Don’t ever be afraid to crop an image in your digital darkroom. Even a modest crop can be a big improvement in a photograph. And other times a more radical approach yields surprising results.
This image is an uncropped scan of a 35mm negative. I really like this shot and I didn’t want to “ruin” it by cropping. I want a drum scan and an exhibition quality print made from this negative. This would force me into choosing a different print size.
The original is a 2:3 ratio and an 8×10 is a 4:5 ratio which means at least a modest crop. So I sat at my desk with a print this morning and played around with pieces of white paper, a ruler and a calculator.
As I played around with different cropping, I realized that a 4:5 crop for an 8×10 could be an improvement. I fired up my computer and cropped very carefully. Here’s the result. I had to drag myself kicking and screaming, but now that I’ve done the deed, I like this one better.
I knew I had to keep the window frame on the left, and as it turns out, the left side of the image is cleaner now. When I cropped from the right, I realized that I didn’t need the bright reflections at the end of the street and that maybe the image would be better without them. The eye is naturally drawn to bright spots and I don’t want the viewer’s eye to wander outside the image.
I like the 8×10 proportions now and don’t think I lost anything of the original. In fact, I think the image is stronger because I reinforced the central message. I’d call this a modest crop. I never touched the vertical, and only cropped enough horizontally to change the proportions to suit an 8×10.
I took a more radical approach here. A very tight crop gave me this nice portrait.
Here’s the original full scan of the 35mm negative. It hasn’t been spotted so you’ll see the signs of dust on the image. I grabbed this moment with my little point and shoot. By the way, the street scene above and this shot are from the same roll of film.
The full negative is a nice shot, but it’s much too cluttered. I suppose I should have (or could have) turned the camera when I made the photo but that can be awkward sometimes. In any case, this is what I had to work with. As you can see, I cropped in radically from the left and a little from the right. I ended up with about half the frame and a much better image.
I scanned this negative at 2820 ppi, my scanner’s highest resolution. I still have enough resolution to make an 8×10 print if I like. Don’t be afraid to experiment with cropping. I do it all the time because I’ll often see things I didn’t see when I made the shot in the first place.
The goal is the print. Post processing in the digital darkroom is an essential part of the creative process. Straight out of the camera is horse hockey. Experiment. Imagine your delight when you can transform that OK shot into a photo you want to hang on your wall.