Cropping Makes a Difference in Composition…

Last week I posted an image of the Golden Gate Bridge that I received a few compliments on and I wanted to share some of the iterations it took for me to get that completed image posted. I’ll take you through several iterations to show an example of how cropping makes a difference. First, I’ll show the original image, shot along the San Francisco Bay near Fort Point and the Golden Gate Bridge. Please keep in mind that this process and my “vision” of how the completed image is my preference and may be (probably is) very different from yours. My main reason for going through this is to give you an idea of the difference cropping can make in your images.

Exposure: 1/200 at f/10, ISO 100 – smc Pentax DA 10-17mm F3.5-4.5ED [IF] Fisheye zoom at 11 mm

The first shot is the original color image. To me, this image was too busy; the color of the sky and the ground seemed to be fighting to hold your interest and worded together take focus away from the reflection and bridge. Also, everything to the right of where the chain leaves the top of the image didn’t need to be there. When I originally took the shot, my goal was to capture the reflection of the bridge and use the chain for framing. This image is in the “original” aspect ratio from my camera, which is 3:2 (4×6, 8×12, etc.)

In the next image, I’ve removed the color, except for my main subject, the reflection and the bridge. I liked this version a little better, the bridge and reflection stand out more, but there are still distractions, specifically the piece of white paper in the lower right “sweet spot”, and the right side of the image still didn’t add any value to the story that I wanted to tell. Aspect ratio (3:2)

In this crop, I removed the paper and the “useless” right side by cropping to a different aspect ratio of 4:3 or (5×7, 8×10, etc.) This makes the image “taller” but not as wide. I liked it better, but now the space below the reflection stands out as not adding to the story. Also, the horizon line is pretty much in the middle of the image, it breaks one of the rules of photo composition, the rule of thirds.

The final image highlights the reflection and the bridge. It also removes the extra real estate below the reflection and moved the horizon line down to more of a respectable location. The reflection and bridge are also off-center and framed well by the chain. The chain and framing are also backed up by the chain’s reflection below without being too obvious or symmetrical. The “heaviness” on the left side of the image to balances the open space on the right. All-in-all, I like the framing, the contrast and the sharp color of the bridge and the reflection in the image. The overall image is more pleasing to my eye, and when I view it, my eye starts at the dark left side and is led towards the bright area by the chain and stops at the red of the bridge then travels down to the reflection. There is nothing in the image past the bridge to draw your eye and when you check it out, there are interesting things to check out (sailboats). Aspect ratio of 4:3 or (5×7, 8×10, etc.)

Hopefully, that’s a good example of how cropping helps in composition and in strengthening an image. If you have questions or would like to see other examples of images where cropping has made a difference for me, just let me know.

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3 thoughts on “Cropping Makes a Difference in Composition…

  1. Jonathon- Very nice analysis and discussion. I am passing this on to my photographer neice from Lansing!

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