Today we need to talk about Cropping. Cropping is one of the most basic of all photo edits, and therefore is often overlooked. However, it is more important than you realize. It can make or completely break your image--whether you're using a full-frame sensor camera or just a little 8 mega pixel camera app on your phone. DO NOT IGNORE THE CROP. There is a science to this one, and when the rules are broken it's like fingernails on chalkboard for people like me.
It's an easy mistake--one we have all made. Fortunately it's not that difficult to correct.
The rule is simple: Don't be a sadist. In essence, don't cut people off at the joints and never, ever under any circumstances slice fingers and toes off! Your mama raised you better than that! Got it? Let me show you what I mean.
First off, you're going to have to get used to these darling faces. They're going to be my models today to show how you should or should not crop people.
When the feet are missing. No. Just uhh... okay? It's like telling a story without finishing it, or reading a book with the last couple pages torn out. You got most of the story, and it was a great story, but you're left hanging because the people got their feet chopped off and you know there's more to the story but there's no happy ending for you--actually no ending whatsoever which is even worse!
Granted, this mistake is very commonly made in camera, because you're focusing on the face and what's happening in the picture. The feet weren't necessarily important when composing the image, however the image you end up with leaves part of the feet out. Which is sad because it distracts from the real story in the picture. The eye is naturally drawn to the piece that's missing, and we don't want that. When you have an image like this, simply crop somewhere between the knees and the ankles.
See? All better. While the feet are still missing from the story, it's easy to see that they weren't actually part of the story to begin with. Your eye is not naturally wandering to the bottom of this image in search of a happily ever after that doesn't even exist. The story is complete as is.
Cut off at the knees. Nobody wants to be cut off at the knees! Dictionary.com actually defines this as "to squelch or humiliate suddenly and thoroughly. You see? Not only does it look bad, it's actually rude. Again, you will find that your eyes are stuck on the bottom of this image wondering what else was going on that the composer of this image did not want you to see. Just crop it in a little closer, somewhere between the hips and knees.
Boom, now the cheesy faces are the star of the show like they were meant to be.
We can go on and on, fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders.... Just don't. Either crop above or below, before or after those features. As you can see above, on the left, she got cropped at the wrist. Now you're left wondering what her hands are doing. It distracts from the rest of the story of that sunshine-y country girl that the image is trying to tell. However on the right, with the crop being just above the wrists your eyes are automatically focusing on that face framed by wispy curls. And that's exactly what the composer of the image wanted your eyes to do.
So there's my little lesson on how not to be a sadist.