This is the original uncropped:

After I cropped it: cropped

I was told that the cropped picture "looks cropped". I basically don't want any more "normal" viewpoints for plants and flowers. I cropped it thinking it would take away the focus from the flower, and bring the focus on the colour, and shape.

How to crop macro plant/flower photographs such that they look somewhat abstract, not "cropped"?

What could I have done better in this shot?

  • 3
    I don't think any image can look 'cropped'. It can either look badly framed or unrealistic.
    – Janardan S
    Mar 1 '17 at 5:45
  • can you show an image you think is "good", aka "doesn't look cropped" and one of your best efforts? "Cropped" is super subjective metric, everyone has their own idea. I guess you can try this google search: google.com/… Mar 1 '17 at 6:08
  • yeah, I cannot see any difference :) maybe your flower occupy just a fraction of frame, so you might want to recompose so that flower parts are in 70-90% of pixels. Now it is only 30%. Again, that's about composition than cropping Mar 1 '17 at 6:11
  • 1
    Before worrying about cropping, fix the color cast and contrast! Mar 2 '17 at 13:04

I don't claim to know exactly what abstraction is or that these are good abstractions (their purpose is illustrative and to be quick to produce). What I do know is that it is hard to move past my need to organize the world figurally and this affects how I see and interpret images.

There are probably many axes upon which to pursue the process of abstracting an image. The two that come to my mind are subjective (referring to the subject) and compositional.

enter image description here

Reducing the the subject toward a minimal representation of a flower is along the subjective axis. The viewer might ask "what is it a picture of?". How far along that axis one goes is a matter of "it depends".

enter image description here

Both images reorganize the flower with a pictorial consideration of the 'frame' formed by the image edges. Photographs tend to be 'full bleed' and not vignettes. In the original edit from the question, not acknowledging the implicit frame of the image might be what led someone to say 'it looks cropped'. The hard edges of a photograph impose orthogonal (usually horizontal and vertical) reference lines. All composition will play off of them whether the photographer wants it or not. enter image description here


  1. Experiment.
  2. Push the experiments past where you think the limit is.
  3. Be OK with failing experiments.
  4. Don't worry about what people think about you.
  • Hope it didn't sound like I was claiming to know exactly what abstractions "is"; just trying to somewhat generalize what we might be saying when using the term. Glad somebody took it a little further... I was erring on the side of "somewhat" in the OP's "somewhat abstract". ;) Mar 1 '17 at 22:13
  • @junkyardsparkle I didn't take it that you were making any such claim. I just opened with what I said because I wasn't interested in providing a toe-hold for someone who wanted to argue about whatever definition I used...and artistic terminology tends to provide that sort of toehold for people who want to argue. Generally, I've been trying to be less expository in my writing.
    – user50888
    Mar 1 '17 at 23:38

Some thoughts first...

Your two images look not just cropped but also squashed. That is not bad. I'm just saying.

The second image looks cropped because the ratio. It has not the "standard" 3:2 ratio, it is not square either. That is the main reason for the cropped look.

Regarding the question.

I think you have on that particular image too few abstract things, the only resource is cropping.

But you can explore some other things in next photos.

Symmetry, perspective, repetition, colored light, unbalanced composition, straight lines, using a prism, reflections.

In my simple example I am trying to explore a diagonal line at the center.

enter image description here

And you can explore simple rotation to see if the image is "less figurative" that way.


Inspired by Ben's answer, I tried the following crops and I am totally satisfied with them. I have now understood the meaning of abstract.

The only reason the following may not look beautiful as of now is that the texture isn't visible.

enter image description here

enter image description here

enter image description here

enter image description here


Few things which may not even really answer your question but could help you:

  1. Way too much sharpening occurred in post. Keep it subtle, especially with something artistic it's better to be a little unsharp than to overdo it.

  2. For cropping, well try not to really. Focus on getting different angles in camera. Get closer, focus on different parts of the plant. Macro lenses or adapters might be helpful too. If you want to get more creative shots than you need to get more creative with your techniques. It takes time though.

  3. Your shots lack a lot in terms of color and depth. The whole yellow cast detracts from the colors without a clear artistic vision as to why. So if you want it to be yellow go all the way, if you don't want it to be yellow then fix it. Depth wise there are some dark areas but rest is all midtones. The over-sharpening doesn't help with some of the edges in this regard as well.

So here's working off your jpeg if I were to want to let all of those colors and depth come out:

enter image description here

As far as positioning vs cropping. The first thing is if you want to do an abstraction to think about what abstraction is. It's really about a part of the whole, just an idea of it. So you're starting from a weakened position that cropping may not be able to help because you photographed almost the whole flower. This might be an idea of an abstraction, granted it's very small because I'm just cropping:

enter image description here

Now I can't tell really what that is. Except that should've been done in camera or much closer anyways. Cropping from a full flower to a piece is going to really lower the quality.

Here's one I did of this flower a while back. Is it great? Meh, probably not. But might give you an idea:

enter image description here

Here's a different flower and one that I never even shared before because I wasn't particularly impressed either way with it and I'm very picky but again might give you ideas:

enter image description here

Notice neither one can you fully tell what's going on. It's a part rather than the whole. If you're looking for abstract photography of flowers and plants than I think that's the main thing you're missing. Abstract is about giving the viewer just enough that they can kinda tell what it is but leaves much to the imagination. Like it could be a flower but it could be something else entirely. It's about the form, color, and lines rather than the object.


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