Cropping - old issue, still ignored by most


posted on 8th of august, 2010

We keep getting emails from buyers where they complain about poor cropping of images. Not poor compositions, but poor cropping in regards for file usability. We were asked to pass the following comment directly to our community —

Received by feedback form on the site:
I love your site and I've been using it for over 2 years now.
Here's my comment - please tell all your wonderful photographers to PLEASE STOP cropping their photos. I can't tell you how many photos that I've loved but couldn't use because one or more of the subject's head/arm/whatever has been cut off. I'm begging. Let me crop out what I don't need. THANK YOU!!


Comment to a blog:
Well from a designer point of view, especially while designing magazines, I prefer a uncropped image. Earlier when I was full time designer on a daily basics I used reject so many of the images just coz its cropped, my advice to photographers are don't crop to close, it might look beautiful but of no use. Let the designer decide what to crop, what not to. Well this is my personal inputs, it might differ from designers to designer. - posted by Creativei on January 20, 2010

So you would see that this is not something we, admins and reviewers, are making up to nag about. There is a fundamental difference in the points of view of desktoppers / designers and photographers. Photographers strive to provide the most appealing images and visually charming compositions while designers who have to integrate those images into given design frameworks and dimensions want relative freedom to do what is necessary with those images. They do not always search for full page images (and if they do, they still need some area for bleed). More often they want to place your image somewhere ON the area, add text, other images, logo, etc. If there is no room for those elements, they will simply discard the image.


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Ideally, the subject is isolated from the background (black or white background) from all sides. This is not possible for every picture, of course, but for portraits please PAY ATTENTION to cut off hair, ears, chin. In case of half-portraits, watch out for hands, elbows, and again head - they should all fit into the frame nicely, and if not isolated from the background, leave some safe zone at all edges for bleed.

Since we have a massive amount of portraits of all kinds, we will become MORE STRICT in our reviewing in regards to USEFUL compositions. While "finalized" images do look awesome, they do not get many downloads. How often would you expect them to be taken 1:1 and put on a cover of the magazine?


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Bottom line:
* Do not crop your subjects tightly (incl. portraits, pets, SHADOWS of objects);
* Ideally all 4 sides will fit into the frame naturally, if not possible, then at least 2 sides should be "free";
* We will be more strict regarding these issues, especially with portraits and when the framing is "slightly" careless;
* You will have better sales, if your image is usable in many ways - if it is like a "puzzle piece" that snaps into designs;
* Portraits cropped from all sides make up the most sensitive group.


There have been voices gone unheard in our blogs before:
Headroom on images »
Crop Factor, can ruin sales »
Don't crop too much !!! »

Tags: crop feedback
Comments (32)

Posted by Demonike on January 30, 2011
Kristy, the request processing takes so much time that no one will wait for it, rather leave it and look elsewhere if the image will not suit the needs. Few would even notice the option for request. It is like with black and white images - you can not convert them back to color. Likewise, you cannot "reproduce" the cropped areas if they have been cut once, so it is better to be on the safe side.
Posted by Countedsorrow2 on January 29, 2011
If an image has been excessively cropped in order to be accepted
for composition reasons, wouldn't it just be simple to add
"uncropped image available upon request" in the image description section?

Then if it is requested, it can be submitted uncropped
and the admin would know the photo was a request from a buyer.

Just a thought :)

Cheers, Kristy
Posted by Eclecticelegance on August 28, 2010
Wow, I hadn't really thought about this before. My images are usually not cropped enough and have too much in the picture. Interesting and very useful. Thank you!
Posted by Bradcalkins on August 16, 2010
Good points I hadn't considered. How about DNG with embedded preview - any format can be converted to that with a free converter? I suppose it doesn't help for past uploads or the majority of the existing collection - unless DT takes on the conversion... I have to think the return on that effort wouldn't be worth the gains, though!
Posted by Demonike on August 16, 2010
We have briefly discussed the RAW preview possibilities, and frankly, this seems an impossible task. New models of cameras come out so frequently, with all of them needing revised conversion libraries. As giants like Adobe and Apple are struggling to keep up with updates, it is just not feasible to support every possible RAW format out there and supporting only a few, feels discriminating. Unless some genius has his moment, and invents a means to solve this universally, I doubt there will be an automatic RAW previewer. You see, RAW is more than just a proprietary file format, it IS a set of instructions to handle the raw bits captured by the sensor, incorporating all the characteristics of it.
Posted by Bradcalkins on August 16, 2010
Perhaps this is because the person viewing it does not look at sections of the image, mentally cropping out parts that may not conducive to their composition. Perhaps a compromise could be reached with the image offered both ways, cropped and uncropped?

I'd like to see the RAW files offered with a thumbnail so one can crop the image to appeal in searches, but the buyer could still examine the thumbnail of the RAW to see if the original has more to it that would fit their requirements. Of course, not everyone wants to sell their RAW files, but it would be something DT could do to add value...
Posted by Alionaz on August 16, 2010
thanks for sharing
Posted by Mani33 on August 15, 2010
I agree with with Stonehill01, cropping half of a body image, made me change my mind about buying some images & finding an alternative!
Posted by Naturalphotos on August 14, 2010
When I am looking for a specific item for designing ads, I often end up going to photograph them myself because the photos here are cropped too tight or the angle is wrong for my work. I end up being able to sell these same images on other sites several times over, but never get them accepted on dreamstime... the reason is ALWAYS composition. I've basically stopped uploading to Dreamstime for that reason. Dreamstime also started rejecting my nature photos like butterflies because they have too many of this subject, yet again, other sites accept them almost immediately and I get sale upon sale. Very discouraging.
Posted by Stonehill01 on August 14, 2010
I am a web and book designer and use images from Dreamstime because the quality submitted by the photograhers is always good. However, I will often find the perfect photograph only to have it cropped so that I can't use it. Web photos are usually horizontal, but often photographs are cropped vertically. It would be nice to see all images in their entirety so I can decide how to crop them.

I understand and agree with Brad Calkins that sometimes an image will not be purchased because it has not been cropped. Perhaps this is because the person viewing it does not look at sections of the image, mentally cropping out parts that may not conducive to their composition. Perhaps a compromise could be reached with the image offered both ways, cropped and uncropped? I see several images offered in this manner and I always purchase the uncropped image and do my own cropping.

My biggest disappointments: (1) cropping off the lower half of a body image, and (2) rotating images to a diagonal. When...(More)
Posted by Bradcalkins on August 12, 2010
Aspect ratio is another hassle along the same lines. Cameras tend to shoot in either 4:3 or 3:2, but when was the last time you saw a publication in those ratios?
Posted by Electrochris on August 12, 2010
i see what you are saying completely but i must echo what others have said; not cropping usually has a negative impact on the overall look of a photo causing it to be rejected. if proper composition is not important to a designer maybe reviewers should not worry about this as much and focus more on the usefulness of a photograph. i have had many photos rejected for lack of composition because i tried to keep the entire subject within the frame. when someone buys the picture they can compose themselves!
Posted by Bradcalkins on August 12, 2010
It is hard to compose and analyze an image not knowing the final usage. I recently saw a thread of comments on one of David Hobby's (Strobist) shots that had the opera singer looking the 'wrong' way out of the frame. Someone took him to task for breaking the 'rule' of having the model look into the frame. Mr. Hobby had countless examples from the likes of Rolling Stone magazine covers, program covers, etc. where it makes perfect sense once you put in your text...or put it in a magazine with a facing page on the other side, etc.
Posted by Dmccale on August 12, 2010
thanks I will do better now.Debbie
Posted by Kittycat on August 11, 2010
Thank you for the good advice and for sharing. :)
Posted by Demonike on August 11, 2010
You put the subjects eyes on the third line and oops, cut the top of their head off to do it.

Simple: step back a bit and the whole head fits nicely, with eyes on the third, if that is important to you. It is not for the designers, as long as the image is in focus and the model has a meaningful pose.
Posted by Wisconsinart on August 11, 2010
I can vouch for Wowbagger. Seems to be a damned if you do, damned if you don't. I've had some rejections for poor composition. The solution? I cropped the images and then they were accepted!
Posted by Alvera on August 10, 2010
good advice. I try to isolate, at least 3 sides and rule of three - all together.
Posted by Grafvision on August 10, 2010
Thanks for sharing these informations...
Posted by Jmphoto on August 09, 2010
Wonderful advice...thank you!
Posted by Mani33 on August 09, 2010
Thanks for reminding!
Posted by Demonike on August 09, 2010
Wowbagger, you're right, there is always the dilemma of composition (and sometimes paradox). I guess we all make more educated decisions from now on :)
Poor composition sometimes means poor angle (in our opinion), we do not have so many specific reasons to choose from and to write a custom message to each and every one of you is not humanly possible.

Thank you for your comments!
Posted by Yuritz on August 09, 2010
surely great advices,if that's what the designers look for
Posted by Digitalexpressionimages on August 09, 2010
I've said this over and over. What makes a photo good is not always good for stock. Look at the rule of thirds. Big rule, that one. You put the subjects eyes on the third line and oops, cut the top of their head off to do it. Nice photo, bad stock. I have run into this myself in wanting to use a shot but isolate it and put it on a different background but I need the whole head to do that.

However, and I hate to harp, I've had so many shots rejected by editors for "poor composition" because I want the designer to decide how to crop rather than making that decision for them. Everyone could probably learn or relearn this lesson.
Posted by Demonike on August 09, 2010
One more thing - when I decide upon the crop issue, I take into account the MP size (if the image can realistically be stretched to full page) and the space between the prominent parts and the edge of the image. Just to be on the safe side, try to fit your model / subject into the frame. Ultimately we cannot tell you what and how to shoot, we can only accept or reject those images to our database :)
Posted by Theblackrhino on August 09, 2010
Good reminders.
Posted by smartview27 on August 09, 2010
Thanks for sharing these informations!
Posted by Fleyeing on August 09, 2010
It's good to remind us of this rule again. I heard it years ago from a designer. Of course, from a thumbnail/composition point of view, crops can be more attractive esthetically but they take the freedom of the designer away. Good designers will see a rather dull uncropped image but their imagination will see the crop they need.
Related: on landscapes, don't crop the sky nor areas in the bokeh. Copyspace is a very useful sales sales attribute.
Posted by Rosedarc on August 09, 2010
I understand that, and I've also often thought that the EC generate impulse sales - although I could be totally wrong there.
However, I think that a lot of us look at the EC, get impressed by them and think "if it's good enough to get an EC and sell well", maybe that's what I should be trying to emulate. If your reviews will become more strict with regards to cropping as a result of an editorial policy, then I would expect this to show in your selection of Editors' Choice pictures in order to avoid misconceptions.
Posted by Demonike on August 09, 2010
Editor's Choice is an impulsive decision based upon the visual impact of the image. It is not a rational and calculated choice using formulas of salability. I do not imply that tight crops do not get a single download ever, it is just that their popularity is severely handicapped compared to same quality images, but composed more suitably.

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Photo credits: Adrian Matthiassen, Nathan Till, Kutt Niinepuu, Elena Elisseeva, Jean Schweitzer, Picma229, Raja Rc, Laurin Rinder, Showface.

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