Cropping photos - is there a right way?


Link Posted 17/06/2014 - 10:23
Are there any particular rules of thumb on this ? Or is it something that depends entirely on the subject matter in the shot, and how the photographer wants to present it ?
I quite often use a square crop because that's how my subjects seem to fit best, but I don't see many other using it.

Are there proportions that are more pleasing than others ? When cropping, I stick to the original proportions - but are they the same everywhere ??

I'm not particularly keen on "letterbox" type crops - but that's just me and my screen size.


Link Posted 17/06/2014 - 10:35
whatever suits the image.. I don't have a hard and fast rule.. it's what looks right as far as I'm concerned and occasionally even the letterbox suits!!


Link Posted 17/06/2014 - 10:36
I crop depending on how I'm planning to display the image. So I may have several versions of the same photo to fit my TV, book, photo frame, calendar, etc.

I think it's probably just a mental thing, but the original ratio nearly always looks best to me.


Link Posted 17/06/2014 - 11:26
It's got to be down to the image, although you'd normally compose the shot so it works within the viewfinder frame.

It's worth leaving a little extra space around the image when you're shooting to allow for the inevitable cropping if you're printing on to standard-size paper. My A4 prints all need a tad taken off the sides (plus a little more if it's to be framed), so you don't want to be trimming off anything vital to the composition.

100% viewfinders can be a bit of a two-edged sword -- you get exactly what you see, but remember you may lose the edges if you're printing. They were great in the days of slide film, when you didn't have the option of cropping without a lot of faffing around with masks.

If the shot calls for heavy cropping that won't fit any standard photo frame, you're better off cropping it for the effect you want and framing it with a matt border.

Last Edited by Aero on 17/06/2014 - 11:32



Link Posted 17/06/2014 - 11:43
Aero wrote:
It's got to be down to the image, although you'd normally compose the shot so it works within the viewfinder frame.

That makes sense, but I've still to get that right for my action shots - sometimes you have to 'set up' just ahead of the moment you want to capture. Continuous shooting doesn't always work - I've had a glitch from time to time when the shutter pauses for a nano second after the first click before continuing. I'm happy to say that the Nikon pros say they get that from time to time.


Link Posted 17/06/2014 - 12:28
Action shots are tricky. I used to cover football and basketball games in Canada with manual focus film cameras and was never very good at it. Cropping is even more important for this type of work if you haven't got it right in-camera. You've got to zero in on the action. Megapixels probably do make a difference, and using the right lens to get you close but not too close. And timing is everything. Practice is the key. Good luck. I'm sure others here have the technique down pat.




Link Posted 17/06/2014 - 12:31
Oh yes, practice is certainly what it's about - I hate to think how many wasted shots I've had, despite trying to be selective.


Link Posted 17/06/2014 - 12:52
The picture as viewed in the viewfinder may or may not be the right shape for a subject, so cropping is an important tool. It does affect how we relate to an image.

For example, a square frame suggests balance and stability. We crop to make the final composition and don't stick to any one particular ratio. Even printing paper can be cut to the required shape.

On economical way to crop a print is to order the next size up and then trim accordingly.
Best regards, John


Link Posted 17/06/2014 - 13:51
I frequently use a square crop but that is probably because my early film days as a child were coloured by that format. I would say use whatever tools create the image that pleases you.

Sometimes I'm serious and sometimes not, but I consider sarcasm an artform. Which is it today?


Link Posted 17/06/2014 - 14:57
Although there are some principles that some follow on ratios and crops - these days - unless for commercial use or perhaps competition entries where some rules may apply - you can crop to whatever is 'fit for purpose' or pleases you best.

For instance - if I am printing at home - I may choose to crop to A4 or use ratios that would work printed on A4 paper without having to cut the paper (lazy),

If I am cropping for web use - then I will crop to the space the image will go in (assuming the image will work in that crop).

If I am cropping for a digital album - whatever looks best - and sometimes multiple different crops of one image.

To me - it isn't really about cropping - it's about ensuring the image I record can be cropped the way I want it to be.

You mention square crops - I do use square crops but as I shoot a lot of landscapes - not often. To my eye - square crops work really well for images where there is one clear strong element in the photograph - such as portraits/ animals/ still life etc.

Bottom line is that the person I am really trying to please with my images is me - so I do what looks best to me and if others don't agree - I doubt I will loose much sleep over it

No matter how many lenses I have owned - I have always needed just one more


Link Posted 17/06/2014 - 16:36
The composition will often determine the best crop. But if it doesn't effect the composition, sticking to near the 'golden ratio' (1:1.61should give pleasing results. This ratio was discovered in antiquity to give visually pleasing looks. The rule of thirds is derived as an approximation of the golden ratio, and common camera formats tend to be close to it for similar reasons.

Recently I've had a shot where reflections forced me to take it from an angle that included annoying background elements. Cropping these out left a uncomfortable elongated ratio that didn't print well. However rescaleing the image back to the original ratio worked nicely. Giving an image very similar to what I'd have got with the camera a little higher, but with the reflection as I wanted it.
These days the crop doesn't restrict the final output ratio, as long as distortions are acceptable.
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Link Posted 17/06/2014 - 17:38
Thank you all for your very helpful comments .

I have mostly cropped to suit what I wanted, i.e. part of horse and rider. But sometimes I've left the whole horse and rider in, with far less impact, but I thought that sometimes I should try to show the whole thing. I must admit that I sometimes do a close crop because it's the best part of the shot!!

Reading these posts shows me that perhaps I was losing sight of who I'm trying to please ....


Link Posted 18/06/2014 - 08:39
Blaze wrote:

Reading these posts shows me that perhaps I was losing sight of who I'm trying to please ....

Exactly - I get quite concerned at the number of people who ask for advice or the classic "does this "work?"" and get a very diverse range of conflicting responses - ultimately, if it works for you, then it works.

If we spent all our time following "rules" there'd be no room left for creativity, and if photography is one thing, it's a creative medium.

vic cross

Link Posted 18/06/2014 - 09:04
Based on this thread I agree cropping (beauty) is in the eye of the beholder. Which is why I'm of the opinion that all cameras should shoot the square format then crop to whatever suits. As Steve "Gravelrash" says it may be something to do with age. TLC cameras etc. Another option would be to have 2 or 3 or more formats in camera (as do some already). Back to thread. Blaze. Crop it how you like it.
Born again biker with lots of Pentax bits. Every day I wake up is a good day. I'm so old I don't even buy green bananas.


Link Posted 18/06/2014 - 09:59
Or it could be argued that the photo should be a circle to begin with, as that it what the lens sees!
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