Why You Should Consider Cropping Your Images To Get The Best From Your Compositions

Before knowing Arnold Newman's work, I was pretty reluctant to crop, but honestly, it is a powerful tool and one of the first things that you should do when developing a RAW file.

Cropping enhances a concept during the post-production stages, and because it’s done with a clear vision (sometimes well after the shot has been made) it helps the photographer decide better about which elements should be within the frame and what others need to be left behind.

Think of it as a minimalism driven procedure where less is more. Especially during situations like street photography where everything happens so fast, that is hard to frame everything perfectly and still capture the moment before it fleets away – a great crop in post can make or break an image. 

Cropping Affects The Histogram

The reason why you should consider cropping during the first moments of RAW development is that it reconstructs the histogram with each crop that you make. This might seem strange, but the concept is pretty logical since the histogram is a visual representation of how light is distributed across the image you've captured, so cropping is really making a new image from your original.

Let's take a look at how the histogram slightly changes (it is hard to see, but it does change) by cropping Roberto Nickson's cute picture of a pup.

First up – the image in full

Photo by Roberto Nickson (@g) on Unsplash

By giving this image a closer crop, you can see the histogram changes as well.

Photo by Roberto Nickson (@g) on Unsplash

The Benefit of Keeping Standard Ratios

Standard ratios help keep things in order, for both online showcasing and image printing. I remember a sad story now from a couple of years ago. I wanted to print some images, and due to “free” cropping (the one you get by unlocking the little lock in the cropping panel), I got strangely cropped prints from my final images. Standard ratios help photographs avoid these sad situations a lot.

Cropping Is Really Enhancing Our Composition – So Keep Some Composition Rules In Mind When Cropping

Whenever we are looking through our viewfinder, we are cropping already, we are cropping reality with our cameras. That is pretty much the very beginning of composition, therefore cropping in post-production is still a continuing procedure of composition. In Lightroom, when choosing the Crop tool (R) and then pressing the shortcut O you can toggle between a various arrays of composition layouts – these can help in thinking about yoru new composition:

Use Cropping Responsibly

There are some genres in photography like Photojournalism where cropping should be done with extreme care because leaving something out can and does change the context and story of the reality behind the image. It can give the viewer a whole different message – it could even become sensationalist.

Nowadays I enjoy cropping almost all my images, even slightly because it gives me a reconnecting feeling with the moment that I captured the image in the past. Cropping is a prime stage of editing and it should be done with care, but most importantly, with joy.


About the author

Federico Alegria

Federico is a one of our staff writers and has 10 years of experience in making documentary photography, he is currently working in long-term photo essays and you can see more of his work here. He is also a professor at a design-focused University, and is currently pursuing his PhD (and of course, his thesis is around Photography). His work has been featured in museums, newspapers and magazines. He is currently based in El Salvador.


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