A look at one of the more obscure compositional guides in the Lightroom Crop Tool.
The picture show above is a cropped version of larger capture. It was composed after capture in-software, specifically, Lightroom 5.0. Lightroom offers a wealth of compositional guides within its crop tool. More Here.Some of them are quite well known. A Rule of Thirds guide is default in Lightroom. Also commonly used are the Golden Ratio and Golden Spiral. There is an straight grid, useful for architectural shots and a print size overlay for visualizing your image on various stock paper sizes. There are also a couple of of less well-known compositional guides.
This Compositional Guide is called, quite simply, ‘Triangles’. The premise of this compositional guide is to run a diagonal from opposite corners along the long axis of the image. Perpendiculars are run from the diagonal bisector to the remaining corners, creating four smaller triangles and two larger triangles if you combine them. When I have a subject with a long-thin profile, the triangles dialog can be a great place to start. This 12-spotted Skimmer is just such a subject.
There are several competing limitations which drive the in-camera framing on this shot. First and foremost is a skittish subject. I can only get so close. The second is a tough mid-day sun which forced me into using a ring flash to illuminate the underside of the dragonfly. Well, the Canon MR-14EX Ring Flash only fits on my 100MM F2.8 Macro so I am focal length-challenged from the start. I knew going in I was bound to be cropping to fill the frame with my subject.
One of the things I do when I know in-camera composition is out the window, is to go to Center-point focusing. It eliminates a lot of focus issues when shooting wildlife but it does necessitate the holding of your subject dead-center of the image. Composition is unfortunately left for software but the percentage of in-focus shots increases dramatically.
One of the other issues is the presence of the rebar upon which the dragonfly is seated. It needs to be subdued somehow. Taking it slightly off the vertical by using a little Crop Rotation, is just the way to lessen its prominence.
We focus on eyes. It is our nature. The rotation of the crop was designed to fill the frame and place the important parts of the dragonfly along strong angles in the photograph. I decided to make the diagonal just touch the tail and bottom of the thorax as if the insect were resting on the guide. The remainder of the cropping was left to hold the area of the lowest wing and the highest eye at the intersections with the perpendiculars. Care was taken to allow a little space on the far side of the rebar lest we create a visually distracting sliver. All of this served to slightly lean the rebar into the frame. The reset of the work is done with dodging and burning to get that rebar under control and beneath the dragonfly in visual priority.
With the guides removed in the final version, you can see the final effect of our labors. We’ve filled the frame, created a strong diagonal and a pair of leading lines to take us into the eye of the dragon… fly, all while composing competing elements into a visually satisfying image.
If the diagonal runs the wrong way in your image, try the key combination of [Shift][O] to toggle the overlay between its two versions.
When you have a diagonal subject, consider using the Triangles Compositional overlay to aid your crop.
Rikk Flohr © 2013