Thinking outside the standard box!


There are of course many standard aspect ratios which photographers use on a regular basis to crop an image. The obvious ones that immediately spring to mind are 3 x 2, 5 x 4, 1 x 1 and 16 x 9. There are very good reasons why these are widely used but there are also images which require a ‘non standard’ approach. This picture is a perfect example.

I am looking towards a north facing escarpment of the South Downs. The soft winter light is coming from about 10 o’clock, lighting the foreground and dancing on the tops of the trees in the background. The lone tree required space around it to breathe whilst pleasingly framed by the gentle slope in the land and the curve made by the edge of the field. The use of space in a picture is I believe an important ingredient.

I have no idea what the aspect ratio of this image is; and frankly the answer doesn’t bother me. I cropped the image to suit the picture, as opposed to making the picture fit inside a standard box. I always remember being told by Paul Gallagher on a ‘one to one’ workshop with him a few years ago that he would crop to suit each individual image. If a standard crop worked, then fine, but if it didn’t then don’t be restrained by convention.

Using a rangefinder means that I nearly always have to crop my images. The rangefinder frame lines in the viewfinder are not that accurate, so it’s virtually impossible to compose and get the picture exactly right in camera. I therefore follow these simple guidelines when I crop an image. 1. To find the right compositional balance in the photograph; 2. To emphasise the elements in the picture which are of most importance; and 3. To remove any distractions which might be on the edge of the frame. These influence how and where I crop the image with the sole intention of making a photograph which is pleasing to the eye.

Artistically I believe this has to be right and if your starting point is always to conform to a recognised aspect ratio then this might not always produce the best result. There are of course going to be times when using the same aspect ratio on a consistent basis is more appropriate – a body or panel of work for example. It’s all part of the decision making process.

My suggestion is simply – Be creative and think outside the standard box!

Depending on the size of screen you are using to read this page, you might want to click on the image to view a larger version.

4 Responses to “Thinking outside the standard box!”

  1. LensScaper

    Well said, Alan. The world around us doesn’t understand ratios, although nature does understand something as complex as fibonacci curves. The only time I get bothered about ratios is if I’m trying to put together a panel of images, otherwise I crop to whatever shape/ratio works best.



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