To Crop or Not to Crop, That is the Question

Images are cropped for a variety of reasons

Before listing & commenting on them individually

Let me group them into two categories

1. Cropped for a good reason

2. Cropped out of laziness or sloppiness


D800E_130620_102728__DSC8898 nx wbd cep adorama

Three Calla Lillies

A 4X5 ratio image made in-camera with a Nikon D800E (2×3 ratio)

I needed a file for a free 8×10 metal print (retail $25)

I also needed some examples for today’s post

Two birds with one stone

D800 images have area options shown in this D800 menu (left)

I used the bottom option to shoot the above image

You’d get the same result using FX & cropping in post-processing

6-20-2013 3-19-38 PMIt’s interesting to compare the DX area’s pixel count

With my two DX models’ resolution

D70 – 6 MP & D300 – 12MP (vs. 15 MP in the D800E)


About me & cropping (YMMV)

First let me say that, where possible, my goal at capture is –

Fill the frame top to bottom & left to right

No crops in post-processing

Sometimes this can work against you, but it’s my general goal

Example of “works against you” –

You shot 6×4 but customer needs 5×4

If you filled the frame, what gets cut?

You put it all there for a reason

See the final example


Possible reasons for cropping –

1. Aspect ratio mismatch

Today’s feature image fits this category

 The camera’s native aspect ratio (6:4)

Doesn’t match the required print ratio of 5:4

Crop is the only alternative

2. Subject doesn’t match  camera’s aspect ratio

This next image might fit this situation

D800E_130620_102410__DSC8894 nx wbdl

After I framed the shot to

Fill the frame and obtain my desired spacing

Equi-spacing from left, right and top of frame

A bud vase top intruded into the bottom of the frame

(I saw it, that’s not the issue –

I couldn’t eliminate it & still maintain the spacing;

Getting closer pushes the lilies into the frame edges)

Not seeing it would have fallen into the “sloppy” category

Solution – a small crop from the bottom in post-processing)

3. Enlarge image (digital zoom)

Shot needed a macro lens (or a long telephoto)

Which you didn’t have

Either way you wanted the subject larger

Cropping gives the equivalent of digital zoom

As long as the camera’s resolution supports it

4. Shoot now; decide on how to crop/frame later

This is the lazy/sloppy approach

Leave lots of room on all 4 sides of the subject

Later, crop as desired –

Up to & including a horizontal image from a vertical

Large resolution sensors encourage this (poor) thinking

If you cropped over half of a D800’s image area away

There would still be 15MP left – plenty for most prints

(See DX in the image area menu above)

The crop below still leaves over 16 MB!

33% more than my D300 full-resolution

Talk about little or no penalty for sloppiness 😦

6-20-2013 6-41-55 PM

5. Oops!

Usually due to not inspecting

The edges of the frame (viewfinder) carefully at capture

You upload your files and darn!

Where did that branch come from?

If the viewfinder doesn’t have 100% coverage

This is easy to do

Do you know your viewfinder’s coverage?

You should; could be as low as 90%


Don’t expect others to respect your images (and wishes)

Last month I was asked to provide (freebie) this next image

Our golf club was making a new scorecard

Wanted the image of the clubhouse for the cover

Sure – under the following conditions:

I get a photo credit

No post-processing

That include NO-CROPPING!!

I get approval before it is printed

Contact me with any questions or problems

I pre-approved their using a logo (& added my own credit)

DSC4996_nx2 v1 Dick Schneider


Here is what they sent me for approval before printing

That all caps NO CROPPING!! must have

Escaped their attention 😦

Although under other conditions this crop might be OK

OR – even better than my original

I had my reasons – and they totally ignored me

When I asked WHY?? the answer was predictable

My image’s size didn’t match their pre-designed template

(Heaven forbid that they change the template)

6-20-2013 2-10-20 PM


I was asked for a suggestion, and suggested the following

Presumably this is what they sent to

The golf committee for approval

Been several weeks & I haven’t heard

6-20-2013 2-09-21 PM

This is an example of the advantage of being an amateur

Who doesn’t sell images – and doesn’t want to

Internal Revenue Service, take note

Just in case the government|NSA reads my blog 😉

Who shoots for himself – not for judges or clients

I can set firm rules and not be concerned with losing a sale


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2 thoughts on “To Crop or Not to Crop, That is the Question

  1. Okay, taking a deep breath here.
    I agree with all you say… to a point. A lot of my photography is taken on guided tours. Often, I’m VERY limited on the time available to set up, frame and shoot. When you’re being guided through a venue, it’s difficult (often impossible) to wander off and get that ‘perfect’ angle. You definitely have little control over lighting, etc. Some of my better shots were ‘targets of opportunity’ grabbed while passing. In these cases, you shoot what you can shoot and pray you’ll be able to frame a dynamic image in post-processing. Would I like to have a week to image Versailles? You bet, but when you’ve only got a couple of hours…
    Regards, Travis

    • No disagreement here with anything you said. I should have prefaced my remarks (certainly #4) with – “Sloppy/lazy applies assuming you were able & had time to frame the shot properly – but didn’t.”

      Have a nice trip. See you after 7/9.

Comments are closed.