Cropping 101

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Not for professional photographers or serious amateurs, these digital tips from Safrean Gareth Griffiths are aimed at the journalist or writer wanting to enhance their skills at a 101 level.

There are many digital image editing software options available to you for free download or bundled with certain digital cameras at purchase. So you’ve got your software option of choice installed...now what?

Editing technique number one to know is how to crop effectively. It is the ideal fix for photos that were badly composed (shot in a hurry!) or contained unwanted distracting objects. The cropping tool in the software is normally denoted by a boxy looking icon depicting scissors:

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An effective photograph is like a good essay that puts across one story, or an idea. Think about that when you crop. Dismiss the notion that your subject needs to be at the centre of the photograph. Think about what story you are trying to tell, or what looks interesting. Consider how you would like the eye of the viewer to travel.

Experiment. Remember first to save your original image from the camera, and always work on copies only. The beauty of modern high resolution cameras is that you can crop away the majority of the image and still end up with a highly viable image.

The photos in this article (above and below) come from a very interesting editorial shoot I did at the South African Astronomical Observatory near Sutherland in mid-winter. At close to 5.45 am in the pitch dark, a vehicle driven by curious astronomers finishing duty in the massive SALT dome duty pulled up alongside my camera in the dark. The camera was mounted on a tripod and busy with a 15-minute timed exposure. This was a key shot at a crucial time with no opportunity for repeats on the same day. The arrival of a car upset the image, so I was forced to perform a horizontal crop. I also performed quite a complex edit on the original raw image. I decided to leave the lens flare (the star-shaped red artifacts) because they add interest to the pic. The results tell the story.

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About the author 

Gareth Griffiths is a professional photographer based in Noordhoek, an architectural photojounalist and editor and a senior member of SAFREA. To find out more about Gareth's photography work, please visit his website. Feel free to email Gareth your queries of a basic or a more advanced nature to info@professionalphotoshoots.co.za or call 072 905 0252.

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