I have this photo of a vine that I've finally level-adjusted to a point where I'm mostly satisfied, but the crop is giving me trouble. I used the Rule of Thirds to set my crop area, and it seems about right to me when I'm looking at it at a closer zoom level, but when stepping back/zooming out the crop looks to wide, like I should tighten it up. I'm not sure how to go about determining that; how should I approach it?

vine and thorns


I had a similar qestion a couple of years ago - How to choose the most appropriate composition?

You find yourself chasing in circles trying out different things, yet not being sure which is 'right'.
The trouble is, there is no 'right', there's only the one you finally choose. In my particular case, the one I ended up with was an accident, the client was looking for a portrait & I'd sent a landscape - solved by turning the phone round.

Another thing to bear in mind is that no-one but you (or us, in this case) will ever know what you cropped out. So you get stuck in a dither of alternatives - because you can see all the alternatives. They will only ever see the finished result; so the only person that will ever even think about what's 'missing' or what else could have been done is … you (& us).

I had a go at some 'dangerous' alternatives. I'm not saying any of them are great, just different approaches. As I was doing it, I tried to give each a title that would explain, at least to me, what the idea of each was… just as something to hang onto as a thought process.

Negative Space

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Just the Facts

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All the Threes

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From Another Angle

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If anything, I like the first couple. The others get messy, especially the third, which, whilst trying hard to put every aspect of the image onto a rule-of-third line ends up looking like disorganised clutter once you take the grid lines away.
The last one was just an idea to shake things up a bit. Not sure it worked.

In the first two, I've painted out encroaching objects to keep the background cleaner.

After comments, I extended the paint-out idea. I get the feeling it's gone maybe a bit minimalist now, but I don't hate it…

Paint it Black

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    IMHO the big problem with the picture is the distracting bright out-of-focus twig on the left, and your last crop is a good way to get rid of most of it. – xenoid Mar 12 at 9:54
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    That last one satisfies my minimalist soul. My only bone with it is that the white tip of the thorn is a bit too close to the frame for comfort. – xenoid Mar 12 at 10:18
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    @xenoid - you have to bear in mind I'm spending whole seconds on these edits ;) – Tetsujin Mar 12 at 10:19
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    @xenoid Going back, I wish I could have eliminated that branch, but it was drastically less prominent before I pulled the levels (all told, I'm running at probably a cumulative +3.5EV on the highlights). I'm torn between "figure out how to heal it out" and a very strong dislike for content modifications. – chrylis -cautiouslyoptimistic- Mar 12 at 15:45
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    I wouldn't worry about content mods unless you're shooting for National Geographic, or a news/sports story where you must be 'telling the truth'. For anything else… If in doubt, paint it out ;) Personally, I always clean up the irritating bits, big or small, for a final image. I'm not telling the truth, I'm making a "piece of art" in its broadest sense. Of the 5 crops I made above, 3 of them have details removed. – Tetsujin Mar 12 at 15:59

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