Welcome to this weeks portrait tips and techniques.

There are times when cropping in camera just isn’t the best solution. Sometime it’s because we’re rushed and sometimes it is a technical reason. In this portrait study, it was about trusting the focus when the boys were walking. I have found there are times when the servo focus isn’t consistent when using some of the selective focus points, so I needed a more predictable technique. Also focusing on the boys dark shirts causes problems, as there isn’t enough contrast to be consistent.

Agreed some cameras handle these issues better than others, but even the top end cameras have some difficulty with dark moving subjects. I have found the best and most predictable results are when I use the main centre focusing point aimed at a higher contrast area. In this case I focused on the area where the neck and shirt meet on the youngest boy. The downside is this placed every one very central, the upside is it placed the heads of the other two boys in the top horizontal third position which was ideal for creating a square or panoramic composition. I had pre-visualised this being a square composition, the panorama was an after thought. In recent times I seem to be returning to the square styled image, I guess old habits of the “square days” might be new again !!!!

So while cropping in camera is always recommended, there are times where creative cropping can be applied without destroying the pixel count. You can see from the original that only the sides have been cropped, not top to bottom. All I had to do is apply the rule of thirds to the vertical composition to get a pleasing result. This doesn’t effect the quality of the capture. The panorama is the same process accept the left side has been extended by various selections and cloning and gaussian blur.

Depth of field is very shallow, but I added more gaussian blur around the bottom for effect.

TECHNICAL  |   Canon 5D  70-200 F2.8L IS    camera settings: F4@1/250  lens set at 200mm
B&W conversion: Nik Siver Efex Pro

Above left shows the original crop and centre focus across the top of the shirt. Notice the top horizontal one-third line is the same for both photos. The right hand image is adjusted so the intersecting point (circled) and vertical one-third is positioned between the two boys. To move this point to the right any more would centre the image again. This is what is known as “artistic license” that is sometimes the aesthetics over rule the text book.

The image below is a panoramic version of the same photo, but the colour has been desaturated using Layers > Hue / Saturation and adjusted to around 50%.

As to which one is best, square or panoramic, I don’t know. My usual preference is black & white, but my client was displaying the portrait over a three seater lounge, so my recommendation was to go panoramic and the muted pastel colours suited their decor. So I guess the answer is, he or she with the cheque book wins!

TIPS…… try to pre-visualise the scene before you start shooting, look at the background and avoid anything that will draw your eyes away from the subject. Avoid pulling back and allowing too much around the subject with the idea of cropping later. If you do, you’ll effect the quality of any enlargement, (12mp becomes 8mp or 6mp etc) think about the final shape and composition, then make an educated decision. For me it was a technical decision to focus this way and crop later but retaining maximum quality. Of course if your camera focuses on moving dark subjects consistently, just keep doing what you’re

TIPS…… in photoshop go to view > show > grid this will bring up the third’s grid and will show you how your cropping looks.

Till next week, happy shooting

portrait tips and techniques

2 Responses to “PORTRAIT CROPPING”

  1. Jan Ramsay Says:

    I love looking at your work. You inspire me so much.

  2. 5 tried and true portrait cropping techniques from photo tuts Says:

    […] View more portrait cropping tips at http://www.portraittipsandtechniques.com/2010/08/cropping/ […]

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