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Old Apr 21, 2008, 12:08 AM   #1
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I've been into the whole picture-taking thing for the last couple of years, and would not worry much about composition, figuring I could "crop to taste" on the PC. However, the more I take photos, the more I try to compose thru the lens. Sometimes I'll crop maybe 10% or so from the edges, but still keep the same proprtions as the original pic, unless, say I need to fit an 8x10 frame.

There is something about severe cropping that seems fundamentally dishonest to me. Unless you're trying to catch a pic of a UFO or something, isn't the idea of "photography" to put yourself in the best position to get a good shot?

So, my question to you lovely, esteemed folks is, "how much do you crop"?
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Old Apr 21, 2008, 12:54 AM   #2
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As little as possible but as much is needed.

Seriously though:

if you have the time and subject to compose carfully in the viewfinder then it is prefferable. It retains more of those all important pixels so maximizing your image resoution.

Often in sports and candid shots there is no time fo rcareful composition, thh main aim is just to get the action in the frame, any where as long as you get it. so here cropping is a normal part of the workflow.

The whole photographic process is not over until the final print is made.

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Old Apr 21, 2008, 3:16 AM   #3
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I always try to get the picture as close to what I want as an endresult.
(ex. It would be stupid taking a shot at 10mm and then crop 40%, I wouldn't understand why you would use that lens)

I'll only crop when I can't get close enough, and when I know that I'll have to crop a large part I don't really look hard at the overal composition, and more about getting the shot. This is mainly true when I try get a birdshot.

Another place where this can be true is with a macroshot, because the centerfocus can make it very difficult (if not impossible) to get a nice composition.

Severe cropping doesn't give me the idea as being something dishonnest. With camera's going up and over 10MPix nobody would see the details anyway, unless you would make very very ... very large prints.

So for me it all depends, on the result you want to get.


(ps I would love the get the shots I now do without cropping)
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Old Apr 21, 2008, 6:42 AM   #4
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brokenbokeh wrote:
There is something about severe cropping that seems fundamentally dishonest to me. Unless you're trying to catch a pic of a UFO or something, isn't the idea of "photography" to put yourself in the best position to get a good shot?
You raise a very interesting question for discussion, especially since the high MP rates of our latest cameras enable us to take high quality images, even at severe crop ratios.

That being said, the ability to crop heavily does not absolve the photographer of a responsibilit for in-camera composition. However, how much I crop, and the manner in which I crop, depends very much on what I am shooting. With action photography, especially fast-moving sports, I shoot only with center focus with the task always being to keep quality focus on the primary point of contact. This means that to get good composition, cropping will almost always be necessary. Ideally, the image to be cropped will take up 2/3 of the original frame for maximum IQ, but that's not always the case.

When shooting small birds, distance often forces me into a high crop ratio. It's seldom that you can get close enough to a small bird, even with a very long lens, to hit that magic 2/3 ratio.

With portraits and landscapes, following the traditional rules of composition become much easier because you can use selected focal points, or even multiple focal points, when you have enough time to carefully set up a shot.

I think, though, the question has a much larger question behind it. So much of what we are able to do in post-processing today was not available to photographers in the past, or else the techniques and equipment were so difficult and expensive that only high-level pros had access to them. Do we eschew techniques such as USM, levels adjustments, etc. simply for the reason that it's the photographer's responsibility to get them right when the shot is taken? Is cropping any different from any of these manipulations of a digital image?

Very interesting question. I'll be looking forward to seeing some of the opinions.

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Old Apr 21, 2008, 10:30 AM   #5
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Degree of cropping is inversely proportional to the size of your bank account. If you can afford those incredibly expensive lenses, then you don't have to worry about cropping! :G
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Old Apr 21, 2008, 10:30 AM   #6
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I guess I don't view cropping as dishonest. I agree with the overall sentiment that getting your framing right in-camera is a very worthy practice to try and follow. But cropping after the fact can greatly enhance a photo.

I will say though heavy cropping is a very poor substitute for being in the right place or using the right lens. Even with todays 12 & 14mp cameras those heavily cropped images look poor in comparison to a properly framed image. I still dont think it's dishonest, but it does degrade quality quite a bit.

Most people here are hobbyists - not media. People using cloning, levels, curves, cropping, dodging, burning - all to get more pleasing photos.

I think honesty only comes into play when you are eusing the photo for editorial purposes - i.e. to represent a state in time - where the photo is the story. Then I apply more stringent rules - adding or removing critical objects becomes dishonest because it wasn't factual. I remember last year a newswire guy got fired for adding extra smoke to a particular image. Similarly there was a discussion last year in the sports forum about cloning a ball into the picture when it didn't exist there before. In those cases you're deliberately altering the truth of an image meant to serve as a 'snapshot' in time as opposed to art. If the photo is for artistic purpose I think everything is fair game.
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Old Apr 21, 2008, 10:40 AM   #7
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I sometimes have the opposite problem, and don't leave enough room to crop for different print sizes without cutting out something I want in the image. ;-)

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Old Apr 21, 2008, 10:51 AM   #8
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I don't hesitate a second to crop in order to improve composition. Maybe it's because I spent a few years in the pre-press business designing magazines, pamphlets, books etc. The full frame was only the starting point. A picture of a skyscraper could do well as a very narrow, high picture surrounded by text on both sides. A picture of a beach could do equally well as a low, wide picture at the bottom of the page, or even two pages.

I can't see the w/h ratio as something godgiven, it depends solely on the motive.

But of course the pic quality improves if you utilize the frame as fully as possible, if possible. Cropped pixels are wasted pixels.

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Old Apr 21, 2008, 1:40 PM   #9
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Although I try to compose in the viewfinder, cropping is necessary to achieve the artistic end you may be striving for. I would say that nearly 50% of my better pictures have had significant cropping and many of the others have had some minor cropping.

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Old Apr 21, 2008, 2:11 PM   #10
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I don't think cropping is any more dishonest than adjusting levels or other post processing procedures. Is it any more "dishonest" to use a point and shoot instead of packing 40 lbs of a view camera up the side of a mountain, then spend several hours in the dark room dodging and burning to get just the right tones for the picture you want?

I'm just a hack like you, not a pro, but it doesn't bother me at all to crop, especially if I can't get what I want any other way. I shoot landscapes and sometimes there's fences in the way, there's no place to park the car on the single track trail I'm on etc. and cropping is the only way. On the other hand, having the ability to crop does make me lazy sometimes, where I'll crop instead of changing to the right lens or moving a couple of feet to get the framing I should have. Honest, but lazy.
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