10 Tips to Crop Pictures the Right Way for your Blog or Magazine

10 Tips to Crop Pictures the Right Way for your Blog or Magazine

A well-chosen picture explains the content of your article for a blog, magazine, or newsletter at once. A photograph can show something in a single image that otherwise would need a lot of words.

Sometimes it is better to crop a photo to get the focus on the desired part. In this article, I give you 10 tips to crop pictures the right way.

Cropping is considered making changes to a picture. When you use photographs that somebody else made, make sure you have permission for these changes.

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Crop pictures the right way

The best moment to crop your pictures the right way is when you take the photo with your camera. If this is not possible for some reason, crop your pictures in the editing process with the focus on your subject or the story you want to tell.

Make use of your own photos

Let's party

Using your own pictures is practical for two reasons:

  • You have no problems concerning the copyright of somebody else because the copyright belongs to you;
  • You can crop the images the way you want. The photos of somebody else cannot be changed at your discretion.

A picture is worth a thousand words.
~Chinese proverb

Are there rules for cropping photos?

If there are rules for cropping pictures the right way, do you need to follow them? This is obviously a rhetorical question. Yes, there are rules. No, you are not obliged to follow them. However, you cannot ignore rules if you don’t know them.

When you take pictures, you decide in the viewfinder on position, composition, colour, and lines. The photo, including the right crop, is ready when you click.

However, especially if your camera saves large files, you can choose to intentionally step further away from your subject. With a lot of space around your focus point you can later:

  • Crop, so the picture suits your story;
  • Crop, so your picture will fit into the available space.

Related: What is Composition in Photography? 7 Tips to Improve your Images

1. What is the direction of the subject?

The direction is obvious when the subjects are people or animals. It is either the direction they are looking at or the direction they are going. In other subjects, you can for example look at the perspective of a building or the leading lines of a road.

Off the picture
Only crop a picture like this if you have a good reason for it.
Into the picture
Have ‘breathing space’ in the picture before a person.

2. Let a person look in to the page

Whether the picture is on a paper page or a digital one, if there is a person on it, let him or her look in to the page if possible. In fact everything with eyes, so this also applies to animals.

This does not apply to page-wide images, but to photos that are pasted in the text or on pages with more than one column.

3. Guide the viewer

By putting a person in the foreground, you direct the viewer into the photo. Strong leading lines, like for instance a road, can also have this effect.

Let a person look into the page
It’s better to let a person look in to the page for balance.
Looking over a shoulder
Peeking over a shoulder.

4. Note the feet, hands, and joints

Nothing is as awkward in a photo as a person missing a foot or a hand. It’s better to exaggerate your crop, so when a foot is missing in the photo, crop until you show only the upper half of the person.

Another good practice is to not cut right over a joint. It looks really strange if you crop at an elbow or a knee. 

Related: Profitable Selling Pictures Online? Which Problems and Possibilities Exist?

5. How much do you show?

A portrait usually shows the whole face. But the top of the hair is not always necessary. The image doesn’t have to be exactly symmetrical. And at times an unusual crop is way more interesting.

Watch the protrusions
Too bad a foot is missing.
4 times me
Experiment with cropping.

6. Straight horizon

A horizon in the photo is either consciously at an angle or straight. If it is a little bit crooked, the readers of your article will think it is a mistake. Make the horizon straight with programs like Photoshop or Gimp.

Are you taking your pictures with a smartphone? The app Snapseed is a free possibility to adjust the photo in any direction you want.

7. Look at more than just the main subject

Make sure there are no ugly shadows or remaining irregularities after cropping. Smudges or rubbish lying around can probably also be removed from the photo with a good crop. The cleaner the image, the better the story.

Crooked horizon
Is the horizon crooked on purpose or by accident?
Cropping tighter will remove the shadows as well as the cutting off of the leg at the knee.

8. Direction of lines

A carpenter I once knew, used to say “If it fits, it won’t fit”, so he made things too small and covered the cracks with slats. He would never choose to let a line or form start right in the corner. 

I didn’t like this way of solving problems that shouldn’t be there in the first place.

Some cameras don’t show exactly what will be on the end result. There is either too much or not enough to see in the viewfinder. In that case, choose to take the picture with room for adjustments later in the editing process.

Here I looked at the rule of thirds to position the person. I don’t like the dark hole of the door on the left and the cropping of the rose window isn’t well done.
In this picture, I let the staircase ‘start’ in the right-bottom-corner. The scene is more balanced and the rose window is better cropped.

9. What’s the story?

A crop can contribute to what you want to say. For instance, you want to have an atmosphere of loneliness. Or you might choose to emphasize the silhouette of a person.

What story do you want to tell?

Related: What is a Viewpoint in Photography and How does it Impact our Images?

10. Thinking outside the box

Outside the box

Why should a crop always have to be square? It can also be a circle or an irregular form like a star or cloud.

Have a look at comic books. A lot of times the subject peaks outside the cadre. It takes greater skill in editing but the result is worth it.

I love these kinds of images!

Cropping pictures

Maybe you have noticed that most of my examples and tips are about photographs with people in them. 

You might also want to crop architecture or landscape photos. However, the rules for these kinds of subjects are not as strict as when there are people in your images.

Do you often crop your images? Tell me in the comment box below.

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6 thoughts on “10 Tips to Crop Pictures the Right Way for your Blog or Magazine”

  1. Hi Hannie,

    Lots of room for improvement for me here, I am fast and sloppy when it comes to crop pictures… I hardly check the horizon or shadows etcetera.
    I take and share pictures mostly because the way the experience / the view makes me feel, but I realise now that this feeling can be improved by Clever Cropping ! I am going to pay more attention to the actual, technical details of my pictures. Thanks for getting me started!

    • Hi Klaartje, your remark made me smile; Clever Cropping. LOL
      Anyway, you’re right, you can enhance the expression of an image by showing the correct part. Being fast shouldn’t be a problem, so the only thing you have to try to get over is being sloppy because that is a pity.

      I am glad I got you started and thanks for your comment about it. 🙂

  2. Aha, cropping pictures is cheating! That was my first thought. Okay, naughty me.

    Reading your article more carefully, cropping pictures is a way to help the viewer to easier and better understand a message. Moreover, the difference before and after cropping in the quality of the pictures is really amazing. Your tips are precise and practical. It motivates me to take more pictures.

    Your pictures are very beautiful anyway. That’s why I have a request.

    Is it perhaps possible to enlarge the pictures in your articles? Sometimes I see a Facebook post with a lot of pictures. When I click on one picture, Facebook opens a new page, and there the pictures are usually a lot bigger and can be made even bigger. Your pictures are so good, there is much more to learn about them than cropping.

    • LOL, well, if you want to think cropping is cheating, it’s fine by me. In a way it is but then again, so is the point of view of the photographer, to begin with. When we take pictures we always isolate a part of our reality.

      I remember an ad from years ago. The picture was of a young man who was sitting on a wall. On either side of him sat girls in increasingly undressed states. Frames were indicated in the photo.

      What he only stood on himself was suitable to send to his girlfriend. The frame with him and 2 dressed girls would be sent to his parents to show that he was not lonely. The next frames were for his friends to brag about his company and how he was an adonis.

      It’s all about what we will show the world.

      So, yes, cropping is cheating and taking pictures is cheating. 🙂

      Great you reminded me to add the possibility to enlarge the pictures. It’s an act I have to think about and forget at times. I’ll try to remember it.

      Thanks for your compliments and comment. Take care, Chloe.

      • Hi Hannie. A short reply from Cloe. What a sexist ad you described! Probably before the #metoo era. But it perfectly proves your point: pictures always represent a very limited piece of time and place. Thank you.

        • Hi Chloe, it sure was a sexist ad and definitely before #metoo. We have to be aware when we see pictures or videos in the news that they only represent a part. More so, now pictures can be edited without the viewer noticing and videos can be deep fake videos.

          Take care.


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