Cut Off composition is just what it sounds like, it’s when you compose an image where your subject is cut off at a desired point rather than trying to fit the entire subject in your frame. If you have not heard of “Cut Off” before, in regards to photography composition, don’t fret… It’s a new type of composition, in that it’s becoming more and more accepted and popular lately, and it can be used to create some really interesting shots.
The technique of cut off has a more traditional beginning in that portrait photographers have been using it for years. Their version of Cut Off is where you cut off the top part of your subject’s head and pull in close. They have rules like “never cut off your subject at their joints” or “never cut off part of your subjects chin because it looks unnatural”. In recent years photographers have been modifying Cut Off and having some creative fun with it.
Using the cut off technique I’m able to draw attention to the subjects shoes and the bike wheel with its reflections rather than competing with all of the other elements that would have been higher in the frame.
Why Use Cut Off?
Sometimes there are parts of your image that can tell the story better than the image as a whole. Think about a pair of dirty, calloused feet walking in sand… Or weathered hands working in a wood shop… These are the types of things, when isolated using Cut Off, that can tell a great story using the viewer’s imagination. Cut Off leaves more to interpret which can leave viewers entranced with your image rather than the brief once over some images get.
Using Cut Off Effectively
There are no hard, fast rules when it comes to using Cut Off in photography, it’s a rather unconventional compositional tool to begin with. The trick to effective Cut Off, much like any other composition tool, is being deliberate and making sure the frame is visually balanced.
For practice, Cut Off can be achieved in post processing with the crop tool as well.
Photographs with balance have better visual flow than those without. Without balance the viewer’s attention can get stuck in one area of the photograph rather than smoothly flow in the direction you intend. Color, position, contrast, and subject size are all elements that can be used to balance your photographs (for more about balance read Compositional Balance).
Cut Off can be used in most types of photography to create some really different and interesting photographs. You could even go through some of your old photographs and use the crop tool to see if you have the eye for it. Remember to be deliberate and practice balancing out your photographs (a good thing to remember even when you aren’t cutting off parts of your subject). Enjoy!