To crop or not to crop?


Back in the days of film, we would never think of cropping our images.  It had to be exactly as shot in camera.  I was one of those snobs. And then the digital revolution happened and my friend Bill said one day, “why are you letting a decision some suit made about the format of your sensor limit your vision”.   Bill cropped his images to meet his vision.  What a concept!  So, I ask you, are you letting a camera manufacturers choice limit your vision?  Or are you open to cropping? I admit it, I CROP.  Man I feel better!  Sure, I try to compose in camera with the space given me.  I scan my edges and think about balance etc, however, when I’m presented with a situation where things are just not lining up, I immediately switch to crop mode.  By this I mean, I look at the scene and imagine what my crop will be in Photoshop when I get back to process it.

The blog image (above) was made at Ross Castle in Ireland.  Try as I might, I just could not get the edges to line up the way I wanted.  I shot it just a bit wider than I wanted and then cropped it in Photoshop.

While we’re at it, the image below was made at the same location.  Not only did I crop it, I (GASP) used OnOne Software’s Perfect Effects to add a few filters giving is an old time photo look. Heresy!

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against those who want to shoot  in camera and process it to be exactly as they remember it.  What I have a problem with is, those who tell me my choice if not valid.  Says who?  I say, crop as you wish and process in a way that makes your heart sing!

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This entry was posted in Inspiration, Ireland, OnOne Software.


  1. John Franco July 13, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    I am open to cropping and in fact do crop. The real question I have is this: do I crop to the sensor size dictated by the “suit”, the print size dictated by the printer manufacturers, the print size dictated by the paper manufacturers, or crop based on the subject and the feeing I want to portray in the image. We have a lot of choices today, and for me most of the time it comes down to compromise between subject and paper size. I have been known to crop to non standard sizes, like square.

    • john8276 July 13, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

      SQUARE!?!?!? Really? A SQUARE!!!!! And I bet you felt liberated. 🙂

  2. Eli Ormsby July 13, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    John, I have to agree with you completely. Sometimes the “perfect frame” needs to be, dare I say it, “manufactured” a bit. Intelligent decisions about cropping are really only one step in that process. There’s a video, by Jared Polin, I believe, floating around Youtube where he talks about the fallacy of “getting it right in camera”, and how there are always going to be situations where something in an image needs edited or changed to meet the photographer’s vision.

    • john8276 July 13, 2012 at 3:15 pm #

      Thanks for the comment Eli. I’ll check out the Polin video. Vision is more important!

  3. Eli Ormsby July 13, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

    John, the video I was refering to is actually from Mark Wallace of AdoramaTV. It’s call Digital Photography 1 on 1. The episode is called Getting It Right In Camera.

  4. Dan July 13, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    This post struck a nerve with me. I get frustrated when I see or hear photo comments like “this photo was taken OOC (Out of Camera) with no processing.” I say “who cares”. If that’s the picture you want – okay. I really don’t think its a matter of how the pictures comes out of camera or out of photoshop. If it tells a “story” and that’s your artist capture, processing and cropping, then that’s your photographic rendering. I believe a lot of time, we (as photographers) “seem” to be more concerned with what “others” think of our photos than what we as the photographer/artist think and envisioned the final presentation.

    John … I must commend you with your photography since every shot you post “has” a distinct story surrounding it …AND … I believe that is a key ingredient in your fine art photography. They are not simply snapshots, they are a true artist rendition of quality capture, composition, and color. I love learning from each of your posts.

    • john8276 July 13, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

      Thanks you, you are very kind Dan. I appreciate your following my work.

  5. Nancy T July 13, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

    Love both of these! I crop…often it makes the image stronger and I photograph to please me first….my picture, my vision…

  6. Scott O July 13, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

    Nice images and commentary as usual JB. One thing you didn’t mention about cropping in the film days. When done it was generally to fit the image into one of the standard frame sizes. Today we can get frames in absolutely any size and/or display our work on screen with no ratio limitation at all. Cropping now can be done for artistic reasons, which I don’t think was always the case.

  7. Jaws July 13, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

    I constantly crop.

    One reason is because when making prints I like to crop to the aspect ratio of the print that will be made. This way I have control over the crop and not the processor.

    Often when taking a photo if I feel that will become a print and not just shared on the web, I will deliberately place extra in the image so when I crop it to the print’s aspect ratio later I will be cropping out the ‘extra’ and not any of the key elements of the image.

    One of my cameras has a 95% viewfinder. Thus, sometimes items will get in the final image that you don’t see when looking thru the viewfinder. So, sometimes I will crop to get rid of the extra which was captured in the image.

    I also crop as sometimes it’s just the right fit. After looking at an image on the computer sometimes I will see an image inside the image which would look much better. So, I crop it to make it look it’s best.

    I always was generally conservative in cropping and only cropped to print aspect ratios (even if not making a print), but I went to a Rick Sammon one day seminar this year and he opened my eyes to being more creative in cropping.

    Crop away!

  8. Stephan July 13, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

    “To crop, Or not to crop? That is the question.” Sounds like JB-Shakespeare’ism. Cropping has always been an option – purism or not. Even with full-frame 35mm formats, it does not always print to an 8×10, 11×14 or 16×20 – hence, something is typically lost.

    As for shooting medium format, especially 6×6 square, I always had to present the possibility and versatility of having the option to make a horizontal or vertical crop – or keep square. In short, educate those that did not see beyond the square image (proof) presented.

    As for making big prints and chosing a “test area”: that always invited potential of finding a hidden gem within the scene. As like your recent post with the fog, mist and clouds with the island or point, that section would make a great image and crop.

    LSS, there is always a story within a story and if you did not shoot or have the opportunity to shoot a few telephoto, wide and mid range images, it is nice to know there are always options… better today than in yestyears. Great post JB-Shakespeare!

  9. Paul July 13, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    Your picture is already a crop from the entire landscape around us. By taking the picture you have cropped only a portion of what is out there. Cameras crop the world to remove distraction leaving just the art.


    I crop to taste in my original shot and in PP

  10. Evie Ausley July 13, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    I’m a “cropper” for sure. I know it’s better to have the max pixels from the original, but there is no way I know exactly what I want until I begin my artistic journey.

    Love your second capture. The fishermen leads your eye down the center area and the processing is yummy!

    • john8276 July 13, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

      Evie says I did something that is YUMMY!!!! Yippee!

  11. e-dude July 13, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

    I try to get it ‘right’ in the camera, but I rarely do. I crop when I feel it ads to the image. In these, I really like the original image. Conveyed a mood and story. The cropped image is more common be it boats, kayaks, bikes etc.. But, bottom line, it’s your image and what pleases you is the best image.

    • e-dude July 13, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

      Oops- adds not ads.

  12. Cynthia July 14, 2012 at 4:11 am #

    Crop, crop, crop, crop cropie! I crop a lot! 🙂

  13. Daniel Ruf July 14, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    Amen, brother. And by the way…FANTASTIC work.

  14. Stephan July 14, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    As Paul mentions, we all “crop” every time we take a picture as we are only capturing a “small slice of the pie (so to speak)” of the BIG picture that is before us.

    When going to places such as the Grand Canyon I typically see people going for their wide angles to capture it all in, which is impossible to do. I advise them to get their telephoto and find something within.

    Even after we take our images, I personally believe that we see the BIG picture before us, continue to find something within and find elements that draw our focus even closer. Sometimes it takes working in the darkroom (digital darkroom or chemical), working the image and seeing the pictures within the picture.

    All in all, we all crop whether we realize it or not. Being aware and seeing the possibilities are all part of the process and why we always discover something new when we return to the same location, when we look at the work of others who were standing right next to us or to look at the image when we finally have the time to process the image.

    Life is a CROP. May we savor all of the slices of pie when seeing the BIG pictures before us.

    Great post JB!

  15. Bob Towery July 14, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

    I totally agree. Crop to make the strongest composition possible. BTW, what a moment with the boats in the canal and the one motoring in! That is amazing.

  16. marty golin July 18, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    Cropping is different from zooming only in the fact it takes place after image capture. Also & more importantly, assuming my experience is similar to others’, there is a definite difference between our assessing an image “on-site” vs in front of the monitor after the fact. (There’s even a difference chimping, often a “why didn’t I see that?”) Any passage of time possibly alters our sense of an image, & not to react to that current moment just seems silly.

    • john8276 July 18, 2012 at 5:15 pm #

      always appreciate your comments Marty. Good to see you here.

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