Cropping Wildlife Images to Tell a Story

Andrew Beck Andrew Leave a Comment

Following on from Gerry’s post yesterday, I thought I would use the opportunity to get your views on a cropping conundrum I was faced with when editing images from a recent private guided safari to Chobe.

Here is the processed image in its original dimensions.

Chobe Photo Safari Wild Eye-8

Original Dimenions – Portrait

This was the scene as a saw it through my lens and as is, tells quite a story. A young baboon with its mother is the only subject making eye contact with the camera. This combined with a shallow depth of field (f4.0 @ 400mm) ensures that despite their being 5 subjects in the frame, the story is without a doubt about the youngster who is sharp and in focus.

I thought I would play around with some different crops to see how best to present the image and started off with the original dimensions in a landscape orientation.

Chobe Photo Safari Wild Eye-9

Original Dimensions – Landscape

Whilst this crop immediately makes the story a lot more intimate there is something that just doesn’t quite feel right here to me. I intentionally dropped the frame to exclude the eye of the baboon on the right as I found it quite distracting with it in the frame. Still, something doesn’t feel right… I then tried a 1 x 1 square crop.

Chobe Photo Safari Wild Eye-10

 1×1 Square Crop

Whilst this opens the frame up quite a lot, the cropped baboon in the background is a bit distracting for me. This is easily corrected by using a custom crop and getting the result below.

Chobe Photo Safari Wild Eye-11

Custom Dimensions

In each of the examples above the story changes slightly as we exclude or include certain portions of the frame.

Do you know what conclusion I came to after all of this?

I like the original, full frame composition that I shot first the most.

Chobe Photo Safari Wild Eye-8

The moral of the story?

Whilst cropping your images can very easily help you eliminate certain distracting elements in the frame and place the emphasis on the story you are telling, often we opt for a specific composition whilst we are in the field for a reason. And more often than not, the original composition is best.

What do you think?

Would you choose the same image that I did or do you prefer one of the other crops?

Andrew Beck

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