A closer crop can change our perceptions about what is really going on in a picture and lead us to a new emotional connection.
First of all, apologies readers. A recent trip to Costa Rica and a lack of internet interrupted my usual flow of articles. I am back and connected. It is time to rectify that lack!
Above is an uncropped image from the latest Costa Rica tour. It is a photo of a female Mantled Howler Monkey feeding in the dry forest near the Nicaraguan border. The image is framed pretty well in-camera and not a bad composition overall. However, there is more to this story of an adult monkey feeding. Cropping closer can give us a different perspective.
I cropped this image as I would for any of my general aesthetics. The goal was to make the subject larger in frame, clean up some edges and compose the image slightly more strongly. Something else is starting to emerge that wasn’t immediately evident in the original image.
Though I saw it at the time and exposed for it carefully you may not realize that this Howler Monkey is carrying a baby. A tighter crop suddenly brings the baby to our awareness. The mom is maintained in her natural behavior but now the baby is starting to exhibit behavior for us as well.
Moving in tighter and going vertical makes the baby monkey much more obvious in frame. Now, we can clearly see both the mom and the baby are feeding. This has become a story about an intimate relationship between mother and child.
Apply a little crop rotation and moving in tighter and things change slightly. The baby’s mouth is clearly latched on the mother’s nipple. His eyes are closed in slumber or mere contentment. The mother’s eyes are now revealed to be watching warily the photographer or, by extension, the image’s viewer. Are we now intruding on an intimate moment?
These revelations of our perception of the moment were not evident in the initial crops. By coming in tightly and filling our frame with the story, we can drive emotional response from those who view our images. We can go from “cool monkey shot” to “she isn’t very happy you are disturbing her baby’s breakfast”. That is a good place to go. We have engaged our viewers by cropping tightly and driving them to the unperceived story. An emotional connection to the image becomes inevitable.
Look closely at your pictures and see what monkey business might be going on.
Rikk Flohr © 2011