Surgeon or Photographer – Why do I amputate limbs in my pictures?

On the other hand, you have different fingers.

-Steven Wright

I loved this picture.  The assignment for class was to ‘shoot the pauses’.  I went outside because I noticed some dandelions that had gone to seed in the yard.  With my little one in tow, we went outside.  I managed to take one picture before she picked them and blew the seeds all over the place.  So much for that idea.

Where did your arm go?

We wandered around the yard while I looked for something interesting – I had to get this assignment done.  I turned and saw her sweet face.  Yes, it was going to be yet another picture of my children, but it was too perfect to resist.

I proudly saved the image to a jump drive and brought it to class.  During the critique session, the instructor said all the right things and I lapped it up like a puppy.  “Her eyes are sharp, there’s softness in her hair, the depth of field is nice.”

Tell me more, tell me more.

“But watch the framing because her arm looks a bit weird.”


Over the next few days, I looked at some of my go-to pictures – the ones that I really feel are showing that I’m learning something.  Then I realized it.  I have a problem.

I amputate limbs.  Not just limbs.  Car tires.  Ears. Tops of heads.  Nothing is safe from the carnage.

Tough to ride a bike without feet

Seem to be missing a few toes.

Three fingers out of five – not bad, right?

My instructor suggested that you shouldn’t cut someone off at the joints or waist, which makes sense.

I checked a few websites to see if I could get a general consensus.  Mainly, I just giggled every time I read, “Rule of Thumb.”  So I can cut you off at the thumb?

Generally, if it looks okay, it probably is.  It’s not a great idea to cut anything in half, including forearms, thighs, etc.

Here’s the general consensus, although some may disagree.

Don’t crop at the:

  • ankles  (looks footless)
  • knees  (looks legless)
  • wrists (looks fingerless)
  • waist (look like half a body)
  • elbow  (just looks weird)

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