Thursday, September 25, 2014

Don't Be Afraid To Crop

Light Rays - Stallion Springs, California
This photograph was cropped.
There are some photographers who think that cropping is bad. This is not a new idea. Legendary street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson did not believe in cropping. In fact, the black-border grew out of this, as photographers wanted to show that their images were not cropped. They'd enlarge the opening on the negative cradle, and when printing they could show the unexposed portions of the negative (including sometimes the sprockets) on the prints.

Anyway, this idea continued with slide users who couldn't crop their slides (without an X-Acto knife, anyway). For many it became a point of pride. I'm so good I don't need to crop. Cropping is for lesser skilled people.
A September Sunset - Stallion Springs, California
I cropped this photograph, too.
Anyway, that idea is dumb. While I do think that one should take great care to ensure that everything is just right before exposing a frame, I also think there are plenty of opportunities to improve photographs by cropping.

First, one should crop in order to shape an image. Not all photographs need to be shaped the same. You might want to shape the photograph to be printed as an 8"x10" or 8"x12" or 11"x14" (16"x20" or 16"x24" or 22"x28"). Perhaps you want it to be square. Or something else entirely. There are no rules, you can shape an image however you want and can even go way outside-the-box. Whatever shape you decide, it should be the appropriate shape for whatever the image is.
Rays Over The Valley - Stallion Springs, California
This was also cropped.
Next, one should crop to clean up the edges. Some viewfinders have 100% coverage and are 100% accurate. Many others are not. Meaning even if you took great care to make sure everything was right, there may be something around the edges of the image that you didn't intend to place there. If cropping makes the photograph better, by all means do it.

Finally, one should crop to zoom. Sometimes you just can't get close enough to the subject, either because it is too far away and it is impractical to move closer, or because the lens cannot focus close enough. Whatever the reason, you most likely have plenty of resolution to spare to get in closer by cropping. There is nothing wrong with cutting part of an image out to make it better.

Don't be bothered by those who think that they are better because they don't crop. Let the images speak for themselves. The finished photograph is what is important, and the details of how that image was created is not important to the viewer.

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