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Framing Your Photos

Kris Butler


A good argument could be made that one of the most frequently used if not popular digital imaging software tools is the crop tool. Not necessarily because people really want to use it, but because they have forgotten to frame their shots properly before snapping away.

Granted, it is easy enough to crop away unwanted areas after the fact and thereby make them look like they were well composed in the first place, but unless you have a high-megapixel camera and have remembered to shoot at high resolution, cropping can put severe limitations on the size at which your photos can be presented onscreen or in print without looking jaggy.

Here are some well-framed photos.


If you don't intend to run full-screen slide shows for friends and family or print out any enlargements, then the limitations of cropping won't worry you. But if you'd like to retain as much flexibility in your images as possible and avoid having to bother with cropping, then here are a few easy-to-remember things to think about.

First, if your photo is going to include people, take a moment to reflect on what you'd like to have in the photo before you request that your subjects hold still. Once they are standing still and holding a smile you'll be under pressure to get on with it and will likely spend less time thinking about image composition.

Second, look for both natural peripheral (side) borders that might frame your shot nicely and for objects near the sides of your shot that might be distracting. Think of it like this: While fitting the full trunk of a tree into your border might look great, including the public trash can in your shot of a cathedral probably won't.

Finally, with the above in mind, try to ensure that you are getting just the right amount of foreground and background. There is no hard and fast rule for specific amounts as they will change according to what kind of photo you are taking. But here are some general guidelines: The horizon should usually be above the middle of the photo. In people shots, foreground should be minimized, while in landscape shots more foreground can lend better perspective. Likewise, don't allow too much additional space on either side of your subjects in people shots.

These tips should help keep you from having to use your crop tool too often. Happy snapping!

Article by Kris Butler
ACD Newsletters Editor
Copyright ACD Systems

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