Friday 7 February 2014

The thing about cropping an image ...

Until last weekend, I've never realised to what extent I held cropping of an image in horror. I  admit that sometimes cropping an image will make a picture better. The image ultimately needs to get what it needs but at all times, I think of getting my framing right in camera on location; straightening horizons may be as far as I go. The thing is that I truly despise cropping an image. And there are numerous and logical reasons for that. However before I come to that, I should probably explain for the people out there who do not know about cropping.

Adobe's website defines cropping as the process of removing portions of an image to create focus or strengthen the composition. Best way to illustrate this is with an image:

Version 1 - Original image

Version 2 - Cropping for more emphasis on subject's face and eyes.

So this is cropping.

Now in this case, I cropped it to add more emphasis on the model's great cheekbones, eyes and beauty spot and keep the space on the left for her eyes to wander and make you wonder what she is looking at. In the original image, what I wanted to show was first the face and then the body stance. However, crop it some other way and you may find yourself looking at a poorly cropped picture with not enough space for the look of the subject. In the image below, there is no balance as the rules of basic composition have not been respected. Now of course, rules are made to be broken, but you'd be a damn fool not to notice how bad cropping lowers the impact or the aesthetic of your image. And moving people, captivating their attention is what we try to do with the crop tool.

Version 3 - An unflattering / bad cropping my opinion

I have always told people - my clients or collaborators that if they want to use my images for something other than what was intended, to inform me. And if they want to have something altered in the images, to let me know again. When I say alter, it does cover cropping too. Now cropping an image for your Facebook cover or display image is alright with me. But cropping an image when it's going to be publish or used in that altered way specifically on medias is definitely not something I allow. Even less when it's without my permission. If you come to me and ask me to modify it for you, I'll consider it and advise you on whether this or good or not. I just read about this photographer who told the following to his friend and collaborator:

"Crop my picture and you are a dead man."

This evokes my exact feelings over the weekend. Now, I'll not murder anyone over this, but you get the gist. I was seething when I saw how two (!!) of my images had been cropped drastically and carelessly in a publication. I really mean that they butchered my pictures. I asked the person in charge why had the pictures been cropped and how come such a thing happened without my approval being sought out first. I tried to get a reasonable explanation but whatever the person said, it made me more angry. I must admit, yes, that all photographers have a sentimental attachment to their pictures and I was already convinced that the pictures should not have been cropped, so of course whatever he said would not make me change my mind.

But there was far more to it. The reason I do not condone the cropping of my images was firstly because, I am very specific about it. I'll write it down in a contract or a mail, I'll tell you the same thing face to face. So, should you go against our initial agreement, of course I'm not going to be happy especially when it's published and that there is no way now, to change the cropped image.

Secondly and most importantly, there is the artist's intent. If a photographer takes a picture in a particular composition, he has a clear mind about what he wants to show in his composition. It's his sensibility and it's for that exact reason that you hired him and not for what you wanted him to reproduce for you. And no matter the size in which you display the artist's image or the number of spread you give him, the only thing he wants to see is his image as he took it, not cropped, not blurred around the edges, not with a vignetting. The artist cares for his artistic vision to be well represented.

And that is why I was very angry over the weekend and so depressed that my efforts at making a great picture ended up being "butchered" in favour of poorly cropped image that the publication thought would go unseen. I think a photographer tries to make the best images he can. But ultimately, those images have got to be done to please the people you work for to some extent and the viewers of those images need to get great pictures to make their education about what a good picture looks like. The viewers need to have a chance to see images that they are maybe not used to, that defies their notion of 'conventional'. They deserve better and what we, as photographers seek to do is to give our best for greater images. Our efforts should not be discarded.


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