How common is cropping?

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by Speedliner, Mar 23, 2015.

  1. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    Hi folks,

    I was taking some shots of birds today testing out my 50-200. I added a 2x converter and the subjects, small birds, filled the frame nicely.

    They were 15-20 feet away and It took 400mm, 800mm equivalent to fill the frame. Granted, they were small birds, but it made me realize that so many pictures I admire must be significant crops. There's no way a FF shooter can fill the frame with a bird, or even an Osprey with a 300, 400 or even 500mm lens. Right?

    So many, many pictures must be major crops.

    I crop, but usually just to tighten a frame, never to make a subject 1/8 the frame the entire picture

    Not that there's anything wrong with that, I'm just wondering how true that statement is. I need to update my thinking now that I have more capable gear.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2015
  2. macro

    macro Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jan 22, 2012
    New Zealand
    99.5 - 100%. Close to it anyway on birds and BIF's. I use 300 F/2.8, 500 F/4.5 and 800 F/5.6 on m4/3 and still have to crop virtually every shot. We need that room around the subject for that cropping after the fact. Some don't bother I guess, but certainly do here. Even motor sports I crop virtually every shot.

    All the best.

  3. kingduct

    kingduct Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 12, 2013
    I crop a lot, though not all the time. Sometimes I find that my instinctive crop as I take a picture is pretty good, especially when I'm close to the subject. That said, when taking a picture from a distance, cropping helps and the equipment is good enough that the photo still looks good.
  4. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    Cropping is just another tool. With wildlife, they tend to not be in a position to allow for prefect framing.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2015
  5. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    Thanks guys,

    A naive question wasn't it. My SLR days were film, no computer tools really. Until now my digital life was all P&S and cell phone. Some cropping, not much, wouldn't even try to capture a bird in flight.

    One thing it's made me realize though is that for much of my desired shooting, more focal length is good. I though I might not get much use out of a 300mm lens, but now I realize that I will get plenty.

    Can't wait to see the new Oly 300 now. And if the new E-m1 mk2 offers higher resolution and improved focus woohoo!

    Need a winning lottery ticket, but woohoo!
  6. Itchybiscuit

    Itchybiscuit Photon Mangler

    Dec 10, 2013
    Glasgow, Scotland
    I'm not one for long lenses so I don't know if I would crop or not. As for my usual photography I'm in agreement with kingduct in that I crop my images in my head before I shoot the frame. I might make a couple of teensy crops but that's just for tidying, not subject isolation.
  7. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jun 26, 2013
    Andrew Lossing
    I usually try to avoid cropping, although I'm beginning to think that's a wrong attitude to have. I do want to get the framing right the first time, but at the same time, I don't want to be limited to the same aspect ratio, and there are times when framing has to be adjusted after the fact. I think it was my experience with the 6MP Nikon DSLR I started with that put me in this mindset, but I have to remind myself frequently that I've got a lot more resolution at my disposal now!

    Related but slightly OT, I'm thinking of switching to 3:2 aspect ratio and sticking to that for a while. It sort of freshens my outlook to have a different frame as a starting point.
  8. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    I think a more healthy attitude toward cropping is do your best to get it right in camera if you can, and crop only when necessary. Makes sense. I've never understood people that approach art/photography as a series of absolutes. Seems too rigid and too limiting. Gotta be free with what works best for you or for the situation at hand.
    • Agree Agree x 3
  9. Lcrunyon

    Lcrunyon Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jun 4, 2014
    Cropping for framing is usually a very different decision than cropping in bird photography. Framing is an artistic option if you didn't get it perfect in camera, and is usually just a slight trim. No one wants to crop if they don't have to, but with birds, you are likely going to have to. I sometimes find myself cropping down as far as I dare before noise and sharpness become too prevalent.

    That said, not every bird shot needs to fill the frame. It's good to have environment and/or room to show movement, but even still, birds generally don't get close enough, and they are small enough, that cropping to some degree is called for.
    • Agree Agree x 2
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  10. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I often crop when shooting birds because I simply don't have a long enough lens to "fill the frame" a lot of the time and even if you have a long enough lens to do that, there are the times when that lens isn't the lens on your camera and you see something a lot further away than what you're set up to shoot. Your subjects have a nasty habit of not waiting around for you to swap lenses or cameras and get a little closer. I think cropping is relatively common with wildlife photography.

    With other sorts of photography like portraiture, street photography, and landscape I think you should try to avoid cropping and in fact there's an often repeated view that Henri Cartier-Bresson never cropped, that he always got things right before pressing the shutter. That story is wrong and one of his most famous shots, the one of the man with the umbrella jumping over the puddle of water, is cropped on one side. Cartier-Bresson shot it through a gap in a fence and couldn't get the framing right because he couldn't move to a position where he could frame the scene as he wanted it. That happens to everyone.

    Don't crop if you can avoid it. Do crop when it makes the photo better.
  11. 350duser

    350duser Mu-43 Veteran

    Sep 26, 2012
    Brisbane, QLD
    Crop crop crop!!!
    Thats an advantage to the larger MB sensors although sensor pixel density matters more (I might be speaking crap and happy to be corrected here) and hence m43 sensors allow a fair amount of cropping behaviour.
  12. piggsy

    piggsy Mu-43 All-Pro

    I suspect it's the kind of thing that gets beaten in to some people by an instructor somewhere along the way. I mean - for some subjects - I can perfectly understand where it comes from, where if you never actually pick up framing a subject you are just wasting resolution and giving yourself more work to do, making clients wait longer, whatever. So yeah probably if you have people sitting still in front of a camera for a portrait in a studio - perhaps you should learn to dress the set and frame the shot properly to begin with.

    If it's the kind of subject where you aren't in control of what conditions you're shooting it under and especially if the thing moves of it's own accord, then you are just throwing away otherwise salvageable pictures if you're not prepared to crop them. Don't feel bad about it - I mean honestly you should be chuffed to get something that is useable in any way a lot of the time. For me the dilemma is always - is someone actually going to appreciate the subject in in the full frame or ever actually click it to view larger? Because if you're at web size then there are all sorts of crops you could take of a picture that would show off some particular interesting element that might otherwise go unappreciated if it's not viewed fullscreen. For birds, macro, etc, if there's nothing else you're shooting than a particular subject of the shot it's ideal to crop it so that the intent of it is intelligible.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  13. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    Years ago a photographer friend told me to zoom in tight to my subject and when I thought I was in tight enough, zoom in some more. That was good advice, though not absolute of course.

    For this thread I was just wondering how sports and wildlife photographers fill those frames, since I could barely do so with 800mm equivalent at 20 feet. Made me think most of those types of shots are highly cropped. Not good or bad, it just surprised me how much focal length it takes to get "close".
  14. piggsy

    piggsy Mu-43 All-Pro

    I think likely the top 1% is just really good and really dedicated to that subject, and are the type of guys prepared to travel somewhere remote, sleep in a hide for 6 weeks without a bath, etc, if it results in the highest quality photo of a Madagascar Pochard ever taken. 99% of the rest - yeah very likely they didn't actually get the camera all the way in and frame it just so in the 3 seconds they had to set up for the shot.

    Are there any photos in particular or photographers you are thinking about that you could give an example of?
  15. Carbonman

    Carbonman Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jul 10, 2014
    Vancouver BC
    I crop when there's something in the full image that needs to be eliminated. I sometimes have to shoot quickly through a fence or other obstruction and can't get it completely out of the frame; a little judicious cropping saves/makes the shot:

    16250592525_7ca65e9ce2_z.jpg Race Training In False Creek by Bottombracket, on Flickr

    The full frame:

    Full Image.jpg

    I used to do almost all my own darkroom work in the film days. Even cranking out a bunch of proofs, it wasn't unusual to move the negative in the carrier to adjust the orientation or make sure something at the very edge of one end or side made it into the print. Sometimes I want to change the aspect ratio to 1:1 or 3:2. The only way to do that is by cropping. Professional photographers crop their work like crazy - I was one of them, because that's what you do to get paid a lot of the time.
    • Like Like x 1
  16. macro

    macro Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jan 22, 2012
    New Zealand
    Yeah its typical. With motor sports the corporates, sponsors, drivers, etc, want to see logos and faces, even though you are stuck with helmets often enough, so that's an important one for cropping. It needs to be darn sharp though.

    It all comes down to the sensor and lens when it comes to sharpness and you of course.

    With APS-C with cropping on birds with a 24meg sensor with a 500mm on the NEX-7

    View attachment 413406

    and the crop

    View attachment 413407

    So that would be typical with how close you can get to them with a 500mm.

    The same lens on the Oly E-M10 is no slouch either

    View attachment 413408

    Cropping in the m4/3 just for the sake of it

    View attachment 413409

    Same again on the Oly with a smaller bird, a Sparrow

    View attachment 413410

    View attachment 413411

    So cropping is not a want, its a necessity in a lot of cases. When it comes to BIF's, well you can't get closer, cropping is the only option.

    Then of course we do use sometimes the extreme cropping and the lens along with the sensor need to be bang on and working together to be able to do it.

    All the best.

    • Like Like x 4
    • Informative Informative x 1
  17. TwoWheels

    TwoWheels Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 28, 2014
    British Columbia
    I agree--whether it's birds or sports. I take pictures for my daughter's soccer team using a 7D, 70-200/2.8 and a 1.4x. I don't get paid for it and I'm not willing to spend the $$$ that would be required to get up close when the action is on the other side of the field. For me this is a hobby and it's not the only one I have that requires expensive equipment. For posting on the internet, I can do some significant cropping and no one knows or cares. I would love to have a long, fast lens or two, but for the present I'll make due with cropping.
    • Like Like x 1
  18. GBarrington

    GBarrington Mu-43 Top Veteran

    I tend to shoot in such a way that lends itself to a square crop. I crop a lot. I also am not afraid of non standard cropping formats. For me, cropping is almost as much a part of the post processing experience as sharpening or noise control.
    • Like Like x 1
  19. pake

    pake Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Oct 14, 2010
    I think 99,9% of my pictures are cropped. It's just a working method for me. I do acknowledge that I will lose some IQ by doing so but it's better to take the picture without the perfect zoom/crop than not taking the picture at all.
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  20. Petrochemist

    Petrochemist Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 21, 2013
    N Essex, UK
    I crop for a variety of reasons, changing the image format, removing anoyances that couldn't be done in camera & to get closer than the lenses with me allow. Even so I generally prefer to try and get it right in camera, which for motorsports (panning) often ends up with my shots too close, and clipping one of the ends.
    All the best bird shots are done by people with much better bushcraft than me (and more patience...) a longer lens is not the only answer though it certainly helps.
    • Like Like x 1