I sat in the northeast corner of rural Nebraska in 2012 eating a shrimp salad and listening to Charles Snare, Chadron State College’s Vice President of Academic Affairs, talk about leadership.
“You know, it takes 10 years to become an expert on a topic?” he said during the conversation. I think he was right.
I’ve been editing visuals for two years and still find myself being challenged and stretched. Recently, I’ve been paying special attention to cropping. Sitting in weekly critiques with editing greats Brian Kratzer and Jackie Bell has forced me to reevaluate how and why I crop.
“Crop until it hurts and then crop some more,” my friend Tim Tai likes to say.
Today I edited four photos for an article about the Columbia’s bus system. The lead photo I chose was pretty loose. Here’s the original:
My attention goes to the bus first. Steven, who’s front and center in the caption, is a pretty measly portion of the frame. With the “safe crop,” we trim a lot a bit off the sides to reduce the apparent distance but haven’t really improved the photo much.
Pretend that the edges of the bus are limbs. Photographers are often very careful when composing so that subjects’ limbs aren’t loped off awkwardly. Editors, too, many of them former photographers, appreciate the photographer’s attention to detail and will leave the “limbs” fully in. The problem is that most of the action happens around the core of the subject’s body. The feet, while sometimes important, often allow a lot of empty space to run wild in a photo.
Back to the bus. If the edges of the bus are limbs, what happens when we chop off the bus’s head and feet? Thanks to Gestalt and the law of continuity, we expect that the bus will have a roof and wheels. Do they need to be in the frame, then?
Let’s try the “crop until it hurts” version.
This version gets rid of the tilt, brings us closer to Steven, and plays up the repetition of color we see in his jacket and on the front of the bus.
We take a somewhat static photo of a bus and inject some vitality with the human element.