Cropping and Enlarging – The Creative Process

I was discussing cropping with a friend the other day.  Mainly it was about creativity and composition.  How much should you or can you crop.

For me, there are no limitations at all.  99.9% of all my photos are cropped to some degree.  I mean that it is very rare that I use the complete image in it’s original form.  Sometimes it is just so I can print specific sizes, i.e. 8×10, 11×16, 16×20 etc.  But many times, especially in my wildlife photos, I love to crop close to get more facial shots.

Great Blue Heron - before crop

Great Blue Heron - after crop

But also it is very important to consider the composition.  With my wildlife images, it is sometimes hard to put the bird or animal where you want it in the viewfinder, because of the unpredictable movement of the subjects.  So I generally don’t zoom in tight with the camera.  Rather, I back off a little to give that extra space in the image for cropping consideration.  It’s better to err on the wide side rather than get in too close and not have any options to work with.

On enlarging, I have a plug-in software that I use.  It is published by Alien Skin Software, called “Blowup”.  It is very user friendly and does an outstanding job.  Just enter your dimension that you want, it will crop and enlarge to any size without losing any detail.  Contact  They have a free trial.

Back in my pre-digital days, I once had a man from Phoenix, AZ order a 30×40 print of a Texas Longhorn.  I first had to scan my negative and get a decent 11×14 that I could get the customary way.  Then I used Blowup software to get the 30×40.  The result was outstanding.

On another note, any image can be enlarged to super size with the right equipment.  The McDonald’s Restaurant near me wanted to use one of my photos to enlarge and crop for an 8 foot by 17 foot mural.  Quite honestly, I don’t believe it was one of my best images.  The composition was beautiful, but the original image quality wasn’t as sharp as I would have liked it.  Anyway, they purchased the rights to use it.  They took my scanned filed and sent it to a company in Toronto, Canada, I believe.  They in turn made it into a wall covering, and shipped it in six rolls, each about 3 feet wide.  Here is the original photograph, and an image of the mural in the restaurant.

Whitefaces and Bluebonnets

Mural in McDonald's Restaurant

One strange thing about the mural.  The restaurant owners picked the photograph because of the Texas Bluebonnets in it.  Then, as you can see, the flowers are hidden behind the furniture.

I hope you enjoy this little post.  Click on the images to see enlargements.

30 thoughts on “Cropping and Enlarging – The Creative Process

  1. Good post, Bob. I am constantly amazed at how many people don’t understand that every image a photographer does is cropped. We either crop with our feet, with our lens choice, or later in the darkroom or the on the computer. Like a sculpture that is chiseled out of a block of stone or wood, so to is what we end up putting on paper. The image at McDonald’s is amazing, though I’m chuckling about the bluebonnets. FWIW, Genuine Fractals is now called Perfect Resize as it was bought up by the original authors and is now in OnOne’s stable of software.

  2. Love the post on cropping. I often visually “crop” what I see before painting which cleans up the background and allows me to focus on the subject. You have done an incredible job on these photos. They are all soooo good , one cannot choose which one you like the best. Take care and I checked out the Blow UP website. Very impressive and could be useful should I decide to go back into the print market. Have a great evening…whats on board for tomorrow???? We are getting fresh snow ….about 7 inches already..really needed..God Bless

    • Thanks so much for such a great comment. I appreciat all of your compliments and comments. That Blowup software is amazing. I don’t know how these techies invent this stuff. Tomorrow probably not much going on as I have a Dr. appointment in the afternoon. They done tests this AM so I can find out more how I am doing about the BP thing. Warm and windy. Arount 65 degrees.

    • Hi Cindy, thanks for commenting. Sometime back I read a review that said that Blowup was better than Genuine Fractals. Of course, that is only one opinion, but that was the reason I bought it. It has done an amazing job, when I need it. Thanks for the compliment on the mural photo. 🙂

  3. Bob I love your helpful posts. You’re a regular wildlife photographing rock star! I love seeing where your work ends up…. still refer to you as my friend “billboard Bob” (:

  4. Another great post as always! I was surprised to find out how large of a print can be made from a digital camera, until it dawned on me that I used to shoot slide film almost exclusively so that I could blow up the results on a screen. Also, the larger the print, the farther away from it we stand most of the time, so the apparent sharpness remains about the same as if we were holding a 5 X 7 print in our hand.

  5. I’m with you: I often crop a picture to give it a composition that pleases me. You mentioned several reasons why you crop. Another one for me has to do with depth of field: the closer you get to a subject, the shallower the depth of field. By staying back a bit, I can get more depth of field in the part of the image that interests me the most. Because my camera takes 18-megapixel photographs, I can afford to throw some parts of a picture away and still have lots of detail in what remains.

    Steve Schwartzman

    • I agree with you completely about the DOF aspect. I have two 18MP cameras, both 7Ds, perhaps that is what you have. Anyway, it is nice to have such a nice big file to work with. You and I think alike. 🙂

    • Thanks for your great comment, Bruce. I can only pass on which works for me, and I enjoy doing so. If someone like you, understands and gets something out it, that is great.

  6. Nice mural based of course on a great shot! I do crop most of my pictures. Only big shot photographers with mega lenses can afford to have full frame bird shots most times.

        • I don’t know how they could make it much better, but I am sure they will. The reason I use two is for the convenience. I keep my 500mm lens on one, and my 100-400mm or 24-105 on the other. (Mostly the 100-400).

          They sure have been making “improvements” on their lenses, but also the prices are going way up. My 500mm, for example, which I consider the state of the art, is being upgraded. It is now a little lighter, which is nice, because mine it is a beast to hand-hold. But the price is jumping from a “modest” 7,000 to around 10,000, street price.

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