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Outback Photo Handbook: Image Composition

Cropping And Framing: How, When, and Where
Part 2

by George Barr

Manage the Digital Workflow


In the first article, I came out strongly against the dogma of using only the full frame image. But to be fair, there are significant advantages to using a fixed format. For example:

  • all images are the same shape which can make mounting, matting and framing easier
  • on the wall, the consistency in format means images always work together.
  • consistent ratio makes designing webpages easier.
  • and that’s about it for advantages, and frankly I don’t see anything on this list enough to convince me this is the right way to go.

Framing Assistants

Since cropping and framing are so important, it’s worth looking at some possibilities for defining the edges of the image. Of course the viewfinder is your first and most obvious framing device, but when stitching, it is less effective than it might be since you can only see part of the image at a time. Therefore something else is helpful. Likewise, if you do plan to crop part of the image, then defining the edge may be important.

My normal routine is to carry a viewing rectangle round my neck. It can instantly zoom from wide to far, flip horizontal to vertical and with my other hand or with another piece of plastic, I can crop to change ratio. I built mine out of 1/8 inch styrene, available from hobby stores, after bashing several cardboard ones, but wood, cardboard, lino, arborite and just about anything you can cut would be suitable. If I weren’t so lazy, I’d paint one side white and the other black as the surround can affect the appearance of the image.



A black surround (like a DSLR viewfinder) tends to make the image look more impressive whereas a white surround deemphasizes the image and makes it work for it’s glory.
Many large format photographers have Zone VI Wratten 90 (brown) viewing filters to approximate the look of black and white.

These days, I’d recommend a pocketable digicam with zoom and black and white mode and a large LCD screen (say 3 inch), especially for someone using a view camera but possibly useful for even a DSLR user. There’s something different about looking at an image on a screen as opposed to looking through a screen at an image. One gets a better feel for the strength of the image. You could in fact flip the digicam upside down to emulate the upside down image of the view camera.

Michael Reichmann purchased a movie producer viewer with built in zoom and multi formats - about $300.

Of course, you can, and I do sometimes use my thumb and index finger of each hand to make a rectangle - the price is right, it’s hard to forget at home and storage isn’t an issue.
Another option is to carry two L shaped cards which can be held together to make a viewing rectangle of any ratio.

next entry I’ll discuss working the edges of the image.


Manage the Digital Workflow





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