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    • vonwong

      There's a mini debate raging right now on what the best crop preset would be for Cake. Though we can all agree that being able to crop in Cake would be ideal (or have some fancy machine learning features enabled), that's further down the roadmap. In the short term, the strategy is to come up with a "one size fits all".

      Currently, images are center-cropped and I feel like I have to make a strong stance against that direction.

      TLDR: Let's go for a Top Third.

      First, I believe that more images follow the rule of thirds rather than a center composition. It's rare that an image will contain an equal distribution of interesting content on both the top 1/2 and bottom 1/2 split in the middle.

      Given that the top thirds or bottom thirds will contain more of the valuable/interesting information, a user will most probably be left with a feeling of unsatisfaction... but not quite enough unsatisfaction to re-upload a new image.

      Not only will the user not get the full satisfaction of the perfect thumbnail, the Cake home page will also look uglier for everyone involved.

      Now, if the crops prioritized a top or bottom third - the thumbnail would either work perfectly, or be completely off. A user would now have a clear choice of correcting the thumbnail to accurately represent their needs... or leave it as is. And while we might not want people to leave feeling 100% unhappy with a crop - the next best thing is giving people the opportunity to correct it.

      So why top thirds?

      Crops that are the most annoying are generally the ones that cut off a person in half, and since humans walk and sit vertically, there seems to be a lesser chance of cutting them off in an unflattering way.

      Obviously this works less well on animals or anything that is longer rather than wider but... we gotta start somewhere.

      Debate!

      //

      Here's a side by side comparaison of the last three posts on Cake.

      - Left (top thirds) is clearly IMHO the superior "average" crop. 
      - Middle is "just off" on all counts.
      - Right (bottom thirds) is clearly wrong (but that's just coincidence) and user would know that they chose the wrong image for thumbnail.

    • ed

      One small note on this: I agree top third is most likely (though when I shoot landscapes, I tend to be a bottom third is where the interest is kind of guy), the crop should technically be centered....on the top third line. Composition-wise, the right way to use rule of thirds is to put your subject on an interest line, so cropping all the way to the top is just as likely to be unflattering, unless you just make a bigger viewport.

      Maybe I'll take the time to learn and implement the ML cropping over winter break, so Cake is nicer for all of us :P

    • Chris

      Fascinating! Thank you. We were pretty busy with lots of things today but will debate in the morrow. You've given us some good food for thought.

    • Chris

      Yes, but also among the team at Cake. There are famously debates like this between customers and companies where customers hate something about companies like Facebook (lack of a dislike button), but the team comes up with an alternative technical solution the customer was not in the position of being able to see. You're probably totally right about top third, but we'd like time to try something like "top third unless there are faces, then rule of thirds around the face" or something like that.

    • yaypie

      Here are my two cents, along with some additional technical details about how Cake currently crops images.

      I definitely agree that when an image contains people, the best thing to do is to crop to their faces if possible. In fact, Cake currently performs smart face detection and will crop to faces if it finds any, only falling back to a center crop if there aren't any obvious faces.

      I'm not entirely convinced that the rule of thirds is important here. It makes sense to expect photographers to frame photos this way, but I think most people snapping photos with their smartphones aren't thinking about the rule of thirds and will tend to put the point of interest somewhere near the center of the frame most of the time.

      But it's hard to make any convincing statements about this without data, and Cake is still very young. Right now I think it's important not to overthink things like this until we have more data from which we can draw conclusions. So for now, I'm in favor of maintaining the current behavior: crop to faces when possible, but fall back to a center crop when there are no faces.

    • Chris

      I love that 3 advanced photographers whom I admire have been willing to put forward a strong case against center crop, and you may turn out to be completely right. The question I have is whether the masses of consumers will understand it, or might they be confused when it doesn't behave like other center-crop feeds such as Strava's? I just think a little time and experience with consumers should help us answer the question.

    • vonwong

      I think that the case study is less about the photography and more about the average image you find on google images - after all, cake currently isn't designed to "shoot a photo and start a discussion about that photo".

      It's more of a "Take an image from somewhere on the internet that talks about your story" which means that if the image isn't a match, you replace it.

      It's far harder to find the right "center-cropped" story IMHO than one that goes top or bottom which is a lot easier to guesstimate and works better on a fluid width design.


      Last point - I'm not approaching this from the view point of a photographer. I'm approaching it from a practical "I want my image preview to be representative of the story I'm telling."

    • yaypie

      These are good points. Thanks!

      I still think what this comes down to is that we need more data. We all have our theories about how people will use Cake, and I think it's very possible that you're right, but we're starting out with a handful of alpha users. It's tempting to start changing things right away as feedback comes in, but I think we need to be careful not to make changes unless we have a high level of confidence that they're good changes.

      Cake's first cropping implementation tried to use clever algorithms to crop to the most "interesting" part of a photo, but the feedback we got was that it made the cropping behavior impossible to predict, so we stopped using that algorithm. In this case, we had a high level of confidence that the feedback was correct. I'm not sure our level of confidence is high enough yet to indicate that a top or bottom crop would be better than a center crop, though.

      One thing I think it is safe to say with confidence is that not everyone is going to be happy with how Cake auto-crops their photos no matter what cropping behavior we implement. I think this is a good indication that a feature that allows users to crop their own photos would be well received, so that's something we're thinking about.

    • vonwong

      Awesomesauce. That sounds great to me.

      Definitely wasn't looking for an instant fix, more excited about prompting discourse on Cake since... after all, isn't that what it was designed for? :)

    • tod

      I must admit the auto crops have been irritating. As Ben showed several of my shots lost their context. Can you allow consumers to position their photos in the window?

    • Chris

      Hmmm, it sounds like the thing to do is just display full images in the feed. Twitter crops sometimes and it's annoying, Reddit doesn't and you have to scroll more, but it feels like a worthy trade-off.

    • tod

      you can keep consistent frame size if it makes the design hold together. But would be cool if we could move around what is in the frame. e.g., FB profile pic

    • tod

      Just posted outdoor image on backpacking, crop ruined the photo, missed intent enirely. i would have moved it to show my son in the the lower third.

    • yaypie

      In that case it was actually a bug (which has since been fixed) that allowed you to upload a WebP image, which our image processor wasn't able to crop because it doesn't yet support WebP. Oops!

      But we've been discussing cropping a lot internally while reading all the feedback, and I think we're leaning toward trying a design solution that would avoid cropping entirely and display preview images in the feed at their original aspect ratio. Stay tuned!

    • Vilen

      We have a solution mocked up and discussed so the next step is to try it out on a testing site. If everything looks good there we will implement it on live site here. So the new feed will have all of the photos uncropped and some will be larger than they are today based on their aspect ratio.

    • yaypie

      Good news everyone: we've killed the crop!

      Your images will now be displayed in their original uncropped aspect ratios. Thanks for all the feedback. Keep it coming!

    • Denise

      While I liked the form factor of the cropped images I much prefer the full aspect ratio photos as opposed to the sometimes odd crops. Thanks for the update!

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