As a rule, I don't crop my photographs because I tend to frame them precisely as I want them. In fact, I think I've only ever posted one cropped photograph on this entire blog. But when I did that, earlier this year, I did get a fair amount of feedback with people asking me about the worth of cropping. Quite simply, if cropping your photograph is going to improve it - then go right ahead.
Cropping a photograph is a very simple process. It simply means that you choose to highlight a certain area of the image, while excluding some of it. It's a very handy electronic tool and the "Crop'' function is part of even the most basic imaging software.
I think the term came from the old darkroom technique, whereby you could use an enlarger to exclude a certain segment of a negative when printing it onto photographic paper. The act of leaving out a portion of the image was referred to as cropping.
There is also a school of thought that says the word derives from the old darkroom guillotines, which were used to trim the edges (or white borders) into symmetrical edges after the prints had been processed in one tank of chemicals, fixed in another tank of chemicals and dried. The photographer or darkroom assistant would then take the prints to the guillotine and meticulously trim each one, or "crop" it.
Cropping an image electronically is a simple enough process where (generally speaking) you click on the Crop icon, then outline the segment of the image that you want to retain and then double-click on it to activate and save the image as a separate entity. This leaves the original image unaltered, but "creates" a secondary shot out of it.
I shot this image (above) in Melbourne in mid-2007, during our Australian winter. I've selected it at random to show you how a solitary shot can produce many different variations, using a variety of crops.
CROP VERSION NUMBER TWO
This second option gives you a segment of sky, retaining the bold colours, while also adding the silhouette of a couple of high-rise office buildings, some trees and the big ferris wheel at Birrarung Marr.
CROP VERSION NUMBER THREE
There is is a different mood entirely to this crop (above) because you get some sky, some city skyline and the arch of Princes Bridge, as well as two canoes under the bridge.
CROP VERSION NUMBER FOUR
But this (above) is my favourite crop. There is a distinctly brooding quality to this image. When you think about light being a crucial ingredient of photography, consider how little light there is here. It's almost like an old sepia print of some ancient moat, guarded by battlements.
So tell me - which is your favourite crop?