Jul 31, 2014

Cropping Photos and Rule of Thirds

So let's chat about cropping. Sometimes you just need to crop a photo to make it look better for a variety of reasons. The main idea to go by is the Rule of Thirds (ROT). To save myself from reinventing the wheel, here is a link from I Heart Faces which explains what that is. Go ahead...read it...I will wait for ya...

When shooting, you can try to take the original photo with the ROT in mind, but I am not good at all with that. And my kids move too fast. So sometimes I get it right in the camera. However, being that I am more of a 'take lots of photos and hope something turns out' type of person, lots of times I need to crop.

So if you have a program to edit photo, then you will need that. I use Lightroom but that isn't free. A free program that might work for you guys is PicMonkey. I haven't played with it much but from what I can see it will at least crop your photos!

So, as you saw in the I Heart Faces link, you can crop so that you have your focal points at the intersection points. Most of the time I crop as a 4x6 since that is how I will print most pictures. I can't always get it to be PERFECTLY lined up with ROT but I get it as close as I can and call it a day.

However, you can also crop as a square crop. This is good for symmetrical photos. For example, this one of Thomas is a square crop because it symmetric down the middle vertically. (Do you remember your geometry?!)

I also cropped this one that Allison took of the cousins as a square crop because the leading lines of the railings made it seem more symmetrical to me.

Remember that just because you took the picture horizontally, or in landscape, doesn't mean the crop has to stay that way. You can crop it vertically and see if you like that version better. For example, I cropped this image of the three boys three ways:



I like the horizontal one best and almost hate the vertical crop (unless I was super awesome at photoshop and could take out the other boys' chopped arms and even then I don't think I would like it). So know you have options even if they don't all look great. :)

The last thing to remember is not to awkwardly crop off body parts. If you have a full body photo then be sure not to crop off toes, finger tips, etc. Here is a diagram of acceptable crop lines (green) and lines to avoid (red). (via PetaPixel)

Of course after you know the 'rules', then you are free to break them. I have seen lots of photographers who like to center their subjects or crop at 'unacceptable' locations. That is cool, too. I just think it is important to practice a bit of the ROT and cropping, then decide what you like better later for your own personal style.

YOUR challenge now is to take pictures keeping the ROT in mind. Then play with cropping to see if your photo looks better with a horizontal crop, vertical crop, or a square crop.

If you are well versed in the ROT, try to take photos of something you don't usually photograph. If you usually photograph your children, try to practice ROT with objects or nature instead. If you typically photograph landscape, try your hand at photographing people or animals. Street photography anyone?! I find myself always photographing in landscape so I am going to try to work on forcing myself to take more vertical portrait photos.

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