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Thread: NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

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    FlyingSquirrel's Avatar
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    NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

    Please forgive me if this seems like a dumb question , but it has been bugging me lately because I have been thinking about how ruthless I should be in the editing process:

    Basically, I want to know how commonplace it is to keep shots which will need cropping for display. For the purposes of this question, I think it’s probably more relevant in the context of professional “marketable” photographs (such as would be sold through stock agencies, used in books and magazines, or in any other way used professionally). What I am getting at can be illustrated by the following examples:

    Group 1:

    You compose a landscape photograph, and the photo fills the sensor frame as desired. This obviously would result in a “finished” composition as you intended.

    You are photographing wildlife, and (for the purposes of this question) you intend for the shot to be a nice frame-filling composition of the animal. With the proper preparation, skill, equipment (and maybe a little luck) you get the shot.

    Group 2:

    You shoot a landscape photo, but for whatever reason, to get the intended composition, the photo will require cropping. This could be caused by, but not limited to, the following situations:
    Your vision for the photo doesn’t really work with the standard frame length x width ratio
    There are distracting elements in the scene
    You don’t have the right lens at the time

    You are photographing wildlife, and you capture a great image of the animal, but for one reason or another the subject is smaller in the frame than you would like.

    On to questions:
    Typically, I would think of the shots in group 1 as the “keeper” shots that would be marketable. They also represent what, until now, I have considered a photograph MUST BE in order to be a keeper at all or used in a professional sense. For example, in the past, when I looked at fine art photography books, I had always just assumed that all of the pictures were printed just like they were captured in the frame. Perhaps all of this time I have been naive and I have just been fooling myself. Is my previous perception of what makes a “keeper” shot erroneous? Does it make sense to keep shots from group 2 just as much as shots in group 1?

    Again, I apologize if this question is stupid, but I guess if I am unsure, I need to learn!

    Thanks for any help you can offer

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    dubaiphil's Avatar
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    Re: NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

    Hi Matt

    Once you know your camera sensor and lenses, you'll know how much you can realistically crop and still maintain enough detail for a presentable image. Sometimes there will be times when you either don't have the right lenses with you to change on location, or you'll miss the moment if you do.

    Also, if you are shooting fast moving subjects you may wish to crop after the fact to make a more pleasing composition. Formula 1, airshows, birds in flight are examples that spring to mind. You may be relying on your centre point for continual focus but then wish to recompose the final image to give the moving subject some space to 'move into'.


    My camera shoots in 3x2 format - but occasionally I'll shoot with a different format in mind. This mild crop from 3x2 to 7x5 or 8x10 (or very occasionally 11x14) sometimes works better for me, especially when shooting environmental portraits in portrait orientation. I have a preference for 8x10 and 7x5 vertical over 3x2 vertical generally - you'll get a feel as you try different crops yourself.

    Only very rarely will I crop hard - and only when I know I've got enough resolution - here's an example with lots of distracting elements in the background but if I'd moved the subject I would have lost the light and moment:

    Original 3x2 SOOC:

    NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

    And final crop:

    NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

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    dubaiphil's Avatar
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    Re: NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

    Always keep your original shots though - reviewing at a later date means you may find an alternative crop.

    Also, Editors commercially may want to crop differently - if you have your originals then they can crop how they would like.

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    Re: NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

    Matt, I think you will find someone one on every side of this fence. There are those that believe in no cropping. I myself try and not need to crop my landscape and such but will if needed for whatever reason. Some believe in shooting wide and cropping after.
    When shooting wildlife especially birds I will crop and do a high percentage of times as I shoot with a 400mm on a crop sensor. This still does not fill the frame in most circumstances. However I set a limit on just how much I crop as I will need a certain # of pixels left to get a good quality large print should the need arise.
    If I fail to meet my size restrictions I will still keep the image but for myself and this image will not be offered for sale but may be a great image to share on the web.
    I feel this to some extent is really just a personal choice, Yes we like to get things right in the camera.....for me this can mean I have the knowledge that I will be cropping this image to reach the vision I had of the image when I pushed the shutter. Will I crop other than that....if needed yes. A keeper is a keeper.
    Last edited by jeeperman; 23rd October 2012 at 06:40 AM.

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    Re: NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

    Arnold Newman made one of the most famous images of Pablo Picasso: http://www.utexas.edu/opa/blogs/cult...ag/exhibition/ That portrait is about 15% of the original image. Whereas the final version displays Picasso's head reasonably vertical, it was tilted considerably to the left in the original.

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    Mark von Kanel's Avatar
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    Re: NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

    if you crop it and like it then keep it......

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    Re: NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

    I don't see a relationship between keepers and cropping. If it is a good image, I keep it!

    I try to shoot image as close to the final composition as I can then add some buffer space so that I can rotate, skew, or change the aspect ratio as needed for the final image. Although I try to minimize the need to crop, I never hesitate to crop if it improves the image.

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    Re: NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

    I always try to shoot with some "headroom" in my images, because the image fromat from my cameras does not match either my screen format or print format. I don't know what I am going to do with the images in advance, so I leave my options open. I figure I probably throw away around 15% of the area of most of my images.

    I find that crop very little if anything from the bottom edge, but the top and sides of the image disappear in PP.

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    Re: NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

    As has been said by others, there's basically two ways of cropping:

    1 - crop to get the desired (or needed) aspect ratio different from the captured image: this you cannot avoid, and can/should be taken into account while composing, so I cannot see this as an error, mistake, failure. There are several members here that very often crop their images to get the aspect ratio they want (have a look at the Forth bridge images of Donald, for instance)

    2 - crop to adjust the composition, lose excess space etc.: trickier, best is of course to take care of that when you take the shot, but, that's not always possible (and perhaps not even always desirable).
    This way of cropping can become a problem as you are sure to lose quality when cropping a lot. Whether that loss is going to be visible will depend on the final size of your image, and its initial quality: a top quality picture taken with top quality gear under favourable conditions will support a lot more cropping than a high iso shot taken with entry level gear (see Colin's photo of a watch for instance, and look at a small part of at maximum size in the lightbox)

    So, light moderate cropping won't turn a keeper in a reject, but can actually improve the image. Severe cropping won't save a mediocre photo (but it might be a keeper for sentimental reasons, and then the crop could improve the composition).

    Remco

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    Re: NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

    I pretty much agree with Frank and Manfred. I try to keep a little wiggle room in my initial shot, because you never know what might make you want to crop, but I also try to keep the intended subject to a fairly large portion of the total in order to preserve as much detail as possible. After that, why worry about it? I crop however strikes my fancy. Sometimes for a different aspect ratio, sometimes because I had the camera tilted, sometimes because I realize after the fact that a different composition would be better, sometimes because I am shooting something in a hurry and could not give adequate thought to composition, etc., etc. I just don't see any reason to worry about it, beyond leaving some room for cropping if needed while trying to preserve detail.

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    Re: NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

    Once again, thank you all for your superb advice. It's good to know that, although it's a good idea to get the composition as close as possible to what you want, it isn't a catastrophe if you don't get it perfect.

    It makes sense to give a buffer for rotating and such, and on the opposite hand at the same time it makes sense to fill the frame as much as possible for the best image quality and enlargement potential (especially with lower quality gear). Luckily for now I'm not shooting fast subjects such as birds in flight and such.

    I think, as some mentioned, I will need to get some more experience with my equipment so I can learn the image quality I am obtaining, and then experiment with cropping and see what the limits are. Unfortunately I can't afford "pro" gear (whether it be glass or body), so the image quality for now will not be as good as I'd like. I am well aware that technique plays just as much of a part as equipment quality, and glass is probably more important then the body, to an extent.

    I think as I get more experience I will find what works for me as far as cropping vs filling the frame, and of course I will always be open to whatever is necessary to arrive at the intended image. Thanks again!

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

    I think I'm in accord with much of what has been written above. I shoot the image with the final image very much in mind. I very much like square (1:1 ratio) images. I compose my shot with that in mind. I know I'm going to crop.

    One of the best ways I've found of composing your final image at the time of capture, is to use little cardboard cutouts. I've got one fro each my preferred formats.

    I've referred to these in the past and it's an idea I got from another member on here. This is what I have in my bag ....... To go from wide angle to zoom? Bend your elbow.

    NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

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    Re: NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

    Quote Originally Posted by FrankMi View Post
    I don't see a relationship between keepers and cropping.
    That's because there isn't one Seriously.

    If one can compose in a way that avoids subsequent cropping then great - that'll give you the most info to work with. If however you want to change the aspect ratio from the (usually) 1.5:1 (eg make it into a 1:1 or 3:1) then cropping is the only option if one wishes to avoid distortion.

    On the other hand, if one needs to crop more than one of the 2 dimensions then it really depends on how much info is left -v- what the image is to be used for; keeping in mind that most cameras today are at least 18MP ... and a typical image for internet display is only around 1MP - so there's a LOT of wiggle room there. If the image needs to be printed then there isn't quite as much leeway, but still often more that folks think; contrary to urban legend, a photo isn't automatically a write off if it can't be printed from 300PPI (I've printed a 22 x 22" canvas from an image shot in VGA resolution (640 x 480 pixels (not PPI) - and we even had to throw away about 1/2 of them to crop out stuff that wasn't needed) (OK, it looked pretty rough from closer than about 5 feet, but it was the last photo ever taken of the chap -- so all we had to work with).

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    On the other hand, if one needs to crop more than one of the 2 dimensions then it really depends on how much info is left ...........
    Colin makes a very good point and it also helps explain the thinking behind my little cardboard cutouts.

    When used properly, they then allow the shot to be set up so that you make maximum use of sensor and have to do as little cropping as possible. My aim with 1:1 images, for example, is that I will only have to crop on one of the four sides, the composition being 'right' on the other three sides.

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    FlyingSquirrel's Avatar
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    Re: NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

    Great advice, gentlemen. I think I may try out those cardboard frame things. It never hurts to have a few more tools in the bag or tricks up the sleeve, so to speak.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

    A very interesting example of the use of these little cards is coming up for me today.

    My next door neighbour is one half of a well-known Scottish folk music band. I did some shots when they were recording a live CD in our local village hall. We've arranged to do a shoot this afternoon for the front cover of the DVD that is now in production. Now a DVD cover is very close to a 4:5 ratio. So, I've just been down at our hall with that 4:5 card, looking at what I want to do.
    Last edited by Donald; 24th October 2012 at 09:18 AM.

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    Re: NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

    Just a thought taken from Donald's frames. Would it be useful if a camera manufacturer included a facility to superimpose different crop ratios in the viewfinder? Or just a distraction?

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

    I've often wondered how I could improvise something that I could overlay on the LCD for Liveview shooting, but then the whole issue of metering and exposure comes into play. What part of what I'm not seeing is having what impact on the histogram - which I can't see either because I've blocked it out. It all got too much for my little brain to process.

    But dialling in an aspect ratio. Is that a possibility, do you think?

    The other fantasy is, of course is to go to medium format. But finance will ensure that remains a fantasy.

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    Re: NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    I've often wondered how I could improvise something that I could overlay on the LCD for Liveview shooting, but then the whole issue of metering and exposure comes into play. What part of what I'm not seeing is having what impact on the histogram - which I can't see either because I've blocked it out. It all got too much for my little brain to process.

    But dialling in an aspect ratio. Is that a possibility, do you think?

    The other fantasy is, of course is to go to medium format. But finance will ensure that remains a fantasy.
    Good news Donald - you don't need to go MF. On the 1Dx you can dial in a crop and then it appears on the live view screen, and on the JPEG shots on the review screen

    If you're shooting for a 1:1 crop, you'll probably find it easier to just visualise something either side of centre - then - if you use partial metering you'll probably be pretty close. Personally though, I wouldn't worry about histograms nor metering too much; if you're got blinkies, just look to see if they're in the crucial areas or not - and if the histogram stops short then you may as well just up the exposure on the entire scene (assuming that the scene contains highlights). If you're shooting RAW then it really won't make any difference usually (assuming normal dynamic range scenes).

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: NOOB question regarding "keepers" vs cropping

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    On the 1Dx you can dial in a crop and then it appears on the live view screen, and on the JPEG shots on the review screen
    Now you've just made me start fantasising in another direction.

    I was not aware that this was available on the 1DX

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