Monday, December 13, 2010

Photography Tip: Crop a Digital Photo

With today’s Photography Tip I hope to accomplish two things:

1. Demonstrate what a crop on a digital photo does to your picture.

2. Show you that you don’t really need a 21 Mega Pixel Camera unless you happen to be in the business of printing your photos for pasting on billboards.

There are two methods I use in cropping a photo.

One is called the in-camera crop. That is done by moving in or zooming-in to remove anything, you don’t want to appear in your picture before you take the shot.

The other crop is done after the photo has been taken. It is an editing crop which you do on your computer. The editing crop is what I’ll show you today.

An excerpt from an oldie when I was a Camera Talk Guy:

“Sometimes the shot you thought was perfectly composed and had the best focus, exposure, color and contrast when you saw it on your LCD screen is a big letdown when you see it on your monitor after downloading at home. You reviewed the shot on a 2-3 inch screen but, after you download, the photo is enlarged on a 15, 17, or larger inch screen and something you hadn’t noticed shows up in your photo. A cigarette butt, plastic bag, beer can or a black speck of dust in blue water or a clear blue sky; your photo is ruined.

Don’t feel bad. It happens to all of us. There are folks who buy programs to clone out distractions and touch-up their digital photos but, I guess you could call me a purist (or a stubborn old mule), I’m not buying anything that causes me to spend more time in front of a computer and less time out shooting my camera. So, I crop to some standard dimensions. Then, I move the crop around over the photo and if I can’t remove the distraction and still have an interesting composition, DELETE it.”

Here are some examples of crops on a digital photo:

First: An original 10 Mega Pixel photo as it came from the camera.

From the same photo: A 6 Mega Pixel Crop.

Again, from the same photo cropped to 4 Mega Pixels and vertically instead of horizontally.
A view showing the area I am cropping from the original photo during editing. This gives me:
A 1 Mega Pixel Photo, cropped from the original 10 Megapixel Photo. Cropping is also sometimes called "The Poor Man's Zoom Lens".  Now you know why.
When you crop a photo, it becomes enlarged and, as long as you had a steady camera and noise-free photo, you can enlarge a lot before loosing any quality in the sharpness.

Earlier, I mentioned some standard dimensions, so, I’d better explain. Your camera software or even the computer you’re using may already have photo cropping features built in to them. No need to rush out and buy some fancy editing program. Just use standard dimensions that you’d use for printing your personal photos 3x5”, 4x6”, 8x10” and so forth.

In cropping photos over the years, I have gotten into the habit of using Pixels as my method because I deal with an international audience and just got tired of worrying about conversions, inches, centimeters and whatever the rest of the world is using at the moment. I researched camera manuals and online and wrote these dimensions down and use them everyday. In fact, have used them so often, I no longer need to look them-up when I crop; they’re memorized. If your software permits use these and you can’t go wrong when printing photos. Print these or come back here and visit when you’re ready to start cropping.

Megapixel                                            Horizontal                                   Vertical

10                                                       3872x2592                                 2592x3872

8                                                         3264x2448                                 2448x3264

6                                                         3008x2000                                 2000x3008

5                                                         2560x1920                                 1920x2560

4                                                         2304x1728                                 1728x2304

3                                                         2048x1536                                 1536x2048

2                                                         1536x1024                                 1024x1536

1                                                         1024x768                                     768x1024

Note: Some camera manufacturers have different pixel counts (as much as 200 pixels more or less) difference at the 10 Megapixel size between width and height of the photo. Don’t be concerned about it when cropping. These dimensions will work when cropping for printing; tried and true.

From some of the mail I receive I’ve learned that there’s a lot of confusion out there when it comes to the Multi-Mega Pixel Cameras on the market these days. Hopefully, this photography tip makes both the crop of a digital photo and Mega Pixels a little easier to understand. Buying someone a 21 Mega Pixel Camera for Christmas might be like buying them an 18 Wheel Truck when all they needed was a Little Red Wagon.

Happy Holidays !

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