Photographers' Blog

The magic of the crop

November 18, 2010

That first day was history in the making. Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the icon of the democracy movement in Myanmar and daughter of an independence hero of the country, was appearing in public for the first time in many years. I knew these were not going to be ordinary images. Leave them big and don’t try to improve the perfect. If I could only make the frame wider to show the whole country celebrating her freedom… but to crop – no, no, no…

MYANMAR-SUU KYI/

Aung San Suu Kyi smiles as she walks with National League for Democracy party members after being released from house arrest in Yangon November 13, 2010. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Euphoria continued the following day, as Suu Kyi gave her first speech after being released from house arrest before tens of thousands supporters packed on a street in front of her party’s headquarters.

The first speech after so many years – you know that’s important. Great pictures from my memory flashed in front of my eyes as I waited for files to hit my computer in Bangkok. All those great moments, all those speeches from balconies that made history… Khomeini, Martin Luther King, Obama, Mussolini, Romeo and Juliet, etc.

Bytes dropped onto my computer one by one and finally, after what seemed like eternity, the first big picture came in. It was beautiful. Pitch black background and beautiful light on the Lady’s face. The pictures were perfectly exposed, super sharp with lots of empty space around charismatic and beautiful Daw Suu.

MYANMAR/

Aung San Suu Kyi addresses supporters outside the National League for Democracy party headquarters in Yangon November 14, 2010. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

I quickly moved the first photo to the wire. As other images traveled slowly through cyber space, I did a little bit of “the magic of the crop.” It proved itself so many times on similar assignments – giving clients a variety of shapes increases the chances it will be printed. It was cropping time.

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The first picture cloned into three different ones, the second into four! No question about it, they would all be used.

Large newspapers print everything from big photos on double pages to small, vertical thumbnails. In weeks to come they will likely be looking for even more shapes and alternatives.

MYANMAR/

Aung San Suu Kyi addresses supporters outside her National League for Democracy party headquarters in Yangon November 14, 2010. The banner reads: “I love the public too”. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

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So here we are.

That was all I could do to get our pictures into the papers. Jealous and frustrated not to have been there to shoot the pictures myself, all I could do was crop.

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Now I know what the life of the editor is all about. I had smoked more cigarettes and drank more cups of coffee that afternoon than I would have shooting and editing my own photos for a week.

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