Why Cropping into your Photos can Save your Shots

When editing your camera’s photos, you might need to look for the shot within the shot. Here are some examples.

After you snap a photo, you may have a good sense whether you’ve captured the image you want. Instant digital review certainly is a wonderful thing. But I would recommend not immediately deleting a photo that didn’t catch the moment or missed its intended focus point. Perhaps there’s a different element in the shot you’re not aware of that is in focus.

If you take a little time to study these photos, it’s amazing what you might find hidden in plain sight. And thanks to those many millions of pixels that are crammed into photos, you can usually crop deep into the image to pull out a detail with clarity.

No, it’s not quite like that scene from “Blade Runner” where Harrison Ford’s Deckard closely examines a digital photo and tells the computer to “move in and enhance.” But it’s amazingly close. You may not be able to print a large poster of your super-cropped photo, but it’ll likely still look great on your smartphone or computer screen.

Follow the Focus
I enjoy snapping flower shots with my Panasonic Lumix LX10. I prefer using manual focus in the attempt to make the flower pop out of its blurred background (bokeh).

But since the area of focus is especially narrow, it’s easy to miss the mark.

Instead of discarding these three pics that missed their focus targets, I followed the camera’s focus and then cropped in to save the shots.
(I use Adobe Lightroom.)
Yes, I missed the center of this flower, but the crisp edge of the petal is still interesting.

Much of this alien-like plant looked blurry, except for the tip of the back blooming stem. So, I zoomed in super tight to center on those crazy red sprouts.

Most of these fallen tree blossoms on my driveway ended up out of focus, but I cropped in tight enough to locate a few that weren’t caught in the blur.

Find your Needle in the Haystack
Even if focus isn’t a problem, you may still want to crop into a portion of a photo to give it some punch. If the entire shot isn’t that special, perhaps there’s a strong section to highlight.

I’ve been doing a lot of hiking with family and friends over the past year, and I’ve discovered that stunning views in nature don’t always translate into a quickly snapped photo. That usually happens to me when I try to take shots of a bubbly stream in a forest. It’s difficult to capture that sparkly view. So, when editing those pics, I sometimes explore the motion in the water.
In this cropped image I snapped with my iPhone, I was drawn to the linear patterns in the water created by the stream’s rush over rocks.

Show a Piece of the Puzzle
Beyond using this photo-cropping technique as a fix, you may find ongoing enjoyment in intentionally creating cropped shots that represent a piece of a larger story. (I certainly have.)

Sometimes a taste is all you need to fill in the rest.

I’ll give you a hint: My 5th grader’s science experiment using salt, hot water and a piece of string

If you’re still left with a mystery, is that so bad?

Less is More
I often like to say that “less is more” in visual storytelling. This perspective comes from my professional experience in video content creation and has certainly held up throughout my personal photography work.

Enjoy your own exploration of all of those smaller spaces in your photos.