Join Chris Orwig for an in-depth discussion in this video Examples and ideas for creating better composition, part of Photoshop and Lightroom: Cropping.
In this movie, I want to have a conversation about the relationship between cropping and composition. You know, all photographs have four sides and whenever we create a photograph in a sense we use those four sides to create a frame in order to compose and then to crop into a scene. And we can crop and compose on camera. We can also do so after the fact using tools like Photoshop and Lightroom. Because of that I like to think of cropping and composition as two sides of the same exact coin. And what I want to do in this movie is talk about how we can improve our composition or improve the way we crop our images by highlighting seven different themes.
The first one is perspective. You know whenever you have a camera what you can do is just change your perspective in order to create a different photograph, like I've done here with these two images. These are photographs of a renowned painter. In the image on the right, the painter is far away. The image on the left, I asked him to move closer and I moved to my left. And by changing our perspective, often we can create and convey different ideas. And you know as photographers, we learn this all the time, like with this scene here. We learn that the camera sees things objectively, while the human or the human eye, we see things subjectively.
Like when I walked up to this dock, I didn't notice all of the rubble in the foreground and the distracting elements on the sides of the frame, I focused in on the pristine and beautiful lake. Yet the first image doesn't really capture that. So what I needed to do was to crop in, or to change my perspective, or to get closer. And then I did, and I captured this frame. And so, often as we crop or compose, we want to think about how we can do so in order to convey certain ideas, and how we can change our perspective to create a more interesting image.
Like with this example here. Here's my friend on the swing down in Mexico. I want to show you a photograph of that same exact moment just from a different perspective, and I think this captures this moment better. And so sometimes we need to physically change our perspective, now we can do that easily on camera, we can't always do that after the fact. Yet one of the things that we can do after the fact is, we can start to take a look at how we can arrange a photograph. We've all heard of the famous compositional rule which is called the rule of thirds.
Well, the rule of thirds suggests that if we put our subject on one of these intersecting lines the photograph becomes more interesting, and I think it works with this image here. My friend Mike is at one of those intersecting lines, and he's about to walk over this frozen lake up in the Sierras, and it creates a sense of balance. It also makes the image a little bit dynamic. And so sometimes, we will change our perspective on camera. Other times, we may crop the images in order to change that perspective, to make the image a bit more interesting.
Still, other times, what we may want to think about is how we're going to create a sense of balance in a photograph. Here's a picture that I captured of a world champion surfer named Kelly Slater. And in this case, this was the first photograph that I captured. And I don't think that this picture is very good at all. It's showing too much of the scene. It's complicated. It's unbalanced. The only balanced thing in this photograph is the surf board, which he's balancing on his finger tip. Yet, I simply needed to walk a little bit closer and then take another photograph.
Just moments later. In order to create a more balanced and interesting photograph. Sometimes we do that by changing our perspective. Other times we do that by focusing in on light. Like with this portrait here, it's really all about the expression. Well we can use light to direct the viewer towards the face. And then that arm which brings us back up to that area of the image. Now, had I composed this image so that we saw the lower hand. And had a bright area in the lower edge of the image. Well, it wouldn't have really worked.
And so, as we're thinking about balance. It's not just about how we arrange the photograph. But it's also about the light, and the content, and the subject that we're viewing inside of the frame. Another important compositional element is the idea of leading lines. Like with this picture with these train tracks that are literally leading us into this image and around the corner. And sometimes the leading lines will be really overt and strong like with this photograph. Other times, like with these next few pictures, they may be a bit more subtle or different.
These are some pictures that I captured in London and here the lines are the sidewalks and the buildings and in a sense it allows us to sort of remain in the middle of the frame. Or perhaps the lines are dynamic and sweeping and lead us up to the top of this structure here, which is a bridge in the UK. Or maybe the lines are exciting an full of energy which really, direct us into an area of action, or perhaps guide us to view an image in a certain way. So another thing that we want to keep in mind is that we often want to try to capture, a special moment.
That's what makes photographs interesting. Here I wanted to capture this moment of my daughter Annika getting ready for school. It was crazy hair day at her school and I wanted to capture her bright smiling face and so I was composing the image to really focus in on what was most interesting to me. Moments later after I captured this image she rolled her eyes in a way that only a daughter of a photographer can say, Dad, enough pictures here. Other times, we may want to wait for just that right moment, and use line, shape, and form to capture that moment as this women is leaning in, almost nose to nose with this statue in a museum.
You know, when you fill the frame, especially with a pattern, if you crop or compose the image, so you don't ever see the end of that pattern. Well, the imagination takes over and the mind's eyes sees that pattern going on and on, like with this photograph here, we see these different lights and again we can almost imagine them continuing on, there aren't any distracting elements. Other times perhaps, what you want to do is, fill the frame so that you have a texture which leads right to the edge which we will create a bit of excitement, or drama, or focus, like with this next photograph of this artist chalk.
Outside of the frame there was some trash in a coke can. Some distraction, but by cropping in just to the chalk it makes the photograph more interesting. I think the same thing can be said. With this picture of this wall which was covered with license plates. You know about ten minutes ago, my wife texted me this photograph of our daughter Elsie here in the back seat holding some birthday balloons. And I thought this is a perfect example of filling the frame and how we can do this even with a snapshot. Because what it does is by paying attention to those edges and by filling the frame up, well it makes for an interesting photograph.
Still other times what we may need to do is think about how we can get closer and how we can reduce and simplify by cropping and recomposing, like with this photograph of one of my mentors, here is the original image as I captured it and then here is the photograph after I cropped in, in order to reduce and simplify and get rid of a little bit of the distractions we had there in the background. And you know, sometimes making the decision to crop is really easy, like with this picture, of two of my daughters, and some of their friends down at the beach.
You can see that there's a person walking in the background, and he's cropped off awkwardly on the edge of the frame. You know, if you ever have an element like that, the eye goes there, yet if we crop into the area of interest Well, again, it makes for a stronger photograph. So as we pursue learning how we can work with the different cropping tools that we have in Photoshop, Camera Raw, and Lightroom. Keep in mind that while we're talking about cropping. At the same time, we're talking about composition. And composition really is at the heartbeat of photography.
Because we use these four edges of our frames in order to compose our photographs. And if we can learn how to crop and compose our images well. Well it can help us to make more interesting and more compelling photographs.
- Choosing a custom aspect ratio
- Cropping and straightening quickly
- Constraining the crop
- Cropping and rotating
- Resetting or removing a crop
- Changing the orientation
- Using lens correction to straighten a photo
- Resizing with cropping
- Cropping with layer masks
- Creating diptychs and triptychs