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Dead Space

To avoid unnecessary dead space in the photograph, you should keep the center of interest contained. However, in cropping out dead space, leave enough space to accommodate the action of the center of interest. For example, if a car is traveling to the left of the photograph, leave room on the left for the vehicle to travel. Do not cut it off at the front bumper. The car needs dead space in which to travel.

If the subject or center of interest in a photograph is looking to the right, you must allow enough dead space for him to look into. Be careful not to allow too much dead space in a photograph. Too much background may make the center of interest get lost or not standout.

The cropping marks are made at or near the corners of the photograph, as shown in figure 8-9. A china

Figure 8-10. - The rule of thirds.

marker normally works best when making your cropping marks in the borders of photographs. China markers allow you to make changes without difficulty and mess.


The aesthetics, or beauty, of the photograph should be improved by cropping. The rule of thirds (fig. 8-10) suggests that the center of interest be positioned roughly at one of the four intersections created by equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines. These lines divide the photograph into horizontal and vertical thirds. When the subject is centered in the photograph, as is frequently done by amateur photographers, the photograph is often static and boring.

When you consider aesthetics, cropping should be based on the movement of the subject, leading lines, lines of force and other framing considerations that are explained in more detail in Chapter 12.


The shape of the photograph also must be considered before it is cropped. Normally, a 3:5 proportion is most pleasing to the eye. Proportions of 2:3, 3:4, 4:5, 4:7, and soon, are acceptable proportions. Simply cropping a photograph to make it square (3:3, for example) leaves a newspaper page dotted with square blocks and results in an unattractive page.

When you are considering the shape of a photograph, there are times when a strong vertical or horizontal will improve the look of a newspaper. Obvious examples where extreme horizontals and verticals work well include tall buildings, parades, travel photo features and many sporting events.

Photo Within a Photo

Careful examination of a print may allow you to extract two or more reproduction-quality photographs from a single print. There maybe two centers of interest or separate actions taking place that separately qualify as photographs. In a football game, an offensive lineman may be blocking the star defensive end, while a wide receiver catches a short pass across the middle of the playing field. Both actions could be stand-alone photographs.

Cropping Methods

To crop a picture, you must mark off the unessential parts. This can be done by cutting, masking or using cropping L's.

CUTTING. - If the photograph or piece of artwork is expendable (you have several originals or the negative), you can do your cropping with a paper cutter. This is the most accurate method and the one most commonly used by ship and station newspaper editors.

MASKING. - When a section of a valuable photograph is to be reproduced, you may mask it by covering the picture face with a sheet of paper that has a window cut out to expose the desired area.

CROPPING L's. - Cropping L's (fig. 8-11) are useful tools when you are narrowing a photograph to its center of interest. Cropping L's are L-shaped cardboard or plastic devices, often black in color, used to eliminate dead space. When you place them over a photograph in

Figure 8-11. - Cropping L's.

the form of a rectangle, you can adjust them and see the effects of cropping before a crop is actually made.

Photograph Dimensions

Before you can scale a photograph (explained later), you normally have to know the following three dimensions: l Cropped width l Cropped depth l Reproduction width or reproduction depth

CROPPED WIDTH (CW). - The cropped width is the width of the photograph, in picas, columns or a local unit of measurement, after cropping is completed In scaling photographs and artwork, width is usually represented in picas, columns or the local unit of measurement. Width is not usually represented in inches because most other horizontal measurements in newspaper design are in picas, columns or a local unit of measurement (such as ciceros).

CROPPED DEPTH (CD). - The cropped depth is the depth of the photograph after cropping has been completed. Depth is usually represented in inches, not picas or columns.

REPRODUCTION WIDTH (RW). - The reproduction width is the actual width of the photograph for reproduction. This is the predetermined space allotted for the photograph before cropping or scaling takes place. The measurement usually is given by columns: two columns, three columns, and so on. You must know the standard width of the column and alley and the space between the columns (one pica, one-eighth inch, and so on) to get an accurate reproduction width.

You will use the three known dimensions (cropped width, cropped depth and reproduction width) to determine the unknown dimension, usually the reproductive depth.

REPRODUCTION DEPTH (RD). - The reproduction depth is the number of inches the photograph will be after it is enlarged or reduced to fit in the space allotted for it on the newspaper page.

On occasion, you may set aside a vertical space to fill on your newspaper page design. In such a case, you are using the cropped width, cropped depth and reproduction depth to establish the unknown reproduction width. This reverse procedure is used frequently in photo layouts where standard column widths may not apply.


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