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Cropping landscapes to create panoramas

And also to eliminate unnecessary elements


<!--INFOLINKS_OFF--> A wider (or taller) than standard image format is a panoramic picture. Panoramas are well-suited to landscape photography.
A wider (or taller) than standard image format is a panoramic picture. Panoramas are well-suited to landscape photography.

Let's assume you have a landscape photograph in standard format that you wish to not only improve by eliminating un-needed detail but that you also wish to transform into a panorama format, where the picture is much wider than a normally-framed photograph. The way to do that is by cropping your image.

Cropping a print is simple. Use a ruler and a pen to mark up the print, then bring it to your photo lab with the negative and ask them to make a new print, cropped as shown.
Cropping a print is simple. Use a ruler and a pen to mark up the print, then bring it to your photo lab with the negative and ask them to make a new print, cropped as shown.

If your landscape was photographed on film, you can mark up a print or even a contact sheet using a ruler and pen (such as a Pilot Fineliner pen) to show how you would like the image to be cropped, as demonstrated in the example above. Then, it is simply a matter of having a photo lab make a new print based on your marked-up example. (Be prepared to pay a little more, since your new print will essentially be an enlargement from your negative.) In this instance, the crop lines eliminated detail that did not contribute to the image and removed unnecessary areas from the top and bottom, resulting in a panoramic format (below) for a pleasing landscape.

The resulting panorama had distracting elements removed by cropping, and still contains interesting, relevant detail.
The resulting panorama had distracting elements removed by cropping, and still contains interesting, relevant detail.

If your image was photographed digitally, the same cropping principle applies, but you get to do the work on your computer rather than handing it off to a lab technician. (Well, that is not necessarily true; you can always ask a photo lab to crop your digital images, too, in accordance with your instructions, and to either print them for you or save them as digital images on, for example, a CD.)

Cropping a digital image requires image-editing software, such as Adobe PhotoShop. Most digital cameras are supplied with an image-editing application of some kind. The program will almost certainly have a cropping tool that is easy to use. Often, the Crop tool can also be used to make sure that the image's horizon line is level, an added bonus with landscapes. (One of the common errors that novice photographers make is to shoot a landscape scene where the horizon is angled rather than level.)

For information on how to crop a digital picture using the Crop tool while also ensuring that your landscape picture is level, click here.

A landscape should not be tilted, as this one obviously is. Ensuring that your picture is level is an essential step in proper cropping.
A landscape should not be tilted, as this one obviously is. Ensuring that your picture is level is an essential step in proper cropping.

When digitally cropping your landscape picture, you should examine the image to figure out what you need to remove by cropping to achieve an attractive panoramic format for the scene. It may mean deleting areas of the picture that you feel don't really harm its appearance. But, if you are after a wide panoramic view of the scene, you may have to be brutal and eliminate areas that could otherwise stay. You might surprise yourself afterwards by observing that the lost elements really weren't all that important to the landscape compared with the benefits of a panorama format. But, if you are at all concerned about losing elements that could be important, save a copy of the original image before cropping it.

Sometimes, though, it is obvious that some portions at the top or bottom of an image need to be cropped out, if only to make a better image. When foreground clutter, an unnecessary road or too much sky can be deleted to improve the scene's appearance, they should be cropped out. Of course, the good thing about cropping un-needed elements from the top and bottom of a landscape is that you will end up with a wider, more panoramic view of the landscape, which is what you set out to achieve. The before-and-after images below demonstrate how pleasing the results can be.

The upper picture has too much foreground clutter to make an attractive landscape. Cropping it out (and also eliminating a pole using the Rubber Stamp tool) resulted in a much-improved landscape scene.
The upper picture has too much foreground clutter to make an attractive landscape. Cropping it out (and also eliminating a pole using the Rubber Stamp tool) resulted in a much-improved landscape scene.

Before deciding to crop a landscape picture, especially a digital picture, you will want to be sure that it will have sufficient resolution after cropping for the purposes you intend for it. Cropping eliminates a portion of a picture, sometimes to the detriment of the final image by removing so much that you can no longer enlarge the picture without it appearing grainy or washed out. Ideally, the landscape you wish to crop was photographed at high resolution, permitting you broad latitude when cropping.

 
Further information...
Using 35mm SLR lenses on dSLR camera bodies
Related topics...

Cropping

Cropping digital images

Image resolution

In search of landscape subjects

Panorama pictures from a series of photographs