Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thoughts on Composition and Cropping: Part II

Greater Yellowlegs

Today I'll cover more of my thoughts on composition, starting with moving subjects, which I started on last time, and finish with ideas about cropping. To start off today though, I have not been out to photograph anything this last week, but I did get feedback from a friend who I did a set of photos for a few weeks ago. A friend and co-worker of mine approached me to take some photos of her for a dating website, and I said I would take some photos for her, as I do not mind helping out a friend. I learned a lot from that shoot, which I'll post about next time, but suffice to say, she was very pleased with the results, and I hope she gets more hits on her ad than before as a result.

Now back to composition, and as I finished off the first part yesterday, I'll cover a few more thoughts that I have about framing moving subjects. I think the hardest part of framing a moving subject is combining the depth of field you want in the shot, while also not lowering shutter speed so much that motion blur becomes a problem. Most of the time when I am shooting birds in flight for an example, I tend to track the bird, which might mean I wont get the background I desire. To make this less impacting on the photo I will often leave my 300mm F4 wide open to leave the background blurred, in order to avoid unwanted items being in focus or from distracting the view from the subject. Normally when I want the foreground and the background in focus it is due to the fact that I am taking a landscape shot, not of birds. That said, increasing the depth of field to F5.6 or F8 will give the viewer a better idea of the environment in which the shot was taken.

What about cropping? There are many reasons to crop and image, the first being reach. In my case the 300mm F4 often does not given me enough reach, which means cropping is essential for creating the image more dramatic. Another reason to crop is that most consumer, and even some professional cameras, the D700 for example, do not give you a full view of the frame when you look through the viewfinder. Most of the crop sensor DSLRs, other than the Nikon D300 and Canon 7D, cover somewhere between 94% and 96% of the frame, which means it can be a lot harder to get the composition you want just looking through the viewfinder. One way to overcome that, at least on cameras with the ability to do so, is to use liveview. Now liveview is not always practical, such as for wildlife photography, but for landscape or macro photography it is a viable option in some situations. So for situations when using liveview is not possible, or it is not available on your camera, cropping the image to fit what you original envisioned isn't a bad idea. I do this often, as my camera body has a 96% view, which means I'll sometimes find a branch or something else that I did not think would be in the image and need to remove it. Of course cropping is not the only ways to deal with undesirable things from being in your frame, it can be the easiest way.

Most of the time I try to compose the image so that I do not need to do any cropping, but I am not at all apposed to cropping depending on the subject, and if any distracting objects enter the frame that I did not notice when framing the shot. If you have the time of course, you can correct these problems by viewing the image on the back of your camera and re-shooting, but that is not always the case, such as shots taken of an animal you saw on the side of the road as you drive by, or a sunset photo, which getting just the right colours could mean only having a minute or two to get your equipment setup correctly. Well that is about all for my thoughts on composition and cropping for the time being.