Photography: Let's talk crops again

Photography: Let's talk crops again

To crop or not to crop. I know we've discussed it here before. But talking photos is fun, let's do it again.

In photography discussions, it's possible to get way too deep into the weeds. Let's try to keep it simple. When you take a photo, you've got the frame that the [lens + sensor + eye + too much coffee shake] delivers. Debates then ensue about zoom lenses vs. prime lenses, and from there it gets into what you captured (I hate that term) vs. what you crop in post-processing. And if you crop, you're probably affecting the resolution and pixels. That stuff confuses me and always will. Bad at math and science. But I think a safe rule of thumb is - you can't alter the photo without altering the photo. (That's pretty much a Newtonian Law of Photography right're welcome.)

Tonight, we're not going to get into those arguments. We're looking at an image as shot. Does it ever pay to change that? I'm firmly in the "it depends" camp, but I often end up deciding that crops are ill-advised.

I took a photo in Pike Place Market (Post Alley) in 2017 that I like. It's generational. I like street photography, but I don't do much of it. It's outside my comfort zone. It feels invasive. I hasten to repeat that I like responsible street photography. I can't imagine a world without the photos of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Vivian Maier. Pioneers of street photography.

We want and need the images of daily life. I'm old...I hope I'm around long enough to see Pandemic 2020 exhibits in 2030. There are photographers walking around right now (safely) taking photos that will help us process this strange, awful year. I'm sure some of them are posting daily on Instagram, and I bet those images are amazing, but I suspect the most powerful exhibits will benefit from some time and separation. (Reminds me of a 2019 exhibit that my mom and sister recommended we check out in Phoenix - Ansel Adams...damn.)

When/if I shoot street photography, I then try to apply a golden rule - how would I feel if I opened an Instagram page and saw that I was in this photo? I'm sure there's a lot of rationalization and self-deception involved, but I try.

In this photo, the young girl is the only person recognizable, and my rationalization and self-deception told me that she'd probably be ok with this. I certainly hope so. She's 3.5 years older now. Does she live in Seattle, was she just visiting? I hope she's safely navigating this lousy pandemic.

Pike Place Market Seattle 2017
Generations, Pike Place Market, Seattle, 2017.

Have you ever heard photographers talk about blowing out the highlights? Well, this mediocre photographer has given you a perfect example. Look at the arms of the gentleman putting food on the table. Blown out. I didn't take my time. I turned his arms into white hot lightsabers. There's no data there. I can tinker and tinker in post-processing, but it's all for naught. Those highlights are blown.

Pike Place Seattle 2017
Crop 1. Generations, Pike Place Market, Seattle, 2017.
Pike Place Market Seattle
Crop 2, Generations, Pike Place Market, Seattle, 2017.

Discussions and comments most welcome. And I hope you're doing well. Hang in there. I think there's room for optimism - the vaccines are going to help us regain our footing.