Cropping Beauty

This remains my all-time favourite photo that I’ve ever taken. I think it’s magical. It was a lucky shot, not something I’d planned. As always when I see a dragonfly, I follow, trying to get a photo. This one (a female Common Darter) perched in some long grass on a beautiful sunny day in the summer of 2015. The light, the grass, the dragon, it all came together in this moment and I’m delighted (still) that I managed to capture it!

This is how the photo began:

That was the original image, just with my usual border and watermark added. I like this a lot, but for the picture that I actually uploaded at the time, I did a small crop, just to bring the focus more onto the lovely dragon:

You can see in that one that there’s less space above the dragon’s wings at the top, and the dragon’s face is now more central. That’s the version of the photo that I’ve used ever since.

But what about other crops, how can we change this image to suit different purposes. How about if I want to focus on the dragon’s face more, and I don’t mind too much about its wings? I do love dragon faces, so this will make me happy 🙂

I could crop a little further in, losing part of the wings, but still having the whole of that one wing on the bottom left:

I could go further in and not show much of the wings at all, and let you see the hairs on her legs, and whiskers on her chin:

Or perhaps one step further to make it all about the dragon’s whiskery face and her gangly legs:

Isn’t she just adorable? Or is it just me? Not everyone finds insects cute like I do!

To keep the crops balanced you’ll notice I had to move the dragon’s head further to the left each time. It’s especially noticeable in that last one. I didn’t want to chop her feet off!

The position of the main part of the image can be important, so cropping can help there too. My camera’s focus is best on the central focal point so I tend to use that to focus most of the time. But then the thing I’m photographing is slap bang in the middle of the frame. Somethings that’s good, sometimes less so. In the first few shots above the dragon was pretty central. I think that worked in those shots as I was trying to capture the dragon in the midst of the sunny grass, but sometimes you want the eye to be drawn to a particular part of the image, and often you can use the ‘rule of thirds‘ to do this.

So originally we had the dragon central in the shot:

In that shot, it’s all about the dragon, she’s the central character, and the background is just an added extra.

How about putting her on the left of the shot, 1/3 of the way across the picture:

In that shot I feel that the dragon is still the focus, but we’re now paying a bit more attention to the background on the right of the shot. Our eye is drawn to the dragon, and then in the direction she’s facing.

Or we could try the opposite, putting her on the right:

Now I don’t think that last one works, but you may disagree. What I generally think about when cropping to thirds is that the dragon (or whatever else you’re photographing) should be looking into the shot, not out of it. So with this last shot you’re missing out on much of the background as your eye is drawn straight over to the dragon’s face and off the right of the image. Well, that’s what I think – what about you?

Cropping is an excellent tool for getting the most out of your shots. It can help you turn a good photo into an excellent photo just by focusing attention or removing distractions, or even just to allow people to get a really close look at something!

This was inspired by the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Cropping the Shot. Now to go and see what everyone else has come up with this week 🙂

By Suzy Shipman

I like to take photos and write words ...


  1. Excellent, Suzy! I loved everything about this – photo and explanations and possibilities. Well done. And it is – magical. Your all time favorite has got all it takes ♥

    Liked by 1 person

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