Cropping close for better close-ups

A friend of mine asked me the other day if I cropped my photographs.  I replied in the affirmative, that I cropped nearly all of my images to some extent.  Most of them very little, say for print sizes, etc.   But  I like to do most of my composition in-camera or in the view-finder if I can.

Unfortunately, trying to compose an esthetic picture while trying to capture a moving animal or a skittering bird, is very difficult.  So for that reason, I take what I can get, and compose during cropping.

Care must be taken to get your subject in focus.  My method is to use only one of the camera’s focus points.  Generally that for me, is the center one.  The importance of using only on point becomes to be most apparent when I am photographing a tiny bird among the branches, like the wren photo below.  With more than one focus point being used, the lens would be going wild searching because of the surrounding twigs and branches.

The first image below is what I saw through the view-finder.  You can see the difficulty I would have had with more than one focus point.  I also like to use spot metering in these cases, that is, if I remember to change the setting.  (Hey, I am human). 🙂  With spot-metering the chance of getting the subject exposed properly is much better.

Wilson's Warbler - original camera image

Wilson's Warbler - cropped and edited

The same principal applies to the following image of the Dickcissel.  Although the bird is more out in the open, there still was the fence wires to make focus difficult.  Of course, I must admit that one of the most difficult efforts, is to get that focus point on the bird.  But with practice it is easy to do with practice.   Remember,  what I see through the viewfinder is what is maybe 70-80 feet away, and I am looking through my 500mm lens.  I am actually much further away from the subject that it appears.  I had to use my binoculars to first locate the warbler in the bushes.

Dickcissel - original camera image

Dickcissel - cropped and edited

Of course, what I have described is only my methods based on my own experiences.  I am sure that some other photographers have their own ways of obtaining their images.  Heck, maybe I am doing things the hard way, but it is what works best for me.  At least, until someone asks “Hey, Bob, have you ever tried this?”  I am alway open to hearing tips from my peers.

But for now, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed reading my little foray into trying to write an educational article.  I couldn’t think of anything else to write about today.  Click on the images to see enlargements.  Also, check out my other works by clicking on the Flickr logo on the right side of this page.

25 thoughts on “Cropping close for better close-ups

  1. In my mind, the final image is all that matters. It doesn’t matter at all how you get there – crop, chop or burn!

    I’ve caught up reading to here and I have to tell you I really appreciate this article. I change from auto to manual focus a lot and know how to move my focus points, but you’ve prompted me to go back to the manual to review focus modes and metering. When I got my camera (2 years ago now, I’m a little embarassed to admit) I had no idea what it was talking about and I haven’t even thought about going back to it since. It’s taken me that long just to get some sense of aperature & shutter speed. 🙂 I will be paying more attention to these settings now to really learn how they affect the images. Thanks!

    • Your first sentence says it all.

      I don’t completely shoot manual. I either shoot aperture priority or shutter priority. But then I have control of everything else, meterint, focus points, etc. But I must say, Cindy, that you have done wonderful with your (only) two years of experience with your camera. 🙂

  2. Your method seems to work wonderfully, Bob. Your cropped images appear as beautfully clear as your cropped – I am assuming that is due to the quality of your lens and camera. I always feel like I am cheating when I crop, but I sometimes I have to since my biggest lens only goes to 250mm.

    • My camera and lens are good quality and it does help. It means that perhaps I can crop a little closer maybe. But don’t feel like you are cheating when you crop. It is just good photography to do so if it makes the image work better. If you read some other of the responses you will see that it is quite normal to do so.

  3. Great photos, great blog! Thanks for looking up my blog and for the comment. You have a pretty good memory for some one who hasn’t lived in Michigan for 50 years. The Berlin Raceway is still there, and they did finish the bridge. 😉
    I hope that you won’t mind that I have added a link to your blog from mine?

    • Thanks a bunch. I still have a brother in Muskegon, and my wife has relatives in the Traverse City area, so we make trips their every few years or so. Don’t know when or if we make the trip again. I will reciprocate and put on my blogroll, too. I know I will enjoy your blog.

  4. Great bit of info there Bob ! Cropping is the way to go. Sometimes you just have to in order for the photograph to work. Photographers have been doing that forever. Super photos as usual !!

  5. Good article, Bob. I heard a news photographer respond to such a question with, “Of course. Whether or I do it in the darkroom or I do it with my feet, every image I make is cropped.”


  6. Cropping is key to great photographs… great tips and writing. 🙂 I actually love both images of the birds on the fence, but I agree that the cropped is a much stronger image. Do you set your camera to auto-focus or do you use manual? I suppose it’s hard to work in manual when you have a moving subject? Great post! 🙂

    • I use auto-gocus 99% of the time. About the only time I use manual focus is if the trees and brush are too dense to use auto-focus. Then with much difficulty. 🙂 Thanks for writing, Polly.

      P.S. I might have cropped to include both birds, but I felt they were to far apart for my taste.

  7. I, for one, would like to see more such articles, Bob. I enjoyed what you offered regarding camera settings. Keep ’em coming!

  8. cropping is the way to go…thanks for sharing..I crop my photos of my art work…makes for better web pages…The birds are just beautiful as usual…

  9. Bob,
    I do exactly the same when shooting small birds at a large distance. Later you can just crop and get the best of that shot. Is a different story if you’re shooting a large subject and moving slowly or if you have the opportunity to be close enough to get a full frame shot.
    I don’t care how you do it Bob, your pictures are terrific!

    • Obviously, I do things different if as you say, larger objects, being closer, and of course, scenics and landscapes. One thing I forgot to mention, with my camera, the Canon 7D, with 18MP the job is even easier because with the larger file, I can even get a tighter crop than before with my old 8MP.

      Many thanks for the compliments. 🙂

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