Thursday, August 13

Tips for Cropping and Enlarging Digital Reference Photos

Today’s Image
Digital Camera Icon
Courtesy of Microsoft Corp.

Today’s art blog is about some of the practical aspects of working with reference photos. It’s a follow-on to a blog I did, “How I Paint from a Reference Photo,” and you may want to refer to it.

I use reference photos because I rarely ever paint en plein air. As much as I would like to have lived in the leafy Paris suburbs in 1888 with the Impressionists, I don’t. If you live in a major metropolitan city of the world, which many of us do, then you know it’s difficult to paint en plein air much of the time.

For that reason, and others, such as we live in the digital age, I paint from reference photos. For this blog, I am assuming (oh, dear) that you use a personal computer and printer, that you take photos with a digital camera, that you have access to Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, and that you live near a Kinko’s, Office Depot, Office Max, Staples, or the equivalent office supply retailer in your area. If not, so sorry.

I’m going to give three points to keep in mind about using reference photos.

Crop for composition.

You can use the reference photo as it is, of course, but cropping allows you to, among other things, improve the composition, emphasize the focal point , and remove unwanted objects from the scene.

Using reference photos does not mean you can forget your artistic training and/or senses. If anything, you need to heighten your artistic senses while cropping. This is where you will use your sense of balance, design, and what makes a great painting to improve the static photo image. In Photoshop Elements, you use the crop tool to do this. It’s easy.

Crop the photo and support in the same proportion (this is important).

This means their lengths and widths are compatible with each other. If not, everything in the photo may not fit. For example, if your digital photo is 4 x 5.25in (10.2 x 13.3cm), which is a standard DIGITAL size for prints, and your support is 24 x 30in (61 x76.2cm), then they are not in the same proportion, but close. The proportion of the photo is 4:5.25 and the proportion of the support is 4:5.

You could crop .25in (0.6cm) from one end of the photo, so that it becomes 4 x 5in (10.2 x 12.7cm), but doing this could ruin your composition depending on the photo.

What you want to do is to crop in the same proportion, 4:5, corner to corner. This is easy in Elements, just make sure the ‘ruler’ is turned on. Now all you have to do is print out your new cropped photo with the changes you’ve made.

Enlarge your photo.

Now you need to figure out the percentage to enlarge your photo so that it’s close to the same size as your support. Most of the time it won’t be exact, but if you're close, within 1in (2.5cm), then it’s easy enough to fill your painting around the edges.

Most color copiers have a maximum paper size of 11 x 17in (27.9 x 43.2cm). If any one side of your support is larger than 17 in (43.2cm), then you’ll have to enlarge the photo in at least two steps. That is, enlarge it, then cut enlargement in half, and then enlarge each half again.

This is not as bad as it sounds. Work with me here.

Since you’ve cropped your photo to 4 x 5in (10.2 x 12.7cm), your first enlargement is 250 percent. This results in an image of 10 x 13.125in (25.4 x 33.3cm), which will fit on a 11 x 17in (27.9 x 43.2 cm) sheet.

Now use the paper cutter to remove all the white borders. Then cut the image in half on the 13.125-in (33.3-cm) side. Each half will be 10 x 6.56in (25.4 x 16.7cm).

Next, enlarge each half 225 percent. The result will be two halves of 22.5 x 14.7in (57.2 x 37.3cm) each.

All that’s left to do is tape the two halves together, which will give you an image of 22.5 x 29.5in (57.2 x 74.9cm). That will easily fit a standard 24 x 30in canvas with just a little tweaking at the edges.

Voila, you have a full-size reference photo from which to paint your masterpiece!


No comments:

Post a Comment