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to crop or not to crop?

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#21 tdpriest


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Posted 21 November 2006 - 02:57 PM

If anyone's been daft enough to read what I've posted on other topics, then they can predict that I'm in favour of cropping, if it contributes to the image having the intended effect. Sure, the less cropping the better, but if the whale comes along ,or the shark hits the sunburst, how much time do you have for perfect framing?

I'm one of the "Ansel Adams" quoters, and it's very interesting to read what he wrote on colour: it was his inability to control colour reproduction that restricted him to monochrome. His commercial colour work, however, was pretty impressive. I think, from his comments, that he would have embraced the digital reproduction of colour whole-heartedly. He was also a master, using sleight of hand and a great eye, in dodging, burning... and cropping!

I might have these opinions because I've not been a great competitor, and restrictions on post-processing seem to have been adopted as a way of achieving an "even playing field" in competitions. I don't think that restrictions have ever applied to photography as art.



#22 wchen


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Posted 21 November 2006 - 03:11 PM

My take on cropping is a bit different.

I think cropping is an important part of learning to take underwater pictures. When you save or improve an image thru cropping it helps you think about composition the next time the opportunity arises. As I shoot more, I crop a lot less especially on things that I shoot repeatedly.

Besides, most of us here are hobbyists. It really doesn't matter what we do to our images as long as it makes us happy.

#23 davidrodkeller



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Posted 21 November 2006 - 03:23 PM

My personal philisophy is that you can do almost anything to an image when it comes to colours, contrast, removing dust, unwanted models/turtles etc., because it was your personal experience which you can express in photos in the way you want to.But cropping is something different to me.

While, admittedly, I am NOT as bright as the average bear :) , I must say that I don't understand the difference between changing the water color, removing an unwanted subject or intruder, etc. vs. cropping. None of them are true to what was captured in-water. In my view the can of worms has been opened and once it is found acceptable to remove image components, change color and hue, sharpen what you didn't get sharp enough, etc. it is pretty hard to claim an old darkroom technique with greater foul.

On a personal level I don't like much of the manipulation that is considered acceptable by most people, if for no reason other than I want some sense of photographic accomplishment or even pride when sharing an image with another. But it seems to me that in terms of image manipulations, cropping isn't more grievous than most of what is employed by many of today's digital photographers.

#24 Photobeat


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Posted 21 November 2006 - 05:11 PM

I started writing this whole big thing...pointless....Everybody crops everybody adjust WB, brightenss contrast - clones something here or there It's a tool like everything else. Improvement is life - if you can improve anything, or improve at anything do it.

Why not start a TTL discussion if you really want to get going. Who took the exposure???
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#25 hoovermd


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Posted 21 November 2006 - 05:48 PM

Cropped: crop.jpg
Uncropped: nocrop.jpg

As you can tell I'm no pro... but when it comes to boring the frineds silly with our Vacation pics the choice is clear :)

#26 loftus


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Posted 21 November 2006 - 08:52 PM

I am always perplexed by this discussion of whether adjustments of any kind are appropriate or not. Since photography was concieved, the actual moment of exposure was always just the first step in the creative process. Only transparencies imposed more constraints on us due to our limited ability to manipulate the exposed film. All prints, are manipulated to varying degrees simply by the choices made throughout the printing process. If anything, cropping is the most honest of adjustments, as nothing is really added or changed in the image, only subtraction of part of the original image is utilized in order to obtain a more pleasing composition.
The only reasons in my opinion to crop as close as possible during exposure, are to optimise image quality, and to save time in post-processing.
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#27 kaarlin



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Posted 22 November 2006 - 12:05 AM

I'm happy with al your reply. Thanx. I am the friend Udo was talking about and I was trying to explain to him that cropping is not "cheating". I hope that he will understand that now.

otherwise, I think its good when a photographer has his principles!

cheers, Karin


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#28 wolf



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Posted 22 November 2006 - 02:09 AM

Interesting topic, one which I had a discussion with Mike about. :) In the past, I used to crop quite a bit, due to the fact that I was probably NOT a good U/W photographer. Composition to me was a Photoshop thing. After taking a photo course with Mike, I do realise that cropping does make a person lazy. To get the most out of the camera, one should try to get as close to an ideal composition at the point when the shot is taken. This is not to say it will come out perfect, but at least, it forces me to think about how I want the shot to be underwater. So now, I only crop if there is a well focused shot that is slightly off (which means my keeper rate for a decent shots drops off significantly).

I can say one thing though. My photography (above and below water) has improved (and hopefully improve further) from not cropping. I guess to me it is a self-improvement thing. I want to get better and not be lazy about it.

PS See Mike, I am learning! :)

#29 Paul Kay

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Posted 22 November 2006 - 03:33 AM

Cropping is just another tool in the photographer's armoury! BUT composition, which IS a pre-requisite, can only be accomplished when a shot is actually taken. If you see a composition but can't actually compose it in camera (perhaps the format is wrong, its a fast grab shot, etc) then cropping it afterwards is merely carrying an in-camera decision out.

Where I have a problem with cropping is when it is used to try to make something out of an image which was never envisaged when it was taken - this is possible of course, and can produce some excellent images, but it is, as has been pointed out already, a rather lazy way of dealing with photos. I general I find you get out of things (such as photography) what you put in. I don't find cropping without prior consideration to be a particularly satisfying way of dealing with images. Just my view!

On the other hand, aren't we wasting those precious and expensive pixels by cropping too!?

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#30 tkr



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Posted 22 November 2006 - 04:53 AM

At my local photo club meatings we hold on the night competitions. This is all done with a laptop and projector. As we all know you can get away with a lot by viewing images this way.
On occasions I've seen a winning image but also been aware of its original. I've been shocked to see cropping of well over two thirds of the original.
I think I would feel a bit of a fraud with discarding so much of the orignal if I could not get a decent large print out of it. I guess if it can be printed to a decent quality I have no problem with it.

#31 Scubaskeeter


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Posted 22 November 2006 - 06:36 AM

Most of my views have already been stated by others, but I'll just add something to the mix...

The most important part of photography is the moment you chose to capture, with that light, from that perspective. Cropping is not a devastating change from that, nor are reasonable shifts in color, contrast etc. Removing entire elements or re-arranging them--now you're doing something pretty far from the original reality. That's fine as a piece of digital art, but not really the same as photography. I know everybody draws the line in a different place, but I don't buy that it's just a free-for-all with no rules.

As has been pointed out, it's not just about what size works for web posting. You couldn't shoot crappy compositions and do 90% crops in the film days either, even using MF. There are plenty of other technical reasons for getting it right in the capture; let the manipulation debate begin after that phase...

Well said ADawson, cropping is just a tool to improve - push any tool too far and the image degrades.

One thing it proves, (not cropping) is how close your diving skill allows you to get to an animal. If you get one tooth of a 6M white shark to fill the frame, one can deem you very brave and skillful (but not wise).

#32 CeeDave


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Posted 22 November 2006 - 08:48 AM

Of course 'tis nobler to compose in camera than to crop post facto. Still, I'm amused by how downright Puritanical some Wetpixelians sound here -- but then, it is almost Thanksgiving here in the US...

There are a couple benefits to good composition that I've (re)discovered for myself, lately. First, sometimes the extraneous stuff (that should be out of frame or cropped) increases the tonal range a lot, making it tough to put your subject in its best exposure zone without clipping -- this is way more of a problem with digital than film because of film's more graceful falloff at extremes. Second, the extraneous stuff is sometimes lit differently, and that complicates finding the correct white balance.

So for me, you can't decouple these things -- better composition improves the exposure and white balance.

And I feel free to adjust cropping, exposure, and white balance after the shot, if I feel the adjustments make it more evocative and/or more honest.

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#33 markdhanlon


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Posted 22 November 2006 - 11:21 AM

I will crop just about every shot. But this is by design because when I take my photos I will get the composition that I want then back up a tiny bit to include a little bit more in the frame. This way I can ensure that in post I can clip to get what I want and that I have everything in the final image.
I think you will find the same if you speak with most painters; there's always paint under the frame. Just MHO.
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#34 fdog


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Posted 22 November 2006 - 12:32 PM

Cropping is good.

Clone something in or out, however, and I'm fired.

All the best, James

#35 Glasseye Snapper

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Posted 22 November 2006 - 02:13 PM

Clone something in or out, however, and I'm fired.

But if the image is used in an advertisement then cloning things in apparently is not a problem. Several adds in scuba diving have FAKE written all over them. The worst one (now discontinued) actually had one fish mis-cloned so that the front and back half didn't line up. It is also very common to show pictures with exotic pacific fish to advertise Caribbean holidays. Knowing how beautiful the underwater world is in its natural state I find it sad that it is deemed necessary to apply a digital makeover to appeal to the craving for sensory overload. It also sets up false expectations and I've been flabbergasted by fellow divers complaining it was a lousy dive because they didn't see any sharks while I was still bubbling over with the excitement of seeing 50+ different fish species flaunting their colours and behaviour.

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#36 jtresfon


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Posted 22 November 2006 - 09:31 PM

I think every photographer has their own personal interpretation of what is acceptable or unacceptable. As has been stated by a few others, I have found cropping has taught me to better appreciate a good composition, and as I've learned I then do less cropping by virtue of the fact that I can more often "see" the shot in reality.

My personal "line" is drawn at adding or removing content, rather than brightening/sharpening/cropping/colour correction etc. Although I will say that I find things such as changing green water to blue doesn't gel with me. It all depends on how much you want the photo to represent the actual remembered experience.

NB. This is a cropped post!]


#37 almity1


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Posted 23 November 2006 - 05:07 PM

I agree with Mike "Crop with your Fins", Get It right the first time or at least make the attempt to do this.

Here is my spin on it.

Cropping is one of the traditional darkroom functions that is now emulated through software.

Coming from a background of having worked in a Commercial Darkroom and having one at home developing transparencies and cibachrome, back in the now "monolithic" period of Photography.

I was forever enlarging to 20 x 24 inch paper to crop to 10 x 12 inch size to cater for customers in a particular area they requested. Whether it was to form a potrait or to seperate the bride and groom from the Bridal Party. (This point supports cropping)

You could argue the point of why didn't they ask for that shot to be done that way in the first place. It would have been much easier and less expensive. (This point supports NO cropping)

Sometimes in an attempt to compose a picture you are limited by the surrounding physical environment, it may be best to give the subject the priority rather than composition, (This point supports Cropping).

In the case where you have time and no physical limitations, "Crop with your fins" and try a few more angles. (This point supports NO cropping).

I like to plan my dives to allow the time for good composition of a subject, and this is my aim. Once I achieve that, I do look at what I have done and have another go, if I need to before moving on.

At the end of the dive, you are the one who makes a decision on the display of each of your pictures, if it feels right to crop on a particular picture, DO IT!!!.

I have cropped as much as I haven't cropped, I would say less cropping.

I let the picture talk to me. Let your pictures talk to you.

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#38 richorn


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Posted 23 November 2006 - 06:23 PM

Photography is what YOU represent your work to be.

If you are charged with taking shots for an album cover, there are no constraints on what the graphic artist will do to your shot in post to get the image THEY want. No rules.

If you are a photojournalist, then your work is expected to "show reality". This does not imply that an image cannot be severely worked over in post, just that it must not present a false reality. Cropping and color adjustments in general would still be acceptable.

For most, the shots taken would be called art. Once again,no rules.

Now that photography is my primary "job", I find I have to back off a bit and do more cropping in post. Most "prints" don't match the camera's native resolution, and getting in tight has caused major problems on many "standard size" prints. Sure, custom mattes are a solution, but many situations call for sizes that demand backing up and cropping after the fact. Yes, cropping with your fins is great advice, but as has been pointed out, the image in the viewfinder is not always an accurate representation of what is on the sensor.

Another excellent example is the cover that Todd had recently. Compare the original image to the cover...

In each case, you have to shoot for the situation, the job, and the expected result or use. If you are only concerned with photographic competitions, then you are expected to do a minimal amount of "post" to create an even playing field. In all other cases, crop away!

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#39 bvanant


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Posted 25 November 2006 - 05:10 PM

From the sounds of this group, it seems that most of the non-croppers never worked much in a darkroom. Other than 8x10 contact prints (much of Ansel Adams's work) darkroom work almost always involved some cropping. Shooting 6x6 chromes to make 8x10 cibachromes was common as was changing slightly the proportions of the print compared to the negative. I don't recall the dimensions of Moonrise over El Cap but supposedly it was shot with a 6x6 Hasselblad and I pretty sure it isn't square in the print.

On the compose with your fins side, I agree if it can be done, but I mostly print 8x10 so I can't get there with digital no matter how much I try.

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#40 John Bantin

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Posted 26 November 2006 - 12:15 PM

Surely we crop every time we use the selective eye of the camera? It is what we include or exclude that makes it an image woprth looking at.
If you are shooting pictures for someone else (a client/art director/editor) you have to include space around the subject so that person can make the selective crop to suit the space available. (The picture I use as my avatar was never published because the art editor wanted to see the whole animal.) If you are shooting for yourself it makes sense to crop in the camera in order to take advantage of that pixel count (as Paul rightly points out) and keep the quality optimal. However, the A shape publication is not the same as the 2:3 shape of the 35mm frame etc. so cropping s inevitable.

Composition is another thing entirely. It is the relationship between different subjects within the frame at the moment the picture is recorded. Changes there are more difficult to effect later. Then you need top construct a picture from different elements, which is an entirely different matter.
I would also point out that the closer you get, the steeper the perspective and the more dynamic the shot gets - hence the popularity of wide-angle lenses in reportage (above water). So get in close and get the shot with the most dynamic perspective rather than sitting back and getting a flat looking (also flattened by turbidity of the water) picture.

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