Photo finish: Cropping to fit

example of photo croppingI coached a professional photographer a few years back. He needed something like 30 minutes of help before he was loading his images every which way onto his portfolio blog.

Someone with limited exposure to photography, however, could struggle for months trying to grasp the dynamics of image processing and placement. Cropping, sizing, correcting, coding and uploading images can be maddening for those without experience and/or aptitude.

Don’t get me wrong: Anyone can learn to upload full-frame pictures of the dog and kids onto a simple traditional blog. But when you get into building pages (or posts) with visual impact, a suite of graphic skills come into play.

I can sympathize because I’m learning intermediate Photoshop. This is professional graphics software that can be a complex illogical nightmare. I pound my head on the keyboard nightly … and I’ve been working with images for 40 years.

I set a goal of spending at least an hour a day on Photoshop for the rest of the year. In the short term, anything above mere competency sounds good.

With images, cropping is a good place to start. Here’s some homework: Select a photo that has a couple of visual elements, dogs and kids will do. Save and store the original if you care about it. Open a copy of the photo in a basic photo processing app (iPhoto or Picasa, for instance).

Crop the image into a strong vertical. Then a horizontal. Come in super tight, then back off to a medium frame. Try anything and everything. (You can do this low-fi with a print magazine photo and a couple of pieces of paper.)

If you’re doing it right, the image is transformed with each set of crops. It’s a bit of artistic alchemy that will make the dog and kids look sensational when you hit that sweet spot.

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