at a restaurant in Paris. Low-light, mysterious French ladies, a discreet image grab – this has some intriguing possibilities.
Here is Bill’s original capture. Looks to me like he set his camera on the table for the shot. Maybe he was trying to be unobtrusive, perhaps it was to steady the image. The scene shows the hallmarks of low-light point and shoot capture. The focus isn’t tack sharp and the movement of the figures is apparent. There is a little camera motion involved too as the exposure was over a second. It happens. It is a nice moment with engaging figures in a very nice setting. I like Bill’s instincts here.
From my scribbled thoughts:
- The foreground, probably Bill’s own table, is too out of focus and distracting. It has to go.
- The white table cloth at the girls’ table is the brightest object in the scene and draws our eyes immediately. If we are only cropping, it needs some subduing.
- The curtain at right is bright and, as Weird AL would say “Really not important to the story”
- The wine bottle is pretty centered. It divides the picture pretty close to in-half.
- The girl on the left is posed awkwardly. I don’t think it is necessarily a distraction but it is definitely not a plus. The sliver rack in front of her is probably a worse distraction.
- Other than that, the scene could be a little more intimate-after all it is a dimly-lit restaurant in Paris!
I decided to go after items one and two at once. Get rid of the out-of-focus area and a good portion of the white table cloth. I think the table cloth is important to the setting so I wanted to leave enough that it was still there, but not so much that it dominated the photo. The almost-panoramic crop actually pulls the two girls slightly apart. Perhaps that is the story we are telling-perhaps not.
Item three on the analysis is the curtain at the right side. Coming in as close as I dare to the lady on the right, yields this image. Notice how it also takes care of number 4. It also creates other problems as the lady on the left now has too much space. The lady on the right has been trapped by the wine bottle against the edge of the image. Fortunately, she seems unfazed.
Lets eliminate some space on the left to bring the lady more closely into the scene. That helps. The image is nice and tight and the intimacy lost by cropping off the bottom has been restored. Both the lady’s heads are centered top-to-bottom in frame. I would prefer them to be a little “taller” in frame. The top of the image doesn’t help the story that much-even though the blue is nice.
We’ve squeezed all four sides now. All the items on our initial analysis have been meet except number 5. What do we do with the awkward/partially obscured lady on the left?
Going a little toward square with our crop, and cropping the lady on the left out completely makes for a markedly different composition. It is about a lone lady now. She is ready a letter-not reaching for a glass as you might have thought in some of the wider shots. Is it a letter from a lover? A job offer? Merely the menu? The image changes dramatically as we zoom in and our mind suddenly forms questions. We are engaged.
I wanted a little more depth in the scene so I added back in a little more table cloth. I also felt the bread basket on the other side of the wine bottle didn’t help us focus on the girl. Going for a portrait crop makes a nice image of the right lady. What about the other lady? Can we successfully isolate her?
Tight on the left girl, we have to leave the bread basket in frame for balance. If that silver rack weren’t there we could go even tighter. Cropped tightly, I feel she looks a little more expectant. I decided to push her into the scene a little farther.
I decided I liked the story of both girls together better than them apart. This time, I wanted them tight in frame. No space anywhere-that includes the bottom.
It is almost a cinematic ratio panoramic crop. I liked the pose of the the girl at right much better but I wanted the relationship to remain. The only way to make her and her actions more prominent was to reduce the lady on the left’s presence. I did this by cropping her top and left.
I was also careful to leave in just enough sleeve on the right-hand lady to make her arm seem natural. Normally I would fix the bright table cloth with another tool but since I am limited to crop here I decided it was too bright to be allowed to live in this image.
This arrangement also allowed me to have the directional gaze of each lady intersect the upper left and lower right power points in the rule of thirds. The gaze of the lady on the right is now about her actions and the lady on the left is looking for a reaction.
A couple of more for your consideration:
As with all image editing, your story guides your direction. The story you need to tell will help you dictate the crop. If it is purely for aesthetics, you are your own sole guide.
Rikk Flohr © 2010
Bill Dilworth’s images are © Bill Dilworth.
“Bill Dilworth travels extensively for a medical imaging company. From time to time, he finds himself in a place where a small camera can capture the moment.”
He can be contacted at his website: http://billdilworth.mvps.org