It is amazing how attached we become to our photographs. It doesn’t matter if you are a professional photographer or a hobbyist, cutting elements from a composition can often be a difficult task. Call it photographer’s pride, or perhaps just a bit cautious, but removing elements from an images takes a keen eye and decisiveness. It is time to set aside your fears of shredding your photographs. With digital media, cropping does not need to be permanent. You can try different variations to include and remove distracting elements, or bring more focus to the intended subject rather than the fragments that were cut off during the initial composition. In some applications, such as Photoshop, you can use the crop tool to actually increase the usable space and add a border to your photograph.
Preserving your photographs involves backing up your data before you begin editing. The most efficient way to back up your data is to use compact discs. With CDs being so inexpensive, there is no reason not to burn your images to Cd before you work with your images. This includes the bad pictures. Remember back when processing photographs involved dropping off a canister at your favorite processor? Maybe not, but trust me, that was how it was done. After waiting a few days for the prints to come back, or longer if you used mail order processors, you received your images and the negatives. Most people threw the negatives in a box and forgot about them, but the negatives were the originals and could be used to reproduce the prints at any time. Copying your original images to a CD before editing is like working with negatives where the original is preserved for as long as you maintain the CD. After you have successfully backed up your images to a CD, copy the photographs you want to edit to your hard drive. It is not advisable to work off the CD since it will generally be much slower and the changes will not be able to be written to the CD.
Once you load your images into your favorite photo editing program, look at the image and try to recreate in your mind the composition you wanted to capture. Oftentimes, you may notice distracting elements after you see the full-scale image on a screen. Use the cropping tool to remove those elements that serve little purpose to the photograph. Sometimes, these elements may include people, objects, or dead space. A good rule of thumb to use when deciding what to eliminate is to recognize what it is you focus your attention to in the photograph. If you don’t look at certain elements, then remove them. If you feel you have cut away too much, then you can always revert back to the original image you have stored away on the CD.
Cropping also enables you to be more creative with the image size and shape. Although most processors restrict you to the standard sizes, home processing allows you to crop your images to custom sizes. There are not restrictions to the size and shape beyond your imagination. Of course, if you prefer to remain loyal to the standard sizes, most editing applications have an option where you can preserve the aspect ratio and uniformly crop the image without reducing the size of the print.
The photograph in this article was cropped to remove distracting elements. The original photograph had cars to the right and an intersection to the left. The top portion of the image contained a building that was visible, but had no bearing on the image. What is left is the stone statue in a small park near a hospital outside Mobile, Alabama.