Photo Critique – Improving Images with Cropping

The Original Photograph

Settings – 24mm, f/4.0, 1/3200sec, ISO200

This photograph was sent in by Smart member Jeremy.

The image has a lot of potential and he has captured a great moment between the couple as they relax in the sun.

However, by utilizing a few quick tricks we believe this image could of been dramatically improved.

Distractions, Distractions, Distractions

The red circles demonstrate the distractions within the image

Distractions are sometimes hard to avoid but can usually be resolved with the choice of lens.

Jeremy chose to shoot this image with a wide angle 24mm.

Whilst this is a great lens for including lots of background details was it necessary here?

We understand that perhaps he wanted to show the couple in the context of the lake but is the background that interesting?

Does it add or distract from the image?

The red circles on the image indicate areas that I found distracting.

Some of these can be quickly erased using the clone tool in photoshop but others would require much more work.

It is best practice to shoot without distractions in the first place to avoid hours in photoshop at a later date.

Rule of Thirds and Straightening Up

Almost utilises the Rule of Third but not quite. The image also has a slight lean to the right.

I also noticed that the photo wasn’t quite straight.

You can see that the building on the left and the chimney on the right don’t quite appear straight compared to the red lines.

He has done a good job of placing the couple on one of the Rule of Thirds lines but this could be improved with a tighter crop.

A Tighter Crop

Cropping can be used to remove unwanted distractions and also straighten the image.

So I went ahead and straightened the image.

Removed some of the smaller distractions.

And placed the subject of the image (the couple) precisely on the Rule of Thirds line.

Straight away the image appears a little more professional and more visually appealing.

The subject can now be placed on the Rule of Thirds line

An Even Tighter Crop

If we crop even tighter it removes even more of those distractions and focuses more on the emotions of the couple.

We could however take our cropping even further.

That’s exactly what I have done above.

Now you can really see that the couple are smiling.

If you look below you will also see the the couple are now placed on the intersection of two Rule of Thirds lines.

The subject can now be placed on the intersection of two lines which makes for a more pleasing composition.

Another way to reduce the amount of distractions in your photos is to convert them to black and white.

Because there are no colours within the image to distract, the viewer is forced to focus on the emotion.

Black and White can also be used to reduce distractions even further.

A Super Tight Crop

An extreme example but shows how the photo could of been captured.

This is an extreme example and generally we wouldn’t recommend cropping this much.

It is more of something to think about when you are actually taking the photos.

What if Jeremy had used a 200mm zoom lens?

He could of taken the photo above and avoided all of those unnecessary distractions.


Even with the big crop the Rule of Thirds can still be utilized to make a compelling image.

To us this is a much cleaner and considered image.

It shows the couple are on a lake whilst also demonstrating the emotion between the two of them.

Check out more photography related posts on our blog