Tag Archive for: composition

The power of composition PtII the crop

Yesterday we looked at some composition tips, let’s take it one step further today.
As explained yesterday cameras shoot in fixed aspect ratios, but….we are free of course to crop later in Photoshop.


To crop or not to crop, that’s the……
Let me start off by saying that I’m a strong advocate of shooting the images as they SHOULD be, so when I crop it’s never because I shot it wrong, when I crop it’s an artistic choice so to say. In other words I’ll never crop to the same ratio, because that’s something you should have done in camera. If you learn this you will actually cut down on your retouch time considerably.


So when do I crop?
I often crop for impact.
Now what is impact?


I love movies and one of the things you will very quickly notice when you see movies is that there are different aspect ratios in movies too.
It all started of course with the 4:3 ratio also known in movie land as 1.33:1 (actually the standard is 1.37:1) As soon as TV’s started to appear there was a problem for the cinemas and they changed to different aspect ratios, the most used are 1.85:1 and 2.35:1 which are both much wider than the original academy standard of 1.37:1.


For the “freaks” there was also a 1.19:1 aspect ratio for a short while when film started to add sound tracks, but this was quickly changed.


So why do movies use a wider aspect ratio?
It’s not only to compete with the TV of course, there is more.


Story telling is seeing the scene
One of the things movie makers understand very well is the power of vision.
As soon as you see a western for example you see the wide open areas and the small cowboys on their horses in this vast landscape…. often the aspect ratio 2.35:1 is used for this meaning you will have a very wide area to use but not that much height, meaning the aspect ratio is awesome for wide open spaces. Now when you film something in tight spaces (think a horror movie in a cabin for example) it’s often more suiting to shoot it with a less wide aspect ratio so the filmmaker will probably choose the 1.85:1 ratio meaning he will have less width so he can “focus” in on the main character more and show just enough of the area to scare the living day lights out of you when something appears in the frame.


Now this is of course not a fixed rule, every film maker is free to use whatever aspect ratio he/she wants, but overall the choice will be highly depending on the material shot and what the film maker wants to show you. The limitation of the filmmaker is that he/she is forced into one format…. we as photographers are not.


By cropping your images into more wide areas you can really draw your viewers in.
Let’s for example take this shot from Manon.

Linda December 10 - 96 - December 10 2014

This was shot like the shot you see here, the front is however not really adding to the image. It does lead the eye of the viewer towards the model so it’s not WRONG, but if I want a bit more attention to the model and the artwork I could have also cropped it like this.

Linda December 10 - 96 - December 10 2014 v2Now this is a totally different look right?
Which one is better?
Well that’s hard to say, in the end it’s a matter of personal taste but that’s with everything photography related of course.
I personally like the uncropped version for the simple fact that it draws your eyes towards the model a bit more, the cropped version I love for the way the artwork wraps around the model.


With the next shot I choose the crop very intentional.
I love shooting this kind of shots with a wide angle and when cropping it to a wider aspect ratio you really get a sense of a movie still, the choice of red in the clothing (model/styling : Nadine) really helps to draw your attention to the model, by lowering the ambient light and using a vignette on the shot I made the shot a bit more moody.

Nadine Maart 21 2015  0175


But can I print?
This is one of the most heard remarks when you crop wide.
People often think that because the papers are a certain aspect ratio one has to stick to that aspect ratio, and in essence this is true. When you send your images to a printing lab used by consumers (or pros) that is forcing you into their standard sizes, it’s indeed a wise decision to keep your images to that aspect ratio. But in all honestly when you crop like this you will probably do it for 1-2 shots that are “dear” to you, the “artworks” of the series so to say, and when you print those you will probably not go for the small prints, and as soon as you start printing big there is (with most labs) no limitations to size and aspect ratio, to be absolutely sure make sure you always check with your lab of course.


The only thing that can be wise is if you want to frame the shot to make sure there are frames in that size, or choose a custom frame builder. Most prints now a days however on different materials that are hung without frames. So don’t let yourself be limited by that.


So try to crop a bit more like a filmmaker and really draw your viewers into the story you’re telling.


Want more in-depth information on model photography, lighting, retouching, coaching the model, reading the meter and much much more?
Check out my book “mastering the model shoot” or the instructional videos on this site and of course on www.kelbyone.com

The power of composition Pt I

Composition is one of the most powerful tools you have, but also often the one that is hardly used, or the wrong way. Let’s take a quick look today at some very simple things you can do to spice up your shot.


When we shoot an image the layout of the camera is (often) fixed to a certain ratio, the most common ratios are 4:3 and 3:2.
Some cameras will allow you to shoot in different formats but they will (of course) do this by cropping in camera, meaning you use less pixels, and to be honest that’s not something I would advise for the simple reason that you can never get something back that was not there from the start, but you can very easily take something away in Photoshop or Lightroom. So my advise is to always shoot in full resolution.


Landscape vs portrait
A few months ago a client asked me for a shot in portrait mode to represent my work, much to my surprise I had to look really hard, I do have a lot of portrait mode shots of course but somehow the ones that “represent my work” are all in landscape mode. This actually triggered me to write this blogpost. When I look at my old work I see that I often switched between landscape mode and portrait mode, but the more I progressed the more I started shooting in landscape mode, the reason for this is actually pretty simple.


Model vs story vs ……
When you start shooting models the main attention point is often well….. the model, you try to fill the frame with the model as much as possible, you don’t crop the head etc. The more you progress the more you will try to play with this, you will start cropping the top of the head to draw more attention to the eyes etc. Sometimes this can be really tricky to explain to a customer by the way. I always tell them that it is to draw attention to the eyes, and when you show two different shots next to each other it’s often immediately clear…. but in all honesty we don’t need the top of the head, we know it’s there right?


The more you progress the more you will start to give attention to the “story” and you will very quickly find out that the surrounding areas are almost as important (sometimes even more important) as your model. Don’t show the area and you end up with a shot that could have been taken anywhere, show the surrounding areas and you end up with something unique. Very quickly you will also find out that shooting landscape mode is much easier in that case. Now as soon as you start doing that with portraits (headshot) you will find that the images become much more engaging.


Take for example this portrait from a session with Lenaa.

Lenaa December 20 2014 1607

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Working with portrait or landscape mode

Composition is one of the things that is always very important in a shoot, but what is the perfect composition?
Well to be honest… there is no perfect composition.
Of course there are those “rules” like the rule of thirds but let’s be honest they just give you a “this will work” general rule of tumb, but it’s often not the most interesting shot possible. In my opinion it’s incredibly important to play with the way you shoot.


Take for example these two shots.
One is shot in the so called portrait mode.
It draws all the attention to the model and to be honest it looks pretty nice.

Lenaa Juni 20 2014 64 1

However as soon as you change to landscape mode for me the whole image gets way more interesting.

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Composition, creativity etc. Part III

In Part III we look at some more images where we put elements together.
And do remember that you can “force” luck.

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