Mini Art School #3: Cropping and Colors

For my first lesson in mini art school this week, I practiced cropping photos to change their meaning and overall impact.  I dug through the memory card on my digital camera and pulled out pictures from Grounds for Sculpture, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and a few from my uncle’s birthday. I knew I wanted to use images from my camera because they are high resolution images and therefore less likely to get pixelated when doing very close crops, like the one below.  I experimented with making very radical changes to change the composition of the photos.



As you can see, zoomed in so that the only subject in the photo is the peacock. I cut out all of the background and eliminated the sculpture on the right hand side of the photo. As a result, the focal point of the photo becomes the bird itself, with its feathers serving as a beautiful textured background. I also played with the hues of the photo to bring out more of DSC00086the green in the bird’s feathers. Whereas the original photo was cluttered and contained a lot of unnecessary details, the edit creates a pattern for the idea to easily follow.

I also played around with photos to try to give them a different meaning. Changing the focus of an image can send a different message to the viewer. Think of an image of a bee pollinating a flower. Zoomed out, our focus is the flower and the bee, but zooming in lets the viewer know that the photographer wants them to think about the bee. I tried to achieved that effect with this next photo:

DSCN1532 DSCN1532

I hoped that the cropping would change it from simply a photo of a statue, to a more honorable and dignified portrayal or the sphinx. Since the cropping no longer allows you to see how close to the floor it is, it is up to the viewers’ imaginations. I also wanted the viewer to contemplate what he is thinking. I’m still not sure if I achieved the effect I wanted here. Let me know!


I also cleared the clutter of my niece’s head jumping into this photo. She loves to be in the middle of the action, and sometimes this means photos too. Although initially I did not think this was a good enough reason to edit the photo for the purposes of “art”, I really liked how the final product came out.

DSC00150 The cropping created a nice frame for the image, guiding the eye from my uncle, to his cake and then the flowers. Lowering the brightness of the photo also made it easier to see all the subjects in it. I think that there is a nice balance of negative space that makes it aesthetically pleasing in a way that I didn’t really expect it to. Some other examples of my cropping experiments are below. I was definitely surprised by how removing clutter from a photo can make it so much more appealing. I was also surprised by how zooming in and cutting out certain parts of photographs can create an entirely new and unrecognizable image. I used to avoid cropping photos because I thought it looked tacky if I had to change the dimensions of it. Now I see that this is not the case, and some really great images can come out of cropping.

DSCN1576 DSCN1576

DSCN1593 DSCN1593

For activity number two, I chose the color echo exercise, and inspired by the bowl of sweet lemon drops, I chose a cupcake as my digital image! In studying the basic design principles, I’ve come to realize that so many of these principles are intertwined with each other. Unity in an image can come through textures, patterns, text, or in this case colors. You can begin with a photo in mind and build an image around it, simultaneously creating the focus of your design and unifying it with the whole.

cupcake edit 1  cupcake edit 2

cupcake edit 3

I thought it would be a good idea to use the color of the cake in the middle because it’s such a small part of the cupcake and I felt like more blue or pink would overwhelm the image. I think it’s definitely my favorite color as the background. Usually I find graphic design to be tedious and difficult, but using a color palette that was already in the image made it a lot easier.


Lastly, I decided to do the painting activity in order to experiment with mixing colors. Originally I had filmed myself doing this, only to realize upon finishing that my camera died somewhere along the way. So, you get the boring text and pictures version. Sorry!

I decided that my canvas would be an old tea tray that I started as a painting project and got as far as giving it a purple background. The book suggested I go to a park to paint, but it’s thirty degrees outside, so I passed on that suggestion. I set up on the floor, pulled out all my old paints and brushes and got right to mixing. IMG_20160219_162716196

Things got messy pretty quickly. I kept the white and black paints on hand for making shades darker or lighter. This is the end result:


I found a lot of color combinations that I did not think would look good, but actually came out nicely. For example, I was hesitant to add that lime green tree in the middle, but I think it goes well with the black and blue on the left. I also really liked the shades of red and pink working together on the right side of the canvas. Although the end product is a little bit overwhelming, I think I learned a lot just from playing around with different colors and mixing paints.



2 thoughts on “Mini Art School #3: Cropping and Colors

  1. Hi Jess,

    Great job with all of your activities this week. I really love the peacock image after you cropped it. In the original photo, there’s a lot going on in the background—like the guy walking, the grass, the trees, the sidewalk, etc. When you cropped it, however, all attention is averted to the peacock and the tremendous detail in its feathers. This is really a beautiful image. The colors of the animal are gorgeous without any editing! I would love to use this image as the background to my phone or computer.

    I love what you did with the cupcake image. I could tell you bout a lot of thought into the colors that you decided to use—the color of the cake, icing, and wrapping are used in different ways. I think if you used a background color that was not used in the cupcake at all, it would be overwhelming and distracting for the viewer. My favorite is the last image. One suggestion for this image is to flip the blue and tan background, so that the icing is backed with tan, and the cake is backed with blue. I think this might make even more pleasing for the eye. Overall, great job! Now I want a cupcake!


  2. Jess, I think you did an excellent job cropping the image of the peacock. Having the feather frame the image works out very nicely and adds a nice linear element to the photograph. You also did a nice job using the rule of thirds to guide your cropping of that image.

    In your images of cupcakes I really like the first two – I think that the polka dot background was a creative use of the pattern as it matches perfectly with the decorations on the cupcake. In the second image of the cupcake, I think that the pink background complements the blue icing of the cupcake very well and I really like the font that you used vertically along the right side.


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