Crop.

I hardly crop my photos. I understand the need to crop as a graphic designer, to fit a photo into a design (I do it all the time when designing cds for musicians), but as a photographer, I have always tried to crop 'in-camera.' If it's not a great photo when I take it, I don't tend to crop it to make it better. It's either a tight shot, or it's not.

But, lately, I've been talking about cropping and, well, found myself in a situation where I could see how a simple crop could make an image stronger, and so I did it.

Where are my ethics? I don't remember ever being told I shouldn't crop. I just remember being told not rely on cropping to make my photos good. Take a good photo. Period.

So, I photographed the head of public safety at Berklee yesterday, and towards the end of the shoot he was walking me around the future offices of the department of public safety, and there we were, in a tiny cement room in the basement of the Mass Ave building, and I snapped 4 quick shots of him while he was talking about the plans and how we were standing in the future utility closet. He didn't pose. I didn't set it up. I just picked up the camera, snap, snap, snap, snap, and we moved on. When I got home, this is the shot I had taken:



It's a fine photo. It's exposed correctly. It has a cool feel. He reminds me of Leslie Nielsen in Naked Gun. But the flourescent light above him is too hot. It would be fine to keep in there if he was lit separately from it and the flourescent light was exposed correctly and not blown out. But it was a quick shot, and the light doesn't work in it.

So, I cropped it out:



The cropping didn't change the photo, it just made it a stronger portrait. There's less discraction. It wasn't a huge crop, I didn't make it a vertical photograph, or changing the weight of the photo (the 2/3rds rule), I merely kept the dimensions of the original and brought it in tighter until the light (distraction) was no longer in the photo.

So, I guess I don't think cropping is evil. Do I wish I had made that crop in-camera? Yes. Am I mad I had to revert to cropping? No. I'm actually glad I saw what the improvement could be with a crop, and didn't just trash the photo because it wasn't good enough.

I won't be cropping left and right now. But I won't be so verbally against it.

Tolerance. It's such a good thing to learn, and practice.

(There are plently of questions about the ethics of cropping. I don't think I would ever crop away 2/3rds of my photo like this: http://www.john-zhu.com/blog/2009/09/17/photo-cropping-ethics-a-designers-view/)