Greetings all and Happy New Year! Today we are going to look at a rotation and a frame fill to improve composition through the crop.
Here is our original in-studio capture. The model has a nice expression and the wind-blown, neck-tossed mane has created a nice swirling frame around her face. The original capture is deliberately wide because the model was well, wild. Keeping her in the frame was quite a challenge as she was all over the place. Compositionally, we nailed the Rule of Thirds but the picture doesn’t look as good as it could.
The big empty space in the upper right is almost like a framer’s square marking a smaller rectangle within the larger frame. It is too big, too empty, too squared to the image boundaries. We can chop it off or rotate it to change the shape and size of the space.
Any time you rotate you lose pixels and we are glad to lose them here. The image needs to be much tighter and compositionally we can sacrifice that waving hand out in space. The goal here was to unsquare that awkward space. I decided to make the topside of the sleeve intersect the upper right corner and give us a nice diagonal. From there it was just a matter of how much hair was necessary to complete the portrait and retain the wind-blown head-tossed swirl of hair.
The final crop is a much more dynamic image. The aspect ratio is slightly on the wide side of the original 3:2 capture ratio but works nicely here. I could sacrifice the diagonal corner intersection or the extra hair at left to make it fit a frame if I had to. But, I don’t so I will leave things alone from here.
The final crop rotation ended up being 42° for those of you keeping score at home. Who would ever hold their camera at such a freakish angle? Perhaps me? That is another story…
Rikk Flohr © 2013
One of my favorite authors is Patrick McManus, the outdoor humorist. His writings and philosophies have had a profound influence on my life. What does good ol’ Pat have to do with today’s article? He wrote about a topic once where he was having psychological issues with visions of nude animals in an age when everything was tagged and radio-collared. Pat longed to see animals nude again, as they were meant to be. Grab a copy of A Fine and Pleasant Misery and check out “I’ll never forget old 5789-A”.
Back to today’s topic. Today’s image is an example of what happens in the wild. Animals have genitalia. Do you include them in the in-camera framing, crop them latter, or don’t worry about it?
Case in point: This portrait of a Central American Spider Monkey taken on my last tour of Costa Rica. I have cropped this image for a number of issues, including:
- Removing the branch above the monkey’s head
- Placing the monkey’s face at the upper left power point of the Rule of thirds
- Carefully placing the branch so that it intersects the lower right picture edge
- Used crop rotation to give the image a more lazy, lackadaisical feel
- Used Filling the Frame to make the portrait more personal
Oh, and I cropped out what some might refer to to as the ‘naughty bits’. Refer to the original, uncropped image below.
The genitalia on the monkey has been cropped in favor of composition here, and to a lesser extent delicate sensibilities. Fortunately we live in an age where accurate portrayals of wild animals are no longer taboo. Unfortunately there is still a sophomoric tendency to giggle at the private parts-regardless of species. Adolescent behavior aside, why crop off the ‘naughty bits’?
There are a few reasons:
- I didn’t get the entire animal in the shot anyway. It was too close for my lens so I knew I was dealing with a partial beast. There is little harm at this point in going in tighter.
- The genitalia are a bright (obvious) spot in a dark, uninteresting area of the image. They draw the eye from the monkey’s face. For the sake of composition and story, they are a distraction from the story I am telling. They have to go.
- The strongest composition demanded the lower part of the frame be sacrificed.
I am not so much a prude that I would have lopped off the ‘naughty bits’ without good reason. Had the composition for the strongest iteration of the image demanded it, they would have been left intact. I might have subdued them in another fashion to make their appearance less of a distraction but that is outside the domain of the cropping.
Whether you decide to leave in the ‘naughty bits’ or not in a photo is up to you. Just make sure it is a compositional decision.
Rikk Flohr © 2011
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