Photography tips: What can i cut or cannot in the picture?

In a best world of photography, you do not need to cut something on a photograph, but we are not in the best world of photography, and very often you will need to cut something in your picture to fit the framing.

In other hand, sometime you want to cut something on purpose to have a very strong composition in your photograph, to show a detail of the subject on your photograph, anyway, for whatever reason, you want also to cut your subject or the background.


In photography, you can cut legs, arms, some body parts, architecture structures, in fact you can cut everything!

But, yes there is always a "but", there is a way to cut the subject of your photograph, you cannot cut just like that and it will be good, No! not at all.


In this photography tips and tricks page, i will show you when and how to cut your subject in different ways and different type of photography like portrait, landscape, etc...

Photograph of my eldest son showing a good cut
Photograph of my eldest son showing a good cut © Patrice Laborda

Let's start with portraiture photography and what you can cut or can't on people.


First at all, put this one in  your mind for ever right now: You do not cut at the joint members on people, and you should consider that there is no exception of this rule for the moment, here i am very serious!

For a good example just look at the photograph of my eldest on the side.

Where i cut? not on a joint of the forearm and the upper arm. I cut the forearm part, is it chocking ? Not at all, it even fit very well in the photograph because you don't feel a missing part!

You don't believe it ? Just put your finger on the photograph from the joint members part (the elbow) to hide the forearm at the bottom of the picture.

See! how it's chocking ... you feel like he got an amputation of his forearm, and cutting the picture here just ruin the photograph!


Photograph of my eldest, example of extreme cut
Photograph of my eldest, example of extreme cut © Patrice Laborda

A good tips: When you apply the rule of third on the body part you need to cut, it's even better!


Look on the side, an extreme photograph about cut (one arm, one leg and a part of the hip and torso).

I applied the rule of third on the body part which was cut, like the forearm and the leg.

I have cut one third from the wrist and one third from the ankle, as a result of having a normal looking subject in the photograph, instead to have a mutilated feeling subject.

Here was a good start with a human subject, in fact you can apply those rules of "how to cut in photography" to any living creatures on earth (and beyond), even plants and trees.


For cars, architecture, landscape photography and everything else which is non alive, it's not different but in those type of photography, we use also what we can call "The remaining information". No it's not an official term in photography, but let me explain what happen in our brain in few lines to understand what we can do, and even play with.

Artistic photograph of an old collection car
Artistic photograph of an old collection car © Patrice Laborda

On the right side, there is a photograph of an old car from 1940, were i wanted to shoot the reflection of the landscape in the middle of the wheel, but also have the car in full length with the reflection on the paint.

Because the wheel cannot turn more, and if i was putting myself too much on the right i will become a parasite reflection in this wheel, so i needed to take a decision.

And the decision was to cut the grill in front of the car. Respecting the rule of third, i cut one third of the front, which give an artistic cut. But i didn't cut any lights to have a clean photographic composition.

Our brain is not so disturbed by this cut, why? Because the brain know the object, it's a car, by itself our brain will fill the empty space with the "information" it have about "what's a car" (in this case about an old car).

What does it mean ? that you can play with this kind of "complementary info needed to be filled up by the brain to get the whole picture" and it's where great photographer can stand up among the others!

Photograph of a hot-road vision of this old car
Photograph of a hot-road vision of this old car © Patrice Laborda

It's where also, in photography, you can let your creativity going crazy as you want.


You just need to respect some rules, like the rule of third about where you cut, it's quite important in the beginning.


But the most important in this kind of photography, you need to left enough information in the truncated part, to allow the brain to complete the remaining part of the subject in the photograph.


The brain will not really "replace" the missing part of the photograph as word for word in the picture, it will be more like imagine or estimate it, by doing so, it let you focus on what it is shown and let dream awake for what it is not shown.


A simple draw about where to cut on a human body in photography
A simple draw about where to cut on a human body in photography

So overall what can you cut on a human body, what you cannot, and what you might cut with strong skills or on purpose.


Roughly it's all on the draw on the side: green you can, red you should not, orange, better not to do unless you know why.


As you can see on the draw, cutting the joint's members  is not good at all.

 You might also be interested with the last entry in the blog:

Photophone: How to do great pictures with a smartphone or a tablet.

How to take great pictures with a smartphone
How to take great pictures with a smartphone?

Nowadays our smartphones have more computer power than a 10 years old desktop computer. Technology is evolving fast and with it, the language acquiring new words like  smartphone or selfie.

We are doing everything with our phone, from a GPS assistant to photograph or record a movie in full 1080p HD, even post processing those images, and i don't even speak about playing 3D games, read some news on internet and so on...


At the end, when we compare how we use our phone the most, in percentage, I can say safely that we barely use it to call someone, and this is why i call mine a photophone.

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Comments: 1
  • #1

    Nick Carpenter Bonsai Hostel (Friday, 22 September 2017 00:12)

    Awesome blog post, Really tips have shared like and professional. I like it most.