How to Crop a Picture

It’s true that you need to try to compose your shots the best way you can right in your camera. However, don’t forget that cropping can be quite a powerful tool as it can significantly improve a decent, yet somewhat average photo. In fact, it can help you salvage a photo that you could’ve otherwise discarded.

There’s no need to shy away from cropping a picture in fear of quality loss. If you crop images of high-resolution without going overboard, they will still be of a good enough quality.

how to crop a picture to improve it

Cropping can come especially in handy if you shoot street photography, various events, weddings or do family photoshoots since all of these usually require taking pictures of people that are constantly moving. These types of photography tend to be quite hectic and involve a certain level of unpredictability.

In most cases, you don’t have control over the environment, the light, the subject, etc. Therefore, you don’t always have the time or the opportunity to compose your images properly.

Also, cropping can help you if during the shoot, you had a prime lens that has a fixed focal length. The downside of prime lenses is that if you want to get closer to you subject, you need to do it physically. And sometimes that’s just impossible.

With the help of cropping, you can fix your composition and guide your audience’s attention exactly where you want it to.

You can make your shot not only more visually pleasing and balanced, but much more impactful and emotion-evoking as well.

Let's look at a few examples of how you can crop a picture to significantly improve it.

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How to Crop a Picture to Focus Viewers’ Attention on Your Subject

The challenge that you’ll inevitably face in event photography is that you need to snap the right moment at the right time no matter where you are.

You might be standing at a distance, and you won’t be able to get closer to the subject not because there are barriers or anything, but because the moment is happening right now, right this second, and if you don’t press the shutter button, you’ll miss it. In addition to that, some people can get nervous, tense and more closed-off when they notice that the camera is pointed at them.

Therefore, if you want to capture moments filled with genuine emotions, you’ll need to be a bit away from your subjects; kind of like wild-life photographers.

Surely, you can get a medium or even a super telephoto lens that will allow you to get really close to your subjects while being far away from them physically. But there’s a catch. Telephoto lenses are great for wildlife photography, because the chances of lions asking you for a group photo are relatively low. Meanwhile, at events, you will need to take group photos; and trying to do that with a telephoto lens can pose quite a challenge. Therefore, a zoom-lens like 24 –105mm would be perfect for event photography as you’ll be able to shoot a portrait from a bit of a distance as well as take images of relatively big groups of people.

But sometimes the focal length of 105mm might not be enough.

Surely, you can have a standard zoom-lens and a telephoto lens and switch between them. But events tend to be quite hectic and fast-paced. You need to be ready to take images at any given moment, which is why there might not be enough time for you to switch from one lens to another; otherwise, you might end up missing an important moment.

Which is why it might be better for you to stick to a lens that gives you more flexibility, and if you can’t get closer to your subject, you can fix that with the help of cropping.

Here's an image from an event I had to shoot. I could get closer to my subjects physically, but had I done that, I wouldn’t have captured this moment. The original image is not that bad, per say. You get a sense of the atmosphere, and thanks to the sunlight shining on one of the girls’ faces, making it the brightest spot in the entire image, your eyes go to it first.

However, there are still quite a few distracting elements; like the guys on the left or the empty space on the right.

how to crop a picture

Here’s the cropped version of the picture. The image is no longer landscape-oriented because I used the “4:5” aspect ratio, which is the ratio for portrait post on Instagram. This way, the photo will take up more space on a phone’s screen and grab more attention.

how to crop a picture to focus viewers’ attention on your subject

As you can see, now there are no distractions – no guys on the left or empty space on the right. The people in the background convey the atmosphere and show that this was a big event. Yet, now, all the focus is on these two happy girls. This cropped picture is much stronger and more emotionally-charged than the original, isn’t it?

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How to Crop a Picture to Fix Framing Mistakes

Cropping a picture can also come to the rescue if you simply made a mistake while framing your shot.

Let’s take a look at this image. I took it at a café while meeting up with my friend and didn’t really bother myself too much with trying to achieve the perfect composition in camera. Not to mention that there wasn’t much space around me, and the café was a bit busy. I knew that I could crop the image later.

The main problem with the original shot is that there’s too much negative space at the top. It looks awkward and throws the entire scene out of balance.

how to crop a picture to fix framing mistakes

This is why I cropped out the majority of the light grey wall, leaving some empty space to avoid the scene looking too crammed. I also used the Rule of Thirds to direct the viewer’s attention straight to the yummy sandwich. The cropped version is more well-balanced and conveys the feeling of coziness much better than the original.

how to crop a picture to fix mistakes

How to Crop a Picture to Find a Balance

One of the greatest benefits of studio photography is that you don’t really need to rush anywhere. You control the light, the environment, the model, everything. You can come closer, if you need to. You can ask the model to take a step forward or a step back. You can direct the model however you want. But even when you have the luxury of being in full control, it’s still possible that after the shoot, you suddenly realize that you’re not fond of how you composed a shot.

This has happened to me before.

Here's one of the portraits I took at a studio. Technically speaking, there’s nothing wrong with it. There are no distractions. There is just enough negative space around the subject, so it doesn’t feel like it’s squeezed into the frame. You can see the jacket with its shiny rhinestones clearly. The original image doesn’t really feel all that awkward. But cropping can make it a little more balanced.

how to crop a picture to find a balance

In the cropped version, the focus is on the model’s face. Since her head is turned slightly to the side and there’s some motion blur, I decided to leave more empty space in the direction that she’s looking at. It creates a more balanced image with a sense of movement, and it makes you wonder what is outside of the frame. The cropped version of the picture is not only more balanced, but more visually engaging, too.

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How to Crop a Picture to Get Rid of Distracting Elements

Sometimes, you are so focused on getting the composition right or not missing a great moment that you don’t notice distracting elements in the background. Other times, it might be physically impossible to get rid of distractions. In both of these cases, it is better to know how to crop a picture, because it can help you out.

I was wandering out and about when I came across this barbershop. Of course, the scaffolding was ugly, distracting and I hated the fact that I couldn’t get rid of it physically, but the scene in the window was too beautiful to walk past it without taking a photo.

how to crop a picture to get rid of distracting elements

In the cropped version of the picture, I had to get rid of both the scaffolding and the “Barbershop” sign, because the scaffolding is a major distraction here. It really spoils the entire scene. I also cropped out a couple of bright lights at the top and positioned the window in the center, leaving only small parts of the surrounding walls. What I got in the result is a frame within a frame, and all the attention goes straight to the scene in the window.

how to crop a picture to get rid of distracting elements Crop Picture For Free

How to Crop a Picture to Try New Format

Street photography can be a little less hectic than event photography, and there might be enough time for you to get closer to the subject. More to that, sometimes, you might find a great spot, compose your shot, then wait for someone to walk into your frame because that’s your missing piece of the puzzle.

However, in street photography, there might be a time when it’s physically impossible to get closer to the scene, and you don’t have a telephote lens that can produce the shot you want.

For instance, I took this photo on a Sunday morning. It was around 6 am. That man was standing pretty still, and I don’t think he would’ve walked away if I wanted to get any closer. The problem was that – I couldn’t. I was standing on the other side of the river, right by the railing, and all I had was my 24 –105 mm lens. I shot this image at 105 mm, which was the closest I could get. I knew I’d have to crop this picture to get a better composition.

how to crop a picture to try new format

I have to admit that initially, I wanted to crop it with the “4:5” aspect ratio to post it on Instagram. Like this:

how to crop a picture to try new format

But then something prompted me to try out the “1:1” aspect ratio. The square framing creates a more visually engaging and impactful image due to the fact that there are a lot of square and rectangular elements in the shot. Plus, the silhouette of the man is much more prominent in the square-shaped version than in the “4:5” one. And I can still post it on Instagram!

how to crop a picture to try new format

It’s important to experiment with different ways of cropping as you might stumble upon an aspect ratio that works much better for your picture than what you had in mind originally.

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Watermarkly – Free Online Cropping Tool

When you're experimenting and looking for the best way to crop your shot, it’s crucial to have a handy tool where you can effortlessly adjust the cropping area in any way you need. And there’s an app to crop photo online – it’s called Watermarkly.

First of all, with this app there’s no need for you to copy your images beforehand or worry that original files might get overwritten by accident. Watermarkly keeps originals unchanged and saves cropped copies automatically.

Secondly, you can check how your cropped images will look like before exporting them. This can be done in the Preview section. More to that, if you don’t like something, you can go back to the editing stage and re-adjust the cropping area.

Thirdly, this app can process batches of images. You’ll be able to upload up to 2,000 images at once. There are built-in templates with the most common aspect ratios and pixel dimensions that will be perfect for popular social media platforms. Watermarkly also saves the settings that you used previously, which can make the process of cropping your images quicker and easier.

batch crop in Watermarkly

It’s possible to adjust the cropping area without any fixed aspect ratios or pixel dimensions. Aside from the standard square-shaped cropping area, which can be turned into a rectangle, there’s also an option to crop circle images. This will give you plenty of room for experimentation.

In Conclusion

Some people avoid cropping, because they are worried that they won’t have images of good quality afterwards. And yes, such a possibility exists. But all you need to do is to crop images of high-resolution. This way, even after cropping a picture, you will still be able to share it on social media or even print them.

Naturally, you should compose your photos the best way you can when you’re taking them. But if that’s impossible, remember that you can always fix your shot and improve your composition with the help of cropping.