Best practices for cropping?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Undecided, Jul 9, 2012.

  1. Undecided macrumors 6502a

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    California
    #1
    Hi. So I'm going through tons of scanned slides from years gone by, and one thing that came to mind is cropping. If you're not cropping for a specific purpose (like commercial photos in ads, to fit on standard print sizes, etc.), what do you focus on? Do you crop for screen dimensions (e.g., 16x9), artistic value (i.e., any dimensions), or what? It's not a big deal and I'm not wrapped around it, but I'm curious to know what others do.
     
  2. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

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    Jun 9, 2009
    #2
    I find I'm pretty flexible in my cropping. Unless I know going in that I am shooting for a specific output like an 8x12 or whatever print, or 16x10 for desktop backgrounds, I usually do a little artistic cropping. However, I have tried to focus on a set of "standard outputs" so that I can hopefully re-use custom-fit frames I have bought, since custom framing is quite expensive. This mainly applies more to my panoramas, where I try to keep to regular output ratios such as 6x17, 3x1, 4x1, etc.

    Additionally, I have tried to develop my skills and vision to choose compositions that utilize the full field of view in my camera (3x2 format) so that I take maximum advantage of my image captures.
     
  3. Bear macrumors G3

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    #3
    What I crop for depends on how the image is being used. If it's for a desktop image, I crop to that aspect ratio. If it's for display on a specific device I might crop to that. If it's for printing and framing, I will do what seems right and get a mat and frame to fit.

    In any case, hopefully whatever cropping I do will still be artistic.
     
  4. d.steve macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2012
    #4
    If, as you stated, it isn't for specific purpose, then I start with the closest common aspect ratio to what I have in my mind. If that doesn't work out, then I freeform it.

    If I don't have anything in mind, and it just needs cropping in general, I start with keeping the same aspect ratio as the original.

    It ultimately doesn't matter much until such point that I have an output target in mind, at which point I need to recrop it for that target.
     
  5. snberk103 macrumors 603

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    #5
    Keep in mind that if you use an application like iPhoto/Aperture/Lightroom to store, organize, and edit your images then any cropping you do is entirely reversible.

    Or you can duplicate/create-virtual-image within those applications, and instead of creating another image (using up HDD space) the application merely makes a note in the database. You could then have 10 "duplicate/virtual" images, each with a different cropping - but without needing more storage space on the HDD since it's really just one image with 10 notes in a database.

    Cool, eh?
     
  6. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #6
    Compositional reasons for cropping

    If specific proportions for a certain end use are not an issue, then any cropping I do will be to increase the visual impact of an image. I might crop for any of the following compositional reasons:

    1) To trim out distractions at the edges. If a little bit of something extraneous is intruding into the frame, then I'll crop it out. The exception would be if cropping would eat into something necessary, in which case I'll just clone out the intruding bit instead.

    2) To trim out 'dead space'. If there is an area that doesn't add a whole lot of visual interest to an image, I'll crop it off to keep the eye from wandering into a boring zone.

    3) To give the subject more presence in the frame. If I feel that the subject of my photo is getting a bit lost in the frame, I'll crop in on it to bring it 'closer'. Sometimes this means letting go of some interesting areas around the edges, but very often the old adage is true: less is more.​

    There are a few other compositional reasons why I might crop an image, but these are the three main ones.
     
  7. Undecided thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    California
    #7
    Thanks for all the responses! Very helpful.

    At first I was cropping for 16x9 thinking that I would view them on a widescreen tv, but that basically went off the rails as soon as I encountered a picture that was oriented vertically. :eek:
     
  8. mtbdudex macrumors 68000

    mtbdudex

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    Aug 28, 2007
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    SE Michigan
    #8
    +1 on this advice, spot on.
    Key is this "any cropping I do will be to increase the visual impact of an image"
     
  9. mustang_dvs macrumors 6502a

    mustang_dvs

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    Location:
    Durham, NC
    #9
    Precisely. Though, of late (mainly due to a conversation with Gary Monroe a few months ago), I've been trying to avoid any cropping, unless it's absolutely necessary to preserve the visual impact of the image.
     
  10. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

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    Jun 9, 2009
    #10
    I think this leads to a natural point of follow-up discussion:

    When you go out to shoot, do you already have an intended aspect ratio, end-product (i.e. a specific print of a specific size), or similar goal in mind? And does this affect your shooting?

    For example, if you know you are cropping to 4x5 format, do you frame and shoot your picture with that in mind? Or do you compose according to what looks best in your viewfinder, and then adjust as necessary later in post when/if you decide you want a different aspect ratio?

    Basically does anyone ever shoot knowing ahead of time they will specifically crop parts of the image in order to fit an intended end goal?
     
  11. 100Teraflops macrumors 6502a

    100Teraflops

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    Elyria, Ohio
    #11
    Great point! If I know I want to focus on something in a busy environment, then I may zoom in or use a macro lens, hence a tight/full frame of a subject.

    Not directed at Ruahrc, but I think cropping is an obstacle one must tackle as a photographer. No matter expertise or experience level. I try not to crop wildlife photos but it's hard to fight the urge. This is due to my lens collection though or so I believe. Of course nothing replaces one's general distance to the subject. Imagine capturing seven frames of a bald eagle pouncing on a fish in a pond with a nifty fifty? LOL
     
  12. appie57 macrumors 6502

    appie57

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    Netherlands
    #12
    I agree with Phrasikleia's reasons for cropping. Since I practically always have a print in mind (preferentially large, e.g. 60x40 cm and of course only for good photos), I try to stay as close as possible to my 3:2 format, with as few pixels lost as possible. I have the old fashioned idea that a photo really lives when printed (and framed, but here i try to use cheaper alternatives such as foam board). I do have problems choosing the right format for portraits though: 3:2, 1:1, 5:4? I seem not to be able to make up my mind about this. Anyone?
     
  13. Doylem macrumors 68040

    Doylem

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    #13
    The subject dictates the crop, for me, not a need to have all my pix the same ratio. I try to crop as little as possible; getting it right 'in-camera' just seems part of a photographic discipline. I want to know, when I press the shutter, how I want the final pic to look... not hunting through an image on the computer screen, hoping to find a telling composition in there somewhere.
     
  14. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #14
    I sometimes shoot with a crop in mind because there is no other way to avoid something that I don't want in my picture. It's not uncommon for me to find an alignment for a landscape shot that necessitates standing in a specific spot and dealing with some unwanted element/area that will enter into the picture with a 3:2 format. So then I'll shoot with the intent to crop or clone later. I'll also plan for a crop if my lenses just aren't long enough for what I want to fill the frame.

    There is also one other scenario where I might plan for a crop. I sometimes shoot scenes that require the combination of different moments in time, and some moving elements in the frame (clouds, wildlife, people, cars, whatever...) will be unpredictable. In these cases, I have to commit to a composition early on and stick with it so that I can combine the exposures in post and will therefore shoot the widest view that I think I might need. Of course this approach often necessitates a crop later on to finesse the composition according to where the unpredictable elements ended up in the frame.
     
  15. TimTheEnchanter macrumors 6502a

    TimTheEnchanter

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    Oct 24, 2004
    Location:
    Minneapolis, MN
    #15
    A good friend of mine has a blog on cropping and well worth your time:
    http://holycrop.wordpress.com/

    His name is Rikk Flohr, he's a professional photographer, instructor and LR jedi-master. He opened my mind to experiment more with my crops both in-camera and in post. Give it a browse!
     
  16. mustang_dvs macrumors 6502a

    mustang_dvs

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    Feb 9, 2003
    Location:
    Durham, NC
    #16
    Occasionally, but usually, it's limited to portraiture (though I often like to shoot portraits in landscape orientation, on the third, to play with the negative space) -- in those cases, I'm composing with a 6x7 or square format in mind. (2x3, 5x7, 11x14 and, to a lesser extent, 8x10 are similar enough that, if I need to crop, the image dictates the ratio).

    Interesting site.
     
  17. davidinva macrumors 6502a

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    Mar 29, 2009
    Location:
    Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, USA
    #17
    My thoughts on cropping.

    I like to do a lot of creative cropping. I often find a whole new image within another one. To that end, I make sure my cropping is non-destructive. I try to keep an original image as it came out of the camera. I also like software that allows specific sizes of crops, allows you to keep the original proportions, and also has a free form mode.
     

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