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Planning to crop when you shoot

Sometimes you take a picture knowing it will have to be cropped.


Shooting into the sun when it is quite low may create flare that ruins a picture.
Shooting into the sun when it is quite low may create flare that ruins a picture.

Occasionally, you will come across a scene you wish to photograph that you know will require cropping to make it into a nice photograph. If you don't crop it, the picture will be unsatisfactory.

The backlit scene on the left provides just such an example, where the sun is so low on the horizon that it is impossible to avoid flare unless you physically shield the lens from the unwanted direct rays of the setting sun.

In this case, the photographer used a hand to block out the light that was causing flare, but it meant including some of the hand in the frame, as shown in the image below.


His left hand, visible along the top of the frame, successfully blocked the sun's light that was causing flare, but it clearly does not belong in the picture.

The photographer knew the picture could be cropped later to remove the hand. He planned to crop when he took the picture.

The picture below shows the final result after cropping to get rid of the hand that was needed to eliminate flare, and also after having digitally edited the image by increasing the amount of light in shadow areas and taking other steps to improve its composition.

You may need to use your hand, for example, to shield the lens from flare, even if it means including it in the frame.
You may need to use your hand, for example, to shield the lens from flare, even if it means including it in the frame.

With the flare gone, cropping to eliminate the hand from the frame (and then editing the picture for its best look), will result in a pleasant composition.
With the flare gone, cropping to eliminate the hand from the frame (and then editing the picture for its best look), will result in a pleasant composition.

You may come across a similar shooting situation where you realize that, in order to get the picture you want, you will need to introduce something into the frame that will need to be cropped out later. It may be a hand, as in this case, or a hat, a part of a building or a leafy branch, or any other thing needed to eliminate flare or to block a distracting object.

Don't give up when faced with such a shooting situation. Use your imagination to block out the unattractive or unwanted portions of the scene, keeping in mind that the picture can be cropped later, when you bring the image up on your computer screen in your photo-editing program, to get rid of the object you used as a blocker.


Should you find yourself in a location where you can't change your shooting angle and a portion of the scene you wish to photograph includes something you can't avoid, such as the red corner padding of the boxing ring shown in the image on the right, take the picture anyway, planning to crop out the undesirable element later.

Be sure that you are shooting at a high enough resolution with your digital camera so that your smaller, cropped image image retains sufficient detail.

The photographer who took this picture could not leave his seat and was unable to zoom in closer. But, he nonetheless took the shot, knowing it would look fine when cropped.


Here is the final version, with the distracting elements removed by cropping, (unless you also consider the ropes to be distracting.)

You will probably encounter similar situations where a distracting or unwanted object is blocking a portion of a scene and cannot be avoided. Don't allow that to stop you from taking the picture, so long as the center of interest is in the frame and otherwise composed as you would like.

If you are shooting film but are not making your own prints so that you can crop them as you like, or if you are unfamiliar with digital editing techniques, most photo labs will be able to crop the picture for you. You will need to give them clear cropping instructions.


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Choosing a shooting location