Saturday, February 28, 2009

Golden Rules of Photography #2

Avoid Knee-Jerk Reactions

Here are two images of model Rosie O'Connell in my newly-refurbished photography studio. Well, that's not strictly true. 

Does the top shot of Rosie look odd in any way? In theory it should, because full length photographs of people that are cropped between the knee and the foot (usually around the shin bone) tend to give a "disembodied limb" look, which can appearing jarring to the viewer. Sometimes, the reason for the shot not looking right to the viewer might not be obvious - they might not notice the missing feet, but it won't have a pleasing effect on them.

If the theory works, the second shot should have a more pleasing effect on the eye. When I cropped the second shot, I used today's Golden Rule of Photography:

If You've Lost the Feet - Lose the Knees

Following the Golden rule, I cropped above the knee halfway along the thigh, turning the shot into a "three-quarter" length crop, rather than a full-length shot with the feet missing.

This rule also applies to hands that have been cropped off at the wrist - giving that weird disembodied look. Although in the case of arms with missing hands, it might be harder to make a pleasing new crop without taking the crop to chest level - cropping between the elbow and the shoulder, turning what might have started out as a half length or three-quarter length shot, into a head and shoulders.

Try looking at your own shots with missing body parts and see if a bit of judicious cropping would improve the picture.

Golden Rules of Photography #1


  1. Did not really think of this. Thank you!

  2. I had a very big shock when a photo of mine was slammed by a professor because it was cropped at the hand vertically, not horizontally like it was discussed here. The subject's thumb shows and a little bit of his knee is cut off too (he is sitting cross legged) i still felt the picture wasn't badly composed (rule of thirds) Any thoughts on this?

  3. Hi Mira

    If you'd like to send a link to your photo, I'd be happy to offer you my thoughts. But without seeing the image, it would be difficult to comment on it.


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