Tip : Crop : Fill the Frame

I use a variety of cameras from SLR to mobile phone when I take pictures and that sometimes means that the composition is less than precise. There’s plenty of people that say it is important to get the picture right in the camera, so that it doesn’t need any post-processing. “Fill the Frame” goes the mantra.

I’m less convinced when its a ‘grab shot’ on a random small device, where there quite often isn’t even a proper viewfinder. I was in a run at the weekend and took a few pictures on my cellphone. To be honest, I knew the pictures would look blurry and made that a feature of the pictures. “Its not a bug, its a feature”, as the saying goes.

But this post is supposed to be about cropping to create a ‘fill the frame’ moment after a less than ideal initial circumstance. I’ve taken a fairly bleary eyed early morning Glastonbury picture just to illustrate that there can sometimes be scenes to rescue from even rather rough starting material. I took this on a small handheld camera and am using it just to illustrate some cropping and the side point about ‘fill the frame’. Here’s the ‘grabbed’ original…
A little messy, with the central hula hoopist with a flagpole growing from her head. Oops. It was an early misty, smoky morning, so that does create some atmosphere I’d want to retain. But its not obvious where the focus of the picture resides. There’s a dragon at the left edge of the frame, light coloured tents in the background…

So as well as drawing a square around part of the original picture, it’s necessary to decide what to make the story. ‘Fill the frame’ says make one thing the main point. This is supposed to be done when the picture is first composed, but I’ll jettison some pixels to make it happen afterwards.

Step one: crop it down and apply a small amount of foliage cloning to make the flagpole through the head go away. And gently boost the contrast so that the main characters stand out slightly more.
Step two: decide if that’s a good way to tell it, or whether to come in closer so that the scene is the hoopist and the bemused onlooker.
The last one still gives the same sense of place, but is a much tighter and simpler shot. With an SLR, it might have been possible to just pick the shot directly, but at least this way its possible to get a similar effect. To be honest, the yellow hat gets rather large after the second crop, but it could be muted down. And don’t tell me that film photographers don’t get up to these tricks with ‘dodge and burn’ to emphasise or de-emphasise parts of the picture.
So a further version with the yellow hat de-emphasized and a gently increased contrast. That’ll do. I’ll call it ‘Hoopy’.


~ by rashbre on Monday, 1 September, 2008.

3 Responses to “Tip : Crop : Fill the Frame”

  1. I’m a big fan of cropping. It’s nice to be able to frame a picture – given the chance I’ll happily take the time to do this -but sometimes things happen quickly and there’s always that tiny moment of delay with digital.

    Plus it’s an easy way to zoom in – a really powerful lens is expensive (and too bulky to carry around every day), but pixels are relatively cheap, so a cropped image can still have enough definition to look OK.

  2. 3LC – I like the ‘pixels are relatively cheap’ quote. Will add to my collection!

  3. Nice work. I’m a big fan of taking wide shots of something like this and then cropping around a scene with a story like you have. By taking the wide shot it gives me plenty of options when I get back in front of the computer.

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