Sometimes the shot you thought was perfectly composed and had the best focus, exposure, color and contrast when you saw it on your LCD screen is a big letdown when you see it on your monitor after downloading at home. You reviewed the shot on a 2-3 inch screen but, after you download, the photo is enlarged on a 15, 17, or larger inch screen and something you hadn't noticed shows up in your photo. A cigarette butt, plastic bag, beer can or a black speck of dust in blue water or a clear blue sky; your photo is ruined. Don't feel bad. It happens to all of us. There are folks who buy programs to clone out distractions and touch-up their digital photos but, I guess you could call me a purist (or a stubborn old mule), I'm not buying anything that causes me to spend more time in front of a computer and less time out shooting my camera. So, I crop to some standard dimensions. Then, I move the crop around over the photo and if I can't remove the distraction and still have an interesting composition, DELETE it.
The photos I've used here to demonstrate cropping on your computer, both, came from Parting Shot and I simply used two different sizes and forms of cropping to give you an idea of the possibilities for saving an otherwise perfect photo from going to the recycle bin. The horizontal (Or landscape, if you prefer) photo was cropped from the original 10 Mega Pixel shot, down to 5 Mega Pixels, another reason I would encourage you to use the highest Mega Pixel available on your camera; it gives you more options in processing photos afterward.
The vertical (portrait version, as some would call it) is a 3 Mega Pixel crop of the original 10 Mega Pixel shot. If you were to place all three photos side by side, it would appear that I had zoomed-in on a certain part of the photo; it became enlarged. Hence, in camera-speak, we sometimes call cropping "The poor man's zoom lens". When you crop a photo, it becomes enlarged and, as long as you had a steady camera and noise-free photo, you can enlarge it about ten times it's original size before loosing quality in the sharpness.
Earlier, I mentioned some standard dimensions, so, I'd better explain. Your camera software or even the computer you're using may already have photo cropping features built in to them. No need to rush out and buy some fancy editing program. Just use standard dimensions that you'd use for printing your personal photos 3×5", 4×6", 8×10" and so forth. Over in my part of the world we use 10x15cm, A4 and lots of other different dimensions. If your cropping tools allow you to use something called "Freehand" be careful. You may wind-up distorting the photo and have disastrous changes when you print it; like a wife or girlfriend who looks like they suddenly doubled their weight !
In cropping photos over the years, I have gotten into the habit of using Pixels as my method because I deal with an international audience and just got tired of worrying about conversions, inches, centimeters and whatever the rest of the world is using at the moment. I researched camera manuals and online and wrote these dimensions down and use them everyday, in fact, have used them so often, I no longer need to look them-up when I crop; they're memorized. If your software permits use these and you can't go wrong when printing photos. Print these or come back here and visit when you're ready to start cropping:
Megapixel Horizontal Vertical
10 3872×2592 2592×3872
8 3264×2448 2448×3264
6 3008×2000 2000×3008
5 2560×1920 1920×2560
4 2304×1728 1728×2304
3 2048×1536 1536×2048
2 1536×1024 1024×1536
1 1024×768 768×1024
Note: Some camera manufacturers have different pixel counts (as much as 200 pixels more or less) difference at the 10 Megapixel size between width and height of the photo. Don't be concerned about it when cropping. These dimensions will work when cropping for printing; tried and true. Until next time, Happy Shooting!
A wildlife photographer living in Okinawa, Japan, Mike has been published in Apogee Photo Magazine, Boots N all, Brave New Traveler, Go Nomad, Matador Abroad and Trips, The Nihon Sun, Travel Thru History, The Okinawan , Wend Magazine and Photo Guide Japan. He has recently joined the ranks of travel writers, capturing Nature, Festivals, Castles and Cultural shots of the Ryukyu Islands to share with the world.