To crop or not to crop?


I’m taking a digital photography class and it is not only instructive, it is also provocative.  Here are some questions raised by the last class:

  • Given the ease with which we can now crop photos in a graphics program (I use Photoshop Elements 3.0), is the old (film) requirement of composing a picture within the camera lens frame still relevant?
  • What about the idea that photos should be ‘found’ as opposed to ‘composed’?  Along these lines, a famous photographer has stated that  ‘70% of photography is moving the furniture’.
  • Why would moving stuff around PRIOR to taking a picture create a more legitimate photo than cropping a little AFTER taking a picture?

In deference to the idea that it might still somehow matter that a picture be composed at the moment of clicking, the three pictures in this post have been re-sized for the web, but not cropped or changed in any other way.


We had a snow day here in Newton.  A good evening for kielbasa and potatoes!  I had the white balance set to fluorescent for this picture.  It was nighttime. The colors look pretty true.


This picture excites me because I actually managed to get the perforations in the colander in focus… this I could not do three weeks ago (my instructor actually said during this past week’s critique, “Do you wear your glasses when you take pictures?”  A perfectly legitimate, information-seeking question).  Now, it’s on to learning the Manual Focus!!

One last note.  I am hoping to use picture-taking as an opportunity to pick apart notions of beauty.  Must the gorgeous flowers have such ascendancy over the dirty dishes just because of what my mind says about each?

4 thoughts on “To crop or not to crop?

  1. morningjoy

    Interesting questions. I think the decision to crop depends on the subject. If it’s a flying bird or if you’re trying to capture a subject with a 300mm lens that you really need a 500mm for, then composing is more difficult and it’s often necessary to crop. Cropping removes pixels from the original image and therefore it’s more likely that you’ll have soft edges and noise when you print the photo due to low resolution. You can get away with more if your image is web-bound. It is my opinion that composing before shooting and using the whole image is preferable.
    Beauty is subjective and often depends on a person’s preferences. What do you think?

    1. deemallon

      Hi Morningjoy,
      Are you saying cropping’s use gains legitimacy if the image is difficult to capture?
      Up until this class, I had pretty much let the need to compose in the camera ‘go’, along with the use of film…. It feels like an archaic requirement to me.
      And yes, beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder… This set of eyes, anyway, could use some new definitions! I have been trying to come up with a subject I could photograph often and share on flickr — I have been thinking of my kitchen sink, which is virtually always got something dirty in it. Wondering if by viewing it as a composition of circles and other shapes, I could somehow stop seeing it solely as a chore to be done….

    1. deemallon

      Hi Chris,
      I didn’t say film is archaic. I’m suggesting that perhaps the ‘requirement’ to properly (ie to one’s satisfaction as a photographer) frame a subject within the camera lens is archaic, given the ease with which we can now crop in a graphics program… to me it seems like a film requirement imposed upon a digital medium.

      Obviously, you prefer film. I’d love to hear why.

      PS I am not a photographer.


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