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Crop Photos? Yes. Sometimes.

By Scott Umstattd


Above: My GoPro Hero is great for taking selfies. But sometimes, even at arm's length, it can show too much and quite often the composition is off because I can't see what I'm shooting. Cropping (in this case) made a better canvas for the photo. 


It's either a form of purism (utilizing minimal post-processing techniques) or laziness (utilizing minimal overall effort) that draws me to avoid cropping my photos. And for either one (or maybe both) of the above reasons I don't crop 65-82% of my pictures. 

It's either a form of purism (utilizing minimal post-processing techniques) or laziness (utilizing minimal overall effort) that draws me to avoid cropping my photos. And for either one (or maybe both) of the above reasons I don't crop 65-82% of my pictures. 

For the record, when I say crop photo I'm not talking about trimming out someone's interfering hand at the edge of the frame. I call that cleaning up. For me, cropping photos represents some kind of alerting of the meaning of the original composition or a recomposing of the image for better balance.

The truth is every picture is cropped. Every picture takes into account only a portion of what is available. Zoom in and you have cropped out a lot of otherwise distracting information. Turn to the left or right or up or down and you have another cropping of what is around you. I don't have any problem doing the same thing after the shutter has been pressed.

Crop Photos - Lose Data

While cropping a picture may give you a better image it's important to keep in mind the end use of the photo. If you are only going to show the picture online (no printing) you can crop out a large portion of the original image and still have a quality image to share with others.

If you are going to use a cropped image for print purposes (or for any professional purpose) pay attention to the final file size of your cropped pictures. 100kb may be fine for web viewing but a file that small will soon show it shortcomings when applied to other mediums.

Waiting For The Photo Crop

I often crop photos years after I have taken them. After the initial meaning or idea behind the photo has faded it can be easier to see unique elements that were, at first, seen but not recognized.

To some degree I consider all of my pictures to be living images. I have edited the same picture over and over again time and time again with a lot of my pictures. I never really have a sense that a picture is finished.

Above: You can see how a little cropping and how a lot of cropping can make a difference in a picture. The original file (on top) is a 13MB file. The smallest file (3.6MB) belongs to the bottom picture (the one with the larger amount of cropping). 3.6MB is still a pretty big file that can be used in printing smaller images. It's more than big enough for the web.


Using Your Pictures

The pictures above with the Peruvian children and the pictures directly above of the flower and the bee were taken with a Canon 60D and a Canon 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens. To get the close up of the bee I added a Canon EF 12 extension tube.


No doubt you have a Facebook page. And I'm sure you have gone through some effort to create a header and avatar from some of your pictures. In order for some pictures to ever be seen, they need to be cropped.

But don't stay trapped in the traditional 4X6 rectangle when you begin to crop photos to make better use of them. Play around with the various sizes and give some special attention to the manual cropping tools. If you give your pictures a second look you can find a plethora of other pictures trying to get out.


Video About Cropping Photos

That Nikon Guy, Matt Granger, shares his thoughts on cropping photos.


Hi there! I'm Scott. I love photography. It's a constant challenge and there is always something to learn - if you want to learn.  For those that do want to learn, I created Picture Power. In time, Picture Power will unite the superhero photographers of the world. Once we are all united, I will give further instructions. In the meantime,  Picture Power serves as a resource for you to sharpen your photography skills. If you don't find the answer you're looking for just let me know and together we'll find a way to ignite that inner superhero photography genius. 


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