Don't Be Afraid to Crop Your Photos

You got the shot. It may have taken several attempts and a few ill-timed blinks, but you got it. You've even scrolled through all the brightness and sharpness and exposure and contrast scales to get that perfect "natural" light. Now you want to frame it for your home as you prepare for the holidays or maybe for the perfect gift. It turns out you can probably improve the photo by taking something away—that is, by cropping it.

"Don't be afraid of cropping," says JJ, one of our designers (and professional photographers) who works with customers to create one-of-a-kind gallery walls, "with one photo there are multiple possibilities. You just have to start playing around."

We asked JJ to walk through some simple ways to make photos their best selves. 

Tip 1: Turn One Photo Into Multiple Frames

Turning one landscape-oriented photo into multiple vertical ones can be the easiest way to make a big impact. We love the look of our No Mat Diptych, but you can go even further and divide into three or four. Here's how:


First, crop your photo into a 16:9 aspect ratio (that means width x height) so the photo is quite a bid wider than it is tall. This will make it easer to slice into three vertical images.


Then, divide the photo into thirds and frame each without a mat. Hang above a couch or down a hallway for the full effect. 

Tip 2: Cropping a Photo for Stronger Composition

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Before (left) and after (right) cropping

"Removing clutter usually makes the composition stronger," JJ notes, "when I was looking at this image, the dark shadows of the columns seemed distracting. Really the star of the photo is the roofline and the blue sky with a few clouds, so I emphasized those." 

Tip 3: Making a Vertical Photo Into a Square


Here, the photo on the left is stronger and more interesting with the tree more present in the foreground. But the one on the right still works and frames the scenery in a different way. You could really go with either and get a slightly different feeling.

Some examples of the same images with horizontal, vertical, and square crops, each adding nuance to the photos:




The last one above is of particular note. With the zoomed-in, tight vertical crop the photo goes from moody to bright as the flower itself takes up more visual space. "Customers tend to worry that the quality of a photo will be sacrificed if they zoom in too much," says JJ, "but our site will give you a warning if you’ve zoomed too far that your image goes below the 150 dpi threshold."

The Rule of Thirds

"The rule of thirds is basically if you were to take a horizontal photo and divide it into thirds, if you place the subject on one of those 'third lines', off-center things are actually more interesting to the human eye. Instagram kind of threw a wrench into that because of the square crop that it initially revolved around. Of course if there's a vanishing point in the center of a photo and it's cropped to a square, that can draw the eye in as well."

Ultimately it's all about playing around, so try out some creative crops. You may discover untapped potential in your photos. And remember, if you don't like something, there's always the revert button.