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How to Crop a Photo for Maximum Impact

With recent advancements in digital SLR cameras, 10- and 12-megapixel cameras make it easier to capture the perfect image. Even without spending $6000 on huge lenses, you can make one of these megapixel wonders produce images with significant impact.

Choices in cropping can improve the images that were not composed perfectly in the camera, completely change the format of an image to better fit its usage, or even tell an entirely different story. Closely cropped images are a trend in the general media, and we’re definitely seeing these kinds of images in yearbooks as well.

On a technical note: when you place your images into InDesign, pay close attention to the Info tab so you do not crop images to lower than 300ppi effective resolution. In eDesign, you’ll be warned with a red triangular alert if your resolution is insufficient.
Crop01-InlandLakesHS Crop02-InlandLakesHS

Look at these pep assembly photos. See how cropping away the distracting rainbow colors on the black shirt and most of the teacher’s red vest brings the focus where it should be? Your attention goes to the intense look on the boy’s face right before the Dash for Cash, and the girl watching so she can try to get a head start. The girl in black and the teacher were both looking out of the frame. The image started at 998ppi on the left and is 548 ppi after we zoomed in and cropped to the same exact shape.
Crop03-InlandLakesHS Crop04-InlandLakesHS

Here’s another example of changing the orientation of a photo to increase the impact. The body copy was about the girl in the glasses, and her thoughts surrounding graduation. In the image as it came out of the camera, the blond to her left is staring off into space, and that’s a little distracting. By cropping close, this photo really tells a very specific story rather than the more general story of graduation.
Crop06-InlandLakesHS Crop05-InlandLakesHS

Cropping to improve composition allows you to remove “dead space” in a photo. By removing significant portions of the background and the running back’s legs, this image jumps right into your face. The photo on the right is the shot as it came out of the camera. It’s one most high school photographers could get with a consumer-grade 70-300mm lens during the bright early evening of a football game. If we crop it close, his helmet and his elbows help define the shape. Keeping just a small part of the defenders in the image helps frame the subject and add context.

Contributed by:
Tim Morley, yearbook adviser
Inland Lakes High School, Indian River, MI

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