Cropping question from an novice

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Cropping question from an novice

Postby Celtictwo » Sat Jun 28, 2014 4:32 am

I'm rather new to photographing birds and other wildlife and I have a couple of questions regarding cropping.

1. For some long forgotten reason I have been cropping from the original aspect ratio of 1.78 to 1.33. Am I making a mistake doing this, and if so, what would be preferred?

2. Should I be keeping copies of the original un-cropped photos? My home network consists of 4 desktop computers so I do have adequate storage space.
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Re: Cropping question from an novice

Postby MikeW » Sat Jun 28, 2014 2:45 pm


1. Unless I am trying to create a panoramic or some other special size I normally they to stay at the original aspect ratio of my camera, which in the case of my full frame sensor is 3 x 2. However I am not an expert in post processing so I am sure others that know much more than I do will chime in here.

2. Always keep a copy of the original no matter what kind of editing you do. Once you change it, if it has not been saved, then it is gone forever. I have a process of completely deleting all photos that are just, well bad. I try to do some of that right on the camera if they are obviously not keepers. Then another round of deletes once I get them on the computer. Those that are left go on two different external hard drives for backup reasons. Then with Lightroom I can edit a copy of that original when needed and I don't mess with the original at all. Now, that said, that is just the way I've been doing it and there are many other ways I'm sure and some probably much better than mine. You can develop a system of workflow that works best for you, but one thing I don't many folks would disagree with is...always save the original!

Hope this is helpful,
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Re: Cropping question from an novice

Postby res » Sat Jun 28, 2014 10:21 pm

First, I am with Mike, I save everything a couple of times. I have a LOT of pictures to store but storing in more then one area is very good and I always keep my originals.

As for the cropping question, here are some things to consider:
1. Photography is an art to be used by the photographer to accomplish the purpose of the photographer.
2. All tools of photography can be used at the photographers will to accomplish the above purpose.
3. All “rules and guidelines” are centered on the “average viewer’s perception” shall we say as to what they expect.
4. All rules and guidelines can be broken to accomplish the purpose of the photographer!! :lol:

With all of that said, what is the purpose of your photo? Quick thoughts:

Identification of a bird? Then crop in the best ratio that keeps your picture quality as clean as possible with the photo taken, so ID can be as easily made as the picture can offer.

Portrait? Learn things like rule of thirds, letting the bird look or “move” into some space in the picture, de-clutter background, find leading lines that bring the eye to the subject, get the bird to pop in the picture in such a way that it grabs the viewer’s attention and crop accordingly.

One last thought, I do try to get the best composition I possibly can in all my photos but let’s be honest, wildlife has never read a book or taken a course on posing and modeling. We as viewers make up what we believe is “beautiful”. Yet the truth is, practicing, learning to get closer without disturbing our subject, and learning to use our equipment to the best of our abilities, allows us to crop lightly leaving us with great pictures. Yet sometimes, wildlife does not let us get close. Then my cropping is based as well on the quality of the picture.

I will attach a couple of pictures showing before and after pictures. Remember, I like to shoot photos that I can hang on the wall. Not a high success rate but that is my purpose.

Straight from the camera 2x3
_DGB4436full.jpg (84.58 KiB) Viewed 2966 times

4x3 Landscape crop
_DGB4436.jpg (75.16 KiB) Viewed 2966 times

Straight from camera 2x3
_DGB4545full.jpg (142.67 KiB) Viewed 2966 times
3x4 Portraight crop
_DGB4545.jpg (102.31 KiB) Viewed 2966 times
Last edited by res on Sat Jun 28, 2014 10:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cropping question from an novice

Postby res » Sat Jun 28, 2014 10:29 pm

And just for good measure, one I did not touch for cropping.

_DGB4625.jpg (77.6 KiB) Viewed 2966 times

Remember, it is about you and what you want to accomplish. Many here take nice pictures so they can share with others what they see or experience at points in time. The photo may not be perfect according to picture "standards" but within the realm of sharing, it helps the photographer tell their story and thus the photo has great merit and value that all can understand. Some of us enjoy the challenge of trying to take pictures that we dream of selling. ;) The point of this site is to enjoy each photographers purpose in taking the picture and teh beauty and marvel of each bird. Have fun and always feel free to share.
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Re: Cropping question from an novice

Postby Celtictwo » Sun Jun 29, 2014 4:59 am

Thanks to all who replied. I knew this would be the place to get some good, not overly technical answers. Even though a little late I will begin keeping originals in a separate secure file location. And cropping will be kept to the minimum necessary for the purpose.

BTW - I remembered why I originally cropped to the ration I mentioned. It was because when I took some 1880's photos of some of my ancestors to a Kodak self-printer, it cropped where it wanted to in order to fit the 5x7 print. This resulted in prints of half a person and not what I needed for my albums.

Again, thanks very much for the advice and lessons.
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Re: Cropping question from an novice

Postby SandyLee » Mon Jun 30, 2014 11:55 am

Agree with Mike and Res!

I primarily crop for composition, first taking a good look to evaluate the original. Would it look best as a horizontal or a vertical? Are there elements in the photo that detract from the purpose and could be cropped out? Also, how far could it be cropped without losing too much quality?

One thing I always do prior to cropping is straighten the horizon (if there is one)... or, do a slight rotation if the bird looks crooked. If you crop before straightening/rotating, you will lose additional segments of your picture.
- Sandy
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