Do you crop? Personally I hate to crop. Hate might be a little strong so let’s just say that I have a serious aversion to cropping. This is because I have an inherited trait, I’m a “perfectionist”. While sometimes this creates friction in the day to day world, I consider this a gift in my case because it is what pushes me to always strive to be a better photographer. But at the same time I am not suggesting this is a necessary trait for a good photographer, just one that works to my advantage.
Back to the idea of cropping. It all starts with the decision to take the picture. When you hit the shutter button were you taken with the picture in your viewfinder, or did you just snap the picture and hope it looks better on your computer monitor? When I started studying photography again several years ago after a 20 year break, one of the things I found helpful was the idea of getting it right in camera. This means a good composition and a good exposure. The advanced electronics in our cameras make getting a good exposure pretty easy these days, but so far no one has invented a composition finder. That part is up to you. Truthfully, I don’t think photography would be much fun if our cameras could pick or evaluate the artistic quality of the shot.
I remember sitting at a camera club competition a few years ago and hearing the judge suggest that a particular image would be better cropped as a vertical instead of a horizontal. A vertical crop in this case would throw away about 60 percent of the original image. While this might have made for a more pleasing composition to this particular judge, it obviously was not the vision of the photographer. Only the photographer whose work was being critiqued knows if this was good advice.
I’m suggesting that cropping should be a decision that is made before the shutter is pressed, not after the shutter is pressed. Speaking strictly for myself I would consider it a failure if I took a picture, only later to be told to harvest a small section or perhaps see a picture in the picture that was better than the one I took. That means I did not see the better shot. I could go ahead and crop and share with the world, but I would know it was not my original vision.
In the case of the picture above, I envisioned a square format when the picture was taken. My camera shoots in a rectangular format so except for cropping, there was no effective way to achieve this vision prior to pressing the shutter. Just my opinion, but I believe that cropping should be a conscious decision and not a way to save a bad picture.