Unless you intend to simply stick your photographs two or three to the page simply to keep them protected from acid and the environment, you’re going to have to learn how to cut your photographs to create interesting layouts. The first few times your snip into a picture with a pair of scissors you might be nervous or feel like you’re committing an awful crime, but as you practice you will become more confident in your cropping skills.
Cropping is simply the term used for cutting away parts of a photograph. Even expert photographers many times find that their pictures will look better when cropped, and this can be done by hand with a cutting tool on the computer before you make your prints. Either way, when you are actually creating a page, you probably will not want pictures that are all the same size and shape. Instead, your layout might include circles and squares, as well as a number of other non-traditional photograph shapes. If you are nervous about cutting your pictures for the first time, get double prints made. This way, you have a back up in case you make a mistake.
There are a number of tools on the market to help you crop your pictures. My personal favorite is the paper slicer. Paper slicers do the same job as straight scissors, but you don’t have to worry about an unsteady hand—simply line up your photograph and pull the blade along its track on the straight edge. Blades have to be replaced more often than you’ll have to buy new scissors, but the results are precision cuts. Another one of the most beneficial tools to own is a circle cutter. Achieving perfect circles without it is nearly impossible, and although these tools take a little getting used to, they are worth the time and money to buy.
Most importantly, however, how do you decide what to crop out of a picture? First, consult your layout design. You may need specific measurements to make a design work. Next, look at each photograph. Your subject matter should be the main focus, so anything in the background or foreground that distracts the eye should be cropped out. Lastly, trust your instincts. If you don’t like the look of a photograph, imagine how it would be cropped. Your first feeling is usually correct, so don’t be a afraid to jump in there with a pair of scissors or your favorite cropping tool. Even if you goof the first few times, cropping mistakes can usually be fixed, and it wont be long before your practice pays off and you acquire the skills of an expert cropper.
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