Panorama crop

Back in D-Photo no. 55, Mike Langford looked at three different images submitted for critique that could best be improved with a panoramic crop:

1. Lindis Pass

Lindis AOriginal

There is great atmosphere in this image, helped by the mist rolling in from the corners. All the same, two things are very distracting, the cyan colour of the sky and the brightness of the sky itself.

Lindis BCropped

If we crop out the sky altogether both problems are no longer there. What we get instead is this wonderful rolling valley, with mountains that are as high as your imagination wants them to be. I have added a little contrast just to increase the visual drama of it all. Great shot.

2. Glacial Pool

Glacial Pool AOriginal

What is distracting in this shot is the commonplace inclusion of the side of the road and the people walking. Take these away and your eye starts to explore the unusual. The rock and its reflection now becomes the dominant part of the image, and the fluoro green of the algae in the water becomes more obvious.

Glacial Pool BCropped

By using a curves layer in Photoshop, I have increased the black point so there is now black in the image, which helps create more visual depth. I have also reduced the mid point in the curves, making the overall appearance of the image just a little bit darker while leaving the highlights where they were.

3. Tekapo Road

Tekapo Road AOriginal

I love the simplicity in this image, with the obvious shape of the road being the key element. But again the grey sky just isn’t necessary. Take it out and the landscape becomes stronger, and the shadows from the clouds more interesting. I have used my dodging and burning tool on a layer mask with a 50-per-cent grey fill in Photoshop, so as to highlight the road and darken down the shadows without degrading the print.

The way I always work when making an image, is to describe to myself what it is I’m photographing. The first word in that description is always the subject, followed by the other lesser elements. If I haven’t mentioned an element in my mind, such as the sky in the cases above, they aren’t included in my picture.

Tekapo Road BCropped

I have three chances of getting this right. Once when I take the image (sometimes I leave things in the frame at this point, as I know I’ll crop it into a different format later, in the computer). The second time is when I process the image in the computer. The third time is when I print the image and put it into a frame.

If it gets to this point and I still haven’t cropped out all the things that weren’t in my mind at the time of shooting, I have failed myself three times. Remember, just because the shape of your camera is a certain format, it doesn’t mean your final image has to be that format. Make your images the way you think them.

Mike Langford, of the Queenstown Centre for Creative Photography, is here to offer you free advice to help you take a better picture.

Mike has been an international awards judge for over 20 years. He has twice won Australian Landscape Photographer of the Year as well as New Zealand Professional Photographer of the Year. 

Free advice

If you would like to submit a photo for Mike to critique, simply email your image (around A5 size at 300dpi) to with the subject ‘Critique’, along with any information or queries you care to include


One of New Zealand’s leading photographer’s, Mike Langford, offers simple tips to improve D-Photo readers' photos. If you would like to submit your image for consideration send it to with the subject ‘Critique’.




The emotion and light in this shot are both great but I just feel like I want more from this story — especially about where they are. Remember this also could have been achieved in-camera with picture style by reducing the contrast so we can see into the shadows as well as the highlights.

In Photoshop, I have gone into Image > Adjustments > Shadows > Highlights, and adjusted the shadows by 10. This has allowed me to keep the highlights which I already liked, but allowed me to see more details in the shadow, which now gives me a greater sense of where they are.



Lake Wahapo

Lake Wahapo A


Just because the light is flat and uninteresting, there is no reason why you can’t get a really strong image, even from a JPEG straight out of the camera. By going into picture style and increasing the contrast as well as shooting for the shadows (high key), you can very easily create an image like I have recreated here in Photoshop.

To achieve this look in Photoshop I have first created a Curves layer and limited the tone to a much narrower width. I have then created a Contrast/Brightness layer and increased both of these until the image is mostly just about fine. Finally I have cropped into the image to make the graphics even stronger. The final image still has the misty mood but now also has strength in visual depth and form.

Lake Wahapo B


Manukau Sunset

Manukau Sunset A


The crop of this image into a panorama is very effective as I’m sure it is making us look at the subject, which is the sky. However, I’m not sure that the right-hand side of the image is adding much to the story, as most of the interest is on the left, where the person is. Funny the way our eye always gravitates to a figure if there is one in the landscape.

If the figure was cropped out then the story would be entirely about the sky and the shapes of the clouds, but having chosen to include the figure the story becomes much more about the reflective nature of the person in the landscape. By cropping the image on the right and flipping the image horizontally the person now becomes less reflective and more looking to the future. I have also dodged the area around the person a little to make them stand out more. None of this is right or wrong — it’s just another way of thinking.

Manukau Sunset B


Free advice:

Mike Langford of the Queenstown Centre for Creative Photography is here to offer free advice to help you take better pictures. Mike has been an international awards judge for over 20 years and has twice won Australian Landscape Photographer of the Year as well as New Zealand Professional Photographer of the Year; he is also an EOS Master.

Do you have a photo that you know doesn't look right but can’t work out how to improve it or how to do better next time? Send us your problem pictures and questions for Mike Langford to answer via the Critique column.

Email your digital pictures to with the subject 'Critique'.

Or post them on a CD to: Critique, D-Photo, PO Box 46020, Herne Bay, Auckland 1147.

Please ensure your pictures are around A5 in size at 300dpi.