Tag Archives: cropping


Photo Editing for Amateurs: Part V – Cropping (and the Rule of Thirds)

Cropping is one of the best – and easiest – ways of making a good photograph even better.  Cropping is simply eliminating some of the data that emerged from the camera.  Sometimes we crop to get in closer to a subject.  Other times it might be to eliminate a distraction that takes away from the main subject.  We might crop to change the proportions of a picture for printing, like taking a 4×6 proportion image and making it an 8×10.  And sometimes it might be to make the photograph more dynamic by changing the placement of the subject(s).

Here are a couple of examples of how cropping improves an image:


Even with a telephoto lens I couldn’t get very close to the far fence, but by cropping the image I am able to bring attention to Augusta and her pony.



The original photo (left) of me and one of my very reluctant models includes lots of distractions – the white tube, the fence, lots of colors, textures, etc. Cropping in and changing the orientation from landscape to portrait completely transforms the image.



Most cameras will capture an image with a ratio of 2:3 (e.g. 4″x6″, 8″x12″, etc.) like the original photo on the left. A portrait will often look great in an 8″x10″ format as in the version on the right. It eliminates the unimportant aspects of the photograph at the top and bottom but retains and leaves room for the important elements like the head, shoulders and arms. The 8″x10″ enlargement is one of the most popular print sizes and one of the easiest to find a frame for.


The Rule of Thirds

One of my favorite reasons to crop is to create a more dynamic image.  It’s always great to capture a photograph perfectly framed in the camera.  While that’s relatively easy to do with a still life or a landscape, that’s not always so when your subject is human, canine or feline.  Especially young versions of those life forms!  When you need to you can turn to the crop tool.  A terrific way of adding interest to a photograph is to employ the Rule of Thirds.  This technique has been used for centuries in paintings and design, and is implemented regularly in photography and cinema. When you look at a picture, imagine an overlay that divides a photo into three evenly-spaced columns and three evenly-spaced rows (see top half of second image below).  The points where the dividing lines meet is a great location to place your subject as it creates more energy and interest in the photograph.


This picture of Roxy is fun, but placing her in the center of the frame limits the energy of the photograph.

Rule of Thirds

By applying the Rule of Thirds a viewer’s eye travels around the photograph, making it more interesting and dynamic.


Most photo editing software will have a simple cropping function.  Typically they will offer the option of cropping to predetermined dimensions (e.g. 4×6, 8×10, etc.) as well as the ability to crop to non-standard proportions.  They all work in WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) mode, so you can view the results of your changes as you make them.

So dive into your crop tool and give it a try!  Make a good picture better.  Make several versions of the same image and see which you like best.  Move the subject to a different part of the frame to make it more interesting.  You’ll be amazed at what a difference you can make in your photographs.