To Crop or Not to Crop...

Considering composition when taking a photo is key to a good photo. Getting it perfect in camera is not. Not at all.


Composition is key to a successful photo. Just like the colours and lighting, the composition can be used to focus the viewer’s attention to the right area, be aesthetically pleasant or to make the image much more alternative and contemporary.

There seems to be too much value placed on getting this right in camera, rather than cropping in post-processing, with new photographers thinking they are somehow failing if they fail to get it perfect: If you need to crop then you must have made a mistake on the original capture right? Absolutely not!

There are many reasons why you may crop at the editing stage. Perhaps you could not get physically closer to the subject, perhaps you had a wider lens than you wanted or just maybe it was only at the editing stage that you spotted an even stronger composition within the photo.

When I’m shooting, if in doubt, I will tend to go wider so that I have the ability to crop later, especially at weddings when you don’t always have time to setup the perfect composition within the frame. This is one of the reasons I opted for the Sony A7Riii. With 42MP, there is plenty of scope to take out a tiny bit of the frame and still have a viable image for delivery.

There are some surprising examples of iconic photographs where they have (heavily in some cases) cropped to photo to create the strong compositions that are known so well. So if it’s good enough for Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Arnold Newman, it’s good enough for you too.

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This powerful portrait of Pablo Picasso by Bill Brandt 1972 is a very severe crop from the original. I often wonder whether Bill Brandt simply preferred this tight crop during processing, or whether there was some equipment constraint during the shoot. Guess we’ll never know.

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Che Guevara here in an iconic image by Alberto Korda. This is a documentary image, so Alberto, probably with a fixed-length lens, got the images he could at the time. Cropping removes all the distractions to the image.

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In one of my favourite examples, Arnold Newman shot Igor Stravinsky and cropped the image to make a very contemporary and powerful image, especially by 1942 standards.