The Fix

Transform a static composition into a dynamic picture that draws your viewers in.



Crop rotation
Andrew Marston, South Portland, ME

Before After

The Problem: Actually, not a problem, but a conundrum. As much as we're always admonishing readers to take verticals, we wondered if this shot might also look just fine as a horizontal. We like the placement of the horizon (commendably two-thirds down in the frame), and the enhancement of the gradient blue of the sky makes for a dramatic sweep. At the same time, it makes the farmhouse seem relatively insignificant, and it lessens the impact of the fence, which is a natural design element for a horizontal composition. And so...

What Now: We tried the experiment, and cropped to a horizontal. We also used Shadow/Highlight in Adobe Photoshop CS3 to tone down the buildings a bit, and added a drop of contrast to the sky with Curves. Now the road and the fence practically drag your eye into the frame toward the farmhouse, which is set off nicely by the clouds and sky. Still, we've now lost something -- the sense of the vast blue sky extending out into space forever.

Next Time: In an example of synchronized brilliance, Andrew Marston also shot the picture as a horizontal (much like our crop) to achieve the same effect. The point here is that some pictures work very well as both horizontals or verticals. And the best way to discover them is to look through the viewfinder -- a lot. See more of Marston's photos at

Tech Info: Canon EOS Digital Rebel with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Canon EF-S lens, 1/2000 sec at f/3.5, ISO 100. Levels adjustment layers used to intensify the sky and bring up the contrast; saturation increased to bring out the colors.

Picture docker
Ron Westervelt, Wayne, NJ

Before After

The Problem: By now, our readers should be able to respond in unison: Centritis! With the boat placed dead center in the frame, the picture loses visual tension. The near-even division of the frame by the diagonal of the shoreline has much the same effect.

What Now: We cropped to place the boat in the upper corner (you want to show an object moving into the frame). We made a Curves adjustment and added contrast, then masked off the land to reveal the effect on the water. This brought down the shadows and brightened the highlights, so you can see clouds reflected in the darkened water. Finally, the crop and the boost in contrast accentuated noise in the shadows, so we toned it down.

Next Time: One thing we did lose with our crop was the eye-engaging texture of the scrub and rocks and dirt of the shore. Perhaps with a widerangle lens, more of the shore could have been included while still keeping the boat out of the center of the frame. We also think a different vantage point might have yielded some interesting compositions.

Tech Info: Nikon D70s with 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED-IF AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor, 1/160 sec at f/9. ISO 400. Minor adjustments in Picasa 2.