Portrait Cropping

donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,327Member
edited February 2013 in Nikon DSLR cameras
I agree with not "amputating" a limb at a joint. I also agree with cropping the top of the head off when shooting a head shot in which you are trying to "get in close" to capture that facial expression so you fill the frame with the face as much as possible so the viewer can better see all the nuances which make up an expression: a larger face and missing top hairline works to emphasize expression. I don't much like when you are seeing the upper body and part of that head is still cut off, like a waist up shot including both arms folded in front of the body but the top of the head still cropped off as in a head shot. As I see it you crop the top of the head, or hat, off so that you can better fill the frame with the subjects expression. However, this reason doesn't really apply when you are doing a waist up shot as you don't really gain any significant increase in the size of the face when you cut the top of the head off. Every time I frame a waist up portrait and happen to cut off the top of the head I find an invisible force forcing my hand up. What are are your thoughts? Anyone else have trouble cropping off the top of the head when doing a waist up portrait?
Post edited by donaldejose on

Comments

  • SymphoticSymphotic Posts: 659Member
    edited February 2013
    I gave my camera to my son, who was going to meet a rather famous military figure, so he could have his picture taken with him. The friend who took the picture cut the scalp off of Admiral Michael Mullen! My son, who is shorter than Admiral Mullen, is perfectly framed. I think the photographer was my son's girlfriend...
    Post edited by Symphotic on
    Jack Roberts
    "Discovery consists in seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought"--Albert Szent-Gyorgy
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    In almost every case, the final composition will determine what is pleasing or what is disturbing...Looking at some of the masters from our past, the composition and cropping do not follow many rules, but result from what the photographer wanted to show.

    Check out Stieglitz, Steichen, some of the others...
    Msmoto, mod
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,327Member
    I saw an interview with Henri Cartier Bresson in which he said he never cropped an image after he took it. He composed in the viewfinder of a Lecia before he took the shot and that is exactly what he wanted, no less. Since he is known for capturing the decisive moment (also the name of his 1952 book) one has to wonder really how much time he had to compose all the elements of the image in the viewfinder before the "decisive moment" appeared.

    Of course, every photographer can shoot whatever he wants in any way he wants, even more so today with digital manipulation in camera, but that doesn't mean every image is art.

    I can see someone deliberately cropping at body joints. For example, if you are shooting a war and you want to create uncomfortable images subliminally suggesting the carnage of amputated limbs you can amputate the limbs of otherwise health soldiers and civilians by cropping off a hand at the elbow or a leg at the knee, etc. But that won't make your images beautiful.
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,327Member
    edited February 2013
    Notice he crops off the top of the head a lot.




    Post edited by donaldejose on
  • GarethGareth Posts: 159Member
    In New Zealand the head of a person is considered sacred by the Maori. Cropping the top of a head off in a case like the one the OP mentioned would be seen as extremely offensive by some. Even patting a child on the head can give offense.

    I would only crop the top off a head if the face filled the frame.
  • Benji2505Benji2505 Posts: 517Member
    edited February 2013
    The eyes of the model are most important subject in a portrait. If you position them in a certain part of the picture you automatically cut a little of the hair section off. Cropping off some of the hair has the advantage that you don't have to deal with fly-aways.
    Post edited by Benji2505 on
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    We all have a lot of opinions and I am of the idea which suggests the face is defined by the eyes and the mouth. I work on these in post. As to Henri Cartier Bresson and the cropping in camera, this is exactly the way I did it in film days. But, we now have additional tools in our bag, that being the ability to easily crop in post. And, in many situations, we may prefer a different format than 1:1.5, e.g., 4:5. Remember the problem years ago was gran and resolution in 35mm was far more of a limit than today with the extremely high resolution and low noise of the current bodies.

    I attempt to utilize the full frame. But Henri Cartier Bresson rarely shot a car moving by at 100 mph with an 800mm lens on his Leica. In those days, the photographer stood 10 feet from the cars and shot with a 90mm or 135mm risking their lives if a car had a mishap.

    Msmoto, mod
  • MikeGunterMikeGunter Posts: 543Member
    Hi all,

    The rule of thumb not is to frame so as to is to no crop at joints. Above or below is 'considered' more suitable.

    That's old school, 'in the box' thinking, and I do tend to play it safe - most the time.

    @Gareth - Good point always know your market. Of course, some cultures think that shooting pictures capture your souls - I doubt any photography would be seen as appropriate in their culture, so somewhere you just have to do what you have to do.

    What also has to be brought into the discussion is that film was originally different gauges and different outputs. From big view cameras and roll film cameras to small roll film cameras, the final products were prints or printed in newspapers, magazines, billboards, or some other form of ink media or in transparency chromes that were projected or used for color separations for media.

    Point is, the media were used for other things out of the camera like they are now. While they were specifically sized into formats, they weren't intrinsically 'sized' to fit to any preconceived targeted printed dimensions - and that's important. Cartier Bresson used the full frame for a reason that is really, really simple, one that Herbert Keppler famously said in an article years ago in Modern Photography when asked how to make large photographs less grainy, 'Make the prints smaller.'

    By using all the frame, you have less grain in the photograph and you will crop less, too.

    A lot of people, me included, shot for a specific size, such as columns by inches for newspapers or magazines, and the crop was specific to the size to fill the need of the layout for the page, and before that, I shot in a studio that did children's photos that were framed for variety of sizes from wallets to enlargements for wall mounting, each on slightly different due to the change in aspect from the size in the enlarger - that never came up from the customer, AFAIK.

    What crops do now is an artistic expression. What you do that works works.

    image

    In order to grow, you have to do a lot of shooting and sometimes be willing to make mistakes.

    I've live long enough to have made them all at least twice, some more than that.

    My best,

    Mike
  • blandbland Posts: 811Member
    Mike, I think what makes that crop work above is both the forehead and chin were cropped. If it had been just the forehead or just the chin, the crop wouldn't of worked.

    Last weekend I was looking at rock photographs at our Hard Rock and I was surprised to see pictures of some of the rock stars with their hands cropped off, and it looked great. What the photographers had done was cropped the picture perfectly square with the focal point being the center of the picture, it really made the center of the picture pop out at you. There was one of Tina Turner in her early years that looked incredible done that way. I'll try to get a picture this weekend so you all can see what I'm talking about.
  • SymphoticSymphotic Posts: 659Member
    edited February 2013
    Just a quick comment on Cartier-Bresson and Leicas: my first 35 mm was an Olympus rangefinder, and I moved up to Leica as soon as I could afford it. Although HBC had only one frame and one 50 mm lens for most of his work, I felt framing in the viewfinder was very natural with my M4P. For one thing, the viewfinder covered the 28 mm field of view, with marks framing the actual lens in use. With my DSLR, taking the shot with a 24 mm lens (and soon a 35) and cropping gives me very much the same comfortable and natural feeling as using my venerable Leica. I can only hope HBC would understand.
    Post edited by Symphotic on
    Jack Roberts
    "Discovery consists in seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought"--Albert Szent-Gyorgy
  • DenverShooterDenverShooter Posts: 354Member
    Cropping isn't "evil" its a tool.

    Today I was shooting my kids frisbee team's practice with my D4 and Nikon 400mm F/2.8 (10 frames per second is just about right to capture the right moment) and at the far end of the field I didn't have enough glass. So the fix was a "touch of the crop".

    Also with the widespread adoption of HDTV in homes the world is starting to see in 16 x 9 and I like that format for pictures.

    And lets think about all of the photographers that shot Hasselblad square format for magazines covers for decades. Something has to crop a square negative to get a vertical for the cover..

    Denver Shooter
  • AdeAde Posts: 1,071Member
    In this portrait, the top of the subject's head is cut-off... and the crop tool maims his hands too.

    Does the photographer know what she is doing? Does she understand the basic rules of portrait photography?

    image

    Yeah, I believe she does.

    (Iggy Pop, by Annie Leibovitz)

    ps. Cartier-Bresson's most famous photograph, Derrière la gare Saint-Lazare, was cropped from the original.
  • I well remember an exhibition by Don McCullin in London in the early eighties - the entire galery was a single line of rectangular frames with whole negative enlargements at perfect viewing height - and every print showed the border of the negative.

    I remember that there wasn't a single image that I wouldn't have wished I'd taken, and I read subsequently that this was one of McCullins 'trademarks' - he composed in-camera, cropping just wasn't necessary. I tried to be faithful to this technique....until I started taking concert photos!

    McCullin, despite the bullets and bombs going off, would be able to move to frame exactly what he wanted - even with zooms etc. I just do not have this luxury with a French concert crowd (you try it!!)

    A friend here is a photographer for a local paper and shoots a lot of sports events (I don't have anything to do with sports - walking to my car is perfectly sufficient for me) - he switched rapidly to the D800 and now crops savagely and with no fear of loss of quality. Sometimes I don't think he even takes more than the 24-70 to meetings!

    So yes, I can see the argument from both sides.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    edited February 2013
    Yes!... In creating the images of some subjects, the cropping is essential to project the despair of the image. Annie does this well.

    This suggests the cropping of an image is as much a part of the overall presentation as any other part. Squamish uses some interesting crops on his portraits. I do this on some of mine. Also, in some cases the format is dictated by the ultimate end usage.

    If there is anything to be gleaned from this post, IMO it is that we can crop in about any way we like, but I think we need to be thinking about the process and what we want to convey. Possibly a good way to learn this is to look at the masters and study paintings, photos, maybe just read National Geographic.

    This thread is giving me some inspiration for doing some "outside the lines" cropping in some of my next photos.

    OK, here is a crop, and I think the purpose is fairly obvious....
    The Wedding

    The format was dictated by a need for a 2:3 ratio for end print use.
    Post edited by Msmoto on
    Msmoto, mod
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,327Member
    Fast moving team sports action is very difficult to compose in camera when you are using a telephoto lens because the subject is moving and often changing as the ball changes hands. Shooting a wider view with a D800 and then cropping down can be very helpful, especially if you don't want to cut off hands or feet and want to keep the ball in the frame.
  • MikeGunterMikeGunter Posts: 543Member
    Hi all,

    Like a cub reporter, I buried the lead...

    The real estate you have to fill often determines what you have work with in terms of dimensions in both exact size and aspect ratios. Denvershooter said it pretty well - you fit what you got into what you have need to put it in.

    My photo above happens to be a capture that is 'in camera', but I would crop it to be in a frame without hesitation for a display

    Your creativity sometimes is the hostage of space available.

    My best,

    Mike
  • blandbland Posts: 811Member
    I went over to the Hard Rock at lunch and got these of Tina Turner with her hands cropped out.

    tt1

    tt2

    This last one is just a really neat crop.

    tt3
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