Found today on Gizmodo: How Filmmakers Use Aspect Ratio Tricks in Movies
Rikk Flohr © 2016
When I finished the mockup of my latest concept I decided to crop it down to an 8×10 aspect ratio. To aid in composition, I used Adobe Photoshop Lightroom’s™ Crop Overlay for the Fibonacci sequence or Golden Spiral, to which it is sometimes referred. The Crop Overlay is accessed with the [ O ] key and cycling it several times will bring you to this overlay. [Shift][ O ] rotates the spiral through its eight possible incarnations. It becomes then a matter of working your crop to place a strong point of emphasis into the terminus of the spiral.
Rikk Flohr © 2013
In his latest blog post, Moose Peterson rails, gently albeit, against the art of post-capture cropping and I would have to agree that several of his points are quite valid. He talks about appropriate lens and distance from subject and getting it right in camera which the Holy Crop! blog applauds. I even admire the passion he feels for getting the best possible image at shutter snap. Ultimately, I find his admonitions fall short of reality as they proceed from an base assumption that is flawed.
Just the old cropist’s opinion here but Moose’s cropping philosophy is based upon an erroneous notion that a 3:2 Aspect ratio, or whatever ratio at which your camera captures, is the true and best aspect for the final image. In a world where 3:2 is your only output aspect ratio, Moose’s comments are very valid. Unfortunately, the space in which your image’s subject ultimately lives is hardly, if ever 3:2. My Monitor is 16:9 for example, a Facebook cover photo is 8.51:3.14, for example. I can’t fit those 3:2 aspect images into these spaces without slicing something off. Cropping is a real world necessity.
On another front, an image can be made stronger than the capture aspect ratio as in the moose shot (small “M”) shown above. The top and bottom portions removed aren’t really important to the image but, as you frequent readers know, the space and placement is. Why would you ever limit the aspect ratio of your output to the limitations of your capture device?
The output aspect ratio should make your image the strongest it can be.
Just a quick note: Moose is careful to say this is ‘his way’ and that every photographer must find their own path.
You can read Moose’s article here.
Rikk Flohr © 2012
Traditional output sizes seldom match the best crop for your image. When you crop for content to make your image the strongest it can possibly be, you run the risk that you will end up with a size for which no frame or mat can be found. Sometimes we have to think about our end result in our in-camera framing so that cropping conundrums can’t take place.
This is a shot of a Lunar eclipse taken at Split Rock Lighthouse along the shore of Lake Superior in Northern Minnesota. Both the moon and the lighthouse were difficult to arrange owing to the deep snow along the shoreline. As I adjusted the original 3:2 capture, I decided I liked a panoramic crop ratio of 2:1 much better. The finished crop is the image you see above.
All is well and good until I put the picture up for sale. People started ordering 4×6 cards, 8×10 prints and other sizes which failed to match my chosen 2:1 crop ratio. This is the problem everyone faces. Family photographers often find the dilemma when they shoot large groups of people. They fail to account for the finished aspect ratio of the print when they are framing the shot in their differently aspect ratio’d viewfinder. When image and output don’t match you are left with precious few options.
Option 1: The Letterbox
Letterbox is a term we commonly hear when talking about adapting wide-screen movies to the 4:3 aspect of our television. Even the 16:9 newer televisions must have a choice of distorting the image or letterboxing in many cases. Letterboxing preserves your original intent but will ultimately force you to find a special frame and mat. If you are selling this image for a calendar, for example, they might not find letterboxing acceptable.
Option 2: Recrop the Image
You can cast your artistic vision aside and go back to the beginning and rework your image forward from an 5:4 perspective. Depending upon your editing software and your workflow, this can be a minor inconvenience or a complete do-over. I know that as an artist, I do not like the crop to produce the 8×10 nearly as much as I like my original panoramic vision. The image just isn’t as strong and the customer may balk, complaining that is the image they wanted. We can’t have it both ways.
Option 3: Lop Off the Ends
Dead space on either end can be eliminated. Of course when you have two subjects separated by this much dead space in the middle, it looks awkward. The lighthouse and the moon are both in danger of falling off the edge of the frame. This is a picture of a hole – a hole between a lighthouse and a moon. To me, this is far worse than the recrop in Option 2.
Option 4: Sacrifice One to the Gods
If you want to maintain the approximate vertical framing you had before, you can sacrifice one of your outlying subject elements. As you can see from these two attempts the lighthouse survives on its own far better than the moon. It is all well and good for lighthouses and moons but what if it is Uncle Larry on one side of the family picture and Uncle Bob on the other? Who gets the axe?
Option 5: There is no 8×10
It is ok, Neo, to maintain to your customer, that the image is only available in 6×12, 8×16 and 12×24 sizes. That is your choice as an artist to force them to accept your vision (and the framing woes that accompany it). “Mr Customer, if you insist on an 8×10, I can give you a letterbox, a recrop, which will look different, or you can take 6×12 and get the image with which you are enamored.”
Option 6: Magic
There is another option that might just work and give everybody a vision closer to what they want. We will cover that in the next article with a video tutorial.
Buy This Print
Rikk Flohr © 2010
What do these images in this article have in common?
It became apparent to me while judging a recent photography competition that powerful image cropping is still little-understood to today’s digital photographer. I don’t know whether it is an unwillingness to delete any of the precious megapixels or an aversion to any aspect ratio that doesn’t fit an off-the-shelf matte or frame. Perhaps it is some other reason
Back to the photo competition. One of the other judges commented to me that they would have ranked several images, which didn’t place at all, much higher if they could have just cropped them differently. Indeed, many times during the heated debate over a particular image, the strength of a different crop came up. Quite literally, an image in the group that didn’t make honorable mention, would have placed first or second with a modest crop.
I had judged a different competition earlier in the year where a particular shooter had done quite well, ribbon-wise. Their images were very well-done and they all had an aspect ratio other than their camera’s 3:2. When I performed the judging at their awards banquet, I commented several times on several different images how I felt the artist had been bold with their crop. Little did I know that every crop upon which I commented was done by the same photographer. One photographer in the group had been outside the camera’s aspect ratio with their cropping and walked away with many awards. There is a lesson to learn there.
Strong Cropping Can Make Strong Images Stronger!
So what do these three images above have in common?
None of them fit an off-the-shelf frame or matte. They were all cropped to improve composition and strengthen the image.
Sit in judgment on your own images and make them as strong as they can be before you submit them for judgment.
Rikk Flohr © 2010
Following up on our previous article on the second of the three families of crop, Landscape, we move on to the third and final family: Square.
Square crops are defined as such:
An Aspect Ratio whose orientation has the same number of pixels horizontally and vertically. Aspect Ratio = 1.0.
The name, Square, says it all. It is the special and singular instance of the infinite family of rectangles where the adjacent sides are equal. If you divide the width of a square image by it’s height the result will always be equal to one. Again, enough math, already! There are many Portrait and Landscape aspect ratios but there is only one square.
Square Crop Examples:
Square images are somewhat of an aberration. There are few pre-made frames to fit the square format and few cameras can capture in the square. If you have been around photography long enough perhaps you began your career shooting a 6x6cm 120 negative. These were immensely popular with wedding photographers. Many photography-related wedding accessories still revolve around a square image format.
One advantage to a square aspect ratio was that you could always hold the camera the same way and worry about cropping portrait or landscape later if the final image was requested. As long as you left a little space around your subject you were good to go: Portrait or Landscape.
It is harder to find a place for square in our world of cropping. When I judge photography competitions, I find square crops little used and even less understood. I went through my catalog of my top 375 images and found that 33% were Portrait, 65% were Landscape and only 2% were square. It definitely has a place in my workflow, albeit a small place. Here is a list of places where I find a square crop useful.
If you are going to crop square, it matters less how you hold your camera initially. As long as it is level to one of the sensor edges you should be golden. This shot of a Mantled Howler Monkey taken in Costa Rica on one of my workshops with Worldesigns Photo, shows an example of shooting straight-skyward. Here, level doesn’t apply and I let the subject dictate the crop. Ultimately, given what was removed, square was what remained.
Notice that all the rules of composition were considered. Rule of Thirds, Rule of Viewing Space and Framing were all consulted in making this image.
Try finding square objects to shoot against very unobtrusive backgrounds. Leave some space for later cropping. Take those images into software and apply all three families of crop. Consider the square crop. Does it look the most powerful?
Find an old image in whose crop you were never quite happy. Try a square. Does it give you a different perspective?
Now that we have finished the Three Families of Crop, we will move on to some compositional concepts and discuss the many-faceted subject that is the crop.
Rikk Flohr © 2010