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to crop or not to crop?


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#1 Udo van Dongen

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Posted 19 November 2006 - 03:12 AM

Dear Wetpixel Members,

I had some discussions with some friends about cropping. Most of them consider cropping as a tool like any other tool in, for example, Photoshop. 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. When you do cropping you can make any composition you like. Personally i think that, as an underwaterphotographer, you should be able to make a proper composition during diving and not only during post-processing.

Off course i realise that in some 'emergency cases' (when you failed to shoot a proper composition of a very important critter for example), you have to crop out your subject otherwise nobody will be able to see what you shot. But should you mention it?
Also when you do a digital photopresentation or only publish on the web: in most cases you only need maximum 1078*768 pixels, which is only a fraction of the average amount of pixels of today's cameras. This enables anyone to make a stunning (especially supermacro) photopresentation, but is it cheating?... or do you think it isn't? The same count's for publishing: with a 5 MP camera it's possible to make a reasonable cover shot for a magazine, but does it mean that you can make a cover of one half of a photo when it was shot with 10MP camera?

I'm very much interested to hear your oppinion on this subject. Especially what do the pros think about it?

cheers, Udo

Edited by Udo van Dongen, 19 November 2006 - 03:13 AM.

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#2 mattdiver

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Posted 19 November 2006 - 03:38 AM

This is the sort of topic on which we could debate for hours...

... or simply say that cropping is a means to an end.

I don't encourage cropping, quite the contrary, but it's a tool that's available to photographers, and they're going to use it, no matter what...

#3 KenByrne

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Posted 19 November 2006 - 04:19 AM

The only time I'd object to cropping is on a splash in competition when the excercise is to shoot the best shot you can on the day.

At any other time if you can improve the photo and still maintain sufficient quality for your needs why not.

It's just a tool like any other and it's not a new tool. When printing from negs I'd crop on my enlarger or with a pair of scissors if I thought it produced a better image.
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#4 MikeVeitch

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Posted 19 November 2006 - 06:39 AM

i always encourage folks to crop with their fins, i hate how easy it is to crop with digital. i find it makes for lazy composition.... saying that though i do crop every now and again, not very often... i would say 96% of my images are non cropped... that should explain my thoughts on cropping in and of itself....

Do i call it cheating? no....

But... i do find a lot of people who get sloppy with their composition and say "ah, thats ok, i can just crop it later" that to me is poor form

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#5 scorpio_fish

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Posted 19 November 2006 - 07:23 AM

Cheating? Why would anything be cheating? The only way any manipulation would be cheating would be if you were submitting it for contest that specifically prohibited cropping.

If a magazine takes your uncropped image and crops it to fit a full 8.5x11 inch are they cheating? Who (or is it whom) are they cheating?

This whole cheating and "reality" issue is mind numbing. No photograph taken with a strobe accurately reflects what the diver actually saw. Is that cheating? If you print to anything other than a 1.5:1 ratio, is that cheating?

There is such a thing as misrepresentation, but the term cheating is a term created by one to categorize someone else's interpretation.

This whole issue of what you can or should be allowed to do is a result of banal photo contests started during the film generation. Photography isn't about contests and contest rules.

In the film generation, photo contests were a slide only affair, yet what really matters in the true art world of photography is the viewed print. People don't go to art galleries and view slides on a light table, and yet any viewing other than directly at the slide is an interpretaion of the film capture.

Sorry, rant off.
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#6 scorpio_fish

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Posted 19 November 2006 - 07:39 AM

A couple of more thoughts...

Why would someone allow themselves the ability to adjust color, exposure etc., yet not the framing? All are part of the composition. Why allow any changes post capture? Can one not require the total discipline to get everything correct including the framing, white balance and exposure?

Those of us who have used range finder cameras realize that one cannot expect to get the exact framing of the composition one envisions looking through an inprecise viewfinder. Are we allowed to crop then?

Also when you do a digital photopresentation or only publish on the web: in most cases you only need maximum 1078*768 pixels, which is only a fraction of the average amount of pixels of today's cameras. This enables anyone to make a stunning (especially supermacro) photopresentation, but is it cheating?


The results are not the same. Cropping a small section from a larger capture is not the same thing as downsizing the resolution for web presentation. Try it and see. The detail just isn't there. If it were, we'd only carry one lens, the 10.5 fisheye.... :guiness:
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#7 jarhed

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Posted 19 November 2006 - 08:18 AM

I'm quite amterish, but have to agree with the above rant. I think that cropping is just another tool in the post processing box, like exposure control, it's better to just get it right, but if it's acceptable to adjust exposure, or clone out backscatter, then cropping is on par with that.

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#8 dhaas

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Posted 19 November 2006 - 09:45 AM

I agree with Scorpio Fish, especially the cropping being a hold over from slide film days and contest rules.

Go visit any art or photographic gallery. You will see images in landscape form, tight verticals of any size, etc. It is the photographer's vision of how they want their work to be seen. I personally find the "constrain proportions" tools on any editing software extremely limiting. I HATE having to make my view fit a "standard A2 or A3 (or 8" X 10", 11" X 14") size. So I crop it how I want it to be viewed, and then have the mat OUTSIDE dimensions be somewhat standard and the "window" cut to fit the photo.

Scorpio is also right on editorial and commercial use. No one even thinks about re-arranging an image to suit a need. Neither should we......

If we didn't have some of these rules or pre-conceived notions we might be able to take UW photography up a peg, where images are judged on the mood, emotion, or feel it evokes. Versus technical sharpness and color only. But since we are inundated with the same old UW photos via magazines and contests, I believe we (and that includes myself) are crippled mentally to shoot and repeat the same shots we believe are stupendous UW images.

Not ranting, just trying to make a point. So I say, crop away and I couldn't care less if someone thinks that's "cheating"!!!

I see way too many images that could use a good crop anyway :guiness:

YMMV

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#9 Glasseye Snapper

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Posted 19 November 2006 - 02:17 PM

In principle, I'm behind Mike's "crop with your fins" rule, but you have to be darn good to get it right that way 96% of the time. The value of his rule is that it forces you to become a better photographer and not, as he said, to become lazy. However, beginners like me will be cropping a whole lot more than the 4% rate of Mike but you can use each crop as a learning experience. I also think it depends on what you are shooting. If you are shooting a sponge or some other immobile object with plenty of time you should be able to get it right the first time (or experiment with a few different compositions). If you have just a few seconds to capture that yellow cheek wrasse you had never seen before I'd rather play it save and have a bit too much border that needs later cropping than to have the fish too much boxed in or having part of it outside the frame. In any case, even being lazy is not cheating, as long as you don't pretend an image is not cropped when it is.

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#10 writepic

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Posted 19 November 2006 - 02:41 PM

good topic, and i think it is a biproduct of the big megapixels age that photographers are able
to crop out large amounts of unwanted image and still produce a decent A4 or A3 print for the
wall.

i think most professionals would agree that preserving the original megapixel capability of the camera
is in the best interests of a possible sale so it is best not to crop. ok the client might want to
crop it, but he/she also might want to blow it up and put it on the side of a building (lets hope so too),
and so they will be looking at getting the most megapixels full of image that they can get hold of.

i for one don't crop at all if i can help it. i'd say mike's guide of 96 % would be about the same ratio
that i'm on, and i want it to stay that way, or improve :) i guess that might stem from hours in a darkroom, in the good old film days and cropping being anothe thing to consider and at the cost of an increase in grain
it was best avoided.

i also want to be the best photographer i can be, and personally if i get home and have to chop out
a quarter of the image, to make the content of good composition, then i feel i've let myself down. of course i then get an urge to get in the water again and do better so i guess it could help also :)

hope that helps,

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#11 davephdv

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Posted 19 November 2006 - 07:17 PM

cropping has been use since the first photograph was taken. You would be foolish not to do it.
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#12 Udo van Dongen

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Posted 20 November 2006 - 12:08 AM

Hi All,
It's interesting to see that a lot of people have a lot of different opinions. First of all, i never had the intention to offend anyone with this topic, but i am just curious how others see this. Due to my poor english i probably should have written 'misleading' instead of 'cheating'.
The discussion with my friend started when i showed her a picture of a Hippocampus denise that i shot for a report about Wakatobi resort. I showed her a picture that impressed her a lot, but it's an image i couldn't be proud of since it was a crop (i told her and she said it was still a great shot...). I probably will have it published in my article, and nobody will notice that it's a crop, but nevertheless it feels somewhat like a failure to me since i wasn't capable of shooting a good one at once... Off course it's better to take an image this way instead of damaging the fan she (or he) was living in and shoot the perfect shot, but that an other topic.

I have to agree with Scorpio and David Haas to some extend. If you don't like the ratio that comes out of a camera (3:4 or 2:3) there is no other option. The same counts for magazines, they hardly publish pictures in the original size ratio, so there is no other option then cropping.

The results are not the same. Cropping a small section from a larger capture is not the same thing as downsizing the resolution for web presentation. Try it and see. The detail just isn't there. If it were, we'd only carry one lens, the 10.5 fisheye.... biggrin.gif

When i comes to webpublishing and/or photo presentations: i know resizing is something different then cropping. But i wonder IF the 10.5 was so sharp that it could fill a, let's say 160 MP chip, would you just take the 10.5 (or something somewhat narrower) and crop out your macros?
If so , there is apparently a market for cameras with even higher resolution since it'll provide even more flexibility for making better compositions.

i also want to be the best photographer i can be, and personally if i get home and have to chop out
a quarter of the image, to make the content of good composition, then i feel i've let myself down. of course i then get an urge to get in the water again and do better so i guess it could help also smile.gif

Exactly what i was thinking, you couldn't say it better!!


cheers, Udo

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#13 Rattus

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Posted 20 November 2006 - 03:32 AM

Cropping is as contentious an issue above water as it is below. You'll often see images like those of Annie Liebowitz where the film edge is left on, to show that the image is presented as it was framed in camera. Amusingly this flashy style has been aped by photoshop users, adding stock film edges to cropped images. Hey ho.

Of course one can limit oneself to never cropping, in the hope that the constraint makes one a better photographer. Maybe it will. I wouldn't want to do that without a 100% viewfinder. The 5D gives me 96% and with my current housing pickup I'm probably looking at less than 90%. I'm fixing that soon though. :)

When ever we crop we lose image resolution. A slight crop can add more in the exlusion of bad image details than it removes in resolution. A harsh crop will generally tend to remove too much resolution for the image to be useful in either a comptetion or for publication. It may look nice on a web page, but when a image is limited to that use it is basically flawed. We are now definitely in the realm of diminishing returns with sensor resolution. Most of the lenses that we use are not capable of resolving a great deal more information than our sensors are currently giving us. A little, but not an order of magnitude.

Underwater we need to get the subject as large in the frame as possible if we are to render its colours as brightly as possible. This means framing the subject as large as we can aesthetically in the image, leaving little room for cropping.

I believe the process of cropping is a healthy one. By assessing the effects of various crops on an image, the eye becomes trained at spotting compositions that work well in the viewfinder. If a heavy crop is required then although we can get a pleasing crop, it teaches us that we ideally needed to get closer or use a longer focal length.

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#14 hoovermd

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Posted 21 November 2006 - 09:47 AM

Ansel Adams cropped:
http://frontiers.loc.../langarts1.html

If it is good enough for him it works for me too :)
He also did quite a bit with exposure and post processing his negs!

A computer is just a tool. I wonder what Ansel would have done had he had the option....

Edited by hoovermd, 21 November 2006 - 09:47 AM.

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#15 Stewart L. Sy

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Posted 21 November 2006 - 09:58 AM

Cropping was allowed even during the days of film, haven't you ever bought that roll of thin aluminum foil tape to put on your slides? If you don't crop, that's your choice, but to say cropping is misleading then when one takes an underwater image, don't use strobes or filters because that's not natural either. Remember, unless you're a documentary news photographer where contextual accuracy is important, then your photography is art, YOUR ART, and it's your's to do with whatsoever you please.

I just had 8 images run on Horizon Air's Inflight Magazine, due to publishing constraints, my 3:2 aspect images were cropped to 4:3rds...but the ART director loved it, and I've gotten requests for more images....

To say that cropping is misleading is the same as saying digital photography is cheating.

My rant and my 2 cents

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#16 Adawson

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Posted 21 November 2006 - 10:36 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...

#17 jkane

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Posted 21 November 2006 - 11:19 AM

Cropping is basic, fundamental and has been employed ever since the first time a frame placed on a larger print was relocated to produce a more pleasing view. I believe all other adjusting tools available in digital cameras, postprocessing software, saturated films and artificial light do far more to alter reality than cropping ever could.

#18 kriptap

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Posted 21 November 2006 - 01:33 PM

I think it's old school verses new school, those who have been shooting for years and in the old days of film could not crop like we can today in the digital format, so tend to look down on cropping. I feel digital has moved us on from the days of a 36 roll on a dive so we should move on with it and use all the tools we have to assist us in what we enjoy doing.

#19 Adawson

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Posted 21 November 2006 - 02:33 PM

Not to sound argumentative kriptap, but I really don't think it's an old vs. new school thing. Even those of us who started in the film days used cropping all the time, whether it was thru dupes or scans. Lots of things were revolutionized with the digital darkroom, but cropping wasn't one of them. I have yet to meet any photographer who "looks down" on cropping.

#20 kriptap

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Posted 21 November 2006 - 02:37 PM

No offence taken, it's a good topic and lots of good thoughts coming through.