Join Joseph "PhotoJoseph" Linaschke for an in-depth discussion in this video Straightening and cropping, part of Artist in Action: Joseph Linaschke's Large Scale Black-and-White Photographs.
I want to talk about the cropping and straightening that was done to handful of these images, and talk about the reasoning or rationale behind each of the adjustments that was made. For this, we'll be working with three of eight images. I'll be talking about this shot here, which is the Brandenburg Tor in Berlin; this one, which is the very bleak crow in Mumbai, India; and then this shot of the Chinese junks in Halong Bay, Vietnam. So, going to back to the beginning, this is the one that gets adjusted the most. We can see right away that it is dramatically off kilter. I really can't explain why, because I know this was shot on a tripod, but I guess I just wasn't paying close enough attention. So, clearly this needs to be straightened, but also we have lot of dead space; a bit at the top, and a whole lot in the bottom.
So, this image is really begging to be cropped in very wide format, and as you saw, it is going to be for the final image. So, let's start off with the Straightening. Usually you will want to straighten first, because the act of straightening does crop. So, for example, here I'll grab the Straighten tool, and let's just, for the sake of argument, say I have to straighten a whole bunch, like so. You can see the lot of the image gets cropped through the Straightening process. So, if you take your time first to crop the image -- let's just say that I decided I want to crop it, like so; let's take of the constraint. Then, for whatever reason, I want to crop it like, and then I wanted to straighten it, and adjust it, and suddenly my crop will have changed from what I originally had set up.
So, if you are doing cropping and straightening, always do your straightening first, and then follow that with your crop. You can always go back and unstraighten, if you, for example, find that the straightening and cropping is going to cut off an important element, and you really need that in, you may be willing to sacrifice a little bit of straightening; just leave the horizon just a little bit off kilter to regain that element. Of course, that's entirely up to you. So, let's revert this back to the original, I will grab the Straighten tool again, and I'm going to just click and drag on here to straighten this out. What I am watching for right now is the line that appears across the traighten grid, and I am going to align that with the horizon line, or the horizontal line of the building here.
So, as I just simply move that into place, you can see it's quite easy to get that straightened out perfectly level; let's say right about so. Once that's in place, we're ready to crop. Now, as soon as I grab the Crop tool, you'll see the entire image, and you'll see how it has been straightened out. So, again, back to the crop tool off, we are seeing the straightened image, and it cropped, and as I tap the Crop tool, even though we don't see a crop actually applied on here, we are seeing the image in its entirety, and how it's been rotated.
So, now if I go ahead and I crop in here, you'll see that there are edges I can't go past. So, for example if you looking at this top left corner here, I can't go any farther, because the bottom left corner is bumping up against the edge here, against the wall. So, there's always going to be a little bit of limits to how you can crop once you have straightened image. Now, most of the shots in here have been cropped at the original aspect ratio. These were printed as 20 x 30 inch prints, and I did want to have a full 20 x 30 inch wherever possible. By the way, these images are all a 2:3 aspect ratio, so a full crop will be a 20x30.
However, for this image, obviously that just wasn't going to work. So, this is one of those where I went ahead and just said, Do Not Constrain, and cropped it however I felt it was best for the image. Now, in general, that is what always recommend, is cropping to whatever works out best for the image, but that said, I do usually try to crop at the original aspect ratio first before I go for any non-standard cropping. I can't really explain why; it's just the way that I like to do things. So, I want to see if I can keep things as natural as possible to begin with.
Anyway, so we're cropping this. Right now, I have just been kind of dragging around like a buffoon here, but let's go ahead and actually crop it. And what I am going to do here is start by cropping off the top and bottom. We'll ignore the sides, and the reason that I am ignoring sides is because -- let's just go the other way; let's say I stretch this out as far as I can. Now if I want to raise this any higher, I can't. You see I am hitting a wall here, because I hit the wall there. So, I'm going to just bring this in so that I'm not worrying about how high or low I can go here, and then I'll crop this vertically as I want it to be, and again, of course, you can always make changes later on.
But let's bring the top to where we want it, and of course, I don't want to go too far down, and obviously don't want to cut it off. But if I go too close to it, then when I add the border later, it'll crop in, and if I go to high, then it's just a big bunch of dead empty space up there. So, let's go for something maybe, say, right about yay-ish, and then I will take the bottom crop, and adjust that; that's a little bit less critical, and we'll go ahead and pull in the sides, or pull them out as far as they go. Now, one of the things that I want to watch out for here is to ensure that this had a very even balance, or at least as even as it could possibly be.
I don't know that I was 100% dead center of the Tor here. It looks like I was pretty darn close if we look at the perspective in between these columns, or between these walls; it looks like I was pretty even in there, but again, I don't even know if the sides here are exactly even. So, what I do what to do is just try and get this as evenly cropped as I can. So, what I am going to doing now is I am going to look at the vertical lines, and you'll see we have two vertical lines here. Incidentally, if you're using Aperture, and you don't see these lines, you can turn off your guides right here; you can simply toggle this on and off. And what I want to do is make these guides line up at the same place on the columns.
So, I am going to go ahead and zoom into the full 100% view just by tapping the Z key; that will zoom me in, and then I can just hold down Spacebar, and pan around, and you can see in here that the leftmost line is lined up pretty much perfectly the edge of that column, so that's great. That gives me a nice starting point. Now let's see if it matches on the other side. So, I'll navigate over to there, and well, in fact, it does. So, I guess I got a little bit lucky there. I was able to crop that essentially perfectly, lining up the way that I wanted to. But if, for example -- let's just zoom out of that. Let's say that I had cropped it like so, and then I zoomed in, and I panned over, and I find that this is a bit off at the edge therem and I go over here, and it doesn't match clearly, so here we can see that there is a line there, and we really want the line to be in the same place.
Then I go back and forth, and just keep on cropping, making adjustments until I got them evened out. And so, again, going full width on here, I guess I got a little bit lucky; I have got a perfect line there, and another prefect line there. So, I am going to call that image Cropped. To be done, I just tap Apply, and there is the final cropped piece. And if I tap on the M key, we can toggle back to the original, or the master, to see what it looked like before I cropped it. Let's go to the next image. This one is of the crow, and this one doesn't really need much cropping. The crow is a little bit too dead center for my liking, so I just want a kind a cut this in a little bit. There is no straightening that needs to be done to this image. I think that you probably could straighten it or adjust it, but obviously there is no fixed horizon line, there is no locked vertical line here, so there is really nothing to tell me that this image is straight or not.
So, we'll just go ahead and leave it as it is. Let's go ahead and Revert that, and then I'll grab the Crop tool. So, again, I want to crop in just a bit on here; maybe something kind of like thereish, and see I don't have my aspect ratio locked, so i want to go ahead and turn that back onto Original Aspect Ratio, because as I was saying earlier, I want to try and keep the crop as the original one if that works, and if doesn't, then I will go ahead and divert from that. So, I am not following any particular rule; I am just going to crop it about Yay-ish. I think that looks kind of good. I see the barbed wire down here on the bottom; I could choose to crop a little bit higher. I will often look for leading lines coming into the corners, which this line here would be a pretty good one.
However, I also know that when I give my black and white conversion, that may get mushed in there and lost, so it would be kind of relevant anyway. I do like this line of barbed wire that's framing the bottom of that, so I think I would rather keep that than try to get this corner pushed in perfectly, So we'll just leave it, like so. And then when I crop this corner here, what I am watching out for is this edge, and how it's hitting the barbed wire. And remember, I'm going to be doing a black and white conversion with a edge border on it that is going to eat into the image, so if, let's say, that I cropped it like so, then I would I have the border eating in, and we'd have maybe half of these little barbed wire knots that would be sticking out, and that probably wouldn't look very good.
If I go in all the way, like so, so now we are watching to make sure this one is completely cropped up, or actually what it could do is even go about like this, knowing that this is going to get eaten out by the border, that would probably be okay as well. I know that for my final version, what I actually did was crop it somewhere right around there, and maybe I should have gone in a little bit farther. Hindsight is always 20/20 on something like this, but this about how I cropped it on the original one. We can actually go back and see that here. We can see there is the one how it was it was cropped, so I guess it was a little tighter. So, I think for the final one, it was cropped somewhere right around there.
So, this is the original image that was actually converted. Here we haven't done the levels adjustment yet; we will come to that later, and you see how it was cropped. And so there's the final one that was scaled; you can see a little bit hanging off on there, but then, of course, that gets eaten away by the border. So, again, cropping this in, just making it look a little bit more balanced; a little bit balanced, a little bit cleaner, and we can apply that. Now, the next one is this shot in Halong Bay. This one is a little bit trickier. So here, again, we have a not straight horizon, and this time at least to have a good excuse: I was standing on a moving boat, so that's why this horizon line isn't perfect.
Once again, we'll start with the Straighten tool; just grab that, and click and drag on there to straighten the image out. Now, as I had pointed out earlier, one of the things that can happen when you're straightening is you can end up losing a part of your image. If you were shooting very close to the edge, very tightly cropped, as I did here, but didn't manage to get the horizon actually straight on. So, that's something I have to watch out for. Fortunately, in here, if I am looking at the horizon lines, I am looking at the water line down here, I can get that nicely straightened out, and fortunately, I'm not cutting this off. And by the way, if you are using with using the Lightroom, there is a really nice feature in there where you can simply click and drag across the line, the horizon line, and it straightens it up for you perfectly, which is quite clever.
So, if you're using Lightroom, look for that feature if you are not aware of that. I'll go ahead and straighten this out, right about like so. Looks pretty good. That's nice and straight, and the edge here is still not cut off. But as I was mentioning in an earlier video, if I now take this image as it is into my Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 to do my black and white conversion ,and add the border in there, I am going to end up cropping a little bit off on there. So, that's just something to be aware of; something to watch out for. In this case, I will be adding a separate white border later on to prevent that from cutting in too much.
So, that's basically it. If we go back to the original, or rather, the final, there's what that's going to look like. So, you can see it's straightened, and we do not have the edge, or the tip that cut off like I did in my sample in earlier test image. So, again, in this case, it's just a simple straighten. No cropping required on this particular image. If you wanted to, of course, you could. Let's go ahead and grab the cropping tool, and let's see what would happen in here. So, if I crop this out like so, I could do that, but I don't really want to end up cropping out any of this extra boat piece on in here. And by the way, I want to give you another little Aperture tip, if you're an Aperture user. If you're not using Aperture, this won't be relevant to you, but for the Aperture users out there, when you grab the Crop tool -- let's go ahead and reset this.
When you first grab the Crop tool, and start dragging, you'll hit the edge of where you can reach, right, as I explained earlier, and as I drag this up here, you notice I can't go any farther. You might be thinking, well, I should be able go farther, and you would be right. Well, if I grab the whole thing, and you see that I can. There's this kind of odd thing in Aperture where you have to figure out exactly where to position the crop box to get it as big as you can. Well, there's good news about this; if you're using a touchpad -- and I am going to switch over to my touchpad now -- now I can drag this around. It doesn't matter where I put it.
Let's go ahead and even stick it way up in the corner, nice and small, and now what I am going to do to expand the crop is, instead of grabbing on the corner here, I am going to pinch out. So, I am using the pinch command, or the pinch gesture on my track pad, and just pinching out, and even though it wasn't centered to begin with -- so, let's go ahead and bring that back down, just to another corner -- as I pinch out, it expands to fill the entire space. So, if you have a touchpad, if you're on a Mac Book Pro, or if you have touchpad with your desktop machine, then you'll find that is a really nice little tip in there to just expand that crop out.
And then you can go back to whatever you are doing. I'm actually using a pen right now. I like you using pen for a lot of this work, and from there, I can go ahead and adjust it as needed. But in this case, I am not going to adjust it. This is the maximum crop; that is the same as it not being cropped, if I just turn off the crop -- let's reset that, and close it -- you'll see that the image is cropped that way, and that, of course, is cropped slightly, because of the straighten.
- Straightening and cropping images
- Balancing levels
- Converting from RAW
- Comparing scaling methods
- Converting images to black-and-white
- Performing output sharpening
- Ordering your prints