Cropping is a very useful tool especially for a new photographer like myself. At University, my tutor often ‘improves’ (I said improve like this as often there are different opinions on changing photographs) students work by cropping in to the subject more and increasing the amount of photoshop involved in the image. While I understand that he is trying to help us produce the best images we can, I think he is showing us a shortcut to decency rather than the longer road to greatness. Here’s why.
In my opinion teaching a new photographer to rely on cropping produces a very lazy mindset that breeds more laziness and doesn’t get the photographer thinking about everything in the image but just zeroing in on the main subject in the image. This tunnel vision can easily create busy images that are hard to understand or images that if positioned slightly differently could have been much stronger. This goes especially for scenarios that probably won’t happen again, without tremendous difficulty and/or patience.
While cropping is an incredibly powerful tool that can be used to great effect and professional, experienced photographers do use, I believe it is something that should only be used when you’ve mastered the basics and understand what makes a good image. Understanding all of this requires lots of practice and analysis of other photographers’ work, I personally am only scratching the surface of understanding photography, it’s both exciting and terrifying. As it takes so much effort to do this why take a shortcut that may help create better images initially but make the process of learning and creating powerful images slower?
I am still not great at analysing the entire scene before taking a picture and it is something that I must improve on but I think I am steadily getting better. When uploading my daily and portfolio images I have not once cropped and will try to continue this (except for images such as still lifes and portraits that were set up to be cropped). I sometimes really, really want to crop some images but force myself to live with the results of what I captured on camera to help me learn the lesson of making sure I only include what I want in the frame and to analyse my scene more. I also have a bad habit of cropping body parts like feet when initially taking the image which I need to work harder to fix.
Anyway, these were my thoughts on cropping images while still being a beginner photographer. Like most of my thoughts at this stage of my photography journey that will probably change a little bit or a lot as time goes on. Let me know what you all think of cropping images in the comment section!