Saturday, 3 November 2012

Photo Cropping For Enhancement

A few decades back photo editing was a dark room job. The negatives gave the best possible results what one’s camera could capture. While making the positives using a projection machine taking the exposure on special chemical sensitive paper in a dark room, the operator could prevent certain areas from getting exposed and hence the finished positive print showed the result of actually how much the photographer wanted to show. It was an indirect method of photo cropping. Discerning photographers those days not only shot the photo but did double-up as dark room operator to get the prints as per their liking.

With the advent of digital photography since last ten years, computer became an essential gadget for the downloading the images from camera. With the availability of plethora of photo editing software, the scope of producing a good photo is for the asking. The making of a good photo involves shooting a scene or portrait by proper exposure (a combination of exposure time and aperture) offered by one’s digicam. A normal photo for memory sake with individuals being a part of a scene was rather easy and could be shown in the computer screen. Such photos never went through photo editing unless one was inclined in doing so. Individuals who aspired to create an aesthetic photo took to photo editing in a big way.

Any camera manufacturer provided its own proprietary software to take care of various needs of photographer like what the camera had to offer and of course and editing the photo. Nikon Capture NX and Canon ZoomBrowser EX are some of free photo editing software provided by company when a digicam is purchased. People who purchase HP printer cum copier do get a photo editing software called HP Image Editor free. Microsoft Office Picture Manager which comes as a part of Microsoft Office software does the same job and is most widely used.

A typical Microsoft Office Picture Manager is shown below. After opening a picture file, on top menu, click edit pictures…, a side menu appears. On side menu click crop, the photo periphery bars and corners appear. Dragging those, one can decide how much to be cropped and how much remains. Then click ok and save the new photo in Save As…… mode, so as to keep the original photo intact. The advantage of saving in Save As…… mode rather than Save mode is that one does not want to lose the original image. Some times after repeated cropping, the photo loses its importance and one can start all over again from the original image. A word of caution. While closing the edit window, another window asking you whether you would like to save the changes. Click no. If you click yes, then the original photo will be edited and it is as good as lost. 

The frame above shows the intention of photographer to crop top portion. What exactly to chop? It depends on what the photographer thinks which will make his photo more appealing, the focal point more prominent and some time even tell a story. 
Following are a few demo frames where the original and the cropped ones are shown.

Frame 1
Following frame shows the photo shoot of Pangong Tso at Ladakh. Apparently the photo looks good. If you view it carefully, it will appear, the central attraction of photo, the lake with varying hues of blue is dwarfed by the foreground full of stone rubbles.   

Chopping off most of rubble portion from bottom makes the photo look better with centre of attraction getting prominence. Small portion of foreground rubble is left intact to give depth to landscape. Some portion from right side is cropped which appeared less interesting. 

Frame 2
A raft is going down stream on a river. While photo shooting it has been positioned bang in the middle of the frame.

The cropping on left hand side and some rocky portion from top improves the image dramatically. The raft, the central theme gets the prominence. Ideally for a moving object there should be more space in the front than at the back, to create an impression that the moving object is entering the frame rather than exiting it.

Frame 3

Frame shows a small flower captured in normal settings of camera. The leaves in background are distracting the main centre of attraction - the flower.

 The same shot when cropped from all sides, looks more appealing. The centre of attraction, the flower gains prominence. 

Frame 4
Following frame shows a large group of Gulls, a random shot at high zoom. The picture in not attractive enough to tell a story

The same photo has been chopped almost 40% from bottom and right side to create a story – A Gull is trying to land amongst the crowded Gulls in a narrow space. 

Frame 5
This frame shows orange colored temple captured along with other elements in a typical landscape scene. The center of attraction is almost at the center.

The center of attraction the orange temple looks more aesthetic when placed 1/3rd distance from top and 1/3rd distance from side by cropping from top as well as right side. Some small portion from bottom is also cropped.

Frame 6
A bunch of Lily flowers in the following frame look pleasant enough. All the flowers look fresh, crisp and clear. It is worth trying some cropping to achieve a different type of composition.  

From above frame a specific flower was targeted to try a diagonal composition, which involved a huge amount of cropping.

There are basically two types of photographers.
a) Those who have ample time in their hand and subject of interest is available for a long duration. He does most of his composing in camera itself and hence required to do minimum cropping in computer to achieve the desire result.
b) Those who are trekking or on expedition or travelling have very little time in their hand. They shoot really fast and to be on the safer side take in their frame more than required. Later they seat at leisure in front of a computer and do the photo cropping. 

The image size which is expressed in KB or MB is an important factor to justify cropping. A 2MB to 3MB photo will allow a large amount of cropping if the photo is properly exposed and focused and will look equally good after cropping.

The photo taking ability of any individual will improve over the years with as much practice as possible. One develops an eye or a kind of judgment to decide the composition of photo in LCD screen itself and hence sits for much less time in front of a computer for cropping, to get the desired result.

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