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Creative Cropping Saves the Life of an Image

by Gloria Hopkins All rights reserved

While photographing Hawaii from a helicopter, there were times when I had little control over my compositions because of aircraft movement and visual obstructions. For these shots, some creative cropping was needed.

ORIGINAL PHOTOGRAPH

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THE SITUATION: For this shot I had between one and three seconds to shoot. The helicopter moves at perfect pace for sightseeing but it feels like the speed of light when trying to estimate exposure values and composition. This is the full frame photograph.

OBSERVATIONS

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POSITIVES: I decided against discarding this shot because it is razor sharp, the detail is beautifully rendered and the bulk of the image is well exposed and attractive.

NEGATIVES: Highly distracting white fog in the upper right corner and equally distracting, overexposed shoreline in the lower left.

CROP #1

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This is one possible crop. It eliminates the overexposed water on the bottom, and the washed out foliage near the top. It is now without technical flaws, but I had to sacrifice the tiny waterfall that I liked. It is technically fine now, but is it exciting? Pretty? Brillantly composed? Not even close ...

CROP #2: Further Observations

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FINAL CROP

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With an additional small crop on the left side I have completely transformed this image into a different photograph. I am much happier with this crop than the original, full-frame image. I find it more interesting, simpler and tighter.

If I had the choice of any composition I wanted, I would have chosen the full-frame image without the fog and shoreline. I like the sense of distance in the original image. Ironically, the problem areas in the image balanced it well. When one got cropped, the other had to go or the image would be out-of-balance.

This is a good way to illustrate how effective cropping can be and what a big difference it can make in the life of an image teetering on the edge of the round file.

Text and images copyright Gloria Hopkins