To Crop Or Not To Crop

This shot shows a group of friends talking during a flamenco show (España On Fire) at Ronnie Scotts. It is composed to make them look comfortable in their environment.

This shot shows a group of friends talking during a flamenco show (España On Fire) at Ronnie Scotts. It is composed to make them look comfortable in their environment.

Beginner or improver, if you’ve been learning, practicing and enjoying your progress and decide to crop an image to get rid of distracting externals or change its focus. I have one word of advice. Don’t.

This cropped version of the same image removes perspective and makes the same people look cramped.

This cropped version of the same image removes perspective and makes the same people look cramped.

Here’s why

1. The best way to become a good photographer is to learn from your mistakes. That’s why, when you do my classes, I don’t like you referring to notes. If you refer to your notes you won’t make so many mistakes. I’m there to be asked if you need me, and the fewer mistakes you make, the less you will learn on that day. The same applies if you save cropped images – you’ll never remember why you didn’t like the first image or think about how the original composition could have been better.

2. A good composition fills the frame. Even if it’s unconscious you’ll have given your shot a structure. Cropping will kill that composition, change the perspecties and unbalance whatever story you originally intended to tell.

3. If you work at getting the image you want in-camera your photography will improve faster. So will your technical skills.

4. If you don’t allow yourself to crop you will learn how to use your position, your lens or lenses and the angle to show the story of the subject as you see it, whether this is about isolating the subject, showing a complex image or something completely different.

If you decide you want to go into professional photography it will also increase the number of useful images you are able to create in a specific time and, if you go that way is likely to increase the number of images accepted by stock agencies too.

5. Learning to shoot without reliance on cropping (or any other form of post production) will help you speed up your work and this will mean you will end up taking a larger number of very good shots.

If you become a commercial or documentary photographer there will be times when you need to be able to produce as many good quality images as you can, and process them in as short a time as possible. Life’s too short, even if you don’t.

6. Getting it right in-camera is an affirmation of your creativity as a photographer.

Yes, there is a time and a place that image editing (post production) is appropriate, but the best ‘shopped images are created from well taken photographs, not on snaps that have to be recovered because they weren’t good enough in the first place.

7. By cropping your image you give those who might use it less choice

Finally, if you do end up contributing your images to a magazine or other media it is possible that the photo editor will crop it. Right or wrong, it happens, and if you’ve already cropped your shot you’re going to like the results much less.

There are cases for cropping, especially in advanced photography, and a way of composing for Instagram. I will discuss both of these later. I’ve only ever cropped photos for one of the magazines I’ve worked for. I started doing it when I realised they weren’t seeing my images’ front cover potential and after that whosed cropped and original images side by side. It worked in that I got more front covers, but my clients still downloaded the uncropped image because they wanted to make the decision as to what and how to crop themselves.

Next Wednesday’s post will be on how to shoot a good seaside sunset. It is taken from a short workshop I gave in Goa last year.

 

Every Wednesday I post something that will help my students. Each blog post is the synthesis of my experience as a pro-phtoographer and years of teaching photography to adults, children and teenagers. To attend a group course find me at City Academy or for flexible one-to-one tuition and portfolio building contact me directly.

this post, like all posts, is my exclusive copyright.