Crop or Not | a 7 Image Story To crop or not to crop: that is the question: Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune… Most pros don’t crop. Their motto: move your feet to get the image right in the camera. That’s easy to say, if you have all the equipment and time required to capture the image you want. Most amateurs know that sometimes you cannot move to get the shot you want. Things get in your way like mountains, rivers, vacation with other people, enough time, the right lens, etc. Occasionally as an amateur, you might not have the vision or foresight to get a different lens or move to a better place. And, you can’t go back to try again; vacation’s over.
Besides the obvious, why else might you want to crop? Sometimes you don’t notice distracting elements at the edges of the frame or you did notice but could not capture the images without them. Sometimes, you might like a certain scale like 4×5 for portraits of people and animals or like 9×16 HD scale for landscapes and airplanes. So, do you pitch the image or crop it?
If you make the click, you have the privilege of finishing the image any way you like, right? Well, right, sort of. For me, it depends mostly upon the destination of the image. First, I always try to get the image I want in the camera. Then, if the image will be used in the editorial market, it gets finished without cropping. (Photo editors do not like cropped images.) Sometimes, I’ll make a copy and crop the copy to one of my favorite scales to make a print. (I never crop the master.) I really like 4×5 scale for portraits, both people and animals; sometimes even trees. For many grand landscapes, I like the 9×16, sometimes called HD, scale. And, for aircraft, particularly head on ground shots, the 9×16 scale looks great. An occasional image looks good; square.
There are several downside impacts of cropping including:
- Photo editors do not like cropped images and will discard your entire submission most of the time.
- Aggressive cropping can reduce image quality.
- Over time, cropping can make the photographer a bit lazy.
- Sometimes, it reduces the maximum size of acceptable print quality.
If you are going to crop, consider a few guidelines for better composition while cropping:
- Crop before making any other adjustment in post processing. The remaining adjustments will be easier and to scale.
- Don’t forget the “rule of thirds” for composition when cropping.
- Check the edges of the image to see if any distracting objects lurk.
- Check to see if the subject is still off-center.
Or perhaps you are a purest and will not accept a cropped image. You made the click, finish your image as you will.
Each of the 7 images represent a crop I’ve use from time to time. Each image will be posted individually this week with a bit more narrative under category Crop or Not.
Click any image below for a slide show!