Image Composition and the Power of Cropping

Much of the thrill of nature photography is capturing an image that’s extremely difficult to get. It might be the elusive photo of a coyote that’s slipping through the woods, or discovering beautiful water droplets on flower petals in the sunrise, or capturing the intense turquoise color of a tropical ocean.

Surprisingly, editing can be just as much of a thrill. Sometimes, the photo that I didn’t think would be all that exceptional turns out stunning on my computer, and with a few adjustments of saturation, exposure, or contrast, makes it into the keeper of the week.

However, one of the most powerful tools that a photographer has is the power of cropping. Have you ever noticed that cropping an image can increase the power of the subject and message of the photograph, direct the viewer’s eye to exactly what you intend, and make a huge first impression?

Using the rule of thirds is helpful when cropping. It means putting an imaginary grid on the finished photo – two vertical lines and two horizontal lines that break up the image into nine spaces (three rectangles across and three rectangles down). When cropping (or even better, when taking a photo), put your subject or the focus of your photo, such as the eyeball of an animal, on the intersection of any two lines. It will be slightly off center which will give it a professional flare.

Research shows that a subject will have more impact if it’s placed along one of these gridlines.

Many of our stock photos have been taken or cropped with these factors in mind. For instance, in the photo here, your eye is drawn to the coyote. Would you be surprised to know that this coyote was placed on the upper right intersection of the gridline on purpose?

What’s your favorite tool in editing? Is it cropping, or something else? Post a comment and share your opinion.

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