Feedback on crop

I would really appreciate some feedback surrounding how to best present this image. It is one that I posted a number of months ago but since then I showed to a professional photographer friend. He liked the image very much but suggested a crop from the right. My first reaction was, “NO!” - it’s perfect just as it is. But then I really considered his proposal and more importantly why he made it. Here is what he said (in part,): “Cropping from the right does two things 1) it strengthens the foreground by forcing the eye to enter left and right, and 2) it reduces the dominance of the land mass top right by making that shape incomplete and resolving to the left, not the left and right. To me, this now keeps the eye more centrally focused and improves the repetition bottom to top. It also makes the repeating elements started by the foreground shape stronger and simpler - even the reflection of the land mass on right is simpler.” What is important to me in this critique is not just “what I would do,” but “why I would do it.” I have posted the two versions. I’m really torn between the expansiveness of the original versus the more focused balance of the cropped version. I would be interested in your feedback - which works best in your view?

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It’s amazing what a difference that small crop made in terms of where my eye is drawn. I love that meandering line drawing me to that small tree in the distance.

Kerry, I remember seeing this before. To me the uncropped version is preferred, for two reasons. 1) the distant island on the right is more distinctly an island, and 2) I like the extra negative space to the right of the FG shore bank, that area is for too cramped ( but then close crops are a pet peeve of mine). Just my 2 cents. This reminds me of some fun times I had paddling in the Boundary Waters in Minnesota.

I agree with Bill on this. The cropped version may be a stronger design but the uncropped expresses the sense of the place better. This is a wide body of water with reflections. It loses some of that by cropping the right. The uncropped is superior.

Also, the elliptical island is a strong element in the comp. Why would you cut it in half?

Theoretically you’d cut it in half so as to keep the viewer’s eye in the image. In other words, instead of the image resolving to the right - moving out of the picture with the island, the image resolves right and left, holding the viewers eye within the image. That’s the theory, anyway, and from a purely compositional standpoint I think it has merit but I know enough about rules to know that it is folly to be attached to them. I’ve shown the original and cropped images to a number of people who understand photography and only a very, very few prefer the cropped image and, frankly, that surprised me.

I don’t know about rules. I go by feel. And then I try to explain why it feels that way. I don’t feel my eyes going out to the right. Do you see how in the image is composed of dark mounds, hemispheres? There is a repetition of these mounds that gives it strength. One of them is the island. If you cut it off you’ve removed some of the compositional beauty. Form repetition is a great thing. That’s why layering is present in so many images.

There is also a better balance of light and dark in the original. There’s a dreamness factor to this image and vagueness and rising mist around the island is a big contributor to it. So you’re losing some of that as well.

I do see the point that the cropped image leads you better to the tree. But why not let the eye wander before it gets there? The tree is strong enough that you don’t wander off the edge. You just do more roaming.


Excellent image for such a good discussion. Of course we could carve this up all day, and twice on Sunday… and in the end the best choice is the one you end up with and you feel comfortable. You’ve got to have a gut feel - only now struggling because someone else put a doubt in there… :slight_smile:

I’m a believer in many rules and I subscribe to many things like left to right flow, or “entering” the frame via one side or the other. But I also subscribe to breaking and not following rules. We each base our preferences on different things as well.

My very first reaction, even before scrolling to see v2, was that the small, exposed rock in the LRC was jammed up against the edge of the frame. Right from the git-go I’ve got tension and an eye magnet. This alone, with the breathing room in your original make it a much more pleasing image.

I agree with Igor in that to me the repeating elements are the “mounds.” The mound/rounded rock at the bottom more closely mimics the “island” - that is until it’s cropped. And to me, forcing the viewer to do something by cutting something off like the island would seem forced, for lack of a different word. In other words, if there is already a natural flow to an image, why force the viewer to view differently when it already has a natural flow and rhythm to it; as I believe your original does.

Personally, my eye “enters” the frame directly to the bright water in the middle, then the sun and the island. Then the shapes are recognized and there’s a flow back through the image recognizing the shapes of the fore and middle ground. Speaking of the sun and island, I really like how the sun appears to be hovering over the island, or lighting it like flood lamp or something. Cropping in to the island removes that entirely.

Have you considered shaving off a little off the left? :wink: I think the focal point is the island, the mist, the sun hovering above peering through the fog - and as Bill mentions, you understand and see that it’s actually an island.

Good news Kerry is that you have such a wonderful image for us to be so picky about. Bottom line, rock needs room, LRC. If you prefer the crop, then my suggestion would be to content-aware clone the little bit of rock to increase the room there.


I have to agree with the original critique and the slight crop from the right. When I see the entire land mass my eyes want to go both ways even though there is nothing to the right.

Hi Kerry,

As several here have stated, the image looks good cropped or not. Personally, I like the un-cropped image best because it makes it easier to see the land mass in the distance is a small island. In the cropped version, the island feel is gone. I also love the reflection of the trees on the island and how such reflections begin and ends from one side to the other. Can’t really express it but the un-cropped picture is more “calming” to me. Not sure if this helps but it’s my humble critique.


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I prefer the uncropped, and I was thinking that the uncropped with a bit off the left side might be the ticket. Then i read that Lon had the same thought. Something to experiment with perhaps. Real nice image however you present it.

I tried this as a compromise. My concern is that a compromise often means getting the benefits of neither one nor the other, the cropped or the uncropped. In this version I cheated a bit and extended the island then cropped back a hair. I’m attempting to address the tendency for the eye to follow the island off to the right and out of the frame but at the same time maintaining some room in the lower right of the frame so that the rock outcropping isn’t cramped. The first crop addresses the first problem but creates a tension that undermines my intention for calm and serene. Anyway, do you think this alternative works or is just the worst of both?

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Sign me up for the crop. For me, an image has to carry my eye from front to some focal point in the back unless the foreground is really strong with the background reduced to a supporting role. I just don’t find that tree without the crop, so my eye wanders aimlessly. Nice image without the crop, but a stand-out once the crop gives viewers a pathway for their viewing.

Hi Kerry,
This is beautiful. Of the first two I definitely preferred the uncropped version. To me the cropped version feels a bit cutoff and I prefer the balance of the uncropped island. I think your repost works well but I think I still prefer the uncropped version.

Kerry, I definitely prefer the cropped version. I ask myself what the subject of the image is to help refine such decisions. Uncropped, the landform in the upper right competes for attention with the overlapping layers of light and dark. Cropped, the landform becomes part of the layering rather than competing with it.

So what is the subject? It’s the shapes. This is a beautiful example of a composition of shapes using landscape elements.

At this point I have to ask, which cropped version? Do you feel that the last one I posted addresses the issue by, at least partly, containing the island on the right side? When I originally post processed this image I thought the focal point was the moon above the island. But I realize now that it is actually the small tree on the island’s left side. That being the case I do want to keep the viewer’s eye within the frame but I don’t want to cramp the photo and create unwanted tension by over cropping from the right. Do you feel the latest cropped version accomplishes this?

This thread is just a great and classic example of how we each see things differently and react differently. For example, the “tree” keeps getting mentioned. What tree? :roll_eyes::grin: I guess there’s only 1 stand alone tree, but it was never a focal point for me.

I never had the feeling of entering of leaving the scene, what was complete or incomplete. I was simply immediately drawn to the cramped LRC and I thought the “island” and moon (incorrectly ID’d as the sun…) along with the mist and reflection was the primary subject.

And now through this discussion I can see the repeating shapes and by truncating the island a bit on the right, that makes for stronger repeating shapes - ie. cut off rock formation in the foreground, cut off middleground and now cut off island, each with a similar rounded shape.

In the end, I’ll go with your final/last revision. Great discussion; always good and a learning experience for all to get all the different impressions.


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Your last edit - your compromise - is very good, Just enough space to the right of the foreground rock, you avoided exposing the entire island at top right which weakened the image to me, and the overall composition of elements is quite balanced. Well done.

Rules are great for photography; but at the same time they are a starting point and are made to be broken on certain occasions. My preference is for the original uncropped image or the last repost with a little more breathing room on the right side. Both work beautifully for me. The first crop is way to cramped on the right. This is a beautiful scene and a very informative discussion, Kerry.

I vote for the uncropped. To me the most interesting part of the image is the island, mist and reflection.