Cropping and Negative Space


This is a picture of Cara. Cropping an image is challenging. There are certain rules – don’t cut off hands and feet, for example. But sometimes it makes sense to break the rules.  In this image, I primarily composed the shot in the viewfinder of the camera and further cropped a bit in Photoshop. I wanted Cara’s face to be large enough to see clearly, and it just felt right to cut the image off at her waist. So, her arms ended up being cut off below her elbows.

Does this look OK to you? Everyone will have a different interpretation, but for me, there is enough interest in her beautiful face, the lovely dress and the way her hair is spread out on the blue paper.  I can imagine how the rest of her arms and her hands look – I don’t need to see them explicitly. And, we’re already looking at Cara in an unconventional way – sideways – so another rule has been broken.

When I crop a picture, part of the creative decision has to do with negative space. Negative space is the space outside the main subject – in this case, the blue paper Cara is lying on. I chose the blue color carefully to work with her dress and tanned skin tones.

Take another look at the image and just focus on the negative space – the two small triangles under her arms and larger space that meanders around her body and hair.  Are the shapes pleasing? Do the tonal changes between the lighter areas and the darker shadows 0n the paper make the picture more interesting?

When we look at a photograph, we often don’t consciously think about the negative spaces. But the negative spaces can make or break the picture.

Here’s another image from the same series, showing Cara’s full body:


How does the crop work? How does the negative space work?  This is a more conventional picture for sure, a safer picture to take. I find the first one more engaging – it holds my attention longer.

Photo tip: Be intentional about cropping an image. Think carefully about how the negative space will look.


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