the photoshooter's journey from taking to making

CROP YOUR WAY TO SUCCESS

By MICHAEL PERKINS

Whoops, I wasn't ready. 1/100 sec., f/5.6, ISO 100, 35mm.

Whoops, I wasn’t ready. 1/100 sec., f/5.6, ISO 100, 35mm.

THOSE OF US WHO HAVE LOGGED SOME TIME IN THE WAITING ROOMS OF PEDIATRICIANS can recall struggling through the “Hidden Pictures” page of Highlights For Children magazine. I would love to tell you that I always found 100% of cartoonist John Gee’s camoflaged squiggles by the time the receptionist invited me into the examining room. But I would be lying.

That said, there are many times when, as photographers, we play the same game with our images, especially the ones in the “doesn’t work” pile. Loving at least the idea behind what we were originally after, we pore over every pixel in the frame, repeating the vain mantra there must be a picture in here somewhere. Often, the photo simply returns to the Hall of Shame despite our best efforts to redeem it. Sometimes, the crop tool is your unexpected best friend.

I recently looked at a failed candid of my wife outside one of my favorite buildings in Los Angeles, the “Deco” Building (real name) at the corner of La Brea and Wilshire near the museum district. A combination of wind and facial expression had spoiled the quickie portrait, but the address panel over Marian’s head contained something I could use if I re-purposed the picture.

Maybe this was all the picture I needed in the first place.

I gave the above shot a severe haircut and wound up with this. Hmm, maybe this was all the picture I needed in the first place.

In the space of a few inches of the building’s entrance was a miniature representation of the best features of the entire building; its wild pattern of chevrons and zigzags. I had already done a master shot of about 90% of the front of the place, but a study of its details started to sound appealing. Cropping away more than 2/3rds of the original shot reduced the sharpness a little, but since I always shoot at the highest file size possible, I just squeaked by.

For a moment, I found that I had redeemed all those failed sessions with Highlights.

Watch out, New York Times crossword. You’re next.

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