I’ve taken tens of thousands of images over the years, but switching to digital unleashed an editing tool that really transformed the way that I looked at photography and composed my images. It’s a tool that’s so simple, yet so powerful. A tool that some are afraid to use, and some have welcomed with open arms.
We’re talking of course about the crop tool! A tool that lets you crop images to a different ratio, different size or most importantly, a different composition.
The crop tool is a wonderful thing, and we shall explore these three great benefits to using this tool. Of course, before you start cropping away, make sure you horizons are level, as you’ll only lose even more pixels when straightening after a crop.
Cropping to different ratio
When cropping to different ratios, the crop tool is incredible. You can take a standard 3:2 camera image and transform it into a 16:9 cinematic photograph. You can transfer Mobil phone shots from their usually 4:3 aspect ratio and turn it into a 3:2 image to match your camera portfolio shots!
Cropping to a different size
You can crop to the size (and ratio) of the printer paper you are using, and you can simply cut for 6×4, 7×5, A4 or whatever you need. No fuss, no bother, just grab the crop tool and crop as needed!
Cropping for a very different composition
Thirdly, and most importantly, you can crop in on your image to make different compositions. Quite often you’ll find at least three compositions within one image you’ve taken, and it’s a photographers dream!
This cropping to be composition is especially useful on landscape photographs. Quite often, you’ll take the scene you want, and over time you’ll see different, even better compositions within that image.
Never be afraid to crop from landscape to portrait, or vice-versa, the possibilities are endless!
How much to crop?
I will happily crop to 1200×800 (or 800×1200) pixels. Yes! That much! That then allows great quality on social media, and printing up to A4 size. In fact, almost every image I put on social media or on my website is around 1200×800, and I quite often get comments about how sharp or good they look.
Of course, it’s always best to keep the image as large as you can for many reasons, and so always keep the original image before crop (be it a raw file or jpeg). Take a photo of your subject at various distances, so you have plenty to work from. But don’t be afraid to crop!
So many people frown upon cropping, but it can be genuinely useful. On social media, you don’t need huge photographs, so it really doesn’t matter. The same if you are cropping for your website, or for images up to A4 in size.
Of course, if you want to print huge prints out, bigger than A4 size, then you’ll want as many pixels as you can get, but you would have already know that. So use your shots as you need, and get as much use from them as you can.