Posts Tagged ‘crop’
Notice the percentage of actual human being in the photograph above. Let’s say it’s 20%. Then notice the percentage of the photograph that’s the part of the human beings we care about the most— their faces. Let’s say it’s 5%—and that’s being generous. I think the problem started when the decision was made to include the feet in the picture.
I am certainly not saying that you should never photograph feet. There are some wonderful foot photographs out there. (In fact, my good friend and photographer, Rich Frishman, did a legendary series of self portraits that were nothing but his feet. He called them “Footagraphs”. Absolutely fantastic.)
What I am saying is that if you are shooting a group shot, there needs to be a darn good reason for including the feet. More often then not, including the feet in group shots does damage to the photograph.
I realize this is just another way of saying getting close to your subjects. But I want red warning lights going off in your brain and in your viewfinder if you see feet and shoes and we may as well include the lower halves of legs for that matter. If they don’t add anything, eliminate them. I have seen very few close-up photographs of four people and wondered what their shoes and socks looked like.
Remember, when you shoot your Christmas card photo you are doing your viewers a big favor when you show them what everyone looks like this year.
Years ago I was a staff photographer at a small newspaper in central Missouri. Without a doubt the most challenging assignments for me were sporting events. (In my defense, I was not alone—sports action is tough.) At best, my sports pictures were marginal.
Finally, the picture editor of the paper took me aside and tried to save me from myself. (He eventually became the Director of Photography at National Geographic.) What was messing me up, he explained, was that I was trying to make beautifully composed pictures of quarterbacks about to be sacked and receivers diving for passes. That’s a bad idea; there’s no time for that. Things on a football field—or basketball court or hockey rink— happen way to fast. The secret is to push the button now and crop later. You need to find the nicely composed image within the wider shot.
It was the single best piece of sports photography advice anyone ever gave me.
Sports Illustrated is never going to be knocking on my door, but now I do have an approach for sports photography that works for me. (My definition of “works for me” is that I get a reasonably good action shot almost every time.) I use my auto-focus. I keep the focusing square on the guy with the ball and track that player. (It’s funny how action seems to happen around the ball or puck or whatever—what a coincidence.) I give almost no thought to composition at the game when I’m shooting action shots.
Then when I get back to the computer I get artsy. I look for crops that will tell the sports story that needs to be told or create a dramatic image that will look good on a printed page or on a website. There’s almost always a good crop in there someplace. Depending on your camera, the auto-focus can keep the guy with the ball pretty darn sharp. Auto-focus is basically the photo Gods gift to action photographers.
I shoot large raw images to cover for the fact that I’m going to dramatically enlarge some of these picture with my crops. Yes, it’s true that grain and noise are increased, BUT if you’ve captured a piece of peak sports actions NOBODY CARES. If you’ve got an in-focus, defining moment from a game, nobody is going to complain to you about digital noise.
And this approach works for any situation where people are moving around quickly. Ballet, skateboarding, ice skating, playing in the sprinkler. I suggest that you shoot a little bit wide and crop later.
(Wendy, thanks for the use of your wonderful picture. I’m jealous!)
I’m a self-admitted political junkie and have been since I was a kid. Even in grade school I begged my parents to let me stay up and watch meaningless political speeches so I would know what the pundits were talking about the next day. Most of it was painfully boring, but I didn’t care. I still don’t. Every once in a while an Eastwood moment comes along and I’m happy as a pig in slop. I’m sure the Democrats will get their own this week and I can’t wait.
I’ve also attended two national political conventions as a photographer. And when you remove all the flash and funny hats and balloons you quickly conclude that it’s really just some people on a stage at a podium. As incredible as you may find this, it’s a challenge to take a picture at one of these conventions that:
1. Hasn’t been taken a zillion times
2. Shows the viewer something original or unique about the event
That brings me to the photography coverage of the Republican National Convention last week and what we can learn from it.
Photographers are really being playful with their compositions. It’s a trend that I see all over the internet and in magazines. Photographers have decided that they can cover a news event and get playful with their cameras and make it work—and sometimes it does.
TV camera people are still forced to play by a different more traditional set of rules. So do what you can this week to look at the still photo coverage of this weeks Democratic Convention. You can learn a lot about how to take pictures by watching good news photographers cover relatively mundane events. The New York Times and the Washington Post are doing a great job of this.
I’m not suggesting that you can put Uncle Charlie’s head in an extreme corner of a photo every time you take a picture and expect it to work. But it’s going to work sometimes, and more than that, pictures with extreme dramatic crops can look great in layouts or scrapbooks. They can add some visual tension and drama you don’t normally see in pictures of people living their sometimes not so visually dramatic lives.
There is certainly nothing wrong with photographing the views you’ve seen on postcards of well-known tourist sites. In fact, the postcard rack is a good place to establish in your mind what already has been done one million times.
This also makes a famous building or monument a great place to exercise your visual muscles. There it sits, just as it has for every other photographer who was stood on that ground. The only flexible component in the equation is your brain. Unusual angles and unusual cropping will often produce compelling photographs that will nicely complement the standard, predictable views.
In the end, the front of the Statue of Liberty is probably a better photograph than the back. But the fact that we have seen thousands of pictures from the same angle, by default, makes her back worth a second look.
The cropping on this photograph is everything. The baby to be is clearly the star the show, but Libby has used a few simple elements to let us get a glimpse at the that complicated world of feelings and emotions that are swirling around it. The child at the bottom is thrilled, but has no idea what the future will bring. Mom is documenting herself and the impending relationships and she, too, really has no idea. All they can do smile and wonder and take a picture. I did a book years ago called Siblings with Anna Quindlen. I’m glad the editors didn’t see this picture or they may have put it on the cover instead of one of mine. I love, love, love this picture.