Photography decisions: To crop or not to crop

The assignment for next week is for the students to create a Soundslides presentation that fits into The Gator Nation campaign.

This assignment has several learning components, but the main goal is for the students to practive and improve their photography skills.

Their photography outcome primarily is determined by the photos they take — and we’ve spent time in class talking about the qualities of good photography. Kristen Bartlett Grace was a guest speaker, discussing her work as a photographer for The Naples Daily News and for the UF News Bureau and as a freelance photographer.

We have stressed that this photo assignment is designed for them to demonstrate their photography skills, not their Photoshop skills. We’ve only had one lab activity using Photoshop, so most students aren’t familiar with the software program. Also, the emphasis with this assignment is on the photos the students have taken, not the photos that they could “create” through Photoshop. (Students had asked about taking out distractions in a photo’s background or using high dynamic range or changing someone’s face in the photo. No to all of those.)

One technique students can use to make their photos more effective is cropping. Cropping can be done when taking the photo — walking closer to a subject or zooming in to eliminate unneeded portions of the scene being photographed. Photos also can be cropped after the photo is taken. Almost every photo software program includes a cropping tool.

Photo by Matthew Christ

Let me illustrate with a photo taken by Matthew Christ.

I asked Matthew to take some photos in lecture when the class was working with partners to discuss questions they had about developing a professional portfolio.

The first photo is Matthew’s original photo. The second photo is the photo after I cropped it in Photoshop.

In this case, both photos are effective, but each photo provides a different perspective.

I’d use the first photo to illustrate a university auditorium class. The photo conveys the “bigness” of auditoriums with rows of tables and chair, the high ceiling and fluorescent lighting.

But what I wanted to emphasize with the photo was the students working together. Some of that was lost with all the ceiling and walls. So I cropped the photo.

Photo by Matthew Christ

With the photo cropped, more empahsis is on the students. The same photo but cropping creates a different emphasis.

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