Screenshot © Copyright Peter Carey
Cropping has been around since the dawn of photography. It used to be a bit of a backroom art accomplished with a straight edge and an X-acto knife, and you only had one chance to get it right. But now, the proliferation of digital photography software has allowed anyone a chance to crop their photos easily, and with few negative consequences. You can simply work on a backup photo, or don’t save your changes if you don’t like the resulting image.
Oftentimes, cropping can be used to strengthen the composition of an otherwise lackluster photograph. And of course, in order to crop well, one must understand the rules of photographic composition.
This interesting article from Peter Carey on the Digital Photography School looks specifically at how to crop photos.
Peter advises readers to use the Rule of Thirds as a guideline for improving their compositions, even when cropping. Digital photography software, such as Adobe Lightroom which Peter uses in his examples, often comes with preset crop ratios that match the size of paper you will most likely be printing to, such as 4×6, 5×7, and 8×10. Picnik, our favorite, free, easy-to-use online photo editing software, also has preset crop ratios.
In addition, Peter shows how to create panorama prints, set a custom 1:3 ratio, and adjust the selection box to highlight what you want to keep in the photo. You can also create a free-form crop box if you want to go after a specific detail in the frame.
Cropping can really improve some photographs; however, keep in mind if your original photos were taken with a low megapixel camera, the resolution of your image may suffer greatly once cropped. You may see distortion or “jaggies” in your printed photos. Peter advises readers to check with their printer for guidelines on the minimum number of pixels required for a good photo and to be sure to not crop below this number.