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How to Determine the Right Crop for Your Images

Sometimes an image will stand on its own. Other times, it needs to be cropped in order to fit into a space or be the best, most distilled version of itself.

Cropping effectively is almost an art form in itself, because it changes the focal point of your image. Often very small changes can have a strong effect on the emotional impact of your piece, and these changes usually register only subconsciously—so it’s important to understand some of the design principles at work when choosing the perfect crop.

5 Steps You Can Start Using Right Now

Rule of Thirds

The “Rule of Thirds” is a guideline to composing visual imagery—including photographs. Imagine that your photo is divided by two vertical and two horizontal lines, each equally spaced to create nine squares in total. According to the Rule of Thirds, important images in your photo should be situated along these lines or where they intersect. This usually results in a photo where your image is off-center in an aesthetically pleasing way, not right at the center.

Center Focus

Sometimes, cropping a photo to place the main image at the center is the right idea. This leaves no doubt where the focus should be, and gives the viewer no option but to look at the subject of the photograph. The image is considered more static, but this type of photo has its uses—particularly in commercial photography. When taking photos for a catalog or online store, it’s important that the images draw the viewer’s attention immediately. A center position—especially in a studio with a white backdrop—can provide a picture where the product is strongly highlighted.

Off-Center Focus

Cropping also lets you move the focus, so that the central image is slightly off-balance. Ideally, the important compositional elements of the photo should fall along the ley lines in the Rule of Thirds. With the image off-center, the viewer has to follow and find it—making the viewer’s gaze stay longer on the image. This is often a good choice with more artistic compositions, but you’ll need to be sure your photo is well composed. Shooting indoors can be helpful, as you can control every aspect of the shoot on a soundstage with a green screen and the right lighting.

A New Focus

The emotional impact of a couple holding hands, walking down a quiet suburban street, is different than a close-up picture of their clasped hands. Cropping severely to focus on just one aspect of a photograph can change the message dramatically—or boil it down to its most simple expression. This is also a good idea for more commercial photos where a simple, easily-digested image sometimes has the quickest impact.

Use Your Shooting Space for Flexibility

If you want to be able to crop a photo severely to change the focus, shoot in an indoor studio space where you can control every aspect of the shoot. With a professional studio, you can make sure every element in the shot is exactly how you want it—so you’ll have plenty of options for cropping later.

No matter how you crop your photos, you’ll get the most out of your photography session if you use a fully-equipped professional studio. Meets the Eye Studios offers the best equipped photography soundstage in the Bay Area, with two large studios, a pre-lit green screen and white wall, video and photography equipment rental, a wide range of lighting options, and more. Get in touch today to schedule a free tour or take a virtual tour online.