Sunday, July 30, 2017

Cropping: You Never Can Tell

When I submit a photo for publication, I always try to leave space on the left and right side so the editor has some freedom to crop the image to fit the available space. In addition, I always try to include enough foreground and background to give the viewer a sense of depth, an important quality in a successful photo. It's the obviously the editor's prerogative to decide what details are important and how much to include.

Three of my photos ran in the July 24 edition of the Journal. All were time sensitive, and they all made it "under the wire". However, I was a little surprised in manner they were cropped, although other factors may have been at play.

Photo #`
Photo #1: Volunteers At Catholic Charities:  My volunteer is kneeling to help a fifth-grader with her essay of the day. I wanted to get some eye contact between the two, but they never looked at each other. staring instead at the blank paper between them. Keep shooting, I told myself, since something would eventually happen if I was patient, and attentive. For the record, more than a dozen photos were made from this exact vantage point, this being the best of the lot.

The Crop: If you see how the photo was published, you can see that the two faces became the most important aspect of the image. It illustrates the interaction well, but the cropping was pretty severe. I think the image loses something without the hint of a student desk and the blue binder.

Photo #2
Photo #2: Volunteer Tutors: This shot didn't require as many shots as the first, since it was relatively easy to wait for my reader to make eye contact with her two students, which did NOT have photo releases on file. Flash bounce from an umbrella was used to light the subject.

The Crop: The cropping chosen by my editor includes all of the important details, but seems a little cramped, lacking a sense of depth. Granted, the details lost weren't really essential to the back story, but the lack of a visual front-to-back transition makes the image look a little flat, or worse, like you're viewing the image through a letterbox.

Photo #3
Photo #3: Roasting Marshmallows At Coyote Point: You can see that the uncropped photo had much more context that the published version. While I could have directed my subjects a little more (Since this wasn't "hard news", I adopt a looser interpretation of the photographer's "Prime Directive" to not influence the outcome of the image, or to physically alter any aspect of the environment. While I expect my right most subject is looking at his marshmallow, he looks like he's concentration on something else. I think the fire was a nice touch, which was lost in the extreme cropping of the image.

The Crop: With the tight cropping you lose the context provided by the fire in the foreground. It's much harder to tell that my subjects are toasting marshmallows outdoors, which was the reason I was sent to make the photo in the first place. Without the fire, it looks like my leftmost subject is levitating a rather large block of tofu.

In spite of the outcome, I was glad that all three images ran. There were all pre-event photos, and all succeeded in their primary purpose of announcing an upcoming event. To that extent, all three were now properly announced, even though the cropping might not have been to my taste.