Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Cropping - it's one of those things that often gets overlooked, but it is an essential part of properly editing photos. Cropping can have a very strong impact on a photo and its subjects, for better or worse. I developed my cropping technique after lots of trial and error, and by combining some standard cropping practices to best suit model horses. If you're selling or creating a gallery, this tip is for you!

There are a couple of special rules to follow in equine photography that apply well to cropping for models: there should be more room above the ears than below the feet on full body shots, and there should be room for the horse to "move" or "look to" the direction they're going or looking in. The rules can be broken, but they'll hold you in good stead most of the time. Since models are essentially product as well, the cropping needs to be functional rather than artistic most of the time. This means that rather than applying standard rules of composition for beautiful photography, the cropping needs to get in as close as possible to best show off the item without becoming distracting.

This crop leaves far too much room on all sides of the horse. It is actually rather pleasing in some situations and when composed well, but for most photos, the cropping should be closer.

Sometimes people get into the habit of cropping right up the the edge of the horse on all four sides. While a tight crop can work alright, and at least shows the horse better than a very loose crop, this leaves the photo feeling cramped and can have a tendency to squish the model in ways that make it appear unappealing.

This photo is cropped well. There is slightly more room above the ears, and a little extra room in front of his face. The cropping isn't super tight against his tail and hooves, but it is close. Play around with subtle differences here to find the best crop for the particular horse in question. Some horses benefit from more or less room on one or more of the sides.

In some cases, cropping will be affected by things like Valentine's mane here. Cropping back to the tip (but not too close!) of his blowing forelock and mane allows for both reasonable image dimensions and for room in front of his nose.

Bases are frequently integral to a sculpture's design. To cut the base off in cropping creates a feeling of distraction in addition to cramping. Leave bases in, and crop a little wider on top and possibly elsewhere to help balance the photo out. In this instance, it is obvious how much cramping there is compared to the properly cropped photo below:

Here I have given a touch extra room above the ears to account for the fact that the stand has raised the feet from the bottom of the photo. I also left slightly more room in front of the mare because it helped to create the idea of space to move into and to visually balance her front and back ends better. If you're not sure how to crop a photo, make several copies, and test different crops out. You can even do your crops and come back later to reassess with fresh eyes.

One more example with a base - this time a comparatively very large one. This photo would be better cropped like the example below:

Examine the cropping elements for yourself in this one, and try to apply your new knowledge to your next photo editing session.

Tomorrow I'll be covering how to crop headshots, details, and artistic shots!

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