News and Views from Dave Wilson

Tag: US Grand Prix

On Fear of Cropping

by on Dec.16, 2012, under Photography

Since attending the US Grand Prix, I’ve seen a huge number of photos that look rather like the following:

Michael Schumacher's Mercedes (uncropped)

Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes (uncropped)

The size of the car in the frame and the crud around it isn’t at all unusual for those of us not blessed with access to 600mm lenses and a press pass. What surprises me, though, is that so many people don’t realise that by cropping the image they can end up with something so much better. This particular shot, for example, ended up as the following after I took the knife to it:

Michael Schumacher's Mercedes

Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes

By cutting out all the extraneous rubbish from the frame, I concentrate the viewer’s eye on the car and end up with an interesting, graphical composition.

Some people will probably get worried that such an aggressive crop reduces the image resolution dramatically and that is certainly true. Given the choice between a good, low resolution shot, though, and a bad full resolution one, I’ll take the good image any day. Remember, too, that even this kind of crop from today’s DSLRs will still give you an image that is more than high enough resolution for screen display and prints up to 16 inches or so wide (this cropped image is about 3MP compared to the 12MP original).

Another concern here may be that I’ve ended up with an image that doesn’t fall neatly into any of the standard cookie-cutter aspect ratios. How can I print this on 6×4 or 10×8 paper? Obviously I can’t without leaving large white borders or cropping even more but since I’m really mostly interested in web display, I’m not too worried about whether the aspect ratio matches some paper or frame manufacturer’s idea of what shape my pictures should be. If I want a print, plenty of labs will print panoramic images in their original, non-standard aspect ratio or, if not providing truly arbitrary print sizes, will offer enough panoramic options that you can take a print with only minimal reformatting.

Here are a few more example of car shots taken at Circuit of the Americas, all of which have been pretty drastically cropped to achieve a more pleasing, panoramic composition. If you have a bunch of pictures like the top one on this post, take the knife to them and see if you like the results too.

Paul DiResta, Force India

Paul DiResta, Force India


Felipe Massa, Ferrari

Felipe Massa, Ferrari


Lewis Hamilton, McLaren

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren


Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso

Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso


Mark Webber at Circuit of the Americas

Mark Webber at Circuit of the Americas


Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing

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